23 practical things that you can start doing today.
When I was a teenager I thought that discipline, routine and structure was for boring people. I thought it was only those that were unoriginal and part of the ‘herd’ that followed routines and structure.
I was wrong, very wrong.
As I have grown up, gotten over myself and been bashed around in the entrepreneurial trenches for over 20 years I have come to a very surprising realisation:
Discipline and routine set you free.
I never thought that those words would come out of my mouth but it is a focus on these things that have lead to most of the successes that I have experienced across all areas of my life.
I want to share some things that I do every day that make a significant positive impact on my business, my relationships, my health (both physical and mental) and my life in general.
My hope is that you take something from this that makes even a 1% positive impact on some aspect of your life.
For the most part I do these things every single day but I’m not too hard on myself if I miss a day here and there. The gains for most of these things do compound but doing them sometimes is better than not at all.
With that said, here they are.
The benefits are vast but some stand outs for me are that it brings anxiety and overwhelm down to a level that is healthy. It also helps to reclaim focus and to be present while calming my mind and allowing space to just be.
After a meditation I am always more focused, more creative and less stressed. This allows for better decision making, better interactions with people and an overall better quality of living.
I use the Calm app for guided meditations and I do this every morning and most early evenings for between 10 and 15 mins.
2. Breathe work ( Wim Hof Method).
- Stress reduction.
- Faster recovery from training.
- Better sleep.
- Improved physical performance.
- Better focus and clarity.
I follow the Wim Hof Method which I absolutely love. Very simply put it works like this:
- Lie down in a relaxed position.
- Breathe in deeply focusing on belly — chest — head and then release the breath. Do this +- 30 times.
- On your last exhale, stop breathing and hold your breath.
- As soon as you feel like you need to breathe, take a deep breathe and hold for 15 seconds then release.
- Repeat this 3 times or more.
I’m up to holding my breathe without strain for over 4 minutes — something I would never have imagined possible.
3. Cold Showers.
- Mental toughness.
- Weight loss.
- Increased circulation.
- Faster muscle recovery.
And, I just feel so great after a cold shower.
It varies depending on the time of year but in the very cold months I start with a normal hot shower and then when I am clean I move to a fully cold shower for at least 2 minutes.
As it gets a little warmer outside I don’t have hot at all and simply have a 5 minute cold shower.
It’s worth noting that I used to tense up and really ‘endure’ the cold but this wasn’t nearly as beneficial as relaxing and calming into the cold.
A good measure of this for me is my heart rate. I aim to drop my heart rate by at least 20% from when I step into the cold water.
- To get things out of my head.
- To reflect on my day (Where did I improve, where can I improve)
- To focus deliberately on the things that I am grateful for.
- Self reflection and observation.
- Deliberately focus on positive thoughts in order to reshape my neuroplasticity.
There are many ways to journal and my process changes all the time. My current process is as follows:
- Daily contemplation from the Daily Stoic Journal.
- Things I am grateful for today.
- Things I did well in the past 2 hours.
- Things I want to improve on or focus on for the next 2 hours.
- Learning and observations that I have had.
- Follow one process for deliberate positive thinking / experience from the book Hardwiring happiness.
5. Daily huddle with my leadership team.
- To stay connected with my team.
- To make sure that we are on track every single day.
- To bring focus to my day.
- To hold each other accountable.
- To catch blind spots that I might not see myself.
- To pick up patterns and trends in my teams emotional state.
There are endless ways to run your daily huddles and ours is constantly evolving. The current iteration of our daily leadership team huddle looks like this
- Never ever be late.
- Starts on time at the same time every day.
- Ends on time.
- If you really cannot make it, send your update via Whatsapp.
- We are a leadership team of 5 and the huddle never takes more than 15 minutes.
- Describe how I am feeling in a single word.
- The one thing that I need to get done today is…
- Other things that I am going to be doing today are…
- The concerns that I want to give energy to today are…
- The things that I want to celebrate today are…
- A behaviour that I would like to keep from the past 24 hours is…
- A behaviour that I would like to drop from the past 24 hours is…
- If you want to read more about this and other processes to improve your leadership you can check out my article here.
6. Read for 90mins
Continuous improvement as a way of life.
I don’t think this requires much explanation but it’s worth noting that I consume most of my books via Audible and I listen at 1.5x.
I choose to use my driving and walking time to consume audiobooks and I get through a book a week on average.
7. No screens for at least 45 mins before bed
Improved sleep, reduced stress and more connection with my family.
Also, we really need to give our brains and eyes a rest from the constant screen bombardment.
Make it difficult to just turn Netflix on. Put your TV in a different room to where you spend most of your time. Take your TV out of your bedroom if you have one there. Take the batteries out of the remote etc.
Turn your phone onto flight mode 45 minutes before bed and put it in a different room.
Choose to read a book (I choose to read fantasy at night to give myself a break from consuming content with a purpose. Fantasy is relaxing and fun and I see it as a kind of reward for the day).
8. No screens for at least 60 minutes after waking up
If you don’t do this it’s likely that your day starts with a jolt of adrenaline as you check your emails, channels etc. This is not healthy and sets you up for a stressful day that you are not in control of.
I find that if I am able to leave my phone in flight mode for at least 60 minutes after waking up, I ease into my day in a far more calm and controlled state.
It also allows me to focus on my morning routine which is very important to me.
Use an alarm clock to wake up, not your phone so that rolling over and looking at a screen first thing in the morning simply isn’t an option to take.
I should note that this is probably the thing that when I drop the discipline for, effects me the most.
9. Fast for (roughly) 16 hours.
I’m not going to preach about intermittent fasting because I am not a scientist nor an expert. All I will say is that for me it just makes sense to give my gut and digestive system a break, often.
I also am now convinced that a healthy gut is absolutely essential to mental, emotional and physical health and that fasting regularly is very helpful in this regard.
It also helps with mental toughness which is important to me.
What works for me may not work for you but I eat dinner at 6pm and then usually snack until about 8pm. I then don’t eat again until 12pm the following day.
When I do eat I try to avoid processed and high GI foods so that my body doesn’t get a sudden rush of processed carbs / sugar.
I’m still experimenting with this but I’ll usually break my daily fast with boiled eggs, avocado and high quality bread toasted (I should probably skip the bread but I just love it so much!).
10. Walk for 45mins.
This is a great way to start the day. The benefits I get from this include:
- It wakes me up (I walk quite early whenever I can.)
- Circulation and mild cardio.
- Creativity. This is where I get most of my ideas for Linkedin posts and general articles.
- Learning. I listen to Audiobooks and podcasts while I walk.
- Connection to nature. Wherever possible I walk in nature.
- Keep your phone off.
- Walk at a pace that gets your heart rate up.
- Be as present and aware as you can be of your surroundings, your breath, your thoughts and your feelings.
- If possible walk in nature, it really does make a big difference.
11. Cycle at high intensity for at least 45 mins.
- Stay fit ,healthy and strong cardio wise.
- Build mental toughness.
- I love cycling.
I listen to audio books or podcasts while I train.
On warmer days I will often head out for a ride from home but I realise not everyone has this option and that this can be more time consuming.
12. 100 pushups.
- Stay strong
- Mental toughness
- A good thing to do on my breaks in between focussed work.
I will generally do sets of 10 with as close to perfect form as I can throughout the day.
Sometimes I only do 50, sometimes I do 500 but I always do some every single day.
Doing these every single day adds up and your body (and mirror) will thank you for it.
13. One hour of learning.
Continuous improvement a way of life.
Block it off on your calendar every day. Turn your notifications off and close email, slack etc.
Learning for me might be an online course, a book that I want to execute on, sometimes it might even be a call with someone that I have asked for advice or experience sharing from.
The point here is to build it into your daily schedule. You’ll be amazed at how quickly this compounds over time if you are doing it daily.
14. 2 sets of 45 minutes uninterrupted ‘get shit done’ time.
If I don’t set this time aside I simply never get to any real work. If I don’t set this time aside I spend all of my time in reactionary mode and not in a deliberate and focused mindset.
I use an app on my macbook to set a timer and I turn off all notifications so that nobody can interrupt me.
I then reference my already triaged to do list and begin to tackle either the ‘Important and Urgent’ tasks or the ‘Important Not Urgent’ tasks that I have scheduled for this time.
*I made a video on how to triage your to do list in a way that reduces stress and increases productivity and focus here and I’ll reference it again later in the article.
15. 1 hour of thought leadership and business development.
Thought leadership and business development is a discipline and requires daily effort. If I spend just 1 focussed hour per day on this, the gains compound and in a year I will make huge gains.
- I post at least 1 thing on LinkedIn.
- I engage with at least 3 target client prospects (this includes the work to find these target clients).
- I comment on at least 3 relevant posts on Linkedin
- I write for at least 20 minutes on a relevant topic.
- I check relevant sources for inspiration, content and engagement opportunities.
16. Task triage and calendar setting
Without a triage and prioritising process, my to do list just becomes endless and nothing more than another source of stress. This system gives me control over it and helps me to really be deliberate about what is truly important and urgent and what isn’t.
Then, I move the tasks over to me calendar because living off a to do list is seldom a productive process but living from a calendar usually is.
Moving tasks to a calendar also gives you the sobering reality of what you can actually, realistically get done and this further pushes you to focus and to be deliberate with how you spend your very valuable time.
This one is really easier to show you so I made a video for it.
17. Write for 20 mins
I want to get better at writing and to increase my reader base to a point that it is objectively valuable. In most cases the only way to get better at something is to spend more time on it. This is no different.
I want to get better at writing so I write every day.
For me the best time to write is in the morning right after my walk and before I have turned my phone on or had any connection with the outside world.
I have a separate laptop that I use only for writing which helps me get into the appropriate state of mind while at the same time reducing the chance of digital distraction to zero.
I set a timer for 20 minutes and I start writing. I very often spend a lot more than 20 minutes but I never spend never less time.
If, for whatever reason I don’t get to write in the morning I will make a big effort to do it later in the day.
18. Eat dinner with my family.
Connection, predictability and structure for my daughter and culture in my family.
I block off 1 hour on my calendar between 6pm and 7pm every single day and this takes priority over anything else.
No screens at dinner ever, this way we actually have to interact and engage with each other.
Very rarely there will be a reason that requires this to be moved but I treat this as a top priority calendar item.
19. Do 1 thing that scares me.
To become comfortable with discomfort and to realise that most of what we fear is not actually there and that usually the anticipation of something ‘scary’ is far worse than the reality of it.
Also, mental toughness.
There are many different contexts for this one but one useful and practical process is to look a your do list and try to first tackle the one that you think will make you the most uncomfortable.
Another example is to agree to give that talk that you were asked to give but you were too scared to accept.
Another example is to tell someone something that have been putting off for fear of being vulnerable. This could be business or personal, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are choosing to step into discomfort because that takes courage.
20. Help around the house.
Because it really makes a positive impact on my relationship with my wife and it makes me feel better too.
I have built unpacking/repacking the dishwasher then cleaning the surfaces of the kitchen into my morning routine.
21. Ritualise one mundane task
It’s really surprising but if I am able to really focus fully on a mundane task like unpacking the dishwasher or cleaning the kitchen counter I find myself becoming very calm and it actually helps me move into a more important task in a much better frame of mind.
It also helps to appreciate the small things like a clean kitchen or the fact that we even have a dishwasher.
Pick a mundane task that you would ordinarily rush through or avoid completely and fully focus 100% while you do it. Focus on the touch, smell, emotion and thought while you are doing it and see how your experience of it changes.
22. One act of service for my wife.
I discovered what her love language is and this is an investment in our relationship.
Every time that I do this I am making a ‘deposit’ in our relationships and this compounds and helps to build a strong foundation.
This can take many forms but some examples for me might be:
- Cleaning the kitchen.
- Picking up a smoothie bowl and dropping it at her office.
- Doing some admin that she was expecting to have to do herself.
- Giving her time to do whatever she wants to do by taking our daughter for an outing few a hours at a time that my wife wasn’t expecting me to take her.
23. Put my daughter to bed.
Investing in mine and my daughters relationship and in her seeing me as a source of safety, comfort and connection. To give my wife some time in the evenings for herself.
To work on my patience and acceptance.
A combination of conversation, reading books and telling her stories for an average of 90 minutes every night.
There absolutely are enough hours in the day, how we spend those hours and what we are prepared to prioritise and sacrifice is what makes all the difference.
Now, I’m off to do some pushups!