“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Aristotle is credited with saying these 15 famous words. And for most of my life…I didn’t believe him.

I fought against cultivating good habits and routines because I didn’t want to feel like I had to live my life by other people’s rules. I wanted to be my own person and do my own thing. Besides, keeping a routine was hard work.

Know what I discovered?

Having no routine or structure is so much more draining mentally, physically, and emotionally than any routine could ever be!

By not doing the things I knew would make me better — habits like exercising, meditating, and creating gratitude lists—I deprived my body and mind of the energy that these types of positive activities create. I felt tired…inside and out. And to make matters worse, my dreams and goals were just slipping away.

A few years ago I decided to take a different path…to listen to Aristotle and actually work on creating excellence in my life by establishing a positive daily routine.

Now that I’ve created and stuck to my own daily practice (I call it my ‘Best Day Ever‘—find the full routine at the bottom of this post), not only do I get more accomplished than I’ve ever thought possible, but I also feel 100 times better while doing it!

I’d love to share with you all of the elements of my daily success routine and see if the pieces might help you create your own routine for greatness!
Daily Success Routine
Want to go further? I put together a special bonus area for Buffer readers with an eBook version of this post, a daily habit builder worksheet and a guide with 40 powerful morning habits!

Jump to any section of this post anytime!

Why Create a Routine?

But first, you may be looking for a bit more convincing about the benefits of creating a routine.

Establishing a positive daily routine is both a self-investment and a way to do your best for the rest of the world. It also provides additional benefits, such as giving you structure, building forward-moving habits, and creating momentum that will carry you on the days when you feel like you don’t have the strength to carry yourself.

Following a daily routine can help you establish priorities, limit procrastination, keep track of goals, and even make you healthier. It lowers your reliance on willpower and motivation because, as Tynan, the author of Superhuman by Habit, says, habits are “action[s] that you take on a repeated basis with little or no required effort or thought.”

Today, I have more drive, motivation, and passion, which makes reaching my goals easier…and more fulfilling. I have more physical and mental energy to make it through my days…even the really tough ones (which still show up). I feel happier and more satisfied with the quality and depth of my life.

I admit it though; it isn’t always easy to create good habits. As Brian Tracy says, “Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with.

The very best thing...

Here’s something really important to remember: what works for someone else, might not work for you. That’s why it’s important to pick the activities that resonate most with you, the ones that push you to become the best you that you are capable of being…and to keep doing those.

Don’t be afraid to try new habits and see how they work for you. If they leave you feeling energized and inspired, keep doing them…if they don’t, keep trying new ones until you find ones that do.

The key is to create regular and consistent daily patterns, that will take you where you want to go in life, helping you maximize yourself on every level possible.

Now, let’s get into some of the things you can do in your daily routine to reach higher mental levels (i.e. more brain power and clarity!).

Part 1: Optimize Your Mind

Optimize Your Mind

A successful daily routine helps you achieve laser-like focus from the moment you wake up in the morning…to the time you close your eyes and drift off to dreamland at night. Here are some ways to get it:

Get positive: Start the day with a mantra

According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking helps manage stress and even improves your health.

“Today is going to be the best day ever!”

I start every single day saying that simple sentence (out loud) as soon as I get out of bed. And yes, I even tell myself this on mornings that have followed nights that were too short or mornings that I wake up feeling like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Why?

These nine words put me in the right mindset for the day ahead.

What makes a day good or bad isn’t the events that occur, but rather your response to them. As Jim Rohn once said, “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

I want to put my mind in a GOOD state right away…because left unchecked it will try to tell me the things that are WRONG…but through positive thinking, I can overcome it.

Ben Franklin used to ask himself this question every morning:

What good shall I do today?

Pick a phrase or question that resonates with you. It could be as simple as smiling and saying “Thank you” out loud and acknowledging being gifted with another day.

Be proactive: Don’t check your email first!

When you wake up in the morning, do you immediately check your email or social media accounts? If so, you’re starting your day off in reactive mode instead of proactive.

As Jocelyn K. Glei writes in Manage Your Day-to-Day, “..the trouble with this approach is it means spending the best part of the day on other people’s priorities.”

For instance, if you receive an email asking for work-related documents, you might be compelled to provide them immediately…even though you may have had plans to work on marketing your own side-business. Or if you open up Facebook and see one of your friends in a crisis, that becomes your focus, potentially keeping you from concentrating on your own issues or concerns.

Start your days focused on YOU and you will be in a much better state-of-mind to help others and get more accomplished all day.

Mentally prepare: Visualize your success

Some of the world’s greatest athletes use visualization to help prepare themselves mentally to excel in their sport. Aaron Rodgers, considered by many to be the best quarterback in the NFL, talked about the power of visualization in a 2011 interview with USA Today:

Aaron Rodgers on visualization

Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, suggests that you practice visualization 10 minutes a day to “harness the power of your subconscious mind.”

Simply close your eyes and imagine yourself excelling and being the best you. Put yourself in situations where you shine, visualizing the best possible outcome. Include as much detail in your visualizations as possible, using all of your senses and making your “training” even more powerful.

For people who have trouble closing their eyes and “seeing anything”, I recommend using a pen and paper and writing out how you want your day to unfold. Be as specific as possible…and be sure to keep it positive.

The purpose of all of this is to pass command from your conscious mind to your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind wants to believe what you tell it (good or bad) and it will do whatever it takes to turn those commands into reality.

Read a book (Even if it’s just a page)

Reading books offers many science-based benefits. Reading can boost your intelligence, increase your brainpower (for up to 5 days, according to research conducted by Emory University), and even strengthen your ability to empathize with other people. Reading has also been found to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by more than double…all this while helping you feel more relaxed at the same time!

Joshua Becker, bestselling author of Simplify, has made it a goal to read a book a week because reading makes him a better leader, increases his worldview and knowledge base, and reinforces his self-discipline.

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to find the time to read an entire book. I mean, who has hours and hours a day or week to just sit and read?

That’s why I commit to reading just one chapter each day of a book of my choice. I’m in the process of reading a couple different books right now, so I just pick up the one that speaks to me the most that day and I sit and read a chapter of it. If I want to read more, I do.

By breaking the big process (reading a whole book!) into something manageable (one chapter) I am able to read about 50 books each year.

Make yourself accountable: Enlist a partner or mentor

I have a mentor and I call him every day. Even if all I do is leave him a message, this one simple task holds me accountable. It also forces me to keep myself (and my mind) moving in a positive direction.

If you don’t currently have a mentor, then think about how you could go about getting one. Or at least find someone you trust who can be your accountability partner, someone to hold you to your word. Eric “The Hip-Hop Preacher” Thomas believes that accountability partners are crucial for success and his accountability partners changed his life:

Eric Thomas

ET recommends making a list of three people that you trust and respect. Have a conversation with each of these people and discuss exactly what it is that you want to accomplish. After the conversation, decide which of these individuals will serve best as a accountability partner for the specific milestone you are trying to reach.

One quick suggestion, make sure it’s a win-win situation for them as well. In the words of author Ryan Holiday, “Bring something to the table.”

“Anything. Quid pro quo. Even if it’s just energy. Even if it’s just thanks. You cannot ask and ask and not expect to give anything in return. The bigger the payoff you can offer, the longer they’ll take you under their wing. Figure out what you can offer and actually give it. Here’s a freebie: Find articles and books that relate to their field and pass on a recommendation and then they won’t have to waste their time searching.”

Write: Prime yourself for creativity

Spending time writing every day helps you become a better communicator, improves your ability to recall important information, and it also enhances your creativity. Write in a diary format and you also have the added benefit of greater self-understanding.

One of the first things I do every morning is write Morning Pages, a practice devised by Julia Cameron that clears my mind and helps to clarify what I want out of life. To do your own Morning Pages, simply sit down and write three pages. They can be about anything you want them to be. Just write each and every day.

I also write down 10 ideas, a concept I learned from James Altucher, author of Choose Yourself. The point of this exercise is to work your brain and get your creative juices flowing. They can be big ideas (how to cure cancer) or small ones (ways get your cat to quit scratching the furniture).

They say that everyone has at least one million-dollar idea in his or her lifetime. You may just find yours on this list!

Make a daily to-do list

One great way to be fully prepared for the day ahead is to make a to-do list, just like Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank, Jim Koch, founder of Sam Adams, and Jim McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS.

I plan up to six tasks that I want to complete during the day on mine and the reason this works is twofold.

First, it helps me plan my day in a way that allows me to get the most out of it versus just performing random tasks and hoping that they move you forward. Second, creating a to-do list keeps me on task. I know exactly what you want to get done and when, which makes it more likely that you’ll do it.

Keep your daily to-do list small so that it’s manageable and not overwhelming. A great “hack” to make sure you keep your lists simple is using a Post-It Note. The dimensions of a Post-It Note are perfect (typically 3″ X  3″) because the size constraint will force you to only write down the most important things that you have to do each day.

You can’t fit more than 6 items on a Post-It Note (unless you cheat and write REALLY small…but you won’t do this, right?) and these tasks should be your MITs (Most Important Tasks).

Plus, when you’re able to cross items off this list, it inspires you to keep going and accomplish even more!

Take regular breaks throughout the day

While all of these tips are meant to help you forage ahead, sometimes you just need to step back and give your mind a break.

Taking regular breaks keeps you from getting bored and losing focus, increasing your brain’s function at the same time. It also forces you to reevaluate what you’re working on, ensuring that you’re going in the right direction.

I’ve found the Pomodoro Technique to be invaluable at helping me to keep my energy levels high and “forcing” me to take regular breaks. This revolutionary time management system is deceptively simple to learn, but life-changing when applied correctly. Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works:

The Pomodoro Technique

By utilizing this technique, I am now able to get 40 hours of work done in just 16.7! All the while, keeping my energy levels more stable and eliminating burnout (for the most part).

Speaking of breaks…while you’re decompressing and giving your mind a chance to switch gears, why not close your eyes and catch some zzz’s?

According to The National Sleep Foundation a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve your mood, alertness and even performance. Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali were all regular nappers.

Break your day into chunks

Breaking your day into chunks helps you be the best you as too much time spent doing one thing can cause you to lose focus…and interest. And if you’re working on something you don’t really want to do, it makes it easier because you only have to do it for a short while.

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, is a master with this as he sets his daily schedule in a way that doesn’t keep him on the same task for very long. Here’s what a “typical” day looked like for Tim a few years back:

A day in the life of Tim Ferriss

Some important takeaways from Tim:

  • No two days are ever really the same
  • Spend as much time possible doing what you want by maximizing output in minimal time…this is the goal each day.
  • How you use time and trade it for experience…is what really matters.

Now, look at your own day and figure out how you can break it into chunks…and determine what you need to do to spend your time doing what you want to do (as much as possible).

Theme your week

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of both Twitter and Square, used to manage both of these companies at the same time without getting overwhelmed. He did this by setting aside different tasks for different days of the week. Here’s what it looked like:

Theming your week by Jack Dorsey

Even if you can’t set aside full days to deal with certain issues, you can probably block off certain hours of the day to handle them (going back to breaking your day into chunks). This can give you the time you need to make headway in those particular areas…without putting your brain on overload.

Part 2: Optimize Your Body

Optimize Your Body

Being your best also requires that you take care of your body and are firing on all cylinders! Here are a few things you can add to your daily routine to do just that…

Breathe: Practice deep breathing

Of course, if you quit breathing you die…I’m talking about really breathing. 70% of your body’s toxins are released through your lungs and exhalation making the act of “full breathing” a natural and powerful detoxifier.

Peak-performance expert Tony Robbins recommends deep breathing as part of his Ten-Day Challenge. Three times a day you take 10 “power breaths” using a ratio of 1-4-2. For instance, if you inhale for 6 seconds, you will hold for 24 seconds, and exhale for 12 seconds.

7040000501_d

This type of breathing brings energy to your body, making it healthier and less stressed in the process. You’ll start to feel better almost instantly…try it now. I’ll wait.

Eat “productive” foods

We’ve talked about a number of things you can do to make your days more productive, but did you know that the foods you eat can help with this too? That’s right. The items you choose to consume each and every day can actually affect how well your brain functions, ultimately making it easier (or harder) for you to hit your goals.

Research has found that your brain operates optimally when you consume a very specific amount of glucose (25 grams, to be exact) in a form that is released slowly over time. Foods that fall into this category and have positive effects on your body and mind include:

  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Blueberries
  • Raw carrots, and…most everyone’s favorite:
  • Dark chocolate

healthy foods

Eat foods like these and your body and your brain will thank you!

Drink more water: 9-13 cups a day

Nearly 75% of all Americans aren’t drinking enough water on a daily basis. Do you fall into this group?

If so, this can leave you feeling tired all of the time, result in more frequent headaches, and also lower your strength and stamina, making any routine at all difficult to create, let alone keep.

One way to overcome this all-too-common occurrence is to have water with you at all times. Drink a full glass first thing in the morning, have one following your morning exercise routine (which we’ll talk about soon), and drink up at every meal.

Keep sipping the rest of the day too so you get your Mayo Clinic recommended intake of 9 cups daily for women and 13 cups for men.

Have some tea: Polyphenols benefit the body

When you’re not drinking water, you may want to have tea in your cup. Harvard Medical School says that the polyphenols found in tea have been found to do many good things for your body. Specifically, they are anti-inflammatory and provide antioxidant-like benefits.

Here are some of the best teas to drink as well as the reasons why:

The best teas

Sit back, enjoy a cup or two a day, and reap the benefits.

Get out of your chair…often

Spending your days sedentary, stuck behind a desk, can really wreak havoc on your body.

The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) cites some of the physical consequences of sitting a lot, which include: increased risk of colon and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, strokes and heart attacks, as well as a greater mental decline and loss of muscle and bone.

In his article The Healthiest Way to Work, Buffer content crafter extraordinaire Kevan Lee provides a few tips to help you get out of your chair and move more often. Some to think about implementing in your own life are getting up every 20 minutes, using a standing desk, and sitting on a saddle or balance chair.

Exercise (MOVE!)

Exercise is the one part of a daily routine that most everyone loves to hate. And there are tons of excuses not to exercise:

“I don’t like to exercise.”

“I couldn’t get out of bed early enough, so I ran out of time. And I don’t have time at night.”

“I really don’t like to sweat.”

The list goes on and on, but you get the point.

In Choose Yourself, Altucher defines excuses as “easy lies we tell ourselves to cover up our failures.” How do you get past those lies? Start seeing what positive things exercise has to offer you…not what you don’t like about it.

Entrepreneur Joshua Steimle exercises because, “If exercise stops, then my health goes downhill.” This decreases his productivity, right along with his motivation, while increasing his depressive feelings at the same time.

Other benefits of regular exercise include having an easier time controlling your weight, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer, improved mood and more!

Exercise doesn’t have to mean an hour long grueling workout session. Take a 10-20 minute walk. Do yoga, stretches, or dance around your living room. Get on the elliptical. Or do the Scientific 7-Minute Workout:

7 minute workout

It doesn’t matter what you do; just do something to get your body moving!

Get enough sleep: No less than 7 hours

Sleep is extremely important to your overall health for a multitude of reasons. In the short term, not sleeping enough can affect your judgment, mood, and even your ability to retain information. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early death.

And beyond the physical and mental problems, it’s pretty tough to stick to a full routine when you’re so tired that all you can think about is crawling back into bed, pulling the covers over your head, and drifting back to sleep.

To get a good night’s sleep, you can:

  • Limit your caffeine to early in the day
  • Choose late-day foods that bring on sleep, like bananas, oatmeal, and potatoes
  • Using ear plugs or a white noise machine to cut out outside noise at night
  • Darken your room
  • Stay away from technology for a good hour before bedtime

Remember, consistency and routine are key when it comes to creating healthy sleep habits. According to Dr. Lawrence Epstein, co-author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep, “Our body craves routine and likes to know what’s coming.”

Epstein points to two simple tenets for healthy sleep: (1) getting enough (no less than 7 hours) and (2) getting it during the same time frame each day (as much as possible).

Part 3: Optimize your Spirit

Optimize Your Spirit

Just as mental and physical aspects of your daily routine can elevate you and push you forward, the same is true when you tend to yourself emotionally and spiritually. Here are a few options to consider:

Get quiet: Try meditation

Okay, this is technically called meditation, but if the idea of “meditating” is a turn-off, then just think about it as spending some daily quiet time alone. I was one of those people who didn’t think I could ever meditate (boy, was I wrong!)

Engaging in this daily practice has a lot of positive benefits. Giovanni with the Live and Dare blog points out 76 of them, such as greater focus, better decision making and problem solving skills, improved memory, and an easier time managing hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder. It does this by altering your brain’s structure. (It actually grows!)

Meditation also reduces stress, anxiety, and depression according to Harvard University studies, which are even more reasons to give it a try if you haven’t before.

There are so many awesome guided meditations available for free online and for many people this is a great way to get started (or to enhance your practice).

  • UCLA Mindfulness Research Center
    These 8 audio tracks are a great introduction to mindfulness meditation that you can practice on your own.
  • The Chopra Center for Wellbeing Podcast
    Deepak Chopra, M.D. and David Simon, M.D. run The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and put out excellent guided meditations on their podcast. The sessions focus on specific themes ranging from gratitude to taking the plunge.
  • 20+ Hour Playlist on Spotify
    This is a wonderfully curated playlist of guided meditations for Spotify users.
  • YouTube is FULL of guided meditations
    YouTube is a goldmine of guided meditations. You can choose to watch & listen or just listen. The link above will bring you to a list of the most popular ones.
  • AudioDharma
    This site offers a wealth of guided meditations from different teachers and on many different themes. Download them all for free or stream them directly.

Here’s a great infographic that gives an overview of the different kinds of meditation and some tips for fitting in meditation at work.

the-meditative-brain

Find a well of inspiration

Inspiration and motivation can come from many places—books, music, podcasts, videos, emails, other people. All you have to do is find the one or ones that resonate most with you and commit to engaging with them. Daily.

Research has shown that inspiration can be activated, captured, and manipulated…and it has a major effect on important life outcomes.

I have a few apps on my phone that I read daily to inspire and motivate me. They keep me centered and grounded, giving me a more stable mental foundation.

Another way to get inspired involves repeating positive affirmations, which is why I do this both in the morning and at night. In fact, researchers at Stanford University have found that affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and even relationships.

So find a word or phrase that is empowering and motivating to you and repeat it over and over again to yourself.

Practice gratitude: Write what you’re thankful for

If you woke up tomorrow and only had the things you were thankful for today, what would you have?

By spending time each day expressing gratitude for all of the blessings in your life, you do two things. First, you recognize that even though things may not be exactly as you’d like, you are fortunate to have what you do. Second, the more blessings you are thankful for, the more you draw in or attract. It’s like they multiply.

Eckhart Tolle on gratitude

Beyond just realizing your blessings, it also helps to actively appreciate them. For instance, I make sure I spend some time daily with my daughter and wife because I always want them to know how grateful I am to have them in my life.

I write a simple gratitude list every single day (even on the days I don’t want to) and a result of creating over 1,000 of these lists, I have become a more positive, mindful and attentive person.

Come up with a list of all of the things that you are grateful for and go over it when you get up in the morning and again before you go to bed at night. You can also take it one step further and pick someone from your past that you’re grateful for, get in touch with them, and let them know. Imagine the impact this could have on them…and you!

Learn something new (every day!)

According to a study by San Francisco State University, learning something new makes you happier long-term. While it may cause you a little stress in the short-term, at least until you reach some level of comfort, the end result is a higher level of life satisfaction, making it more than worth the initial uneasiness.

What are some things you could learn that you haven’t already?

How about painting, drawing, or writing? Or maybe you’d prefer something a little more physical like rock climbing or learning a particular style of dance? Or you could even go all out and test your strength by trying out for American Ninja Warrior! Why not?

Spend less time with people who don’t lift you up

Author James Altucher stresses the importance of cutting down interaction with those who drag you down.

Think about the people in your life…do they give you emotional energy or take it away? If it’s the former, spend more time with them. If it’s the latter, keep your distance and you’ll be happier.

James Altucher on energy

Give to others

There is something extremely satisfying about helping those around you. It doesn’t have to be huge acts of service either. Something as simple as opening the door for someone or giving a stranger (or loved one) a genuine compliment has the ability to make a huge impact on their day…and yours.

Make it a goal to do something good for someone each day…and the smile on your face will be as big as the one on theirs.

If you have time, you might also want to volunteer at a local charity or non-profit organization. Websites like VolunteerMatch, GiveBack and AllForGood can help you find one that’s right for you.

Evaluate. Track. Enhance.

Are you reading through this list and thinking something like this?

“Well, I’ve already tried a lot of these things and I’m still not where I want to be.

If so…it might be time to take an honest look at what you are currently doing with your day and figure out where your time is being spent. This is where technology can lend a helping hand.

There are several (this is an understatement!) productivity-based apps available that can help you recognize where you are spending a majority of your time.

For instance, Exist has an app that helps you track your day, giving you insights as to how much time you’re distracted versus productive. It also tells you how much time you spend sleeping and engaged in physical activity. It even tracks your moods.

I also use the Way of Life app to help me keep track of my habits on a daily basis. Spend about a minute each day to track, identify and change your habits …and as you collect more and more information you will be able to easily spot positive and negative trends in your lifestyle.

There are also websites that you can use to help you be the best you. One to consider is The Daily Practice. This site allows you to set your own repeating goals, helping you turn them into habits. Or you can check out theXeffect on reddit.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself

Question #1: “Am I doing what I love?”

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to be the best version of you if you’re not happy with what you are doing with your life…

The late Steve Jobs touched on this concept in the commencement address he gave Stanford students when he said,

“…for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

So, are you doing things that you’d be happy about doing if it was your last day on this earth?

If not, then maybe you need to think about what you could be doing that would leave you feeling more fulfilled and full of life. Come up with a list of activities that will satisfy you and add them to your days so your answer to this question is a resounding “YES!”

Question #2: “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Ever wake up first thing in the morning worried about something that may happen later that day, week, month, or year? Or maybe you spend a lot of time throughout the day going over future events in your mind, feeling an overwhelming sense of dread as you ponder everything that could go wrong.

STOP!

This type of thinking can prevent you from becoming mentally ready to go to the next level, so one way to get over this obstacle is to ask yourself:

“What is really the worst thing that could happen if (insert potential future bad situation here) were to come true?”

Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote, says that thinking about a possible negative outcome can actually help you realize “that your anxiety or your fears about those situations were exaggerated.”

In other words, by truly thinking through potential situations and their outcomes, you’ll likely see that it isn’t a life or death deal.

Or you can do “The Work” an amazingly simple process, created by author Byron Katie, that will help you identify and question your harmful thoughts. This tool gives you four simple questions to ask yourself and allows you to experience the happiness of undoing those thoughts.

The Work by Byron Katie

Think of a situation, person, situation that’s really bothering you whether that’s something you’re really worried about or really scared of or a resentment or whatever it is…then ask yourself these four questions. Be honest. You’ll be amazed at what happens. This simple process can be applied to basically anything that you’re struggling with.

Question #3: “What good have I done today?”

Benjamin Franklin’s day always ended with asking and answering this question, “What good have I done today?

benfranklin

Asking and answering this simple question at the end of your day provides you with an opportunity to reflect and gives you perspective. It forces you to consider whether you’re heading in the direction you want to go and take others into account. Did you help other people?

Don’t forget, the more good you are doing…the more good will come to you. My friend Hiten Shah has this simple quote in his email signature which encapsulates this perfectly (and which I see him live):

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
– Zig Ziglar

At the end of each day, I write in my journal (or using the Day One app on my phone) all of the positive things that happened during the course of that day. I also list the things I want to improve upon, which helps give me clarity and direction on what I can do to make the next day even better.

Putting it All Together: My Daily Routine

It’s ironic that I spent most of my life fighting structure and routine…and now I help other people realize the power of it.

Having a healthy daily routine keeps functioning at the highest level possible on all three planes of existence – mind, body, and spirit. I need it to make myself a better person. I need it so I constantly see opportunity and view problems as ‘situations.’ In short, I need it so I can be free.

My Daily Success Routine

  • 5am – wake up (no snoozing!) and get right out of bed. Say “This will be the best day ever” and then I hit my knees and say a quick prayer. I read a few inspirational messages on apps while I drink a big glass of water.
  • 5:15am – read a chapter of a book (I’m currently reading ‘Shift Your Mind, Shift the World’ by Steve Chandler & re-reading ‘The Obstacle is the Way’ by Ryan Holiday)
  • 5:45am – Write my Morning Pages (while drinking a cup of coffee)
  • 6:15am – Meditate for 20 minutes (here are my 9 “hacks” for meditating)
  • 6:35am – Say positive affirmations out loud while listening to audio like this (~6 minutes), do some visualizations (~3-5 minutes), write a gratitude list (~3 minutes)
  • 7am – make breakfast for me, my daughter and puppy (we recently rescued this little cutie)
  • 7:30am – walk to Central Park with my dog and daughter and let both of them run around
  • 8:15am – finalize my daily action plan and to-do’s and check in with my mentor
  • 8:30am – start working focused on my MIT (Most Important Task) of the day (which is usually writing)
  • 9am – check & return email, review website sales, stats, etc
  • 9:30am to 4pm – work (utilizing my Dream. Dump. Map. Chunk. Productivity system)
  • 4pm – workout (either at my club or going for a run in Central Park)
  • 5:30pm – meet up with someone for coffee or networking
  • 7pm: spend time with my family, come up with 10 ideas and learn something new.
  • 9:30pm – floss (this was actually my first real habit), review my day, say nighttime affirmations, give thanks again
  • 10pm – lights out…sleep.

Don’t Be Afraid to Mess Up; Just Start!

It’s important for me to let you know that this isn’t what my daily routine looked like at the beginning…not even close. I was happy to just be doing one of these things on a daily basis! No, this has been a constant process of experimentation, optimization and change…it’s not always easy but it’s so worth it.

Make Mistakes

It’s okay to “let yourself be sloppy” when it comes to creating new habits. In other words, be specific in what you want, but also keep the flexibility necessary to work within in your lifestyle and schedule so your habits actually stick.

Start small.The American Psychological Association suggests that “to improve your success, [you need to] focus on one goal or change at a time.”

One of my favorite examples of starting small to get big results comes from author John Grisham. Want to know what his goal was when he first started writing?

John Grisham's original goal

ONE PAGE PER DAY. That’s it. Sometimes writing that one page would take 10 minutes…sometimes an hour. Many times he would write for two hours before he had to turn to his “day job” as a lawyer.

“The alarm clock would go off at 5, and I’d jump in the shower. My office was 5 minutes away. And I had to be at my desk, at my office, with the first cup of coffee, a legal pad and write the first word at 5:30, five days a week.”

It took Grisham three years to finish his first novel (“A Time to Kill”)…and since getting it published in 1988, he has gone on to write one book per year…selling more than 300 million copies worldwide and amassing a net worth of over $200 million! All of that started with one page per day

Never discount the power of consistenly taking small, deliberate actions and the compound effect this can have on your life.

Even one positive habit done daily can be the basis for major change in your life. Just start. In the words of the late Jim Rohn,

Big achievements come one small advantage at a time, one step at a time, one day at time.

Over to You

What does your daily routine include? What do you do to be the best you mentally, physically, and spiritually?

Don’t have a daily routine? That’s okay too!

Let us know what you are going to start with…or where you need help. After looking through these ideas, which ones could you implement so you can become the best you?

I’m looking forward to hearing and learning from all of you in the comments below!

Want to go further? I put together a special bonus area for Buffer readers with an eBook version of this post, a daily habit builder worksheet and a guide with 40 powerful morning habits!

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Written by Chris Winfield

Chris Winfield is an entrepreneur, writer and coach in New York City. Using simple systems & techniques, Chris teaches people how to save time and increase their value in the marketplace. Check out his special bonus area for Buffer readers.

  • Britt Daklah

    Chris, I never comment on blog posts and many times I don’t even read them (if I’m being honest) but this was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

    I don’t have a routine and I find myself withdrawing more and more from life. I don’t want it to be this way and I’m determined to change. My main problem is that I always start big and then burn out with new habits.

    Thank you for this post and especially the reminders about starting small. I am going to do exactly that today.

    • My pleasure Britt…and thanks for being so honest.

      Definitely start small. One tiny improvement at a time can lead to huge results.

      Break it down into 24 hour chunks and think about how much EASIER it will be to just do it.

      Try this for the next 24 hours. Succeed with it. Then do it for the next 24 hours. And keep repeating it until it simply becomes a part of who you are.

      Sound good?

      • Thank you so much for this amazing post! It reminded me of what I have been struggling with this week. I am a business owner who just transitioned to working my business full-time.

        I have been driving myself hard and working beyond the hours intended and seeming to make no visible progress on my goals and feeling quite miserable and spent and exhausted.

        Your post reminded me of many important things; but most importantly to divide up the day into workable chunks and ENJOY what you are doing.

        I have long lived by the timer and sticky to-do list approach and have found it really effective! I can focus and work well. But somehow in my frenzy to being on my own; I began to approach my long term projects as though I could actually accomplish a 3 to 4 week goal in 8 hours.

        I also subscribe to the learn something new each day and like the way you divvy up the reading. This is so chock full of other awesome tips that I could write a ton more about it!

        But, I wanted to pause to thank you for collecting this amazing list of tips and best practices for folks to think about trying.

        Just like you said, every one of these might not be for every individual, but having used a lot of these in the past; I can endorse the majority of these as being a really effective way to organize yourself and your life!
        Best Regards
        Becky

        • Hi @BeckyBruso:disqus — thanks for your comment and for sharing this with us!

          I think you summed it all up perfectly with this sentence:

          >>”Your post reminded me of many important things; but most importantly to divide up the day into workable chunks and ENJOY what you are doing.”<<

          Yes! And thank you for reminding me of this today (I forget it as well :)

          Have a great day!

  • Chelsey Harasym

    Hi Chris,

    First off, thank you for writing and sharing this great blog with the world. It is exceptionally well written and has everything I look for in a great blog; white space, great use of multi media, and internal and external links. I actually have pocketed this blog to use as an example for the next staff I train on blog writing.

    I think I was probably most attracted to this blog from your paragraph about fighting “against cultivating good habits and routines”. I have struggled with this for years, yet remember a time I found it easy to get up early and be productive. Okay it was in high school.

    Regardless of how long it’s been I have written down a number of your tips from this blog and plan to begin to slowly implement them into my life.

    Thanks again for writing this Chris, I’m sure to be rereading it again soon when I need motivation to stay on track.

    -C

    • Thanks so much for your comment Chelsey!

      >> I think I was probably most attracted to this blog from your paragraph about fighting “against cultivating good habits and routines”. I have struggled with this for years<<

      You are definitely not alone in this…most people that I talk to are in the same boat…I know I was for most of my life…and my mind can still try to take me back there at times.

      ​I used to have a huge laundry list of things that I "should" be doing or things that I knew I wasn't doing well and I "could" do them better. Until I had a MAJOR realization one day…​

      I realized that it was actually much HARDER for me to not do something (that I knew I should be doing) than it was to actually just do the damn thing.

      The mental energy of beating myself up for not doing something was so much more taxing than any physical energy it would actually take to do it.

      Once I really understood and believed that, I just started breaking things down into smaller chunks and simply focusing on the next right action. That's it.

      Good luck! Let us know how it goes :)

  • Chris, that’s one of the best posts I’ve ever read. Very insightful, helpful, with a lot of great action steps.

    I’m myself in the process of creating and improving my daily habits. As a father of two small kids, FT job and building a blog it’s not easy. I’ve figured out this year that with improving 1% every day it’s a way to go as you write in the guide.

    I’m waking up between 5 and 6am – it’s not possible to make it at the same time each day cause I can’t get myself to bed early because of kids. Boy is only 8mo and does not have a routine yet. I aim for 7 hours to be able to work on my side biz each morning before work.

    I’ve built over 2 months quite good morning routine: making my bed, 2 glasses of water, breathe fresh air, 5-10 min meditation, visualization of ideal day (from Jairek Robbins’s “Live it!” book), quick exercise to get the blood flowing (10 pullups or 20 pushups), write 1-3 morning pages which works amazingly based on your advice, thanks for that! Then I work at least 1 pomodoro on my side biz – usually writing.

    Recently I’ve added yoga to my daily routine (doing a 30 day challenge – on day 6). And want to get myself to write 500 words each morning. No matter what’s MIT for my side biz. Need to do creative work in the morning. ;-)

    Then I plan to add idea generation. Was thinking to add these three things at the same time but it’s not working. So will add them one at a time. Will let you know how it goes.

    Again, thanks a lot!

    -Matej

    • Matej — this is a perfect example of building a routine that works for *you* and doing it in a manageable, smart way…awesome stuff!

  • Stella

    Thank you Chris! It is a complete source of information to change habits and construct funny routine!

    • Thanks for the comment Stella (I like the idea of a “funny routine” btw :)

  • kromosome

    Wow, this is a really good article, well done Chris and thank you!

  • So many great ideas in here—thanks so much for writing this post, Chris.

    I LOVE the tip of writing down 10 random ideas every day. I gave it a try yesterday + today and it’s definitely becoming part of my morning routine. :)

    • I love that one too Laura!

      James Altucher is the one who inspired me to do that and it’s been life-changing (even though I sometimes “hate” it because it makes my brain “sweat” as he says) :)

  • Hello Chris,

    I don’t think I had the pleasure of reading anything from you before, S.J. Scott recommended this article and I’m really glad I took the time to read it.

    There are so many remainders here for me, many things that I already knew or that I used to do but I got ‘too busy’ and I just stopped doing them. Great advice altogether.

    Anyway, this came right on time for me and I’ve been a bit lost lately. I run my own small business and I’ve been struggling a lot with some of my projects. It’s time to get back on track and it’s time to start forming good habits, one at a time.

    After reading your excellent article I realized that a good daily routine is what I really need in order to overcome many of the things that are making me suffer.

    Thank you for taking the time to put this together, it really resonated with me.

    Keep the words flowing!

    • Thanks Javi! SJ is a great guy :)

      My biggest advice…start small and start now (while your motivation to change is high).

      Pick one habit from each list (Mind, Body, Spirit) and do it today (even if you don’t do it well).

      Once those become habits, add more. If they aren’t helping, try something else. Just keep moving forward.

      Good luck!

  • mandycat

    I’m with you all the way on the importance of creating good habits and optimizing our time. I have to admit, however, that I read articles like this that are written by the self-employed with a grim smile on my face. Working in 21st Century Corporate America means high responsibility, constant accountability and minimum (if any) authority and resources.

    Outside of work (assuming there IS an outside) we can apply a lot of your advice. Inside of work, we’re mostly highly paid puppets with management pulling the strings. I’m retired now after 40 years in the IT sector and the last five years were a hell of competing priorities, shifting directions and the casual assumption by managers and users that every minute of our lives belonged to them unless otherwise specified. It’s pretty hard to arrange your day in a sane fashion while chained to a pager and a cell phone.

    • Hi Mandycat,

      I can definitely understand what you are saying and can see where you are coming from but hopefully I can shed a little more light on this (from my perspective).

      My daily routine is pretty “intense” (for lack of a better word) and a big part of that is because I need more structure (in large part due to the fact that I am self-employed).

      It also took me quite awhile to work up to all of that stuff. For a long time, my only positive habit was flossing :)

      And what works for me…isn’t going to necessarily work for someone else. This guide is meant to give people options to pick and choose from and hopefully try…and see how they work in their lives (based on their own schedules/responsibilities/etc).

      But…I do believe that we all can have some sort of daily routine with things that are good for us regardless of where we work/what we do/who we are.

      Thanks again for sharing your perspective and thoughts!

  • Mohit Singh

    Hi Chris! I would say this is one of the most valuable blog posts ever and has the potential to transform lives!
    To be honest, I got to know about this today, through the Buffer newsletter and after reading the post, I couldn’t resist to share with you something I have been working on (If you don’t mind!). It is directly related to your Part 1’s “Get positive: Start the day with a mantra”, Part 3’s “Find a well of inspiration” and your daily routine’s “5am” thing. Actually it’s an app – “Quotes Alarm” – it wakes you up everyday with an assorted inspiring picture quote so that you can start your day pumped up with motivation. You can also browse through amazing picture quotes. It’s a free app! If you find this interesting, you may have a look here: quotesalarm.com
    Once again, thanks for the post Chris! Bookmarked :)

  • Hi Chris! I would say this is one of the most valuable blog posts ever and has the potential to transform lives!
    To be honest, I got to know about this today, through the Buffer newsletter and after reading the post, I couldn’t resist to share with you something I have been working on. It is directly related to your Part 1’s “Get positive: Start the day with a mantra”, Part 3’s “Find a well of inspiration” and your daily routine’s “5am” thing. Actually it’s an app – “Quotes Alarm” – it wakes you up everyday with an assorted inspiring picture quote so that you can start your day pumped up with motivation. You can also browse through amazing picture quotes. It’s a free app! If you find this interesting, you may have a look here: quotesalarm.com
    Once again, thanks for the post Chris! Bookmarked :)

  • Hey Chris,

    What a post! Congratulations on this terrific article. It was like reading ‘distilled’ wisdom of the ages in an easy to understand format and actionable steps. I work in the high performance and publishing industries. I absolutely loved your message and writing style. Maybe I should interview you for my upcoming book!

    Let’s keep in touch and please keep writing. Keep sharing love.

    Best,

    Raam Anand
    Author/Publisher @StardomBooks.com

  • Thanks for sharing your daily routine, Chris. I follow Hal Elrod’s miracle morning system to get started with my day: meditation, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading and journaling. I get it done in 60-70 minutes. I enjoy reading and meditation the most. I actually feel like I’m turning into a superhuman :)

    • I love Hal Elrod’s work @bodhiclifford:disqus :) TMM played a huge part in changing my morning routine.

      >>”I actually feel like I’m turning into a superhuman :)”

      There’s a great book (I referenced it this guide) by a guy named Tynan called ‘Superhuman by Habit’ and this is his very premise…that the way you develop amazing powers is by habit and repetition. You would probably enjoy it.

      Have a great day!

      • Thanks, I will check that book out now. I also really enjoyed The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

  • LeoWid

    Hey Chris, just wanted to stop by your post and say that I’m super inspired by the depth and vulnerability of it too. Really appreciate that you shared all this with us here on the Open blog, hopefully we might see more of you on here too in the future! :)

    • Hi @LeoWid:disqus thanks for your note and for helping to foster such a great community here! You (and everyone on your team that I know) inspire me each day :)

  • Nathan Fox

    Hi Chris. I stumbled on this post and I can’t tell you how inspirational it was. As someone just beginning to create my own business, I knew the value of creating a personal daily routine but wasn’t sure where to start. Right from the beginning, I was drawn to the simple step of announcing a daily mantra. I love that!

    Something else that stuck out was your meditation recommendations. Like you, meditation is something I could not imagine building into my life even after hearing so much about its benefits. Your meditation “hack” ideas were great and I plan to build those in asap.

    Thanks so much for sharing! You have an incredible gift of putting strong content together in a powerful and motivational way.

    Cheers, Nate

    • Hi Nathan — thanks for your comment and for inspiring me today with your awesome attitude!

      Please check back in and let us know about your progress, I can tell you’re going to go far!

  • Angela

    Hello Chris! I am a junior in high school and this blog post is going to change my life, I can feel it. I’ve been getting really stressed out lately and feel like I constantly don’t have time to accomplish all I have on my plate, with 4 AP and 3 honor classes, cross country, and work. I cannot wait to begin writing my morning pages! I think that is an amazing idea and I’m really looking forward to adding that to my daily routine! I enjoy writing poems and short stories but I don’t feel like my works are very good. I think the idea of writing one page a day will help me not just become a better writer, but believe I am as well. Thank you for revolutionizing my life!

    • Hi Angela — I am so inspired by your comment and your amazing attitude at such a young age (it took me until much later in life to get to where it sounds like you already are :)

      Please check back in and let us know about your progress!

  • Szilard Magyar

    Chris, this post is just simply awesome! I’ve already read about most of the things that can be found in the article, but the way you assembled this in one single post is amazing. From now I don’t have to check out all my different resources again, I just have to reread this.

  • Jjonan

    You inspired me. I made some changes, slowly. My life has taken on new meaning. Thanks for sharing.

    • Love it @jjonan:disqus — keep us informed of your progress!

  • I’ve now read this post three times! A great inspiration Chris! Without knowing it I had started a daily exercise habit but now you have spurred me on to more habits.

    Big thanks for sharing this and to Buffer for introducing you to us all.

  • Lombok Wander

    Start from body and soul..
    Keep peaceful mind !
    http://lombokwandertour.com

  • A very very brilliant post in every aspect – it touches the very core of sensible existence – what does it mean to live life to the fullest? The choices we make in terms of friendships we choose or tasks we undertake, affects us considerably. Wiser choices come from sounder minds. Good health means being fit both mentally and physically – something you have brought out in this post so well. Thanks for the inspirational words Chris…!

  • Kirrily Weatherstone

    I routinely return to this blog post. The takeaways are so simple. It is beautifully written and beyond helpful. Thanks so much, Chris.

  • GAURAV MAKHECHA

    Lots of great habits. Thank you so much!

  • dursonj

    Chris, this is a great article! I am going to use it as a source for my website and give you a backlink. Our site is all about health and nutrition https://TheNutritionalSource.com/blog Your article isa great source. I am glad I found this :)

  • y3shuA imMANu3l

    “With care and pleasure train the little soul to know its God and the mysteries of life and in maturity stand forth to teach mankind Wisdom and Truth.”
    “The invisible is the only reality, and everything else the effects of the causes, or visible prototypes — illusions.”
    “The Soul is the cause, and not the result of physical development.”

  • y3shuA imMANu3l

    “Know the Divinity that is within you,
    That you may know the Divine One,
    Of which your Soul is but a ray.”
    “The knowledge which descends into the soul from above, excels any that can be attained by the mere exercise of the intellect.”

  • y3shuA imMANu3l

    “For the true ray refracted from above, men mistake and substitute the false ray reflected from below, foul with the taint of earth, and savouring of the limitations of the lower nature, and, like the image in the glass, exactly reversing the truth. Wherever we find a systematic depreciation of life, advocacy of bloodshed, and materialisation of things spiritual, there, we may be confident, does evil influence prevail.”

  • y3shuA imMANu3l

    “Abomination of Desolation — or that maketh desolate — is that system of thought which, putting Matter(illusion/reflection) in the chief place, and making it the Source, Subtance, and Object of Existence, abolishes God(cause/refraction) out of the Universe and the Soul out of Man, and thus, depriving Existence of its Light and Life, makes it empty, desolate, and barren, a very abomination of desolation.”

  • Cindy Hope

    This is a real good blog post Chris! As I have read in the Consumer Health Digest, sticking to a routine can really do a great deal of good to anyone! The Routine that you have posted is really easy to follow and fun too :) I am on my way to success thanks to you :)

  • sholak786

    Anybody tried winmilestone.com , it useful to manage and organize your task individually and among friends and family. It allows to send invite people and send reminders on schedules.

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