That Helpful Dad
Jan 11, 2018 · 14 min read
Source: Pixabay/RawPixel CCO Creative Commons

The Problem: Most AM Rituals require 2–4 hours to complete — most working men and women don’t have this kind of time in the morning. Do you?
The Solution: The SMART Morning Routine can be completed in a little as 30 minutes and still provide the majority of benefits of longer rituals.

How does that sound?

The Dilemma of the Working Class

Morning Routines are all the rage these days — Tim Ferris, Hal Elrod, Benjamin Hardy and many more profess their greatness. Quite frankly there are a LOT of great AM Rituals on the web and I’m thankful to these key opinion leaders who’ve shared their ideas.

Unfortunately what I noticed is that many of the most popular morning routines require a long time to complete — that’s a big problem for working men and women like me who still have 9–5 type jobs, families, and a host of demands on our time.

So what do you do when you still want to enjoy the benefits of a morning routine but don’t have the time?

Simple — create a “SMART” Morning Routine. I’m sure you are already familiar with the acronym S-M-A-R-T — it stands for “specific/simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.” With this in mind…

The SMART Morning Routine is an AM Ritual for the rest of us : one that fits our busy lives AND still provides us the key benefits of the Morning Routine exercise.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be in a position where I can spend 2–4 hours every morning turning myself into the Uber-Human of my dreams. Who wouldn’t want to meditate for 30–60 minutes, workout for an hour, spend another hour thinking about a bucket list item, spend another 1.5 hours being creative, and taking time to enjoy a nutritious breakfast? I’d love the luxury of being able to do all those things, and if I did, I’m 100% certain my life would improve.

Source: Pixabay/Creative Commons

But let’s face it, most of us ‘worker bees’ are not yet in a position to spend 4 hours each morning on our AM Rituals — we need routines which are both realistic and achievable for us. That’s where the SMART Morning Routine can help.


The S-M-A-R-T Morning Routine — A Summary

The SMART Morning Routine involves starting the day with as little as 30 minutes of alone time designed to take your productivity to the next level and beyond.

It’s kind of like Abraham Lincoln’s advice about chopping down a tree (you remember that saying, right?) “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening my ax.” In this case, the ax to be sharpened is YOU — and we’ll do it in a lot less time too!

Here’s how it works…

  • First, you ‘prime’ your body, mind, and soul by using a series of breathing exercises, wisdom contemplation (from external sources), and wisdom release (from inside you).
  • Meanwhile, you identify and focus on your own specific goals for the day — your 3 most important goals — visualizing yourself actively working on AND successfully completing each of them.
Source: Pixabay/Creative Commons

By taking just a half hour so-so and doing these two big bucket items, the SMART Morning Routine leaves you a ‘complete’ person, eager to attack the day because you have already completed a few tasks that made you feel great AND you have a clear-eyed vision on what you want to do. Thus you can immediately move forward — already in a highly productive mindset. You feel like you are already a success and that confidence is half the battle to a winning the day.

It Works for Me; It Can Help YOU Too!

I had a big problem last year — I let myself get uber-busy in with “busybody work” and for a time it took me off my life’s path. Thankfully I read a book called Tools of Titans (Tim Ferris) and the wisdom there set me straight (Thanks, Tim!).

I was somebody who already had a morning routine, but over the years it got less and less productive because it lacked balance (it was essentially all work-focused and not ‘me’ focused). I used Tim’s ideas to reset my routine and eventually develop the “SMART AM Ritual.”

Now, by consistently completing the SMART Morning Routine, I’m supercharging my productivity (for work, play, and life) while also actively making myself a better person again.

The result: I’m back on track to My Life’s Journey.

If you want to do the same, then give it a try.


The SMART Morning Routine

1 — Control…Something
(Time Investment: 1–2 minutes)

One little thing — it doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t matter what it is — just get it done. It could be making a bed, it could be organizing your desk, it could be anything. It takes all of 1–2 minutes but…it’s one thing DONE.

This is especially helpful for Type-A personalities — when you can control what you can control, and get that 1 easy take completed first thing in the morning, it becomes a success (dare I say “S-M-A-R-T?”) building block that propels you forward into the day — and it makes you feel like “Yes, I can do this!”

And just like that Task #1 is done!

2 — Prime the Body
(Time Investment: 3–5 minutes)

First I do a round of Sun Salutations — this simple yoga routine takes just a few minutes and starts the process of connecting the body with the mind. BTW if you are new to Yoga and want some guidance, there is a great FREE app called “Track Yoga” — it will guide you through the Sun Salutations (with pointers on how to do it right). As a side note, Track Yoga is one of the “29 Things I Use to Improve My Life.”

Bonus Tip: Although I’d love to be able to go outside to do my Sun Salutations, that’s not realistic for me yet so I have a couple pics of sunrises hanging on my office wall — they are pics I took myself and they bring me joy by reminding me of special moments in my life. Here’s one…

Source: Michael Stoppa/Captiva, FL

Next, I do 10 reps of something — pushups, jumping jacks, air punches. Just 10. It’s not a workout, it’s just to get the body ready to go — kind of like priming an engine before you start it. You’ll be surprised how this gets the blood flowing in the right direction.

(OK, for you Seinfeld fans, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Kenny Bania who famously said on the show, “I start out with curls. That’s good for the bicep. I do 10 reps, 2 sets…” After all, everything relates back to Seinfeld, right? Apparently even the Morning Routine).

3 — Add some Caffeine
(Time Investment: 0)

One cup of black coffee (with cinnamon) does the trick for me. It allows me to keep my intermittent (read: 14–16 hour) fasting going while giving me the energy I need to move through the morning. (Why cinnamon, you wonder? Cinnamon is a natural blood sugar regulator).

This single cup of coffee gives me energy that lasts until I break my fast around 10 am (from about 6 pm the night before). Quick note — the time ‘cost’ is zero because you drink the coffee while doing the remaining tasks.

4 — Prime the Mind
(Time Investment: 10–15 minutes)

I’m all for wisdom. I try to be consciously open to acquiring wisdom from trusted sources (and that includes my own mind). Ever since reading Tony’s Awaken the Giant Within years ago, I’ve been a fan of journaling. I believe in Tony’s adage…

“If you life is worth living it’s worth recording.”

Unfortunately in recent years I let the ‘chores of life’ get in the way of my journaling — foolishly believing that “I didn’t have time to journal” (ah, big misconception — as the Buddhist would say, ‘if you don’t have time for journaling, then you need to journal right now”). Thankfully Tim’s book reminded me of the benefits and now I’m back with a vengeance.

My current version of AM Journal varies depending on the day.

  • Sometimes it’s reminding myself what am I grateful for (opportunities, something from yesterday, something beautiful I see, etc). Sometimes it’s thinking about specific positive-focused questions like “what would make today great?” or “what would set me up for success?” Other times it’s just clearing my mind of a problem or even complaining a bit about something to release my frustration (it helps!). When I do this exercise I try to focus on ‘free form’ writing — don’t think, just write — let your mind release its contents (kind of like when Hooper and Chief opened up the guts of the shark on “Jaws”). You never know what you’ll find, but it’s amazing what’s in there. (And no, I haven’t found a license plate from LA yet).
  • Other times I don’t write in my journal, but instead, exercise what Tim calls the “Idea Muscle” — basically think of a question like “What Makes me Content?” “What’s my Bucket List now?” “How can I better focus my time to spend more of it on my life goals?” “How can I spend money to save time?” — and then think of 10+ quick answers/ideas for these questions.
  • After the journal or Idea Muscle exercise, I also think of 3 Affirmations — 1 liners that I want to speak to myself that focus me for the day. Here are some from yesterday “I am vibrantly healthy in mind, body, and spirit. I am happy — I smile a lot and am content with life. I don’t need lots of money, possessions, or career accolades to be happy — I don’t need recognition from others to be happy — I am happy because I am alive, my family loves me, and the world is a beautiful place with lots of things to do.”
  • And finally, I also incorporate Tim/Tony’s “3 To Thrive” agenda in this section. Writing down 3 action items that are the most important things for me this day. 3 items that, if I accomplish these but nothing else, will still make the day a ‘win.’ (It goes without saying that the sooner in the day you start working on your 3 items, the better chance you have to be successful — having this focus early on in the day, can set you up for success).
  • Once I have this done (and it sounds like a lot but only takes about 10–15 minutes) then I really start focusing on my breathing. I began this a bit earlier with the sun salutations but now I take it to the next level — breathing deeply while repeating my affirmations (3+ times for each one) and then continuing the breathing exercise while I visualize the “3 to Thrive” actions as already completed.

Let’s spend a moment on this because it’s kind of important. It’s one thing to write down a few affirmations and goals for the day (and if you are not already doing this then just adding them to your morning routine can make a difference), but if you want to get to the next level, then…

Just as importantly as identifying these affirmations and goals, is taking a few minutes to visualize yourself ‘living’ them.

Here’s what I mean:

  • For the affirmations, use the breath to make the affirmations feel real inside you, as a part of you, nay as ALL of you. Be the affirmation.
  • For the goals, take some time to focus on each goal, understand why it’s important to you, and then use the breath to get your mind to focus on what it will feel like after you have achieved your goals for the day (“I’m Batman!”).
  • This psycho-cybernetics step is one of the keys to success because by putting yourself in the ‘already achieved’ mindset half the work is done — the first step on your journey has already been taken, the rest is just continuing the inertia in the same direction until you cross the finish line again (a finish line you’ve already crossed in your mind). You’ll be surprised how this little tweak in the process can rocket your accomplishments to success because of the consistency is adds to your productivity!

5 — Prime the Soul
(Time Investment: 5–10 minutes)

While continuing the breathing routine, I’ll now complete the process of connecting the body and mind with the soul by ‘seeking wisdom’ from external sources. Here I like to read a chapter from Proverbs and one of The Gospels, and then a verse from The Tao Te Ching. All the while I am focusing on calm breathing.

It’s kind of like an active meditation experience. It’s the top of the pyramid of the ‘priming’ stage and makes me feel connected to (as Douglas Adams would say), Life, the Universe, and Everything.

6 — Write
(Time Investment: 10–30 minutes)

Like many of you here on Medium, one of my legacy life goals is writing. It’s a passion that brings me contentment, excitement, and makes life fun. So far I’ve written a biblical ‘end of the world’ novel called The Untold Revelations of John, a non-fiction book on how Minecraft teaches life lessons with my son Jax called Diary of a Minecraft Dad, and a non-fiction book about investing in options with my friend Michael Thomsett (the world’s #1 writer on options education) called The Options Alchemist.

I’m currently writing 2 more books. One is a book about the life lessons I’ve learned from my Yorkshire terrier Sassy (who passed away from the world much too soon) — her book is called A Life Worth Living. The other is a series of fantasy novels (think JRR Tolkien meets The Bible meets conspiracy theories) called A Grim Future?

If you’d like to read any of them, I’d be happy to give you a complimentary copy — just use my contact form and let me know which one you’d like to read.

The point is that even though writing is very important to me, I kept allowing it to take second place to the typical day-to-day tasks that we worker bees face all too often. As a result, my writing floundered. Luckily I realized that if I add it to my morning routine, I can make sure I get a chance to do it every day. Here again, I’m borrowing wisdom from Tim Ferris…

Even if I only write 2 ‘crappy’ pages per day it’s still a win.

Why? because it gets my writing muscle exercised and gives me a chance to write a lot more too. Even if I only write for 10 minutes, I can still get 2 crappy pages in — and that’s a win because it means I’m still making progress, 2 pages at a time. Better yet, I’ve found that just getting started often leads me to continue to write beyond just 10 minutes — sometimes I write more during the AM Ritual, sometimes I write later in the day.

The point is that I get so excited by the process of writing every day that I stay ‘in the zone’ far more often than I ever did before. That’s an even bigger win!

Source: Pixabay/Creative Commons

7–3 To Thrive Completed?
(Time Investment: 2–3 minutes)

This is actually a question I circle back to later in the day. I like to come back to my AM Journal at the end of the day (or I sometimes do it as part of the AM Journal the following day) and evaluate how I did — just a quick sentence or 3 to follow-up on the day and see if I did what I set out to do or if I missed the mark (and why), so that I do better tomorrow.

This is the full circle technique that is the beginning of the Am Ritual for the next day of the journey.


But I don’t have time

Still concerned about your time? I can appreciate that. Here’s my advice.

First off, if you are keeping track the total time investment for the SMART Morning Routine is 31–63 minutes. Surely that is realistic and achievable for you, right?

If you do not currently have this time in your busy schedule, then I would challenge you to do what I did to make time: as cliche as it sounds, all you have to do is get up 30–60 minutes earlier.

I’ll be honest with you — for the first 47 years of my life, I hated getting up early. If I was up before 7 am I was grumpy. But, I decided to go all in on the Morning Ritual Tim suggested, and to give myself time, I started getting up at 630am.

What do you know, it worked for me. Now I am so in love with this routine (because I can SEE the results) that I usually get up at 6 am — and I usually can’t wait to get out of bed!

You’ll be surprised at how much your productivity for the entire day improves when you invest just 30–60 minutes in some morning “ME” time.

Following this process has led me to dramatic improvements in my productivity of important tasks (AKA the 3 to Thrive items), my writing (much more regular), reduction in stress, and giving me a reason to get up earlier to attack the day.

I’m grateful to have been exposed to this wisdom and I wanted to share it with you too in the hopes that it will make your life better too. Obviously, your routine won’t be the same as mine, but perhaps I’ve given you some ideas to add to your own ritual. If so, that’s a win in my book.

Is the SMART Morning Routine rocket science?

No, but it’s simple, it’s quick, it’s incredibly easy to do AND if you follow this plan consistently, it can make a real difference for you — even if you are still a busy worker bee like me.

That’s the measure of true wisdom in my book — practical solutions that you can use to make meaningful change in your life.

It worked for me. It can work for you too!

Did this wisdom help you?

If so, take a quick sec and…

  1. Share this page with a friend so they can benefit too
  2. Share your wisdom — did you have a similar experience? Drop me a line below and tell us about it.
  3. Follow my blog and let’s stay connected — we can help each other reach new heights.

Let’s talk again soon!

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That Helpful Dad

Written by

I’m Mike, “That Helpful Dad.” I share practical wisdom to real life problems. 3x Startup. 5x Books. Connect with me at https://thathelpfuldad.com/

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +504K people. Follow to join our community.

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