Win Each Day

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Describe Your Morning

Recently, we’ve really come to like the Tim Ferris Show.  In his show he talks to people from all walks of life who are extremely successful in their respective fields.  A few of the episodes we found especially interesting were interviews with General Stan McChrystal, billionaire hedge-fund manager Chris Sacca, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

ID-100296042In each episode Ferris has a lengthy discussion with the guest and then asks a series of scripted questions.  One question that he asks everyone is to describe their typical morning ritual.  The fact that this is one of his core questions is very interesting to us.  This is something we have both paid great attention to for years.

Make Success Inevitable

We have written repeatedly how building wealth should not be looked at as sacrifice or taking great effort.  Rather, it is important to develop habits that over time will make success inevitable.

Many people look at extreme early retirement as a sprint.  In comparison to a typical 40-50 year career, our working years are definitely short.

453374252_96949ed528_mHowever, our personal journey will have taken about 16 years. When we started our careers in 2001, the World Trade Center towers were standing, and we were a country at peace. Wikipedia had just gone online. Barry Bonds was a national sports hero hitting a record 71 home runs in a season. Miley Cyrus was still years from being Hannah Montana let alone, well, Miley Cyrus.  It was a long time ago.

To accumulate the wealth required for financial independence, you must have many small wins compounded over time.  You must develop habits that make these small wins inevitable and not constant struggles.

Our morning routine has been a huge part of that for us.  We have found that there are simply too many distractions and too much unpredictability during the day to accomplish what we want without a plan.  We therefore prioritize what we most want to accomplish and do those things first thing in the A.M., before we can be distracted from them.

Things Change

I am going to share my current routine, but first I want to emphasize a few things.  I am not recommending that you do anything that I currently do.  Five years ago, my routine was very different.  A few months from now it may change again as my goals and life change.  At different times, I used my morning to study for advanced degrees or certifications, learn about investing/building our portfolio, train for particular physical challenges, etc.

The take home points are this.  I prioritize the things that I most want to get done in a way that gives me the best chance of accomplishing them every day.  I focus on little wins every day.  I script out this part of my day sometime the weekend before to minimize distractions and maximize this valuable morning time.

My Current Routine

  • 4:40  Wake Up.

Just by waking up an hour or two before most people, I feel that I have the mental edge of being ahead of the game.

  • 4:45-5:00  Read something inspirational/spiritual.

I find this is the most important part of my day, and so I place it first.  I also take a few minutes every night to simply reflect on the day, find 2-3 things that I am grateful for, and say them out loud.  These habits make me challenge my instincts to always want more and keep me focused on my core values.

I usually switch up this morning routine about every 3-6 weeks to keep things fresh and keep me engaged.  Some examples of things I read are the Biblical book of Proverbs (ancient wisdom that remains true today; 31 chapters makes ideal to read one every day of the month), or James (very short and focused on living your values).  Currently, I read a short list of quotes and thoughts about happiness, gratitude and simplicity that I found through the blog Financial Mentor that really helps shape how I approach the day.  You can download them through this link if interested.

  • 5:00 Breakfast

I currently eat the same thing every weekday morning:  2 hard boiled eggs (one whole, one white only), 1 greek yogurt, 1 liter water.  I have chosen this for 2 reasons.  First, it gives me the right nutritional mix to keep me from crashing and keeps me feeling full until about 10 a.m., when I need a snack.  Second, it takes less than one minute to prep, and I can eat it while I move on to the next task.  Thus no time and energy are wasted thinking about what to eat or prepping it.

  • 5:00-?  Blog/Retirement Planning

I spend the next 45-90 minutes, depending on my planned workout, working on writing, researching or marketing the blog.  This is a priority for several reasons.  First, it forces me to have the discipline to think about and plan technical issues related to our own retirement.  Second, learning and personal development are two of my biggest priorities and this is where I am focusing my attention at this time.  Third, it is forcing me to build a social network of like-minded people that will be key when transitioning to this uncommon path for our future.  Finally, it is scratching an itch that I have to spread our message that I think will help others approach life and finances from a different point of view.

  • ?-6:50  Work out

Depending on my workout, I take from 25-70 minutes.  I know that with a young child and busy work schedule I can’t get out as much as I’d like.  I’ve designed a workout to cover all the bases to maintain baseline strength, endurance and flexibility.  Then when I can get out, I can perform at a reasonable level, be less likely to be injured, and I am taking care of my long term health.

Typically 2 days are combo strength/cardio interval workouts done with Mrs. EE such as the “Cindy” workout we stole from Crossfit or 4-5 rounds of exercise done in “Tabata training” intervals.  Two days I go to the climbing gym (about 5 minute drive each way) to work on strength and endurance, stretching during breaks.  One day I do yoga for an hour.

6:50-7:20 Prepare for day, get self and Little EE out the door. 

The Essentials

In a recent post I wrote about the concept of “Essentialism”.  In that post I outlined what I value most in life. When designing my morning routine I try to reflect these values.  The routine allows me to accomplish things that require my focus and attention and leave undistracted time for family and friends later in the day.

In that post, I acknowledged that I don’t have time for all that I would like to do.  I would love to spend more time on spiritual development.  I would love to write 2 blog posts/week and do some serious marketing to grow the blog.  I would love to climb 3-4 days per week, do yoga at least twice and get outside for exercise hiking, biking, skiing, etc.

The reality is sometimes I do.  I hike and/or climb most weekends.  I do yoga most Sundays.  I work on the blog at times at night, lunch hours or on weekends.

I look at every one of those things as a bonus. I am getting in the essentials each morning to keep me grounded, healthy and progressing toward my primary goals at this time.

Win Each Day

However, if the weather is bad on the weekend and we don’t get out, I’m OK.  If a client runs into my lunch hour or little EE can’t go to sleep at night, I don’t stress much about it.

By winning each morning, I’ve already won the day.

Even a relatively short working career associated with early retirement is made of many individual days.  What habits have you found key to getting little wins?  Are you a morning person?  Do you have any other unusual routines that make you successful?  Please share below!

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*Header photo ours (Mt Kilimanjaro), Clock image courtesy of Pong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, WTC photo courtesy Flickr

19 comments on Win Each Day

  1. I really like your morning routine. I wish mine was so orderly. Unfortunately, my work day starts earlier so I would need to get up at 3 to be able to pack those things it. It would probably be worth it, however. I also have been listening to TF podcast a lot lately and find it very useful.

    1. First off great to hear from you!
      Can’t blame you for not getting up at 3 to start the day, don’t think I’d pull that one off either. TF podcast style and length took me a few episodes to get into, but I’m really loving it and find his interview style diving deeply into topics pretty interesting and refreshing.

      1. I must say that I didn’t want to be a TF fan. It is a little more flashy and hypermasculine than I generally care for and I think that Bay Area tech investing is a fad that many people are jumping on. Yet I have found that there are so many useful things discussed on the podcast that I prioritize it now over other podcasts.

        1. TF is an acquired taste but I agree that I get excited to see who his new interviews are and generally move them to the front of the queue.

  2. He EE,
    Thanks for sharing the routine. Cool to see what you do. I agree that successful habits and routines like this are the bedrock of everything else in our life.

    An online teacher I enjoy named Brian Johnson (philosophersnotes.com) calls these our “Blissiplines.” They are the regular habits, that if we do them, make all the difference in our day and in our lives.

    Like you, my routine shifts. But these five have been big on my list of blissiplines for several years now:
    1. Sleep 7+ hours (my hardest!)
    2. meditate/quiet time in morning
    3. exercise
    4. eat nutrient dense food (focus on greens)
    5. family slow time

    1. That list looks pretty dead on to me. I agree that the sleep is the hardest. I also find exercising more difficult now that we are rarely training for any particular challenges that keep me motivated.

    1. Certainly different strokes for different folks. The morning thing really works for both of us. Whatever works for you, keep winning!

  3. Your morning routine (for now) sounds fantastic. I’m envious because my work travel makes it super tough to get into routines like this. So every day is a little bit of reinvention, and trying to make the most of an imperfect situation — not enough sleep, behind on work tasks because of travel, etc. I *can* tell you what we want to do every day when we quit our jobs, though! Get up not too early, have a nice leisurely cup of coffee, do our exercise for the day (could be a workout or a longer thing like hiking, biking, skiing, climbing, etc.), then spend whatever time is left before dinner doing the creative stuff (writing, reading, etc.). Then leisurely dinner. Can’t wait!

    1. That would be tough. We are definitely creatures of habit.

      Your future sounds pretty much like our present weekend/vacation days except substituting watching Frozen or reading Cat in the Hat for the umpteenth time!

      It will be here before you know it!

  4. I like it! You really pack a lot into your mornings. I’ve been trying to develop some routines of my own lately and having a hard time getting any to stick. But it’s interesting that I have seen/heard a lot about this topic recently, and your post has given me some extra motivation. It’s funny how when you start paying attention to something you tend to notice things that pop up that are relevant that you might otherwise never know were in front of you. I like your idea of getting the things that you value most done first thing before other distractions have a chance to sabotage you. And the Tim Ferriss podcast is indeed awesome! I have been listening to it for a few months now, and love the variety and depth of his interviews.

    1. Glad to hear I could light a little fire under you! I know not everyone is a morning person, but we’ve found this has been very useful and if it is something you were already playing with I would encourage you to keep experimenting with your routine until you find something that sticks.

      Cheers!

      1. Thanks for the encouragement Mr. EE. I definitely will be experimenting with my mornings to figure out what works best. By the way, if you haven’t already read it, I recommend reading Tim Ferriss’s book The Four Hour Workweek. I think with your lifestyle you would find some of his ideas interesting. Things like taking mini retirements throughout life instead of one big retirement at the end of a long career. And other good stuff about maximizing productivity of the things you have to do in order to make more time for the things your really want to do.

        1. I have read the “4HWW”. Loved some parts, hated others which I think is what a book should do b/c it means it challenges the way you think. The idea of mini-retirements is one that I really loved and that have stuck with me. Check out the guest posts from Chad Carson
          http://eatthefinancialelephant.com/guest-post-climbing-a-different-route-to-financial-independence-using-real-estate/
          and my friend “The Prophet” ( http://eatthefinancialelephant.com/financial-freedom-is-more-than-a-number/ ) for more ideas on that. In the next few weeks, I plan to explain why I chose to stay on our current route instead of going that direction.

          1. Thanks for the recommendations EE. Both good, interesting posts. I enjoy learning about different ways that others have achieved, or are on there way to achieving their own versions of FI.

  5. Inspirational post.

    It is now the second time that I read on people getting up really early to do things they really like and find important. It is such a simple and easy solution, yet so difficult to put in place.

    One day, I just hope to get out of bed when the alarm clocks rings at 5:50, rather than waiting for the kids to call me around 6:30

    1. Amber,

      We have found it very helpful in being more productive and it gives us more undistracted quality time later in the day. I must say though that it is never a struggle for us. Maybe we’re just morning people?

      I think it is good to experiment with different things. Maybe this will be a game changer for you or maybe you just need to find a totally different routine that works for you.

      Good Luck!
      EE

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