You get into bed, grab the book. You must go back a page or two because you don’t remember what the book is talking about…ah yes, I vaguely remember this part, let’s take it from here. Two or three pages later the eyes feel heavy. Screw this, I’d rather sleep.
I used to read nonfiction before bed. One of two things would happen:
- Most often: I fall asleep quickly. I would fall into the above scenario, making little progress and remembering only some of the important ideas. I’d feel so weak and thought “I’m a person with low willpower”, when in reality I’m just tired.
- Sometimes: I can’t sleep. When I came across a powerful idea, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had no way of calming my mind and getting it ready to rest.
Seed & Scale
In the fashion industry, a product starts in the luxury/designer scene (think Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc). Usually, something becomes a trend with the approval of a celebrity or influencer. As it takes off, trend trickles down to more affordable stores where it’s flooded to a massive scale. Nowadays it happens through fast fashion stores like Zara and H&M.
I learned an interesting business model at work that we can adapt to our habits. To simplify, let’s call it “Seed & Scale”: a product or service is created on a small scale first serving a niche market, then it grows to reach a larger audience and finally, mass usage and adoption.
I learned to “seed” new habits, one of them was learning Japanese every night before going to sleep. I’ve made solid progress but after a year of learning almost every day, I thought my level should be higher. The problem? I got stuck in the “seeding” phase: I would do it every night but only for a minute or two until I got tired.
Recommendation: start each weekday waking up five minutes earlier than the previous morning to gradually create time for your ritual. The key is to have dinner earlier. The morning has a higher chance than the evening for expanding an activity up to 15 minutes.
I learned from Mr. Eben Pagan that we have a limited amount of willpower each day. In the morning we have our maximum willpower. At night, our willpower reserves are empty or close to it.
Each decision we make consume units of willpower. Choosing what to eat, deciding what to wear, figuring out what to do when we wake up – these all take up some of our finite willpower. We can create systems and rules to save willpower units for more important things.
Another powerful idea I learned from Mr. Pagan: have a morning ritual where you make yourself stronger before receiving any inputs. Exercise, meditation and a good meal before email, social media and news.
Recommendation from Mr. Pagan: invest your willpower early in the morning when you still have it.
Make yourself stronger, healthier and wiser before receiving any inputs. “Seed” your morning habits then slowly scale them. You’re more likely to scale them in the morning than at night.
Some Options For Morning Rituals
Most of them I learned from Mr. Tim Ferriss:
- “Feeling gratitude that you’re alive, you might not have woken up at all”. The answer when I asked Mr. Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace, what was his morning ritual
- 10 repetitions of something physical like push-ups
- Meditating: apps like Headspace are a great way to learn
- Journaling: appreciation for what you have, setting goals for the day. From Mr. Pagan: setting up goals in the morning makes it less likely that you’ll deviate to other people’s agenda.
- Learning a new skill. New languages are one option, apps like Memrise or Duolingo are great tools
- Memorizing using Space Repetition Software like Anki. Mr. Derek Sivers’ article uses computer programming as a vehicle but it applies to almost everything you want to remember. After decades of using calculators and Excel, I forgot how to do math using my brain (shame!!!), I’m now re-learning the multiplication tables like a 3rd grader
- Making your bed
- Reading: one option is an audiobook while getting ready (brushing teeth, moisturizing, shaving/beard trimming, blow drying my hair, putting on clothes). I learned this from General Stanley McChrystal via Tools of Titans
- Exercising: this one is one I hear so much and it’s one of my goals. I tend to focus on mental “training” and don’t give the same importance to my body. A lot of work to do here.
Would love for you to share in the comments what are some of the rituals or routines that you’ve most found valuable? If you have children, what time works best for you?
I crave routines to constantly learn. If I don’t do them, I get anxious and sometimes project my resentment onto the people who made me miss or shorten my learning. I give more to people because after an intense me-time in the morning, I think just a little bit less about myself.
Go to the Source:
- Which activities to include in your morning ritual and why: Tools of Titans – 5 Morning Rituals that Help Me Win the Day
- Mental Models for Success, Willpower and morning routines: Eben Pagan – Love The Final Chapter. Day 3, Session 3