NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 4 – How To Think.

Back when I first came up with the idea for this blog, I tried to assign NYR’s to specific months in ways that were meaningful. “Be a Better Parent” in June for Father’s Day, “Be a Better Spouse” in September for our anniversary, and so on. So why Mindfulness in November?

Gratitude – I’d like to be more grateful, and I do think my meditation practice helps. And what better time to write about gratitude than Thanksgiving?

We’re heading to West Virginia this week to visit my wife’s family. The drive up with small children will be a challenge but hopefully safe and manageable. Last year when we drove up for Christmas, my oldest watched Frosty the Snowman on her iPad.

The entire drive.

Guys it’s about 5 hours to Huntington from our house in Charlotte. And I’m talking about the Jimmy Durante 1969 version of Frosty The Snowman (as if there’s any other), which is… wait for it… 25 minutes long. I think she watched it 11 times.

But it’s always worth the drive, because once we get there we usually find plenty of things to be grateful for.

I love fall weather, and sometimes I get it.

Sometimes I get the first snow of the season – I like that too.

Other times it’s just cold and rainy, but even that provides a pleasant contrast to the warm house, the warm family, the warm couches with warm blankets in a warm den. Warm naps after drifting off to parades or football or dog shows while my in-laws play with the kids for a while.

Warmth is something to be grateful for. I went to a Room At The Inn meeting a few weeks ago during an unusually bad cold snap. Leaving the church that night and walking to the bus station, it was tough not to think about just how much it sucks to be cold. How quickly it messes with your head. As the wind whipped my face and I rocked on my heels to keep warm I tried to imagine what it would be like to have to do this for an hour, for two hours, for an entire night. I buried my face in the front of my jacket.

And in less than an hour my jacket was off – because I was home with my family, wearing pajama pants and a t-shirt. I think I felt gratitude then, at least for a few seconds. It goes away too quickly.

Last week I was rocking my one-year-old in the glider, my wife was taking a bath, and I was starting to get annoyed because I was getting hungry. I wanted to just put my daughter in the crib and let her cry it out. And I started rationalizing that approach: I can’t rock her forever, she’s just being clingy, she needs to learn to take care of herself.

My one-year-old, by the way.

Then I remembered that she was sick. That she’s usually a great sleeper, and that I haven’t rocked her in the glider in weeks which means that pretty soon the days of rocking my girls in the glider might be behind me. I remembered that, even though I was feeling a little hungry now, some nights I’ve come home from work late and forgotten to eat dinner altogether.

Sure I was annoyed that I didn’t have my phone. It meant that I couldn’t go through my emails or scroll through Instagram or write. But it also meant that the outside world couldn’t get us.

Maybe the glider wasn’t a trap, but a shelter.

And maybe instead of thinking about how annoying it was to have to take care of her in that moment, I could have thought about the fact that she was suffering – and that, along with my wife, I’m literally the most qualified person on the entire planet to ease that suffering. That’s kind of amazing, if you think about it.

That’s something to be grateful for.

NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 3 – How to Breathe.

Oh come on! How to breathe? These titles are getting downright insulting.

Not to mention annoying to write – I just spent the first five minutes of this morning’s “writing session” Googling and triple-checking the difference between “breathe” (verb) and “breath” (noun). Fair warning, WordPress doesn’t appear to be catching these. So if a few sentences sneak in there about “how to breath” or “watching your breathe” then apologies in advance – doing my best here.

And why even write about something as simple as breathing? It’s something we just do naturally without thinking about it, right?

Well, sort of.

Let’s compare breathing to, say, your heartbeat. Thankfully, your heart normally keeps beat without any conscious effort. Breathing is similar – if you’re not thinking about it, it just sort of happens on its own. We’ll call this process passive breathing. But, unlike your heart, you can actually exercise a lot of control over your breath. You can hold it (at least for a little while) and otherwise change it’s character (ex. breathing deeper or breathing faster). We’ll call this active breathing.

(If you can’t already tell, I haven’t really done a scientific deep dive here.)

My point is this – breathing is something that you don’t have to think about, but you can if you want to. And when I was first introduced to meditation, I was told to breathe normally. And I got tripped up on this advice. Because the instructions made me feel like I should be doing something consciously, that I should be actively breathing. And I had trouble figuring out what normal actually was.

I mean, how do I actually breathe when I’m not thinking about it? I wasn’t totally sure. And so I tried a couple of different things, eventually landing on a slow rhythm of pretty deep breaths. Deep breaths seemed more healthy, more “zen.” But after a while, it felt like something was wrong. My rhythm felt off, and I felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen with each breath. I started to panic. Wait – how do I breathe again? I stood from my seat gasping for air, it felt like I was hyperventilating. Eventually things got back to normal but wow… that was weird.

Weird perhaps, but also common. Turns out lots of people experience the same thing when they first get started.

One thing that helped me get over this was encountering meditating “breathing instructions” which were worded slightly differently, a way that I found much more helpful and which I still think about now. I don’t think about “breathing normally” – I think about “watching my breath.”

Now when I sit down to meditate I try to just look at my passive breathing without interfering with it. I observe it as something outside of myself, and I just try to watch it without expectation or judgement. One thing I noticed is that my normal breathing patters are more shallow and faster than I expected. I started to focus less on the actual function of breathing (the air coming in and out of  my lungs) and more on observable signs of the breath (ex. my chest rising). And I found that the more specific the sign, the more helpful it was as a point of focus – so instead of focusing just on the idea of my chest rising, I might focus on the feeling of the fibers of my shirt stretching around my torso. Instead of focusing on the air coming into my nose, I might focus on the feeling of my nostrils flaring slightly.

It does take practice. The breath is a great anchor for meditating because it’s always with you, but if you’re struggling with it there are other options. One in particular that I enjoy is focusing on the rhythm of my footsteps during a walking meditation, which has the added benefits of getting you outside and active (keep your eyes open for that one, though).

Anyway, this is something I struggled with early on, so I wanted to make sure I covered it in case you ran into the same issue. And if you’re starting to get into meditation and having trouble remembering how to breathe, don’t sweat it… you’re not alone!

NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 2 – How To Sit.

When I thought of the title for this week’s post, I couldn’t help but think about this scene from Family Guy.

How to sit? Really?

I’m hardly an expert when it comes to meditation. I’ve been doing it for a few years, but not long enough to forget the many issues I struggled with in the beginning. And one of those issues was deciding how, exactly, to sit.

Do I sit upright in a chair? I’ve heard of a “lotus pose” I think that’s a thing… I’m gonna Google it. Yikes – that’s not happening. Ok so do I just sit on the ground with my legs crossed? That seems uncomfortable after a while… do I need to sit on a pillow or something? How high should the pillow be? Does my back need to be straight? It’s starting to feel sore… and now my ear is starting to itch. Should I scratch it? Will that break the zen moment and I’ll have to start all over? Should the room be dark, or bright? Should I have candles? incense? Music? Gregorian chanting?

These are all great questions, and there are literally countless others. And for me, the answers come from taking a step back and trying to get a better understanding of what you’re trying to do when you sit to meditate. When you sit to meditate, your goal is to create an enviroment where you can practice being mindful.

To quote Allen Iverson: “We’re talking about practice, not a game.” So don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

I often find myself drawing comparisons between mindfulness training and going to the gym, and describing meditation a sort of gym membership for your mind. So let’s think about things that make for a good gym experience:

  • It’s inviting. Some people seem to be able to just jump right into brutal workout routines. Outdoor trainings, flipping tires, climbing ropes, Tough Mudders, things like that. But for me, I needed to familiarize myself with the gym first. Start with simple exercises and develop confidence in an inviting setting. I approached meditation in the same way – maybe you’d rather sit in a chair than on the floor. Maybe you’d rather stand, or walk or even go for a run. The (rather lofty) goal here is to eventually be mindful during every waking moment of your life. The point of having a meditation practice is to create an environment where it’s a little easier to familiarize yourself with, well, yourself. The only thing I’ll caution against is lying down while meditating – it’s certainly an option, but in my experience falling asleep can be an issue (note: or a huge benefit. Headspace actually has an awesome single on falling asleep that I use pretty frequently).
  • It’s convenient. Having the right equipment, the right pre-workout supplement, the right outfit, the right headphones, the right playlist… all of these things can be very motivating and can help snap you into focus when you go to the gym. But if everything isn’t perfect… are you still going to workout? One time I literally didn’t go to the gym because I couldn’t find my headphones. Unbelieveable. In the same way, when it comes to meditation, music, candles, incense and other bells and whistles are great if they get you in the right mindset, but try not to let them become a barrier to entry.
  • You push yourself. And this part is kind of tricky, and the gym comparison kind breaks down a bit. When you go to the gym, most of the time you can track measurable progress. You’re getting bigger (or smaller), stronger, faster, and you’ve got the stats to prove it. With meditation it’s difficult to come up with ways to measure “progress” without developing unhelpful expectations going into your practice. That being said, I do think you can push yourself in two, concrete ways: 1) by tracking the amount of time you spend practicing meditation or the consistency with which you do it, and 2) by pushing the boundaries of the environment in which you can practice mindfulness.

Imagine that the timeline of your life is like a “connect-the-dots” picture, and your meditation sessions are the dots. If you start meditating once a week in the morning, you might be able to draw a simple picture with the dots. Do it every day, and suddenly the picture starts to look little better. In the evenings too, even better. A few quick sessions on a park bench after lunch, even better. On a noisy bus, even better. The picture starts to become more nuanced. Maybe you’ll start doing walking meditations while you’re getting from point A to point B. Maybe if you do it long enough you’ll start to realize you don’t really need to listen to the guided meditation anymore, that you can just “turn on” mindfulness when you notice yourself getting caught up in your thoughts. Suddenly the dots start to become lines.

Your picture is becoming clearer. Your life is coming into focus because you, yourself, are learning how to focus. You’ve developed this skill by dedicated hours of time in a controlled environment focusing on the simplest thing you can imagine, something you take with you wherever you go, something that serves as your anchor (and also the subject of next week’s post).

The breath.

NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 1 – The Pause.

Years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion before a large audience here in Charlotte. It was my first time speaking at such an event, and I had all the nerves that came with it. But I was friends with the other panelists – I had the material down cold, and I was wearing a suit (rare) so I felt pretty good going in.

The 45 minute session flew by. Before I knew it, complete strangers were standing and clapping and I was awkwardly handing off the microphone as I stepped off the stage.

It felt great to step off the stage. I was fired up, riding the high of delivering what I thought was a decent (perhaps overcaffeinated) speech about a topic I knew well. And my suit was doing an equally decent job of hiding the fact that I’d completely sweated through my shirt at that point (not so rare). So it was with great confidence that I approached a round table of about 9 or 10 people to discuss the topic further in a breakout session following the panel.

I decided to kick things off with a quick icebreaker. I suggested everyone give the typical run-down: name, where you’re from, why you’re here, some sort of fun fact, etc. I took a seat, looked at the girl sitting across from me, and asked her to start. I leaned in as she began to tell me her story.

And it was immediately clear that she had a severe speech impediment.

I felt a wave of panic. My heart began to race. How could I have been so insensitive, putting her on the spot like that? What should I do? Well I had to do something. Everyone was looking at her and some of them were looking back at me. They must have wanted me to say something. After all, I was the one who got her into this mess. I needed to help get her out of it. I needed to rescue her.

And who knows, 9 times out of 10 I may have tried to do just that. I would have quickly interrupted her and apologized. But not this time.

This time, I paused.

Have you ever been buying something at a convenience store, looked up to see yourself in the security camera footage, and thought “wow, I’m actually really strange-looking from this angle?” That’s kind of what happened. I suddenly saw the situation from a different angle – the rest of the noise faded into the background of a birds-eye view of just me and her.

And in that moment I realized that I didn’t have to do anything. She didn’t need my help and she didn’t need to be “rescued.” I realized that this part of her story was new to me but not to her, and that the best thing I could give her at that moment was my undivided attention.

And so that’s what I did. I paused, and she spoke. Slowly at first, but after a few seconds very comfortably, and we moved on.

I’ve been meditating for over five years. This year, my New Year’s Resolution was to meditate for 60 total hours using the Headspace App, and to maintain a streak of meditating 180 days in a row.

You can see my progress here. I’ve already accomplished the streak goal:

and I’m only three hours away from meeting my hours goal, which I believe I can do comfortably since I’m averaging 9.2 minutes per session.

I’m not crazy about the structure of the Resolution itself, but tracking hours and sessions is the only way I could think of to hold myself accountable in a measurable way. But I think it misses the point of medidation, for me anyway.

What exactly is the point?

I could tell you that meditation makes me calm. And sometimes it does. But sometimes it doesn’t – especially if I go into my practice with the expectation that it should calm me down, it can often have the opposite effect. Suddenly being faced with the infinite thoughts swimming through my crazy head and feeling powerless to stop them can be downright stressful.

I could tell you that meditation improves my relationships. And sometimes it does. But other times the sense of clarity I reach during a meditation session just makes it that much worse when the zen moment is broken within five minutes of getting up from my seat when I snap at my wife or one of my kids about something dumb.

I could tell you meditation makes me feel closer to God. And sometimes it does. But other times it makes me feel painfully distant (not a particularly helpful or rational feeling, but a feeling nonetheless). FYI, while my approach to the practice is secular, I do feel that the message and the teachings of meditation, things like compassion, kindness and generosity, fit quite neatly into my personal belief system. But I won’t get into that in this series. Maybe later – at the moment, I think it’s a bigger subject than I am a writer.

So why bother meditating? The best answer I can give is this: the real benefits of meditation aren’t found in the ten minutes you sit, but in the rest of your day as you approach it more mindfully, moment to moment.

Like the moment I described earlier. That moment was, for the most part, completely ordinary. I doubt she even remembers it. But I do – I remember it as this one time where, unlike the thousands of other times I’ve screwed up, I exercised a tiny bit of empathy and ended up doing the right thing. Which was (and often is) nothing.

Is 60 hours of sitting worth one, critical pause? We’re going to explore that question this month.

NYR 19-10: “Have A Morning Routine.” Part 4 – Evening Routines.

Not all of us are early risers, and there’s no reason why we can’t apply a few of these habits later in the day. And when it comes to role models for Evening Routines, I can’t help but think of this guy:


George Banks from Mary Poppins. I mean come on, look at him go! In less than two minutes Mr. Banks goes from marching through his front door to resting in his easy chair, sherry in hand, surrounded by his loving wife and servants. Life goals.

And along the way, he demonstrates several habits that are common denominators among most Evening Routines.

Expressing Gratitude

Expressing Gratitude is all the rage lately, and studies have shown that gratitude journaling can be an effective way to improve sleep and general well-being. But to hell with just journaling – Mr. Banks kicks it up a notch, breaking out into song with “The Life I Lead” as soon as he gets home. Literally an entire song dedicated to how awesome his life is.


Patriarchy and traditional gender roles aside, you can’t say the guy isn’t grateful. Noblesse oblige.


“Consistent is the life I lead.” I talked about this in last week’s post. Consistency and specificity make routines easier to follow and more fun. Mr. Banks has his routine timed down to the minute “At 6:01, I march through my door…”


I like to think that Mr. Banks going through this entire routine every single day when he comes home from work.

Changing Uniform

My slippers sherry and pipe are due at 6:02.” Changing clothes right when you get home can be an effective way to transition from work life to home life.


I try to get into casual wear as soon as I walk in the door. In addition to the comfort and physical health benefits, there’s definitely a psychological boost and I feel like I’m more likely to play with my kids.

Of course, as much as I love Mr. Banks’s routine, it isn’t perfect. It’s missing a couple of key ingredients, most notably awareness. It isn’t until after he’s finished his number that he realizes the nanny just quit and his children are missing.

And we have to bring some degree of awareness to our routines. Because at the end of the day, a routine is about more than just going through the motions. Routines, ultimately, are about control.

It’s about controlling some aspect of your life, however small, among the chaos that you have to face throughout the rest of the day. And it hasn’t been easy to write about. These past few days I’ve felt like a hypocrite – I wrote an entire post about my splendid morning routine, but I need to be honest with you guys:

  • One (or both) of my girls has woken up six of the past seven nights between 2:30 and 4 a.m.
  • Work has been busy, and I’ve been going to bed after 10:30 most nights.
  • I recently listened to a podcast series with Dr. Peter Attia (one of my favorite podcasters) and Dr. Matthew Walker (author of Why We Sleep) which has me freaking out about how much sleep I get.

So when my girls wake up in the middle of the night, I’ve been pushing my alarm out 30 minutes, sometimes an hour, to get more sleep. And I’ve averaged almost 20 minutes of (worthless) snooze time on top of that. The meditation goes from 10 minutes to 3 minutes. The workout goes from 30 minutes to 10, then to nothing at all. A lot of days I’ve caught the late bus, tired and irritable and frustrated knowing that I’m not going to get an hour, just one hour, to myself that day.

But some days I do.

Some days I get that hour and then some. And if you’re trying to get that hour, I feel you. It’s hard, and some days it’s just not going to happen. That’s ok. We’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for improvement.

And this week… there’s hope.

Because this Sunday, November 3rd, just before 2:00 a.m., most of our clocks are going to magically turn back to 1:00 a.m. And that hour is all yours.

That hour is literally the most unaccounted for hour of the entire year. Nobody can get you. Maybe you need to catch up on sleep. Maybe you’re overdue for a night out, and need to have a morning where you can sleep in a little later. Maybe you want to start an exercise regimine, a podcast, a business, or a blog. To me, it doesn’t matter so much what you do – what makes that hour yours is that you do something purposefully.

So, what are you going to do with your hour?

NYR 19-10: “Have A Morning Routine.” Part 3 – In With The New.

This is a long post, but I wanted to give a complete run-down of what, exactly, my Morning Routine currently looks like. The routine is based on three principles:

  1. Don’t do in the morning what you can do the night before. I’m trying to create a block of time that I can dedicate to myself. If blocked off appropriately, an hour or so every morning can yield powerful results, so the ROI for those minutes in the morning can be pretty high. By comparison, in the evenings I’m not terribly efficient. The idea is to take on some of the more mundane tasks in the evening to sort of “wind down” so that they don’t waste my precious morning minutes. Some examples: showering, shaving, doing the dishes, and packing the girls’ lunches.
  2. Do the simple stuff first. And work your way up toward tasks that require more thought.
  3. Be irrationally specific. The reality is that most of the details here don’t matter all that much. But specificity itself is important – it’s a bit counterintuitive, but the more specific I am with the details of my routine, the more likely I am to adhere to them. It’s also more fun in a weird way, and helps prevent one of the biggest time killers in the morning: decision making.

So, here’s what I do:

  • Wake up at 5:30, with zero snooze time. And immediately put on workout clothes which are next to the bed. If you look at the data, you’ll notice that very rarely do I snooze for just a minute or two. It’s usually all or nothing. Which means that those first few seconds are incredibly important – the idea that I’ll just rest for a little bit, or finish a thought before getting out of bed, is a dangerous one. Recently I’ve noticed that dreams have even been a culprit. I’ll wake up in the middle of a weird dream, and even after realizing that it was just a dream I’ll ponder it for a while and then slowly drift off… at one point I even tried having my alarm show this message when I woke up:


(not my most inspiring work)

  • Bathroom. Including (but not exclusive to…): brushing teeth, tongue scraping, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. In that order, every time. The order in which you should perform these tasks is actually a fiery issue in online forums. I don’t think it really matters, but again it helps to be specific. Also, I hyperlinked tongue scraping because I didn’t know what it was until about a year ago and now I’m a huge fan. Once that’s done I put on some deoderant and drink a glass of tap water. Yes, tap water – because it’s right there, it’s easy, I live in America and room temperature water might be marginally better for you as a pre-workout. Zero time spent on my hair – I shaved my head recently, which means no more doing this in the morning.
  • Workout. Right now, I’m trying a new at-home workout called The Happy Body Program. This is still in the early research stages, but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s sort of like yoga with dumbells – a sweatless workout that I do in thirty minutes, performing the same 18 exercises every day. I ran into some injury issues with the Brad Pitt workout earlier this year, and while I think I’ll end up supplementing this with something in the evenings (lifting/swimming/boxing) right now I’m just sticking with the Happy Body.
  • Meditate. 10 minutes using the Headspace app. I’ll get into this more in a later series on Meditation, but I love this app and have used it for years. I’ve gone through most of the “packs” and lately I’ve been doing the “Everyday Headspace,” which starts each session with a sort of “thought for the day” from the guide, Andy Puddicombe.
  • Get dressed for work. In an outfit I picked out the night before. I used to put off getting dressed for work until the last possible moment so I could enjoy being comfortable at home. The problem is that I don’t always budget enough time to get out the door, something always comes up and suddenly I’m in a rush to get ready. The reality is that my work clothes aren’t all that uncomfortable, and I can approach the rest of the morning with ease knowing that I’m ready to head out the door at a moment’s notice.
  • Drink coffee. Notice I didn’t say “make coffee.” I prepped the night before, and programmed our $20 Mr. Coffee maker to start brewing at 6:00. If you guys are looking for one, simple hack to get a win early in the day, look no further. Nothing makes you feel like you’ve got it together quite like your coffee maker starting to brew midway through your at-home workout. I don’t eat breakfast, as I mentioned in last week’s post.
  • Plan my day. Using the methodology I described in detail in the August series on being more productive. I used to wait until I got into the office to do this – the idea being that it would jump-start my productivity right when I got in. But I’ve come to realize that the earlier I do this process, the better, so now I try to do it at home.
  • Do whatever I want. Until it’s time to catch my bus. The 6:56 usually gets to my stop around 7:00. The rest of my routine takes less than an hour, so I usually have a good 30 minutes to read, write, outline, or just drink coffee on the balcony.
  • Ride the bus. This is kind of an important one – in addition to saving money/the environment, riding the bus is a time that I actually look forward to because it’s a time I’ve dedicated to reading. I’ve averaged two books per month since I first started tracking this four months ago. I listen to podcasts from my house to the bus stop and from the bus station to work. Some of the most common complaints I hear from friends and family concern their commutes – reframing helps.

And that’s it – I get into the office at 7:45, having already gotten in a 30 minute workout, 30 minute reading session, 10 minute meditation session and 20+ minutes to do whatever else I want to do.

Again, this is best case scenario – either one of my daughters could easily throw a hand grenade into the whole process (and very often do). The point here is to have a default setting, and on the days when I pull this off, I feel amazing.

NYR 19-10: “Have A Morning Routine.” Part 2: Out With The Old.

My Morning Routine has come a long way in the past twenty years. Which is saying a lot; after all, it took a lot of work to put this getup together every morning:


It might be helpful to go back and review a brief history of David’s Morning Routines:

  • Elementary school. I have a vague memory of my dad helping me develop morning habits involving a list with boxes to check and some sort of reward system. Stickers, toys… even money perhaps? I’m hazy on the details but I do remember 1) that it worked, and 2) that I had an alarm clock with two settings, one which I called “the beezer” which was the most terrible sound imaginable, and another which turned on the radio to Magic 96.1 which was more fun but not as effective. Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Cheerios.
  • Middle School. Somewhere along the way the wheels fell off. Way off. There was never, ever enough sleep. Personal hygiene suffered as I focused all of my efforts toward staying in bed as long as possible. At one point I remember my dad waking me up and telling me to shower. I went to the bathroom, turned on the shower, wet my hair under the faucet so that it looked like I showered, put on my clothes, and went back to bed… setting a twenty minute alarm and waking up with a strong odor, wrinkly clothes and formidable bed-head. Nothing a little Old Spice a big glob of L.A. Looks hair gel couldn’t fix. Girlfriends were inexplicably in short supply. Breakfast: Kellogg’s Low Fat Granola With Raisins. I devoured this stuff for years and as I’m typing this I can still taste it. I remember spending many a morning mindlessly reading the back of the box while I ate.
  • High School. Hygiene improved, but sleep took a backseat in favor of AOL Instant Messenger and a killer lineup on [adult swim] including Space Ghost, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Family Guy (a show which, were it not for [adult swim], you might never have even heard of). I slept through an astonishing number of my classes (including this incident) and in retrospect it’s weird how normal I thought this was. Breakfast: Still eating the Granola, still reading the box. Actually here’s a picture of it – apparently these are selling on Amazon for over $50 and I’m not entirely sure what’s going on:
  • College. Free to pick my own schedule, I rarely attended classes before 11 a.m. This didn’t result in getting more sleep, but staying out later. Drinking the night before became the new norm, and the line between hungover and perpetual tiredness began to blur. Classes got harder and I started to normalize my schedule a bit to compensate. BreakfastQuaker Apples and Cinnamon Oatmeal, V8 Juice, and Lipton Powdered Green Tea shaken up in a Deer Park bottle. Very weird… not exactly sure how this nutritional profile fell together. Went through several roommates who all complained about empty V8 cans lying around the house. I ended up marrying the last roommate.
  • Young Adult. Habits normalized further in order to navigate 9-5 jobs and not fall asleep at various desks. I began to dabble with meditation and working out in the mornings, although not on the weekends as Friday and Saturday nights are still spent staying out late. But that was OK, because on Saturday and Sunday I could sleep in as long as I wanted because I hadn’t stumbled into the next phase…
  • Dad. Drinking spiked, and then plummeted when I realize that “recovery time” was now unreliable at best and nonexistent at worst. I began setting alarms earlier, and babies still interrupted them. Working out became a privilege that I actually looked forward to whenever I could make it happen. Paradoxically, the stage of my life where my time has been the most limited ended up being my most productive phase yet, both personally and professionally. I don’t know how to explain it, other than the fact that nothing makes you want to get your shit together quite like having a kid. Sleep becomes more precious than gold, even more precious than the middle school days. Breakfast: 16/8 intermittent fasting – water and the blackest of coffee, nothing more.

As you can see, my road to developing an effective Morning Routine hasn’t been a smooth one. It’s had ups and downs and is still very much a work in progress. And my current routine still doesn’t happen every day – for example, this morning’s “morning routine” consisted of waking up at 5 a.m. and scrambling to get the family to LaGuardia to catch an early morning flight.

The idea here isn’t to develop a rigid system where I feel like I’ve failed if I don’t do everything consistently. It’s to develop a default setting where I wake up most mornings with intention, and with a little bit of time to work on myself each day. That word “intention” is important. It can be easy to look at the data I’ve tracked so far and assume this is a series about getting up earlier. It’s not – as far as I’m concerned an effective Morning Routine can start at 4 a.m. or 11 a.m. but it has to start with intention. That’s why overcoming the snooze button is so important.

Because my alarm clock is more than just a suggestion – it’s a promise to myself. And I’ve come to find that the key to personal growth of any kind is keeping those promises.