The Three Worst Morning Routines

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  • “Every morning you are training your brain to check into other people’s lives—not carefully, strategically and intentionally think about yours. What you are doing is neurologically training your brain to be rewarded by comparison and distraction.”
  • These are the three worst morning routines to start your day and the negative impacts they have on your psychology.
  • “The worst morning routine we can have is to immediately begin the day in comparison and distraction.”
  • Watch the video to get the full training.
  • This is a MUST WATCH episode on what NOT to do first thing in the morning so you can enjoy your days with greater intention, clarity, and productivity.
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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Brendon Show. Please note that this episode, like all TBS episodes, features Brendon speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited. Filmed in one take, The Brendon Show has become one of the most viewed unscripted, direct-to-camera self-help series in the history of YouTube. It has also been the #1 Podcast in all of iTunes and is regularly in the top podcasts in Self-Help and Health categories around the globe. Subscribe to the free motivational podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.)

What’s up team HPX. It’s Brendon. I’m in Puerto Rico today and this video is all about the three worst morning routines ever. I know you hear about this all the time. You need a morning routine so that you can set your mind right, so that you can do the day right, and so you can stay motivated. Lots of people have opinions about morning routines. Maybe you already have a great one, but let me share the three you should not have and you should not do because they take away your ability to be in a good mood, to be productive, and to make your dreams come true.

1. Starting Your Day on Social Media

Unfortunately, here’s how most people start their day: They wake up from bed and they reach over, grab their phone, pull their phone to their face, and then they start scrolling through. You can literally hear some people going—they just immediately start the day that way. Their real morning routine is starting their day on social media.

Let’s talk about why that is bad scientifically (it’s not just my opinion)—I’m not the guy telling you to stop going on Instagram. I’m sharing with you some results from the world’s largest study that’s ever been done on high performers.

High performers are basically the top 15% of the most successful group in whatever their category is; meaning it’s the most successful 15% of business owners, the most successful yoga instructors, the most successful videographers, or the most successful whatever.

We’ve studied over two million data points from 190 countries around the world to understand what high performers do, what their habits are, what they focus on, and what their minds are like—not just how they show up, but rather what they are willfully doing on purpose.

One thing they are not doing is starting their day on social media—almost none of them. Think about what that will is. It’s like you wake up, you grab the phone, you start scrolling through. Psychologically, what is that doing for you? First, social media is triggering the comparison frame in your mind. You immediately start comparing: Look at her abs, look at his thing, he’s got this, look at their followers, I don’t have that impact, I wish I could be like this, I want to be like that.

You’re immediately comparing your life to other people. What else are you doing? You’re scrolling, and as you are scrolling, we know what that is doing neurologically. The reason you like to scroll, swipe and move so much through your phone is because every time you do, it fires off something called novelty in your brain.

When we have novelty, something new to look at, our brain likes it and our brain says, “Let’s get a little dopamine and a little vasopressin to make you feel good.”

The more you do this, the more your brain goes, “Distraction. Look, new things. Shiny, shiny, shiny!”

You’re just swiping through, and as you are swiping through all of it, you are forgetting your life and your day.

Imagine this:

Would you ever tell a middle school kid, “What I want you to do is wake up every morning and immediately start thinking about how the other kids in school are and start comparing yourself to everybody.”

None of us as adults would teach small children to start their day comparing themselves to other people, and yet that’s what you’re doing when you pick up that phone.

What you are doing is neurologically training your brain to be rewarded by comparison and distraction.

Think about the anchor here. Wake up, grab, look, scroll, and what is that doing? It is training your brain, first thing in the morning, to check out of your life and check into other people’s lives.

Every morning you are training your brain to check into other people’s lives—not carefully, strategically and intentionally think about yours.

What that means is, if you’re a person who is going through social media first thing in the morning, you by definition, by checking into other people’s lives, comparing yourself to other people’s lives, are ultimately neurologically training your brain to live other people’s lives. You’re training your brain to see life from the perspective of other people’s versus your own vision, your own dream, your own thoughts, your own strategy, and your own intention.

You are training your brain to live other people’s lives. That’s the worst thing you can do. Please be thoughtful about this.

I know maybe you’re thinking, “But it’s hard Brendon. I just love to pick up the phone.”

I know because that’s an addiction. Every time you do something, if you have to do it every day, and it’s something you do every day that is leading to a negative result, that’s an addiction. You must teach yourself to break that. You must not do that.

Personally, I literally do not have my phone by my bedside. I noticed I would check social media in the morning, but I’ve seen the results, I’ve seen the studies, and thought, “Why am I doing this?”

So, I turn my phone off at night. I put it on the kitchen counter charging and I’m in the bedroom sleeping, which is really important to keep you sane. I think it’s just a change.

The worst morning routine we can have is to immediately begin the day in comparison and distraction.

2. Checking Your Email

The second terrible routine that people love to do is check their email. They’ve got to check-in again. I have to check my email, I have to check my texts, I have to check this.

Listen, your texts and your email are nothing but convenient organizing systems of other people’s agendas. Think about that for a minute.

What shows up in your inbox or in your texts, what shows up in your messages? Other people’s will for you. Other people telling you what to do, what to think, what they need from you, what the deadline is, and it’s stressful. Most people are literally beginning their day checking their texts, their voice messages, and their inbox, which is all other people’s agendas and needs from you.

Again, you are starting your day in other people’s lives and needs. Think about that and how powerful that is, especially for people like me and maybe you. I consider myself a people pleaser. I want to do good for other people. I love to lead and take care of other people. I love to be that person who supports other people, and some people give their whole life to other people without ever having shaped their own life. All they do is do what the husband says, do what the wife says, do what the family says, do what the parent says.

All they do is do what that inbox says and what those text requests say. All day. What are they doing? They’re reacting to other people’s needs, drives, and ambitions.

Your whole life, you’re marching under somebody else’s flag, you’re following without even knowing, and you’re building in the capacity to be a follower. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever check email. I’m not saying, “Don’t check your texts or voice message.” Notice what I’m saying: don’t do it first thing in the morning.

When you check to your inbox, you are checking out of your life. When you immediately react to other people, you are taking yourself out of strategy and thinking about the day.

For one second, think about this:

Again, go back to that middle school kid and imagine saying to them, “Hey kid, I’d love for you to wake up in the morning and immediately start using your mind to compare yourself to other people, to be distracted, and to only think about doing what everyone else tells you to do.” Will that child ever grow up with freedom, autonomy, joy, and the significance of building a life that is theirs versus reacting to everybody?

If you’re waking up and that’s the first thing you’re doing, that is an addiction that’s leading to a negative result. For those of you that are like, “Brendon’s just yapping at me,” the world’s largest study of high performers show if you check your email in the first 60 minutes of the day, you decrease your weekly productivity by 30%. Take that one home.

People say, “Brendon, I would love to get more productivity.” Everyone says, “I don’t have enough time.”

No, you’re just using your time really bad in the morning to create these frames where you’re comparing so you’re getting discouraged. You’re training yourself to be distracted throughout the day instead of focused throughout the day. You’re checking into everybody else’s needs so you think about everything for everybody else and not thinking about your dreams, your wants, your desires, your ambitions, your goals, and your contributions.

I’m here to tell you, you have to be very careful.

Getting 30% of your productivity back is so hopeful, though. Of course people say, “Brendon that sounds like pseudoscience.”

Let me share with you the results. Why is it you’re able to get more done each week is because instead of doing those things, you’re going to begin your day intentionally.

Instead of checking in the inbox, or before you even open the inbox, sit back and say, “What are the primary activities I need to do today to move the needle towards my dreams? What are the primary actions, activities, projects, tasks that I must do today to move it forward for me, for my dreams, for what I want to create in the world? Who do I need to reach out to ask for help, or to delegate to, or to ask this for?”

Instead of you using the inbox as a tool to consume and do what everyone else does, use it as a tool to communicate.

Say, “If I’m going to open that inbox, the first thing I’m going to do is reach out to people—hey, I’m waiting on this. I need this from you. Could you send that to me? Okay great.”

Do that before you respond to anything. If anything, that would get you more productive.

Also, please think about this:

What if, as you thought about the major things you have to do, that you just blocked some time during the day to ensure those things happened?

For me, as an example, I never do email before the major creative things I need to do during the day. I’m filming this video right now and I’ve done zero email today. None, because this is the major thing that makes a contribution, and this matters more than email.

You’ve got to reprioritize your life to do the things that matter.

If you read my book High Performance Habits, you’ve learned about this concept called PQO. It stands for Prolific Quality Output.

The difference between the most successful people in the world and average performers is that they focus 60% of their time during the week on doing the things that mattered the most to create the outputs that advanced their lives.

For example, an output that advanced my life is video. An output that advanced my life is online courses—the business work. That advances what I’m doing here.

One of the big boulders that moves your life forward versus focusing on picking up all the scraps and the pebbles, is finding out where all the scraps and the pebbles live—in your social media or inbox. I’m here to tell you, but also warn you and lovingly cajole you.

Use your morning to think about your day because the third worst thing you can do is just bumble into the day. Literally, to just start the day with no intention.

3. Starting Your Day Without Intention

The third worst morning routine is to begin the day with no intention and just go through the motions all day.

“I guess I got this meeting.” Show up. “I guess I’ve got to do this thing.” Show up. Showing up and just going through the motions. There’s this myth that just showing up is the secret to success.

Anyone can show up, but very few people will show up consciously, present, engaged, prepared, and intentional.

Let me give you an example of what you should do instead of just showing up and going through the motions. What if, as part of your morning, you thought about the major things that had to happen that day and you just closed your eyes and meditated or got thoughtful about your meeting and asked, “How do I deliver with excellence during that meeting? How do I make sure that meeting is great? What would I have to think about and prepare? Who’s in that meeting? What could I ask them?”

In other words, you mentally walk yourself through the day and ask yourself how you could do it with excellence, how you could enjoy it, and how you could contribute a unique level of value.

The ultimate killer of high performance is you just showing up and going through the motions, because anyone can do that.

You don’t want to know you lived your entire life just going through the motions. You want to know you challenged yourself to deliver with excellence and were great at what you did.

And to be great at what you do, you can’t keep bumbling into meetings, bumbling into your performance, and bumbling into your work.

You need to think through your work more, especially in the mornings.

What does that do? By thinking through your day, your week, and your month strategically and asking how you can do it with excellence, gets you more motivated.

Think about the opposite. When you check into social media, into your inbox, into other people’s needs, what do you get? You get distraction, you get conformity, and you get discouraged. How are you starting your day? Distracted, conforming, and discouraged, or are you starting your day motivated?

When you think about what you want, what you need to do, when you step it through in your mind, you visualize it, you think about it, you prepare for it. Now you know you can win the day. What happens after you win one day?

You want to win the next day. You win the next day, you win the week, you win the month, you win the year, you win the decade, your win your life. You really have to make a decision. How are you going to run your morning? I know, I get asked all the time from you guys, “What’s your morning routine?”

Mine’s very, very simplistic. I wake up in the morning and the first 20 minutes of my morning, I move. For me that means I stretch, I do yoga, I do vinyasa, I might do calisthenics, I might take a long, fast 20 minute walk. But for 20 minutes, I move, I breathe, I open up my body, I open up the instrument so I can serve that day. Then for the next 20 minutes, I sit down, I read, and I take in good things from good books. I think about good things. I set the timer and I literally spend just 20 minutes reading a book. Sometimes it’s a spiritual text, sometimes it’s a poetry book I love, sometimes it’s a book from a friend, but it’s all positive and it’s getting my mind going on good things. Then for the next 20-minute segment, I spend it thinking through the day. Even though the day has been planned sometimes and the schedule’s been set, I’ll still spend 20 minutes just looking at what’s on my schedule.

“How can I live with excellence? How can I do a good job here? How can I enjoy this day?”

I use those 20 minutes to set my mindset by asking myself, “What can I be excited about for today, who could I appreciate, or adore, or show some love to, or give a gift to today?”

I ask myself, “What might trip me up today or stress me out, and how would my highest self deal with that?” In other words, I spend 20 minutes thinking about how to make the day awesome. It motivates me, it prepares me, it makes me intentional, and if you’re motivated, prepared, and intentional, isn’t it true you’ll do a better job during the day?

I know lots of people always say, “Brendon, I can’t take an hour. I’ve got the kids, I’ve got work, or I’ve got these responsibilities.” Okay, but you could take five minutes or 10 minutes to prepare yourself for the day. You could take 15 or 20 minutes. If you don’t have 15 minutes to prepare your day, you don’t have a life.

You need to find the time to prepare more strategically to win your days. Your dreams require that preparation, your heart requires that intention and that consciousness. Your work and your difference requires you to be intentional.

You can’t keep being distracted and going through the motions. Please, stop losing the morning. Get rid of those addictions and think strategically in the morning.

You deserve to have an extraordinary quality of life and I’m here to tell you, my friend, it will begin for you in the morning.

Create your ideal routine and stick to it. Don’t pick up the phone, don’t check the inbox, don’t check the voice messages, don’t do what everyone else says. Instead, craft your day and craft your life and start with that before responding to everybody else.

All of a sudden you’ll say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got my life back again.”