Entrepreneur and business advice columns routinely ask CEOs the question: “What is the first thing you do in the morning?” As a founder and CEO myself, this question has become commonplace. Instead, I suggest asking a different question: “What don’t you do in the morning?”
I lead a mid-sized business with nearly 200 employees across four global offices. Since our company operates 24/7 looking for trends, capturing the best user-generated content, and broadcasting to our audience of over 240M+ fans, there’s always many emails waiting for me when I wake up. My 10 years of experience of running this company has taught me what not to do in the mornings: check my email.
It has taken me some time to optimize my morning schedule. A younger version of me used to respond to emails the moment I was awake. At the time, I thought it was necessary to respond right away, and if I didn’t, the business would come crashing down. With more experience under my belt, I know that’s not the case.
I typically wake up around 5:30am, although these days during quarantine, I’ve hit the snooze button a few times. There will be mornings when you wake up earlier and mornings when you need to sleep in, and it’s important to be flexible. If you’re using your phone as your alarm clock, it’s convenient to check and see who’s called, texted, and emailed you immediately. But for me, that is the last thing I check.
Instead, the first thing I do is walk downstairs to my living room and sit on the couch in silence. Some people call this meditation, but I like to call it my warm up. By taking this time to clear my head, I’m able to focus on what I need to accomplish that day. I’ll then go to make myself a coffee and occasionally turn on the news. After this, I’ll change into my gym clothes so I can go for a walk or jog. I still do not check my emails.
Why? Once I start work, I know I can’t stop. As a worker bee with a one track, linear mind, I’m unable to refocus or do anything else after checking my notifications. It needs to be the last thing I do. There’s always that rare occasion where something is urgent, but if it’s that urgent, someone will text or call me.
By having an early morning routine, I’m able to find peace and clarity to think about the day ahead. Regardless of the time, I believe it’s important to have some moments of nothing for yourself, and in my case, this works best in the mornings. Let’s face it… when you check your emails from the night before, it’s rarely great and exciting news. Most of the time it’s just work you have to deal with.