Every weekday, the first thing I do is blend up a smoothie (one banana, a handful of berries, some spinach, coconut milk, and a scoop of protein powder). Then I down it with a multivitamin while I brew some really strong coffee in my Bialetti. I hop in the shower, get dressed, make the bed, and then relax for a few minutes with my coffee.
Then I start my day.
I’ve had this exact same morning routine for years, which I’m pretty sure people would think is insane. Why isn’t it? Well, for one, I don’t have to make any decisions about what I’m doing in the morning because it’s already been decided for me. This saves me valuable time and mental energy.
The other day I was listening to Tim Ferriss’s podcast about bedtime routines. It made me realize how badly I needed one of those, too. You see, I’d been dealing with sleep problems, so I thought it made sense to bookend my day with another routine.
Here’s what I came up with.
At 10:00 PM I shut all screens off. Even if there’s 10 minutes left of the last episode of the last season of the best show I’ve ever watched. (If you build the habit you build discipline.) Then I make a cup of Yogi bedtime tea, light candles in my bedroom (the lavender ones), and do a headstand for about a minute.
Then I crawl in bed and read from an actual book while I drink my tea. At 11:00 PM it’s lights out. The result? Every morning I feel great, and by carving out an hour to read, I’m actually getting smarter (I think, anyways).
So here are the top five books I read this year that had the biggest impact on my life. Last year you guys left comments with your favorite books, and this year I’d love it if you did the same.
THE ONE THING
The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
I was blown away by this book. Hard work is table stakes for being successful, but I’ve been struggling with trying to do too much. That meant periods where I was completely burned out (spending entire Sundays in bed watching Netflix).
In recent years I’ve created yearly goals, usually five big ones. I break these goals down into smaller monthly tasks, which break down to even smaller weekly tasks, which break down to even smaller daily tasks. Overall, this system works really well for me (and it helps I’m maniacal about it).
The ONE Thing helped me rethink my whole approach towards goal-setting. Gary Keller and Jay Papasan made me realize I was making a huge mistake by committing myself to five goals a year. It’s too much. So now I’ve created just two big goals, and that’s over a timespan of five years. I took these two goals, and then broke them down into the ONE goal I have for next year (to which I’ll hook up my monthly, weekly, and daily tasks). I’m super excited to see how this works out.
THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP
The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
I thought I was anal for putting away small kitchen appliances after I used them, knowing I’d use them tomorrow (like the blender for my smoothie). And I felt crazy for ripping the product labels off every bottle in my bathroom.
When Marie Kondo recommended these things in her best-selling book, I knew we’d be best friends. She also confirmed that having a capsule wardrobe is a good thing, and helped me up my game by explaining the proper way to fold my clothes. For example, I’d been folding my socks wrong my whole life (I immediately re-folded all of them). Does stuff like this really matter though? I don’t really know, but it makes me feel better.
But this book isn’t just about how your sock drawer is a failure. It’s about how to get rid of the things that don’t make you happy. She walks you through tidying up books, papers, the stuff in your kitchen, and even sentimental items. Before I read this book I didn’t own a lot of stuff. Now I own less.
The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
After I saw an amazing story about a guy who read Essentialism and immediately sold his business, I knew I had to read this. It’s similar to The ONE Thing in that it provides a framework to determine what things in your life you should say yes to (and work on), and what things to eliminate.
When you’re in your 20s, saying yes to everything is a great idea — to get out of your comfort zone, have new experiences, learn how to adapt — but eventually you need to shift your mindset and start saying no. Greg McKeown suggests you should be saying no to about 90% of things.
As this site grows and more people want my time and attention, this book reinforced how important it is to continually ask myself if I’m using my time and resources to work on the most important thing, right now. By protecting your time, you can work on what’s important to you, and if you don’t do this, then someone else will do it for you.
THE ONE-PAGE FINANCIAL PLAN
A Simple Way to Be Smart About Your Money
I live to streamline my life, and that’s why I love the approach Carl Richards took in The One Page Financial Plan. To achieve financial success, he recommends writing down the three to five financial goals you have, and then aligning your behavior with those goals.
Sounds too easy, right? Yes, but sometimes the simplest solutions are also the most effective. By defining your financial goals, writing them down, and then carrying them around with you, I think you’ll find it’s an extremely good tool to take the emotion out of money decisions, and to reach your goals.
I took his advice and wrote down my financial goals (it was really only one), and now whenever I’m faced with a decision like, “Should I go out for dinner and drinks tonight and probably blow through $200?” I can pull out my goal to help guide me. It’s conscious decision-making. (P.S. I did a Q&A with Carl earlier this year, read what he had to say in this post).
THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT
Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
I got this book last summer during the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon. The author, Chris Guillebeau, is both the creator of WDS and a New York Times bestseller (his book The $100 Startup is required reading for entrepreneurs).
The Happiness of Pursuit resonated with me because it’s full of inspirational stories about people who decided to live life on their own terms. Some of them were trapped in a 9-5 life, and made the big decision to quit in order to follow their dreams (like the guy who decided to walk across the US).
My favorite quote was from a woman who said, “Just because it’s a good job doesn’t mean I should work there forever.” Many people are surrounded by coworkers who’ll never take a calculated chance to follow their dreams, and so they tell you that you can’t either. This book was a good reminder that you can.