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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

The 15-Minute Morning Routine That's Already Changing My Life

person in bed

Aside from the usual stuff like picking out an outfit, eating your breakfast, and taking a shower, what do you do in the morning?

I’m guessing that you spend some time catching up on email before getting into the day’s tasks. Maybe you check out who said what on Twitter the night before. Or, maybe you just stare into your cereal bowl hoping that when you look up, it’ll be Friday. And that’s what most other people do, too.

But you’re not “most other people.” You know that doing things differently is how you stand out at work and in life.

So, what I’m about to share with you is my unique morning routine. It’ll help you build stronger relationships, put you in a better mood, and move your career forward.

And best of all? It only takes 15 minutes each day.

All you need to get started is something to write with. (Your favorite notes app will do—I use Evernote—although going old school with pen and paper is fine, too.)

First Things First: We Give Thanks

A daily practice of gratitude has been shown in studies to improve your physical and mental health. So, the first thing you’re going to write about is what you’re thankful for.

Even if you’re in a rough spot in your life or just feeling a little down, you always have something you can be thankful for. People sometimes say don’t sweat the small stuff, but here the small stuff really helps when you’re developing this habit.

Here are some recent examples of things I’ve said thanks for:

  • The ability to work from wherever I want—which balances out the fact that I work a lot
  • My son sleeping through the night, as long as we don’t consider 5 AM “the night”
  • The Greek Food Festival (yum!)
  • That I wore a sweatshirt outside the other day
  • The chance to write this article

Notice there were big things and small things on the list. Personal things and work things. It’s all fair game when you’re giving thanks.

One more thing: Don’t go overboard. Just say thanks for three to five things and move on—there’s a lot more to do.

Next, Write Freely

Just start writing (or typing). About anything. Don’t stop, don’t edit, and most of all, don’t judge. No one will read this except you (OK, and maybe Edward Snowden if you’re storing this stuff in the cloud).

You can write about anything or nothing at all. You could tell a crazy made-up story or write about what happened on your way to work yesterday. The important thing is that you’re getting that writing muscle working. Because for the last part of this morning routine, you’ll need every ounce of mental energy you have.

So, take a big swig of that coffee and then:

Rev Up Your Idea Machine

I love coming up with ideas. I keep lists of book ideas, blogging ideas, business ideas, and family fun ideas. I really can’t help myself.

I used to add to these lists of ideas only when something randomly popped into my head. Then I read Choose Yourself by James Altucher. In the book, Altucher shares his daily practice—the most important of which is generating 10 ideas per day.

He says that if you generate 10 ideas a day, every day, for six months straight that you will become an “Idea Machine”—someone who can come up with great ideas in any situation about any topic. And you can use these ideas for your own benefit, or send the list to someone who could use them—whether that’s your boss, another team at work, or a friend.

For example, Altucher wrote to Amazon employees and gave them 10 ideas about their publishing business. They were so impressed with his email that they invited him to Seattle to meet their executives—because they figured there was more where that came from. After reading that story (and others like it from the book), I was determined to become an “Idea Machine” like him.

Yes, when you’re getting started, 10 ideas will feel like a lot. You might even have trouble coming up with ideas for what your ideas should be about. No problem: Altucher’s wife Claudia wrote a whole book to help you come up with ideas for your ideas. It sounds weird, but it’s actually really helpful when you’re getting started.

Now, I never said this was going to be easy (at least in the beginning). On some days, you’ll find that when you reach idea five, six, or seven, your brain will be sweating and you’ll struggle to finish all 10. Don’t quit. Just finish. It will get easier, I promise.

My Results So Far?

After just about 30 days of following this practice, here’s what’s happened to me:

I came up with the idea for a free email course about personal branding. We launched the course, it generated over 1,000 leads for my startup in just two days, and it was a top finisher on Product Hunt.

And I was asked to write an article for the best career advice site on the web (hint, hint—and no, the editors didn’t make me write that!):

Last, but not least, I got offered a job with a great startup: