Rally Time

There’s nothing like the country shutting down to throw a wrench into your schedule, right?  I’ve worked remotely for some time so had you asked me before the coronavirus kicked off how much the quarantine would have affected me, I would have responded with little to none.  And, for about a week, that was more or less the case.  The gyms closed and I jogged, did push-ups, and, occasionally, did some pull-ups.  Then, after a steady stream of weaker and weaker excuses, sporadic workouts turned into not working out at all, I stopped reading because I’d sleep until it was time to get up for work, and then I gained the quarantine 15 as more and more of my diet was shifted to take out or uber eats.  It was time to shake things up.

It gets its fat ass back in the gym or it gets the hose again.

This is where it stops, this is the line in the sand.  A few weeks ago I got my hands on some gym equipment, purchased the average to savage 2.0 program, and then dusted off my copy of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  The right morning routines leave us feeling strong and ready to go out to conquer the day.  One of my favorites looked like this:

Wake up

Immediately go and relieve myself

Weigh myself

Drink some water

Put clothes on

Brush teeth

Floss

Make Bed

*Personal Task* (As dictated by GTD)

Get coffee (set the night before)

Read for ~two hours

Boom!  That was it.  That general routine went on for close to 6 – 8 months.  The above is the final version, it took some trial and error to get there.  At first, the priority was to read for 30 minutes before starting the day.   It was immediately apparent the first day that 30 minutes wasn’t going to cut it.  Quickly I bumped it up to an hour.  After some time at an hour, I decided to try out an hour and a half and finally settled in at two hours.  That may sound like a pretty easy progression to anyone who hasn’t tried adhering to a strict morning schedule, but the reality is that a shit ton of thought and effort went into each adjustment.  Initially, I tried to tweaking and hyper optimizeing the brief period of time between the end of reading and starting work but every time it quickly became clear that it was a lot easier to just go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.  Each one of those adjustments caused a short period of relative chaos in the evenings during the adjustment period.  I’ve always more or less winged it in the evenings and instead of learning my lesson the hard way after that first AM adjustment I just kept managing the transition period all willy nilly and after a few days would start early enough to get to sleep on time.  But it was all certainly worth it, carving out that time each morning for reading was worth it 100 fold.  After finishing a strong reading session of Flow, Deep Work, The Spartacus War, Lexington and Concord, Why We Sleep, and Getting Things Done I’d roll into the day brimming with energy and ready to conquer the day.

I started seriously reading in the second grade and anytime there’s been a reading drought in my life there’s also a general drop in quality of life (like during this quarantine, reading has dropped from an everyday thing to 2 or 3 days a week despite having more time than ever.  It’s crazy how some of us compensate for bad decisions by pulling time away from that which we need/enjoy the most.).

But, let’s take a closer look at the mechanics of the routine above.  Everything on that version of the routine minus three things happens regardless of anything else:

Make Bed

*Personal Task*

Read

                Two things that I have a bad habit of not doing but love the feeling of having them done and the one thing I love doing more than anything else.

Definitely me. Definitely not a free stock image + sorry photo editing skills.

The Rally Time Tools

In James Clear’s excellent book Atomic Habit’s he outlines a concept known as habit stacking.  It’s a powerful concept but for the sake of brevity just focus on the formula:

                After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

And in Charles Duhigg’s legendary The Power of Habit he goes over a crucial concept called Keystone Habits.   Here is a snippet from the book on the power of Keystone Habits:

                “O’Neill (the then CEO of the Aluminum Company of America) believed that some habits have the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as they move through an organization.  Some habits, in other words, matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives.  These are “keystone habits,” and they can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate.  Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything.

                Keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few key priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers.  This book’s first section explained how habits work, how they can be created and changed.  However, where should a would-be habit master start?  Understanding keystone habits hold the answer to that question:  The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.”

Habit stacking and keystone habits and are the tools needed to break out of this quarantine slump.  Let’s take our game to the next level and build both an AM and PM routine.  Let’s get to it.

AM Routine:

Wake up

Piss

Weigh myself

Record weight

Drink some water

Put clothes on

Brush teeth

Floss

Make Bed

Put gym numbers on board

Workout

Shower

Get dressed

Finish filling PM x effect

*Personal Task* (As dictated by GTD)

Journal

X effect Sheet

Move green folder (This is an environmental design trigger; we’ll have to go over that in another post)

Work

PM Routine:

Start timer

Shower

Teeth

Floss

Bathroom sinks

Gym shorts on the counter (environmental design trigger)

Set out socks, shirt, sliders, and shoes

Couches

Check floors

Check kitchen

Computer Desk

Get gym numbers (from Average to Savage 2.0 google sheet)

In

Set Next Actions for tomorrow

Journal

End timer and record

Read

Coffee

X effect Sheet

Move green folder (environmental design trigger)

Bed

Boom!  And just like that, we have our AM and PM routines set.  The secondary habits are grounded by the keystone habits.  That might seem like a lot but the reality is that most of the secondary habits get done anyways, none of the secondary habits take up that much time, and the keystone habits are activities that I need to do to feel fulfilled.  By deliberating carving out time for the keystone habits I can both do what I love most and add on a few high ROI auxiliary habits that I might not normally get to.

That’s going to be it for this post.  Be on the lookout for a future post on how these routines are going.  Post your morning routine down in the comments.  If you don’t have a morning routine have you ever thought about making one?  Would you be open to giving it a shot?  Let me know in the comments section and I’ll see you down there!