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One my essential entrepreneurial practices is a morning Personal Success Routine (“PSR”), that is my foundation for the day.  If you don’t have one or you never consciously designed it – you need one.  If you have one, I’d love to hear about yours in the comments.  I’ve found that when I don’t follow some kind of morning Personal Success Routine that includes some or all of various meditation, writing, exercise or happiness activities, I feel less healthy, less happy and less productive – both in the ways I have fun and in work.

Why I had to figure this out

When I left salesforce.com in late 2006, “my plan was to have no plan” –  I was “committed to being uncommitted”!  I wanted to have a bunch of different work and life adventures, for at least six months, before settling into a long-term direction. In work terms, that meant doing consulting projects for awhile rather than trying to start my own company right away.  I’ve seen that when I or others jump from one job/career to another, it’s impossible to get the mental space and clarity that helps you actually consciously know “is this really the right path/step for me, or am I doing it just because it’s the next rung on the ladder or it’s convenient?”   (Not unlike relationships.)

Whenever I was in a 9-to-5 job, it automatically forced me to create a morning routine – wakeup at 7a, eat oatmeal, shower, get dressed in a collared shirt, get coffee, read the paper, take the bus to work…etc.  (As I’m writing this, I’m noticing how much my morning consumptions changed – no coffee, oatmeal or newspapers.  I’m a little allergic/sensitive to coffee and oats, and I don’t read news anymore – online or offline.)

No daily structure can be as bad as too much structure

After I left the 9-to-5 world, I had to figure out a whole new morning routine for myself. I mean sure, it’s fun waking up to nothing for awhile…but it gets old.  When you have no morning or daily structure, it can be as irritating as having too much structure.  And even though I’d been an entrepreneur before, it was different because I was the CEO of a company…and thus had another 9-to-5 job.

  • Side note for everyone who thinks being a CEO is automatically fun, enlivening and easy – it’s not. It can be the loneliest, most stressed role in a company, if you aren’t conscious in your design of your company or role.  It’s why I’m also doing CEOFlow: “Turn Your Employees Into Mini-CEOs”.

So now in my PebbleStormy (yes, that’s a word) world of “work on what I want, when I want, with whom I want, from where I want…” I’ve been experimenting for a long time on how to start my days off on the right foot.  Trust me, either lying in bed or doing nothing in the morning gets old fast – well, if I do it more than 1-2 days per week…

My routine that helps me feel healthier, happier and more focused and productive each day

  1. Get enough sleep.  I’m actually working on getting more sleep. I’m only getting about 6 hours per night (last night I got 5).  I want 7 – 7.5 hours per night, which is perfect for me.  The whole “sleep when I’m dead” mentality is bullshizz.  What good is not sleeping if you don’t enjoy your days as much?  I feel like crap when I don’t get enough sleep after a few days, and am much less clear and productive.   Right now I set my alarm for 7am.
  2. Drink water. 1-2 cups. I get dehydrated at night. It’s the best thing to have before anything else in the morning.
  3. Get moving, I do either some jumping jacks, push ups and/or sit ups. This is both for the exercise and to wake up and get my blood moving.
  4. Meditation. I do 10-30 minutes almost every morning.  It would be nice if I was more regular about meditating for 5 minutes before bed, too.  I did a blog post about my practice: A lifetime happiness and focus enhancer: Vipassana meditation. If you’ve never meditated before, you can start with 1-2 minutes: Meditation 101: How To Start.
  5. The Artist Way “Morning Pages”. The essence of this: just write three pages of anything, even gibberish, every morning, and it will help you unlock your creativity.  I really like these as a way to do a brain chatter dump, and get some advice from myself. Sometimes I just do half a page, sometimes the full three pages.
  6. 1-2 happiness/centering exercises. These days I’ll do some exercises from either the Hoffman Institute retreat I did or from the Abraham-Hicks book “Ask And It Is Given” (I love their Focus Wheel Process).  I HIGHLY recommend that book for both the content and all the great tools in the back!
  7. A “3 goals” process. I ask myself the question, “if I can only get 3-5 things done today, what should they be?”  What are my top priorities?
  8. Exercise: 4-5 days a week I do either running (20-45 min down to the Santa Monica beach) or yoga in the morning (I love Rudy at 9am at Power Yoga in Santa Monica).  If I run, I do it early – after I drink water, but before all the other stuff (before meditation, etc).  When I do yoga, it comes after my writing/meditation.
  9. Skin brushing: I had a couple of trusted experts tell me about this, and now I do it most days before showering.  There are plenty of articles about skin brushing and why it’s good for you, but I’ll tell you the main reason I like it – it stimulates my skin and nerves and body like I’m getting a caffeine charge.  Very cool.
  10. Good food: Almost every morning, I have a green smoothie (picture on Facebook).  I have a Vita-Mix blender, and dump in spinach (a lot!), an apple, berries, and all kinds of superfoods and goodies like ginger, lemon, mesquite, rice protein, flaxseed, hempseed, maca, goji berries and spirulina.  You can google “green smoothie” online for all kinds of suggestions.  I became religious about this after taking an amazing ‘uncooking’ class from June Louks in Malibu, who wrote a great book called  “Rawumptious Recipes: A Family’s Adventure to Healthy, Happy, Harmonious Living”.  I’m not a raw foodie, but can appreciate all the information and recipes.

I’m always experimenting with these steps, adding, subtracting, playing.  The order of steps often changes depending on the day and whether I’m running, doing yoga, am time-limited, etc.  I’m not too anal about it.

This might seem like a lot – and it is.  I set aside a couple of hours for all of this, not including the exercise.  That’s how important it is to me. I didn’t start here, I evolved this over the past three years, building on it step-by-step, then starting from scratch and trying other things. My travel still plays havoc with my PSR!

Take babysteps rather than jumping in too fast

You don’t need a lot of steps in the morning, or some complex routine.  Start with something simple, such as a green smoothie.  Or 1-2 minutes of meditation.  Create a plan to have a more exensive PSR over time, including good food, exercise, meditation, happiness awareness/practice and goal-setting.  If you try to do too much too quickly, you’ll be more likely to fall off track at some point and get discouraged.  Start with one thing at a time – take babysteps, and keep at them.   Keep it simple and add one new practice per month.  If you fall off track, just get back on when you can.

[Updated] Being kind to myself

I woke up Monday morning feeling run-down (it started Sunday night), and I needed a rest day. So my PSR for Monday was staying in bed sleeping and/or reading a fiction book until 11am 🙂   Being successful includes being kind/easy to myself in addition to pushing myself.  Too much of one or the other unbalances me.

How I Design My Week For Success

A follow up post about designing my week:
http://pebblestorm.com/2010/03/12/how-i-design-my-week-for-success/

“Productive Flourishing” Charley Gilkey’s PSR

If you really want to take this thinking to the next level, check out Charlie Gilkey:
How Heatmapping Your Productivity Can Make You More Productive

What’s your PSR?   Please share in the comments!

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34 Responses to “My 10-Step Morning Personal Success Routine (What’s Yours?)”

  1. Erin Halling Says:

    Wake up.
    Put glasses & PJs on.
    Drink a glass of water…. Read More
    Write Morning pages, 1-2 pages
    Feed the kitties
    Shower/ hair/ dress/ makeup
    Eat a delicious, homemade cran-apple bran muffin
    Leave for my 8-5 job.

    I also journal at night. I record and let go stuff from that day, and identify the few major things I’d like to get done the next day.

  2. Will Orinion Says:

    For the 3 goals item, I personally write them down on 3×5 index cards, not my iPhone. I think the bulkiness of them in my pocket helps me remember what I needed to do for the day.

    As for the rest, good stuff!

  3. Rudy DeFelice Says:

    Aaron, this is great stuff. Dig your commitment, and impressed by the consciousness of all this. After all, it’s a new day – quite a miracle when you think about it. Worth making a big deal over.

  4. Cheryl Miller Says:

    Aaron – I love your routine and how you wrote about it – great descriptions, inspiration, and modeling. I’m a big believer in these kinds of routines and you’ve taken it to a fabulous level.

    I’m developing a program now called Healthy Body + Healthy Business = Healthy Profits that includes 8 essential elements: food, fitness, self-care, time, spirit, growth, self-care, and money. It’s a program to help entrepreneurs see that they need to take care of their bodies and their businesses on all these levels. I’d really like to interview you (and link to this great inspirational post) because you’re truly doing it. You’re a great model for this program. Cheryl

  5. eliot burdett Says:

    This is great Aaron. A while back I trained myself to get to bed early then rise well rested at 445 am, practice meditation, positive affirmations, goal setting yoga and other exercises. I am back in the kitchen by the time my kids are waking up and by then I have already completed some great soul/mind/body medicine to start the day. Thanks very much for sharing your routine.
    Cheers,
    Eliot.

  6. David Stychno Says:

    Mr Ross!
    Been a while so I thought I’d check in. Love this topic- thanks for sharing. My PSR has been in the back of my head for a while as something that needs to be considered more thoughtfully and improved.
    The current routine:
    – Hit snooze 1-3 times between 7 and 8.
    – Insert contacts, clean the teeth, pack my bag.
    – 20 Min bike ride to the office.
    – 50×2 push ups, shower
    – Cereal, scan NYT.
    – Begin!

    Really like the 3 pages. Overall, I too often feel rushed.
    Here’s to a new day.

    Cheers from the Bean,
    D

  7. Simon Carstensen Says:

    Hi Aaron,

    Thanks for sharing your morning routine. It’s an inspirational read and I’m already looking forward to test out some of the ideas in it.

    I just wrote up a post about my own Morning Personal Success Routine. I hope you and others find some inspiration in it.

    Thanks,
    Simon

  8. bubber Says:

    Obviously you don’t have kids, or?

    Here’s the routine.

    – Wake up by a todler pounding your chest
    – tell them 5 or 6 times to wash themselves
    – argue about cloth (they are girls)
    – tranquilize them with tv for 20 minuttes while you shower, recap and get dressed
    – have breakfast and talk about their day
    – rush out of door to hand them in and catch your train
    – arrive at station sweatdripping, todler drewl on shirt
    – get your pulse down, while doing e-mail and getting into the zone

    And no, I absolutely love my girls. They are the best and I love their energy wich keeps me on my toes 😉

  9. Robert Says:

    My routine varies with the season, but below are the constants after I wake up.

    -Remind myself what I ought to be grateful for
    -Sitting meditation
    -Supported bridge pose ( http://yoga.about.com/od/yogaandbackpain/a/supportedbridge.htm )
    -hand stand if I am feeling sluggish
    -water (room temp)
    – Stretches for arms and shoulders if I am going to using the computer which is usually affirmative.

  10. JDR Says:

    I could not agree more with this article. When i’m doing my “PSR’s” to start my day, it means i am in the zone, and just have an overall elevated state and sense of being. Staying in the zone is the goal each and every day, but it’s not easy. It’s amazing how procrastination and sloth and laziness can rear its ugly head at any time. When i’m operating on an optimal level, here’s my daily routine:

    1) Coffee (and water)
    2) Read financial paper, or scan Drudge Report
    3) Read 15 pages of a business book, or motivational/inspiring book like Think & Grow Rich
    4) Review personal and business finances/net worth (just once every few days, or once a week)
    5) Eat oatmeal (w/ bananas, blueberries, raisins, honey, cinnamon)
    6) List the top 3-5 things (goals) i’d like to accomplish for the day and write them down
    7) Work out at some point during the day (20-40 minutes)
    8) Clean a segment of my home (quick clean)
    9) Spend 20 minutes on some kind of personal project (i.e. mastery of real estate, start selling things on ebay, plan meals for the day/week, etc.)

    There have been times i’ve been able to do all this stuff day in and day out for weeks and months at a time. But – there have been times i’ve lost the zone, and fall into bad habits, and gotten sidetracked….the key obviously is to get right back on the horse, and do your best to fight off those bastards lethargy and procrastination when they strike.

    Interesting about the meditation. I’ve never tried that, maybe i’ll give it a whirl. Great site, glad i found it.

  11. Lisa Says:

    Hi Aaron!

    Believe it or not, still working on getting to the destination. I actually think of you talking about your routine often and was so happy to find this. Making progress toward the goal. Think it takes a little longer when you are planning for your own future ++ (fam, etc).

    Just wanted to say thanks for laying it all out. Huge help!
    Hope to be in touch soon when I have more results for you 🙂

  12. Marni Says:

    I love your concept Aaron! As a single mom of three I don’t usually have so many hours to spare because my work day is often just 8-3, but I do make time for the following:

    1. Lay in bed to reflect, check calendar and email — set intention 4 my day
    2. Exercise– walk with friends, do stairs and listen to empowering Audio on my iPod, yoga or lift weights.
    3. Eat breakfast– toast with pbj or half banana
    4. Coffee or matte tea
    5. Write blog —

    When I’m with my kids there is no laying in bed, unfortunately!

    I love centering by listening to audio material! Huge impact on my attitude for the day!

    Thanks for this post!!!!

  13. Alexis Martin Neely Says:

    I’ve really started to have more of a PSR since we talked about it at Burning Man. As of right now, it primarily involves brushing my teeth and then writing for at least 30 minutes before I do anything else. 2 days a week I also workout/exercise with my trainer.

    My PSR is thrown off a bit by having kids because as soon as they wake up they are needing me to do something for them, like take them to the bathroom, help them get dressed, etc. so anything I’ve planned for my PSR is out the window once they are up and at em.

    Thanks for the continued inspiration.

    xo,
    Alexis

  14. Goji Berries Health Benefits Says:

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  15. Day 6 Cleanse Update; Now We’re Juicin’! [Updated with Q&A] | Pebblestorm Says:

    […] VitaMix 5200), which I use to make my regular daily morning green smoothie (see point #10 on “My 10-Step Personal Success Routine“).  Juicing is much more labor intensive (in prep and cleanup) then just blending, so […]

  16. Bruce Seidel Says:

    I have a little idea for you. Perhaps consider another task in your daily preparation routine–“Pick a victim”

    Select someone in your life, anyone and do something special for them that day. It doesn’t matter what. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks and I find it very rewarding.

  17. Julia Says:

    Hi Aaron,
    Love your a.m. routine. Mostly love that you don’t listen to news. Several months ago a dear friend and I started listening to positive CD’s from 5:30 to 6:30a.m.The idea spread and before we knew it, we had 8 to 10 on any given day. Now it’s back to just my friend and I working our way through the 40 day prosperity plan @ 6:30 daily. You are most welcome to join us.
    Wishing you continued success and sending blessings,
    Julia

  18. My Morning Success Routine | Eliot Burdett Says:

    […] Hydrate and Fuel – to wake me up and give me energy, I drink 2 cups water and I eat something light, like a banana, an apple or a slice of wholewheat bread (I got the water idea from Aaron Ross’s article My 10-Step Morning Personal Success Routine ); […]

  19. Eliot Says:

    Hey Aaron,
    Thanks for the great ideas and inspiration. I have shared many of the same experiences as some of the other posters above (how to handle kids in the am, get enough sleep, etc.) and finally posted my own Morning Success Routine on my blog:
    http://eliotburdett.com/my-morning-success-routine/
    Would love to hear your comments.
    Cheers,
    Eliot.

  20. The way I launch my day « RJ’s Blog Says:

    […] the rest of the day. Have you ever created a formula to successfully launch each day? Aaron Ross of Pebble Storm inspired me to solidify my (almost) daily routine. Rocket launch in New Mexico at XPRIZE […]

  21. 5 Minute Sanity Check: Does Work Bring Out The Best Or The Worst In You? | Pebblestorm Says:

    […] too busy or even when I travel (travel can throw my whole routine off) and I stop or slack on my 10-Step Morning Personal Success Routine. Step TWO (1 […]

  22. Steve Says:

    Great openings. Good reminders and new options to try. Have done some of these practices over the years. I really notice a qualitative difference in my day when I exercise and eat healthy right from the get go.

  23. valerie Says:

    thanks for this reminder. I have a routine that involves an 11 month old. This has helped solidify some aspects. We wake up or he wakes me up! Drink water. Put the oatmeal on the stove and we take a bath. That is relaxing and helps revitalize my body. I would like to try the dry brushing sometimes. I then do some exercises while he plays and then we eat breakfast usually oatmeal, yogurt and a piece of fruit.
    Sometimes in bed I list 10 appreciations in my head. I am a big fan of Abraham Hicks and the processes. If anyone is interested in seeing a process in action you can go to this youtube video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7B_UBW2MwAg&annotation_id=annotation_21527&feature=iv

    then he takes a nap and I get to do my meditation. That by far is the most important part of my day for alignment purposes.

    what I would love to do would be to live near a beach and be able to do walks on the beach daily. That was a wonderful image.

  24. Shannon Leahy Says:

    I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile. I’m a wedding planner and designer and here is my morning routine:

    – wake up
    – hot lemon water (hot water, juice of one lemon)
    – check e-mails/peruse design blogs (currently 100 layer cake, green wedding shoes and snippet and ink)
    – green juice (1 cucumber, 1/2 a head of celery, 6 leaves of kale, juice of 1/2 a lemon and about a tablespoon of ginger)
    – take vitamins (multi-vitamin and fish oil)
    – make list of things to accomplish today and highlight priorities
    – start working!

    I think one of the more important things you forgot though is to mention the Sunday Set Up For Success Day

    – Clean Apartment
    – Do the Laundry
    – Grocery shopping for the week’s juices including a ton of lemons
    – Write list of goals for the week
    – Meditation
    – Read and relax
    – Hot tub/sauna before bed

    Without the Sunday Success Day (or Monday Success Day if I worked through the weekend) my whole week is shot.

    aaronross383 Reply:

    @Shannon Leahy,

    Great routine, and I love the “Sunday Set Up For Success” day idea!

    Aaron

  25. How Do You Design Your Week For Success? | Pebblestorm Says:

    […] My 10-Step Personal Success Routine post has been one of my most popular.  This post builds on it with the idea of designing your […]

  26. Organic Body Butter Says:

    love your concept Aaron! As a single mom of three I don’t usually have so many hours to spare because my work day is often just 8-3, but I do make time for the following:

    1. Lay in bed to reflect, check calendar and email — set intention 4 my day
    2. Exercise– walk with friends, do stairs and listen to empowering Audio on my iPod, yoga or lift weights.
    3. Eat breakfast– toast with pbj or half banana
    4. Coffee or matte tea
    5. Write blog —

    When I’m with my kids there is no laying in bed, unfortunately!

    I love centering by listening to audio material! Huge impact on my attitude for the day!

    Thanks for this post!!!!

  27. aaronross383 Says:

    @Organic Body Butter,
    Thanks for sharing! I know parents have a much more challenging situation, so I love it when they share their routines.
    Aaron

  28. Yoga @ Home « Robert Jacobson's Blog Says:

    […] I’m interested to hear what others with home based offices, studios, and work environments do daily to keep their sanity, stay fit, and keep a balanced perspective. This entry was influenced by Aaron Ross who wrote a great piece on his “morning personal success routine” […]

  29. manish Says:

    marvellous routine sir, i really want follow ur 10 morning steps from tommorow only.

  30. Alex Work Says:

    Awesome post. I love the simplicity and conciousness of your plan.

    I get up relatively early, a throw-back to my competitive swimming days. After a couple glasses of water and a light breakfast, I need to work out. I find the amount of focus and energy I have to last the day corresponds to whether or not I did some physical exercise in the morning.

    Alex Work
    YourGoalSetting.com

  31. “5 Steps To Creating A Lead Gen Machine & The Predictable Revenue That CEOs Love” (Slides & Q&A) Says:

    […] A: I do have some templates I share with clients, but not a single one that would be easy to share here in one bite-sized chunk.  Here’s the one I’ll ask you to imagine: sit down the night before and write out “If I can only accomplish 3-5 things tomorrow, what would they be?”  Also see My 10-Step Morning Personal Success Routine. […]

  32. William Grisaitis Says:

    Aaron –

    Thanks for posting this. You’re very correct about the comparable stress with lack of structure vs. too much of it. I recently went from an intense, structured, work mindset (that of a college semester) to an unstructured one (summer interim). I’m going to borrow some of your tips as I formulate my morning routine. I think this will help me make the most of this unstructured time while I work on projects I’ve had to put off during school. It’s much like an atheist developing his or her own moral code, when one is desired but not given a priori.

    Thanks,

    William

  33. The Power of Rituals to Rev Up Your Creativity & Productivity | Fearless Endeavors Says:

    […] Taking this even further, I recently developed a set of morning rituals that I do every morning.  I learned about this from a couple of people, including a mentor of mine, Aaron Ross. […]

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