Why you should set an alarm every day.

I am a reflector. I reflect on what went right and what went wrong nearly every day. In the last days of 2019 I reflected on what I did right that year in hopes of doing more of what worked in 2020. Little did I know that a tiny virus was about to create the greatest global disruption in human history. And much of what worked in 2019 would be taboo just months later.

Following my blog post 19 Things That Worked For Me In 2019 I got a lot of positive feedback. People told me they picked up new ideas, were motivated or inspired by some of the activities I wrote about.

However, there was one point that I shared that generated a strong thanks-but-no-thanks response from a large number of readers. Interestingly, it was the #1 thing on my list. It was the action that set up all the other actions.

Set An Alarm.

I set my alarm for 6:00am every weekday, and no later than 6:30am on the weekends. I get up and write, read or workout right away. The alarm helps me get the most out of every day. And I mean every day. Weekends, vacation days, holidays, beach days, leg days and Hollandaise.

When I started this alarming habit several years ago I started gaining traction on my dreams. I started accomplishing more. I felt like I was pulling ahead in life. Because the most valuable time I could find to invest in my goals and dreams was early in the morning.

Buzzer Beater

I am keenly aware of the fact that I will be dead long before I want to be. So I try to do all the things I want to do while I still have the time. And my alarm clock has helped me add hours to my days. Which puts more life in my life. Like Mikey’s cereal.

The Wake-Up Call

If 2020 is the year you are going to make great progress on your lifelong dreams you are going to need some help from your alarm clock. Like Rodney Dangerfield, that little noisemaker doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Because it doesn’t just squawk in your earhole. It can help make your entire life more fulfilling.

When It All Starts.

The idea of a long lazy morning in bed has no appeal to me. The opportunity cost is too high. I started my business early in the morning. I think early. I write my blog early. I work out early.

Early in the morning no one bothers you. You have energy and focus and hope. Take advantage of that. Block your time. And milk it for all it’s worth. #wholemilk

Go to bed early when you can. Get as much sleep as you can. But don’t get to the end of your days with regrets that you didn’t do all that you wanted to do when you had the time to do it.

Key Takeaway

Don’t sleep in on the weekends. Or holidays. Or ever. Set an alarm. Get up. Get things done. Read something. Learn something. Do something. Get more out of your time. And if you don’t have a great reason to get up early on the weekends and on vacation, find one. Your life will be more enjoyable once you do.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share this with them.

5 things I do in the first 5 minutes to start my day right.

I am a morning person. I love a new day, a new start, a new opportunity to get better.  Basically, I love everything new. Like Huey Lewis. In fact, I am a self-proclaimed Newdist. And I’m thinking of starting my own colony.

My Morning Routine

I don’t drink coffee. But I do 5 things every morning that help me get the party started right. When I do these 5 simple things before breakfast, I feel like a winner, ready for chicken dinner.

5 Things In 5 Minutes

1.  I wake up before my alarm. 

Waking up before my alarm is one of my favorite things. It makes me feel like I am fully-cooked and ready to rock. It is a sign that I have had a healthy dose of sleep, and that my body and brain are prepared for the day. It is way better than having an alarm clock kicking you in the eardrum.

However, in order to wake up before your alarm you need good sleep. I set my alarm for 6am. But I usually wake up between 5:30am and 5:45am. I think of the early awakening as a lag measure, indicating that I went to bed early enough (usually around 11pm). Which sets me up for success the rest of the day.

2. I smile.

The first thing I do after I awake, while still lying in bed, is smile. I smile a big, broad, toothy smile. And It helps me feel good, right out of the gate. It’s like taking a happy pill. Only there is no pill. I wrote about this habit in the post: Kickstart your day with this powerful and simple habit.

3. I get out of bed before my alarm would have gone off.

Waking up before your alarm in great. When I proactively turn off my alarm it makes me feel like I have defused a bomb. #TheHurtLocker  But the very best thing is getting up and started ahead of schedule. It sets your entire day up for success.

4. I weigh myself.

I weigh myself right away each morning. I do this for a couple of reasons.

  1. I am lightest in the morning, before I put my contacts in.
  2. I have a healthy target weight that I measure myself against. I like to stay at or below 215 pounds, which is how much I weighed when I graduated from high school. So my weigh-in helps me chickity check myself, before I wrickity wreck myself.

This morning I weighed 213 pounds. When I am at or below my target weight, I feel like I am starting my day in a great place. It is proof that my exercise and eating habits are working. And I feel as if I have won a personal challenge within the first few minutes of the day.

However, even when I am over 215 pounds, I take it as a reminder of what I need to do today to be where I want to be tomorrow. The feedback is great for me either way.

5. I drink a glass of water.

I make a point of drinking a tall glass of water right after I weigh myself. It is easy to do. But the impact is significant. It helps me rehydrate. I can tell right away that this sharpens my brain and makes me feel more alert and ready for the day. No caffeine, sugar, taurine or alcohol needed. In fact, I often wonder if the active ingredient in coffee, tea and energy drinks is actually the water itself. #DrEvilPinkyToMouthPose

Key Takeaway

The best way to have a great day is to have a great start. Turn your morning routine into a game of positive actions. By taking these 5 simple steps you will start your day feeling proactive, positive, productive and prepared. All within the first 5 minutes.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this morning idea, please share it with them.

5 Things I do to keep my work energy high.

Being an entrepreneur is as close as I will get to knowing what it was like to be Bruce Lee. Because entrepreneurs face a nonstop onslaught of challenges that come from all angles. It requires you to remain sharp and on your toes. And that is just to play defense.

Getting Offensive

But like Deion Sanders, entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of simply playing defense. Since I first launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, I have been constantly on offense. It is how you create something out of nothing, and then grow it into something worth talking about. It requires vision, focus, persistence. And a whole lot of energy.

Pure Energy

I am a naturally high-energy human. But my job, like yours, will take as much energy as I have to give. I have lofty goals that will take a tremendous amount of work to achieve. That’s why I have been focused lately on keeping my energy reserves high by taking care of myself physically. Here’s what I am doing.

The 5 Things I Do To Keep My Energy Up

1. Sleep 

Sleep is the key to great energy. If you do just one thing on this list, I recommend  saturating yourself with sleep. It is how the human body recharges. Most Americans sleep far too little. Then again most American’s aren’t thinking about operating at their optimal level. #StateFairObservation

photo of two women lying on grass
I probably don’t look like this when I sleep. But I like to think I sleep pretty, on a log, in the woods.

I am an Early Owl, which is a cross between an Early Bird and a Night Owl. So I naturally feel great early in the morning, and energized late at night. I enjoy staying up late feeding my curiosity. Which is why I now have a curiosity curfew.

However, I recognize that I feel much better with good sleep. So I have been trying to get to bed by 10:30 or 11pm so I am well rested when my non-negotiable alarm goes off at 6am. I have found 7.5 hours to be my prime sleep number. Although when I plugged it into a Sleep Number Bed I found 7.5 to be waaaaay too soft.

2. Eating

We all know that we get better energy by eating better food. But right now I am focusing not just on what I am eating, but when I am eating. Eating at the right times helps me keep my energy levels where I need them to perform at my best throughout each day. Bill Cosby taught me this lesson in a Public Service Announcement on TV when I was a kid. And we all know Bill Cosby had enough energy to pave his own 4 lane highway to hell.

tray of food beside body of water
This is an overly romanticized view of breakfast. My actual breakfast has far more Frank’s Red Hot. I put that shiznit on everything!

I typically eat breakfast (and I always eat breakfast) at just about 8am. But I have often pushed my lunch back to 1 or 2pm, because I have been on a roll at work. But I am making a concentrated effort to create a hard stop for lunch at noon. Because it helps maintain a more consistent energy level throughout my afternoon. And it prevents me from becoming a hangry, hangry hippo. I have also tried to eat dinner between 6pm and 7pm. My family’s hectic evening schedule often tempts me to push off dinner until 8pm or 9pm. But when I wait that long I feel like a skateboarder who took too long between kicks and lost all momentum. Don’t be that skateboarder.

young man on a skateboard
Eating is like kicking while skateboarding. Do it regularly or you’ll lose your momentum.

3. Drinking  

I am working on more and better hydration. Water is my go-to drink. I have heard that you should start your day with a drink of water to wake up your machinery. So lately I have been starting my day with a tall glass of water, first thing, before I start writing in the morning. I can tell it helps get me flowing faster.

pexels-photo-113734.jpeg
This is a fancy pic of fancy water. I drink the generic stuff that comes out of the tap and it works the same way.

4. Exercise 

My energy is higher when I exercise regularly. Even when I am exhausted at the end of a day, making time to exercise helps me elevate my energy. As a result I enter each new day with a deeper energy reserve when I exercise regularly. #RichardSimmonsStyle

man jumping in mid air holding blue ball above his head
This is kinda what I look like when I exercise, because I also work out under fluorescent lights.

5. Downtime  

You need downtime and rest to restore your energy, passion and love for what you do at work. I take weekends completely off from work whenever I can. I take vacations with my family. I try to spend a considerable amount of time when I am not working not thinking about work. I do this by becoming totally engrossed in other activities that range from reading to boogie boarding. The downtime helps me increase my enthusiasm for my day job when I come back to it.

IMG_6902
Boogie boarding is one of my favorite downtime activities to do with my family, including my daughter Ava.

Key Takeaway

You are your most important business machine. If you want to accomplish great things you have to keep yourself running in top condition. While money may make the world go round, it is your energy level that helps you get that bread. So take care of yourself. And make sure you have the energy to take on the kind of work your ambitions demand.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

Why I now have a curiosity curfew.

I am a self-proclaimed Early Owl. This rare avian species is a cross between an Early Bird and a Night Owl. Which means I love to go to bed late AND get up early. It’s how I am squeeing* as much as I can out of life. (*Squeeing is just squeezing without the required Zzz’s).

Night School

I don’t sleep nearly as much as I should. But I recognize the value of good sleep. Whenever I force myself to get a little more of that night magic I feel even better. Lately, I’ve been going back to school on the power of sleep. My coursework includes the writings by born-again sleep evangelist, Ariana Huffington, including her books Thrive and The Sleep Revolution.

I have learned that only 27 percent of American grown-folk get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night during the week. Only 10 percent prioritize sleep over other daily activities. And I want to be in that number, when the saints come marching in.

Your Best Bet Is A Better Bedtime

The key to getting more sleep is going to bed earlier. In fact, going to bed early is the adult version of sleeping in. Historically I have had serious trouble with this. And I have identified the main cause.

My late nights are not a result of drugs or alcohol. I never found the on-ramp to either of those hobbies (although they look fun). I don’t stay up late playing video games or studying pornography (although they both look fun too). I don’t guzzle coffee or energy drinks. Unless you consider chocolate milk an energy drink. I just call it delicious.

My Problem

My sleep problem is a result of a chronically curious brain. At night, when my wife and three children are in bed, my curiosity and I are ready to party.  I love to read. I gobble up books, magazines, and online articles like a turkey. My curiosity helps me chew through online videos, social media posts, and Netflix programing like a starving goat. My curiosity will devour everything and anything. The whole world is interesting to me. Which makes my curiosity the #1 enemy of my sleep.

If my curiosity is allowed to run feral, it will sprint past midnight, and well into the early morning hours. But my alarm is always set for 6am, whether I go to bed at 10pm (never) or 2am. I typically get under 6 hours of sleep. But I am working hard to up that to 7 hours.

The New Plan

I have come up with an idea to help me sleep more. It is borrowed from an idea that has been around since the invention of the teenager. I have implemented a self-imposed Curiosity Curfew. As of 11pm on weeknights, I have to put the books, magazines and iPhone down. I turn my TV/Netflix/Internetting device off. If I have work to do I can still do it. But no more exploring the world. It is the best thing I can think of to get my head to bed earlier.

Key Takeaway

Sleep is important. It’s how you refresh, recharge, rebound, reenergize and regenerate. If you are going to bed too late, identify the cause, and implement a curfew on the offender. It will help you increase your overall sleep. And getting enough sleep is both a health and quality of life issue. As good as you may think you are with little sleep, you are always better with more.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. 

The best way to start the New Year right.

Tonight is the big night! It’s New Year’s Eve! Like the Lexus December to Remember, it’s time to put a big red bow on 2018. Or, if your 2018 was a lemon, it’s time to put on some Del Amitri and kiss this thing goodbye. Either way, this is the biggest party night of the year. Because we always save the best for last. Or do we always start off with a bang? (I always forget.)

New Year. New You.

With the new year comes new expectations. We set goals and resolutions for the next 365 days. It’s exciting to think that, like a new iPhone or Fast & Furious release, the new and improved version of ourselves hit the shelves tomorrow!

Most of us think our lives, habits and body fat will all get better, starting tomorrow morning. But there is one simple thing you can do tonight, on New Year’s Eve, to give yourself the best possible start to a great 2019.

Don’t stay up until midnight.

Go to bed at a decent hour tonight. Going to sleep early on New Year’s Eve is a wonderfully rebellious move that sets you up for success in the new year. I went to bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve last year. And I loved it.

No Bonus Points

You don’t get any credit, in either the old year or the new, for staying up to witness the clock tick to midnight. There will be very little productive work that happens between 10pm and midnight. If you haven’t made your goals in the first 364 days and 22 hours, you’re not likely to achieve them in the last 120 minutes. And Auld Lang Syne is a dumb song, which I presume is about Mr. Syne, who lived next door to me when I was growing up in Vermont. He wasn’t worth singing about at any hour.

The fact is that you don’t get a jumpstart on your goals, hopes, dreams or resolutions by staying up past midnight tonight. You get tired. And maybe you’ll start the new year with a hangover. Neither of which you really want.

The Downside To Staying Up Late

If you stay up until midnight tonight, one of 2 things will happen:

  1. You won’t get an early start tomorrow morning. Getting an early start to your day is the best way to be productive. So if you are motivated to achieve more in the year ahead, get up early and get going.
  2. You won’t get a good night of sleep. Let’s say that you stayed up late, but also get up early tomorrow. That means that you are not fully recharged, fully energized, and ready to make January 1st an outstanding start to the new year. If you are serious about making positive changes, you should seriously get serious about creating good sleep habits, starting tonight.
flight sky earth space
This could totally be you tomorrow.

Let’s get it started

Aim for getting a good 8 hours of sleep tonight. Try getting to bed by 10:30pm and waking up by 6:30am. As we all know, the end is determined by how we begin. One great step leads to another. And one great day leads to another. Remember, the longer you wait to get into a new, positive habit, the less likely it is to happen.

Key Takeaway

Consider being a rebel tonight and turning in early. Get a great night sleep. Start 2019 early, well-rested, recharged and re-energized. It’s the best way to start your best year yet. Have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve! Oh, and if it is already 2019 when you are reading this, there is no need to read any further.

3 easy things you can do to prevent stress gunk.

Entrepreneurship is like joining the Stress Of The Day Club. Because entrepreneurship is hard. But motherhood and fatherhood and living in the hood are also hard. That’s because life is hard, and stressful. No one is immune. And not to spoil the ending, but none of us will make it out alive.

Stress Gunk

We accumulate stress during regular operating hours every day. If we are not careful, that stress leads to the accumulation of a funky gunk. That gunk prevents us from performing at our best. In turns us into cranky pants. It also prevents us from being able to handle more stress.

I have found 3 things that help me eliminate the stress gunk in my trunk. Together these 3 ingredients form my de-stress recipe. Or destressipe.

1. Exercise

When I started lifting weights when I was a freshman in high school it changed my life. I tend to have a lot of energy. But when I lift weights it helps me burn off my excess, pent-up, or silly energy. Stress is a form of energy too. You can use it like a workout supplement to move more weights or endure longer endurancey things. The key is to workout until you’ve burned off the stress energy. It’s a great way to prevent your mind and body from going all Chernobyl.

2. Sleep

Sleep is your giant reset button. It is what helps replenish your store of energy, your tolerance for craziness, your focus, your stamina and your eye boogers. Whenever I get 7 hours of sleep at night I feel like I am unstoppable. I often nap on the weekends too. Because it is an investment in a better me. When I don’t feel quite right, sleep is my go to prescription. Because it is how your body naturally regenerates the best you.

3. Church.

Stress often causes us to lose perspective. Or maybe it is the loss of perspective that causes the stress. Either way, attending church is the best way I know to regain a healthy world view. I believe there is a greater power than me. And I don’t just mean the IRS or Dwayne Johnson. I’m on Team Christian. But I believe all of the major religions provide great perspective and guidance on how to be a better you and live a better life.

I try to attend church regularly. It helps me refocus, refresh, relax, feel supported, and forgiven for my mistakes. Communion also makes me feel a bit like a cannibal when I eat and drink JC. But that’s a different issue.

Key Takeaway

There are stresses, frustrations and losses that accumulate every day. We are drained by daily setbacks. So we have to prevent the stress gunk from building up and fouling our systems. The key is to figure out how to reboot, regenerate, and respond positively.  Exercise, Sleep and Church are the back-to-basics keys that can help you find your balance again when you start to weeble or wobble. Try these proven approaches. They just may make you feel like a better human.

An easy way to have a game-changing creative idea tonight.

There is nothing more valuable than a great idea. Powerful ideas can make you rich. They can make you famous. They can separate you from your competitors. Heck, they can convince people to buy a pet rock. But our lives are so freakin busy that it can feel impossible to dedicate enough time to the kind of focused thinking that will land you on TechCrunch, the cover of Forbes, or the prime slot on The Home Shopping Network.

When thinking time becomes scarce there is a technique I use for nighttime ideation. The solution is so simple it is almost laughable. I can confidently say that you’re going to enjoy it more than diet and exercise combined. My ancient-Chinese-secret ideation technique is…

Go to bed 30 minutes early.

Most of us push bed time to the very last-minute. Or beyond. We either have tasks we want to accomplish before we throw in the towel on the night. Or we work so hard the rest of the day that we finally want a little time to binge watch all the shows everyone else is talking about. Suddenly, the latest surprise on The Story of Us, Stranger Things or The Real Housewives of Sandusky robs us of our sleep. Thanks a lot Andy Cohen.

But when I really need more thinking time, I go to bed early. It’s counterintuitive, I know.  But an amazing thing happens when you get your personal go-to-bed timing right. You will find that you are not so tired that you fall asleep immediately. You’ll also find that it isn’t so late that you stress about falling asleep before the alarm pounces on your head early the next morning. Instead, you are able to relax and enjoy the peace, calm and comfort of your bed. And in that state, once you get good and quiet, the ideas come out to play.

To guide your creative thinking in that relaxed, pre-sleep state, gently grab the topic you want to think on, and softly place it at the center of your mind. Then follow the inklings. They are the faint pathways that connect your central topic to new ideas, plans and partnerships.

Remarkable solutions and innovations are birthed in that quiet time if we listen.  To avoid distraction it is important to leave your phone or other digital distractions in another room. An ill-timed push notification from Groupon about a sweet deal on Naked Skydiving And Go-Karting For Four! can interrupt your flow and kill an idea in the embryonic state. Instead, keep a notebook and pen on your nightstand to capture your ideas before they escape into the darkness.

Of course it would be great if I could share an example of a real world, bed-born idea that made a major financial impact. So here it comes.

Ski-Doo snowmobiles was one of my favorite clients of all time. A problem that plagued the snowmobile industry for many years was the reverse mechanism that enables a snowmobile to go backwards. The additional feature added cost and weight to the sled. But one night, while lying in bed, one of the Ski-Doo engineers had the thought that if you simply reversed the wiring on the engine, the engine would run in reverse, as would the rest of the machine. When he rushed in to work the next day to see if that actually worked, he was delighted to find it worked exactly as he had envisioned, and thus Rotax Electronic Reverse (RER) was born. Suddenly Ski-Doo could offer a reverse feature on all of their snowmobiles without adding any additional weight or expense to the machine. This was a clear differentiator and competitive advantage that came from the bedroom. Not the boardroom.

The challenges of life and work can seem relentless. They come at us like chocolates to Lucille Ball. But game-changing ideas are out there waiting for you. To catch them tonight, you may just have to lay down, be quiet, and let them come to you.

(featured image by Andri Iskander:)