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Prioritization

373: Getting Consistently Good Results from Yourself and Others with Weldon Long

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Weldon Long explains how his FEAR framework helped turn him from three-time ex-convict to a New York Times bestselling author and top sales expert.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How Weldon went from being a dropout and convict to a star salesperson
  2. A five-step process for getting what you want from others
  3. Achieving more consistent results through the FEAR framework

About Weldon

Weldon Long is a high school dropout who spent 13 years in prison for robbery, money laundering, and mail fraud. While in prison, Weldon started studying; earning his GED, BS in Law, and MBA in Management. Then, at 39 years old, Weldon was released. While living in a homeless shelter, Weldon landed a commission-only sales position and quickly became the company’s top sales leader. In 2004 he opened his own heating and cooling business and grew it into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. He now trains the sales teams at major Fortune 500 corporations including FedEx, Farmers, and Home Depot.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Weldon Long Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Weldon, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Weldon Long
Hey, Pete thanks so much for having me. I’m really looking forward to the conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too. I think you’ve got a fascinating story. You say that sales saved your life. Can you walk us through how that worked?

Weldon Long
Yeah, absolutely. It may sound a little overdramatic, but it actually is true in my case.

From 1987 until 2003, over those roughly 16 years, I spent 13 years in prison, in federal and state prison. I was a ninth-grade high school dropout. I was kind of a punk and a thug, running the streets, using drugs and not being a very responsible person obviously, a very dysfunctional life.

At 23 years old I ended up going to prison, was out trying to pawn a shotgun for some rent money, couldn’t pawn the shotgun, ended up getting high with a guy that I picked up hitchhiking. We had a loaded gun in the truck, what could possibly go wrong with that scenario? Within a couple of hours he and I used that gun to hold two innocent men at gunpoint. Next thing I knew I was in prison for ten years.

I did about four and a half years and I paroled. I got out. I was still a ninth-grade high school dropout. Now I was also a convicted felon, so I didn’t have many opportunities. Then I ended up going back to prison again on some parole violations, got out again at 30 years old.

Now, I’m a two-time convicted felon, still a ninth grade high school dropout. Ended up taking a job doing some telemarketing and one day the FBI showed up. We all went to federal prison on mail fraud and money laundering convictions.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh bummer.

Weldon Long
Yeah, I know.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re trying to be legit and it turns out the company is – well, did you know they were fraudsters?

Weldon Long
Hey, listen, I should have been suspicious when they hired me, right? Anyway, then I went to the federal penitentiary for seven years. But it was during those seven years that I kind of had my moment of clarity and kind of set me on the path that I’ve been on for the last 22 some-odd years.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s hear about the moment of clarity, shall we? What happened?

Weldon Long
Yeah. Well, it was June 10th of 1996. I had already served about six years in state prison. I was just starting seven years in federal prison. On June 10th of 1996, one of the cops walked in the cell house and handed me a note to call home. I called home and learned that my father had unexpectedly and suddenly passed away at just 59 years old.

When I realized that my dad went to his grave knowing me as a thief and a crook and a liar, it completely devastated me. Just the reality of my life was right there in front of me. I was 32 years old. I had destroyed my entire life.

I started thinking about a conversation that my dad and I had a couple weeks before he passed away. We were on the phone and I was kind of complaining about my life and my dad said to me, he said, “You know son, your life could be worse.”

I said, “Dad, how in the world could my life be worse? I’m a ninth-grade high school dropout. I’ve never had a job, never had a home as an adult. Three-time convicted felon, not getting out this time until I’m 40 years old. I had a three-year-old son that I had fathered while I was out on parole. I had abandoned him.” I said, “Dad, how could my life be any worse?” He said, “Son, you’re still breathing. As long as you’re breathing, you’ve got a shot to change your life.”

With that we exchanged our I love you’s, hung up the phone, I never spoke to my father again. That was the last thing he ever said to me. Two weeks later, he was gone. After he passed away I made the decision, I was going to change the course of my life and become a man that my father could have been proud of and the father that my little son deserved. That’s exactly what I did.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, congratulations and kudos and thank you for contributing to humanity in this way and taking charge and overcoming those challenges to do an about face, that must be super challenging. Go ahead.

Weldon Long
It wasn’t easy. But it’s interesting that you said kudos on the contribution. I think that’s what it really comes down to. We all have to work for our success, but the older I’ve gotten, I realize how important contribution is to the overall success in our lives.

My first book is a little book called The Upside of Fear. I was very pleased to receive endorsements both from Dr. Stephen Covey, who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and also Tony Robbins, who’s probably the greatest personal development person in the last 40 years.

When Tony Robbins endorsed that book, his endorsement read “Congratulations on your turn around from prison to contribution.” It’s funny that you just used the exact same word because I think that’s a huge part of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then so let’s hear it. You were in prison. You made a decision. And then what happened and how did the sales enter the picture?

Weldon Long
Yeah, well the initial kind of step was that where do you turn this titanic of a life around? I’m 32 years old. I’m a ninth-grade high school dropout, a three-time convicted felon, wouldn’t get out of prison for another seven years. Where do you start? I came up with a master plan to find out what really successful people do and start doing that whatever it was, not reinvent the wheel, not second guess it, just do it.

I started reading. The first book ironically I picked up was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. That led to many other books. As I begin to read these books, I remember reading a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche said “We attract that which we fear.” I thought, well that’s just kind of crazy. Why would I attract things in my life I don’t want? I kind of dismissed it.

A couple of months later I’m flipping through a Bible and I come across a scripture in Job. Job says, “Father, that which I have feared has come upon me.” I thought that was really interesting because Nietzsche was an atheist. Job believed clearly in God. Separated by philosophy and thousands of years, but they were saying the exact same thing.

And then I stumbled into a little book called Man’s Search for Meaning written by Viktor Frankl. Frankl said “Fear may come true.” I started thinking about this. Somehow maybe all the chaos in my life is because of what’s in my brain.

So I sat down at the little metal desk in my cell and I wrote down everything I was most afraid of. It turned out to be living and dying in prison, being broke and homeless and impoverished my entire life, never being a father to my son. That’s what I had attracted into my life. My life was a perfect reflection of the things I feared the most. So I’m like, wow, these guys are right. There’s something to this.

I decided initially I’ve got to change what’s in my brain. I sat down at that same metal desk and I wrote out for me, Pete, what a perfect life would look like. I’m an awesome father to my son. I’m wealthy beyond my wildest dreams. I’m a successful writer and entrepreneur and blah, blah, blah, all this amazing stuff.

I took that sheet of paper. I put toothpaste on the back of it and I stuck it to the wall of my cell. There it sat for the next seven years. Every morning when I got up I would read that list, I would meditate on it, I would visualize having that life, being that person. Now I didn’t know the neuroscience behind all this at the time. I was just a guy desperate to do something.

I had read in Napoleon Hill’s book, Think & Grow Rich, he said “Write these things down and imagine yourself already in possession of them.” That was just so beautiful and romantic, imagine yourself already in possession of them. Stephen Covey said, “You can live out of your imagination rather than your past.”

That’s what I started doing. I would visualize that life. I did it for seven years. There’s a lot of neurology behind it, but eventually it changed my thought process, it changed my habitual thoughts.

Seven years later I walked out of the penitentiary. Within five years I had built an Inc. 5000 company. I sold that and started writing books and speaking and training and developing others in the field of business and sales. That’s kind of how the sales thing kind of came to be.

I got out of prison at 40 years old to a homeless shelter, couldn’t find a job. I was very motivated because I had that right mindset after 7 years of telling myself I was going to be successful, but I still was a three-time convicted felon and 40 years old with no work experience. But I got a little job as a salesman. I was really good at it.

A year later I opened my own company. I grew that. Because I built a strong sales organization, I learned so much about sales primarily through books, Tom Hopkins and Brian Tracy and many of whom have become great friends over the years, but at that time I was just a guy in a cell reading their books.

The reason I say that sales changed my life is because it was the sales profession that took a guy like me, a ninth-grade high school dropout, a three-time convicted felon, it picked me up, it dusted me off and it gave me a real shot at prosperity and wealth, at having a productive life.

I’m extremely grateful for the sales profession because as an independent sales professional, if you’re good, you’ll find a chance to make a living. You can build your own business, work for somebody else, whatever, but if you’re good at it, you’re going to make a living regardless of your background. Even a guy like me can have that kind of success in sales.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so cool. Now I understand that in your very first weeks of selling, you were doing awesomely. What was kind of going on there with regard to how you were approaching it differently or what did you do that was note worthily – note worthily, that’s a word – distinct from out of other sales folks that you were just crushing it from the get-go?

Weldon Long
Well I think – actually that’s a great question, by the way. I don’t know that anyone has ever asked me that specific question.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

Weldon Long
But it’s a great question. For me, initially, it was pure desperation. I’m living in a homeless shelter. I get this job at a small heating and air conditioning company. I’ve been knocking on doors for six months. I must have had a thousand people tell me no thanks once they found out about my record. But this one guy decided to give me a chance.

I went out my first month. I sold $149,000 of air conditioners sitting at the kitchen table across from mom and pop home owner. And I made over $13,000 in sales commissions.

But what was driving my success at that point was just pure desperation and need. I had a ten-year-old son that was out there somewhere. He was three-years-old when I went to prison the last time. He was ten when I got out. I was driven by the singular focus to get a job, get a place to live, get my son. Right? I was driven by that.

I was good at it primarily because I learned very quickly that good, honest, hardworking people will look you dead in the eye and say, “I’m going to call you next Tuesday,” and then they won’t call you next Tuesday.

I learned very quickly that your best chance of getting the sale is to have your prospect make a decision about you and your company and your products, and your services with you sitting right in front of them, right, because people really don’t want to say no to your face. People like to say no in business and in sales, they like to say no by ignoring an email or not returning your phone call.

And by the way, this is true. You and I were talking before the podcast that in business, we’re always selling something. Maybe we’re selling an idea or selling our boss on promoting us or giving us a raise. The key to those things is to get your boss, get your customer, get that person to make that decision about you with you sitting right in front of them. The probability you’re going to get a yes is way higher because people just tend to say no by ignoring you.

To quote a famous line from Fatal Attraction, “I will not be ignored.” That’s the key, man, making people reach a decision. You’ve got to do your job. You’ve got to build trust. You’ve got to build all the factors in sales and build relationships, investigate the problems, but at the end of the day, the real key is getting people to make a final decision about you and your company with you sitting right in front of them, even if the answer is no, by the way. I tell people all the time yes is best, but no is a perfectly acceptable answer in sales.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Weldon Long
The no’s aren’t going to kill you. What’s going to kill you is the-

Pete Mockaitis
And it frees you up.

Weldon Long
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Once you have a no, it’s like okay, I don’t have to think about that anymore.

Weldon Long
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I can focus my energies on more worthwhile opportunities.

Weldon Long
Amen, amen.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. I wonder, so that’s sort of one sort of very specific differentiator is that you prefer to be in person when someone is making the decision about you. Then that kind of automatically tips it in your favor.

So then I guess I’m wondering in the context of hey, selling your boss on giving you a promotion or a raise, there’s some things that need to occur with regard to approvals and consideration, and on and on. How do you play that game? Do you say, “Okay, I’ll meet back with you on this day and you can tell me your decision then?” Is that how you do it or how does it work?

Weldon Long
Well, that’s part of it. I mean the key thing is and in sales and in business, just influence and persuasion, you’re exactly right. Sometimes there can be a process involved. You talk to your boss. He’s got to talk to his boss.

But what I really mean is that before they are allowed to make a final decision, so in the situation you described, you would say, “Okay, I understand you’ve got to go talk to the VP of sales, but I’ll tell you what, just promise me one thing, before you make a final decision, you’ll let me have one more conversation with you.”

You’re getting them that you’re going to be in front of them before they give you the final decision. The key then is, it’s kind of a little five-step process.

Pete Mockaitis
….

Weldon Long
It works in sales. It works in influence.

Pete Mockaitis
One, two, three, four, five. All right.

Weldon Long
One, two, three, four, five. The first thing is to anticipate the objection. You have to anticipate why they’re going to say no.

Let’s say for example you go to your boss and you say, “Hey, I want a raise. I think I deserve a raise.” He says to you, “Okay, I’ve got to talk to my boss.” He goes and talks to his boss. But you get that commitment he’s going to come back and talk to you one more time. Now you’re at that final meeting. You anticipate that the objection is going to be the budget just won’t permit it. You go in with that in mind.

Once you anticipate the objection or the obstacle, the key is then to get them to acknowledge that that particular objection should not be the thing that keeps you from getting what you want. Let me give an example. It will make more sense.

So if I know the budget is going to be an issue, I’m going to go back in and talk to my boss and say, “Boss, I appreciate you taking some time to explain whatever your final decision is. However, before you go there, I just want to ask you a simple question. Would you agree or disagree that my performance has been great the last year.” “Well, of course I agree.”

“Would you agree I’ve been on time with great sales productivity?” “Yes, I would agree.” “Would you likewise agree that those factors are every bit as important as what some arbitrary budget would be relevant to my pay raise?” What’s he going to say? He just told you it was important and you’re really good. Well, of course, there’s other factors more important than just the budget.

Then you’ve got to make your case. That’s the third step. The first step is identify the objection. Get them to acknowledge the objection should not prevent you from getting what you want. The third step is to make your case. That’s where you sell yourself.

“Boss, I appreciate you saying that there’s more factors more important than just the budget. I want to – here’s my attendance record for the last year. I’ve been on time every single day. Here are my sales records, my productivity records. I have the highest closing rate in the division, highest average … division. I make my case. I’m devoted to this company. I’m committed to this company. I make my case.”

The fourth step is to make a specific request. “Boss, I appreciate you considering all this stuff. All I would ask at this point is a simple question. Will you permit me to have this raise that we both agree I deserve?” It’s going to make it very difficult for him to say no because you’re sitting right there in front of him. Even if his boss told him no, it’s going to put him in a situation. Hopefully the big boss gave the middle boss a little authority to make the decision.

But you have to make a specific request for the thing that you want. One of the biggest people – mistakes people make both in sales and just business is they fail to make specific requests. They’ll kind of hint around toward something. They’ll kind of say, “Hey, I kind of like that raise. Heck, I probably deserve it,” or whatever. You’ve got to go in and say, “I deserve this.” You’ve got to claim it.

“What I’d like to do is get your permission to go ahead and get this raise. I’ll go tell accounting myself to change my pay structure.” Make the specific request.

And then the final, the fifth step is if they deny you, you have to remind them of their previous declarations. This is based on a lot of work of a very smart man, Dr. Robert Cialdini at Arizona State University. He’s written several books on influence and persuasion. And there’s a principle he refers to as the Consistency Principle, which is public declarations dictate future actions. What that means is we tend to take actions consistent with our words.

If I ask my boss, in step four I ask to make the specific request, “Can I have the raise?” if he says no to me, if he says, “No, I can’t. It’s just not in the budget,” I’m going to say, “Mr. Boss, earlier you agreed that there were more factors related to my raise than just the budget: my productivity, my punctuality, all those things should be just as important. Has that changed?”

“Well, no, I don’t know if it’s changed. But it’s just a budget thing.” “I understand, but we both agree it’s more than just the budget. I’d like to go ahead and ask you for that raise and to get this thing initiated.”

Now there’s no guarantee he’s going to say yes. Life is about probabilities. But I guarantee you through that little process, I’ve got a much better chance of getting my raise than if I just said “Hey boss, I could really use some extra money,” in kind of a passive aggressive or kind of a roundabout kind of way. It’s about being direct, anticipate the objections, head off the objections, make specific requests. It’s true in sales. It’s true in life.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Yeah. As you laid that out there I guess I’m thinking that the only – maybe not the only, but perhaps the highest probability gremlin that could come up the works it would just be you could call it the budget or just sort of like policy.

It’s like, “Well, a fourth-year program manager earns between X and Y dollars. You know? I know you’re the most extraordinary programmer manager we’ve ever seen in our lives or the history of this organization, but that’s just not how the policies work.”

That’s just kind of one of my pet peeves I guess is when structural policies, rules trump good, sensible thinking. It’s just like, “Well, I guess the policies that you’re going to lose the best program manager you’ve ever seen as I go elsewhere and get compensated appropriately.”

Weldon Long
Right, yeah. I hate policies too. They sound a lot like police to me. It’s – I don’t like it either.

You look at the organizations, they range kind of from the bureaucracy on the far end of one scale. The other end of the scale would be a very creative learning organization, maybe like Microsoft or something like that. The bureaucracy, let’s just take a prison as an example. Right?

The problem is that when you have a bureaucracy, the reason they have bureaucracies is because the people attracted to those jobs – no disrespect to people that work in government agencies or things like that – but they tend not to be the most creative and have the best judgment. And so often what happens is that policies are made to replace judgment because they decided we can’t trust the judgment of the person at the driver’s license bureau.

If you show up in the line and you’ve got to go two windows down, you’ve got to get at the back of the line. The fact that you are having a heart attack is not in the policy, so we’re not going to hurry you through. The policy says you’ve got to go to the back of the line at window number two because we don’t trust the judgment.

You go to a Microsoft, where they trust the judgment, and they have very few policies, right, very few rules. The policies are going to be more intense on the organizations that are less creative and the leadership doesn’t have the trust in the people to make decisions.

But the other point you made is also interesting, that you have a choice in your life. We can control the process of properly asking for a raise. We don’t control the outcome. Right? And that’s about learning to know that you can – you’ve got to focus on what you can control in life. You can’t focus on what you can’t control. It’s a big lesson that I learned. Believe me.

But like you said, at the end, then you have the choice of saying, “Okay, I’m going to find a company that appreciates superior productivity.” And then that’s an individual choice. There’s no guarantee you’re going to get the raise. The guarantee is you probably won’t get it if you don’t ask for it. If you do ask for it, you’ve got a shot because the answer is always no until you ask.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really a good thought in terms of policies replacing judgment and very well said succinctly. It just gets me thinking about how – I don’t know the right way to play this, but I guess if I were the manager who were handcuffed by a policy and then just sort of highlighting this notion, it’s like, “Oh, it’s a shame that this policy is deemed to be superior to your judgment.” I don’t know. You’ve got to tread lightly there.

Weldon Long
Right, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
It just seems like I wonder if there’s a magical turn of a phrase that could stoke just a little bit of righteous anger, like, “You know what? That is ridiculous. I don’t care for that.”

Weldon Long
But you know what? Listen, people like yourself, very creative, very ambitious type people, you don’t want that kind of policy control. Some people actually like that. Some people don’t want responsibility.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s … can be safe and calm.

Weldon Long
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like I don’t …, it’s just kind of handled. Yeah.

Weldon Long
Right. If you wake up and do something in your business with your show, for example, you do something, it’s your responsibility. Some people don’t want the responsibility. If I make the decision according to paragraph three, subsection two A, I’m not responsible because that’s what I had to do.
Some people prefer not to have the responsibility of the consequences of the decision, so they abdicate their judgment in favor of the policy book, the manual.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, thank you for digging into that. I also wanted to get your take on – you’ve got a book called Consistency Selling. I just want to get your take on consistency. I’d say whether we’re talking about sales professionals or any other group of folks, how – why consistency, what difference does it make and how do you develop it when you’re just not in the mood. I don’t feel like doing it. How do you do it anyway?

Weldon Long
Yeah, great question. This was really the foundation of what changed my life was learning how to consistently have more creative, responsible, powerful thoughts. It really comes down to a very simple concept. Consistent results come from consistent activities. Random results come from random activities. That’s true in business. That’s true in sports. That’s true in anything.

If you just do something randomly, by definition you can’t repeat it and therefore if you had a good result, you probably won’t get the good result again unless you do the same thing. You’ve got to do the same thing to produce those results.

When I think about consistency, you really go back to my second book, which was a book called The Power of Consistency. It’s about how do you create a prosperity mindset, a mindset that is geared and programmed to repeat the things that work in your life and consistently produce the good results.

Now, what I did is I developed a program around the acronym of FEAR, F-E-A-R. F is focus, E is emotional commitment, A is action, and R is responsibility. Through those four steps it gives us the opportunity to kind of examine our habitual thoughts. What are the habitual things I’m thinking all the time?

I tell people, you get up in the morning and you start thinking. As soon as your eyes open you start thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking about your family, thinking about your job, thinking about your friends, thinking about whatever. But how often do we think about what we’re going to think about before we think about it. That to me is getting to the essence of our decision making. Where are those habitual decisions coming from?

If I go and have lunch and I didn’t think specifically about what I’m eating and whether or not I’m going to put nutrition or taste as the higher value, if I don’t ever have that conscious decision, I just order something off the value meal, where did that thought come from? Because if I didn’t think what I think about, it came from somewhere.

We have to examine, where are those habitual thoughts coming that are driving our results in life. We’re making a million decisions a day, what I call seemingly inconsequential decisions, that determine our fate.

For example, if I go home tonight and I have an argument with my wife, I have to make a decision about how I’m going to conduct myself. If I make the decision to yell and scream and intimidate, I’m going to define that relationship. If I go home and I make a better decision and I have some love and some patience and some understanding, I have a different kind of relationship.

My relationship is not some random thing that just happened. It’s a product of my seemingly inconsequential decisions about how I react in that situation.

I’ll give another example. I get my paycheck. It’s Friday night. I’ve got the choice. I can go spend it all, have a hell of a weekend or I can save 20%. Well, I reach in my brain, I pull out a decision. If I pull out the save 20%, I pull out a piece of my financial future. If I reach in there and pull out I blow all my money this weekend, I pull out a different financial future.

Twenty years from now, my financial condition is not some random thing that lo and behold just happened to me. It’s simply a reflection of millions of seemingly inconsequential choices that we have made over our life.

Smoking is the perfect example. How long have we known smoking is unhealthy for us in this country? 100 years or so maybe? 80 years? A lot of people still smoke, a lot of good people. Smoking is not a moral thing. A lot of good people, honest, hard-working people smoke cigarettes. But why would people smoke cigarettes knowing what we know about the health impacts? The answer is very simple.

It feels good, right? It’s not a moral issue though. It just feels great. But moreover, smoking won’t kill you today. Whatever impact smoking is going to have is 20 or 30 or 40 years down the road.

But imagine this scenario, take the most avid smoker that you know, but instead of giving him one cigarette at a time, one seemingly inconsequential cigarette at a time, give him a year’s worth of cigarettes at one time, 2,000 – 3,000 cigarettes. Roll them up like a giant blunt and put some fire to it. Smoke them if you got them, pal. Would he smoke 2,000 cigarettes at one time? Of course not.

If you ask him why, he’ll probably say, “Because it will make me sick. It might kill me.” Yeah, smoking 2,000 cigarettes will make you sick and it might kill you, but guess what, smoking 2,000 cigarettes one seemingly inconsequential cigarette at a time will make you sick and might kill you too. It just takes longer.

The key is we’ve got to look at the tiny decisions that we’re making habitually about our food choices, how we interact with the people we love, picking up a cigarette, whatever, and it impacts every area of our life.

Here’s the rub on the whole thing. The FEAR process allows us to examine those habitual decisions, find out where they came from, ask ourselves are they consistent with what I want today and then change hem if we want to change them through a simple neurological process.

I don’t know how much detail you want to go into with the fear process, but it’s actually very simple. In fact, part of the struggle is it is so simple. It’s so simple people will be like, “Well, man, that can’t work,” because it’s so simple. In reality, it can move mountains.

It’s the single most important factor that turned my life around from a ninth-grade high school dropout, three-time convicted felon to a successful writer, entrepreneur and who’s created a lot of prosperity in my life. I didn’t get any smarter. I didn’t get any luckier. I damn sure didn’t get any better looking. I changed my thoughts. I changed my habitual thoughts. That’s what Emerson meant when he said, “We become what we think about all day long.”

Pete Mockaitis
This is intriguing. You take a look and you go through these four steps. Then how do we get a transformation? I guess I’m thinking about if – let’s say I’m having a thought habitually that I don’t care for, what do I do with that?

Weldon Long
Perfect example. Here’s what we do. The first step is focus. The step in focus is very simple. What do you really want? I encourage people to identify two goals in the three main areas of their life: their money, which is their career, their business, their financial future; their relationships, which is your spouse, your kids, your community, your family, friends, whatever; and then your health, your mental, spiritual and physical health.

Those are the three primary areas of anyone’s life: your money, your relationships, and your health. What do you want in those areas? What one or two things do you want in each of those areas?

Once you identify what you want, let’s say you say for example, “I want to make $200,000 a year in sales.” “What two or three things must I do every single sales call, every single day to get there?” Not 10 things, not 100 things because the confused mind says no. What one, two or three things if I did every single day.

You find out what those are. In sales it’s running every call with passion and purpose, learn to diagnose problems and recommend solutions, and learn to ask for the order every single time. If you do those three things in sales and business, you’re going to be successful. You can screw up everything else. But if you do those three, you’re going to be successful.

The next step is the emotional commitment step. I’ve got to get deeply emotionally committed to the income and the things I have to do to generate that income. So you’ve got to write it down in present, current tense and then do what I call a daily quiet time ritual. Ten to fifteen minutes a day reviewing the thing you want, the things you have to do. This turned out to be that little sheet of paper I had on my wall, stuck there with toothpaste.

I didn’t realize the impact of what I was doing, but it was changing the neurology in my brain. I’m not a neuroscientist but I’ve had neuroscientists call me. I had a guy call me one time and said – he was a neuroscientist, a PhD, a clinical psychologist. He said, “Mr. Long, this is the easiest explanation I’ve ever read in my life about the principles that are the underpinnings of rationally emotive behavior therapy and decision making.”

I’m like, “There’s a name for this?” It’s common sense. I’ve got to get focused on what I want, visualize it, it begins to change the brain.

The third step, action. We leverage a very big driver of human behavior, which is cognitive dissonance. If I tell myself I’m going to run every call with passion and purpose and ask for the order every single time, and then I go out on the sales call and I just drop off a bid, I don’t do that, I’m going to feel dissonance, anxiety, the difference between what I said I would do and what I actually do.

That dissonance starts driving the behaviors we want because we don’t want to be in a state of dissonance anxiety. We want to be in a state of resonance. We want to be integrated with our thoughts and our actions.

If I tell myself every single day that I’m going to run a sales call a certain way or if I tell myself every single day I’m going to eat healthy and then I find a cheeseburger in my mouth at lunch, I’m going to experience dissonance. The dissonance drives the behavior, like, “Oh, that doesn’t feel good,” so I order the salad.

And then the fourth step is responsibility. Everybody has problems in life. That’s the bad news. The good news is our life is not a reflection of our problems. Our life is a reflection about our decisions about our problems.

In other words, I had a bad set of problems 15 years ago. I got out of prison at 40 years old without any money, any clothes, any car, anything. But my life today is not a reflection of that situation. My life is a reflection of the decisions I made about that situation.

That’s true for everybody. Everybody’s life is product of their decisions about their problems, not necessarily about the problems themselves. I’m not saying that we don’t have problems that affect us long term because I just met a fellow named Aron Ralston. This is a guy you should get on your podcast, by the way. Do you know who Aron Ralston is? Does that name ring a bell?

Pete Mockaitis
A little bit. Tell me more.

Weldon Long
He’s the guy that got trapped in the Utah desert and had to cut his arm off to get out. They made a movie about it called 127 Hours. This dude is like the most awesome guy you’re ever going to meet in your life. It was amazing. He was there six days before he finally did it.

His life today – you know he’s never going to have that part of his arm again, right? But his life today is not a reflection of that tragedy. His life today is a reflection of the decisions he made about how he’s going to deal with that tragedy.

If you ever get a chance to read his book or watch the movie, 127 Hours, the book was called Between a Rock and a Hard Place. The movie was called 127 Hours. He’s one of the most powerful human beings I’ve ever met in my life, just an amazing story. He’s an excellent example – my life is too on a different type of way – that you can overcome any adversity if you want it bad enough.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Weldon, tell me, anything else you want to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things.

Weldon Long
Well, I just would encourage your listeners if they want to get more information, we’ve got some free content available on the website at WeldonLong.com. Or they can just text the word ‘videos’ to 9600 and you get three videos of the mindset, sales, and business process, all the stuff that I’ve learned. It’s free content. It’s very powerful information. I think it’s about 50 minutes worth of video content. Just want to make sure people know how to access some of that free content.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you. Now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Weldon Long
My favorite quote is a quote from Henry David Thoreau. And this quote was written on the wall of my cell. It’s on my desk today. It’s one that I use constantly. It’s very simple. “If you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams and endeavor to live the life that you have imagined, you will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

What I love about that quote is that if you live the life you imagined, that means to me that you had to imagine it first. In other words, you saw it first. Dr. Covey used to say, “All things are created twice, once in our mind’s eye and then in our physical reality.” I just think it’s such a powerful – it’s a beautiful quote. The words are beautiful, but it’s like it’s so poignant because you have to imagine that life first.

The last part of that “you will meet with succeed unexpected,” that means that the success, the results, will be even better than you anticipate. And that’s what happened in my life. Listen, I knew when I got out of the joint the last time, I was doing some cool stuff with my life. I was getting my son. I was getting my act together. I was plowing ahead. But man, what’s happened has been like 100 times bigger than what I expected.

That to me is one of my favorite quotes. It’s just so beautiful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Weldon Long
I would say with respect to research, it would have to be on the theory of consistency. Primarily is researched and discussed by Robert Cialdini. There’s some powerful research that he’s done.

A quick example, there was a company in Arizona that was raising money for childhood disabilities research. They would send in canvassers to knock on doors and ask people to donate money. Cialdini got involved and he kind of redesigned their process. What he did, is – by the way, about 16% of people would contribute money to childhood disabilities research. Somebody randomly knocked on your door, 16% of people would give some money.

Cialdini got the idea of having telemarketers call into those neighborhoods the week before the canvassers. Now the telemarketers did not ask for any money. They would simply take a survey. But one of the survey questions was “Do you think it’s important to do childhood disabilities research?” Of course people say yes. The next week they would send in the canvassers to ask for money.

Their rate of contribution doubled to 38% because people feel an obligation to take actions consistent with their words. It’s powerful, powerful research. I would recommend anybody who’s interested in that – Robert Cialdini – he’s written several books on persuasion and the power of influence and is just probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever read or had a chance to study.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, his books are fantastic. Influence: Science and Practice and Pre-suasion.

Weldon Long
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
I look forward to the day he joins us on the show.

Weldon Long
Man, he’s a smart dude. Make sure I get an email on that one because I don’t want to miss it.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Weldon Long
I think the thing that helps me the most is what I call my daily quiet time ritual. 10 – 15 minutes reviewing my key priorities, whether it’s my family goals, my financial goals, my health goals.

Life can be pretty hectic. I travel 150,000 miles a year. Literally, this week, for example, I’m in my third city this week speaking. Sometimes I wake up and I literally for five or ten seconds got to remember what hotel, what city, what I’m doing there. Life can be very hectic for everybody: families and bills and jobs.

That quiet time ritual, 10 to 15 minutes a day reviewing your key priorities in life, in other words 10 to 15 minutes thinking about what you’re going to think about before you think about it. It’s the one thing that keeps me grounded. I’m pretty high-strung, but that’s the one thing that keeps me grounded and keeps me sane. There’s nothing more important in my life than reviewing my key priorities every single morning for 10 or 15 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Weldon Long
I think – I wish I could take credit for it. I used it earlier. Emerson’s quote, “We become what we think about all day long.” I think that that’s super, super important. If people understood the relationship – I wish we had time to go into the neurology behind how a thought translates chemically to emotions, which drives some reaction, which drive a result.

But let it suffice to say that your thought, everything you think, drives how you feel and what you do and what you get, even if what you think is wrong. Even if the things you’re thinking are wrong, they can still drive very real emotions, real reactions, and real results. We call it the self-fulfilling prophecy.

My single most important piece of advice I give to anybody, whether it’s speaking at FedEx to their top 200 performers or speaking at the Nebraska State Penitentiary to a group of lifers, I tell them the same thing: you become what you think about all day long. I wish that were my quote. It’s Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I love to use it.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Weldon Long
I would point them to social media. They can find me easily there are Weldon Long. Also, on my website, WeldonLong.com W-E-L-D-O-N-L-O-N-G, WeldonLong.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Weldon Long
Yeah, I would encourage everyone to get crystal clear on what you really want. We don’t do it enough. We don’t take enough time. What do I really want? What do I really want with my family? What do I really want with my job, and my income, my financial—don’t just go along and just assume it’s all going to work out. Get very specific.

One of my favorite books is Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, written in 1937. The very first success habit that Napoleon Hill taught was that you have to have a definite purpose. That’s specifics. That’s focus. Figure out exactly what you want and then start going for it.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Weldon, this has been a ton of fun. I wish you lots of luck and keep doing the inspire that you’re doing.

Weldon Long
Thank you my friend. I really appreciated it. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you.

364: Overcoming Overwhelm with Tonya Dalton

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inkWELL Press Founder & CEO Tonya Dalton gives her take on being more productive daily by figuring out and focusing on your passions instead of on other people’s fires.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Where overwhelm truly comes from
  2. How to craft the three components of your personal North Star
  3. Approaches for doing a brain dump that boosts productivity

About Tonya

Tonya Dalton is a highly sought-after productivity expert and successful entrepreneur. Tonya started her current business, inkWELL Press, in 2014 and quickly built it into a seven-figure company providing organizational tools & education to thousands of people around the globe. Her goal is to help you use the power of productivity to achieve your dreams and find fulfillment in all aspects of your life. She’s also the host of   Productivity Paradox.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Tonya Dalton Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Tonya, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Tonya Dalton
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m excited to dig into this good stuff. I understand you have a fondness for building things yourself. What’s the backstory here?

Tonya Dalton
I do. It’s one of those things where I love power tools. It’s something that not many people necessarily know about me because it’s not something I talk about a lot professionally, but for me there’s something about building something with your hands.

And I find that when I’m at my most stressed, if I have a lot of things going on at work, it helps me to really tackle a big project. I might gut a bathroom. I might tear apart a deck and rebuild it. It’s just something that I really enjoy because I like working with my hands, I like the creative aspect of it. But there’s a lot of that analytical, that logical part to it with the measuring and everything else.

Every year for my birthday, one of the things that I gift for myself is I make a trip to the hardware store, I buy hardware and I build a different piece of furniture every year for my birthday.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s excellent.

Tonya Dalton
I know, it’s such a random thing, right?

Pete Mockaitis
I wish, I wish I were that good at things. I’m getting better. This has been my year of being a homeowner and landlord in our little three-flat here.

Tonya Dalton
That definitely changes that, those things.

Pete Mockaitis
It does.

Tonya Dalton
That’s when you really become better at power tools, when you have to.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s so funny just because I guess – sometimes it has the opposite effect on me because it’s like I have a very clear picture of what I want done and why is it not already done.

Tonya Dalton
You’re like, “We’ll just order this online.”

Pete Mockaitis
Then the instructions, it’s sort of like, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense.” Then four steps later like, “Oh, I see why I should have done that thing now. Oops, let’s backtrack.”

Tonya Dalton
See, I think for me, I really like how I can customize a piece so it fits exactly where I want it to fit. So if I have a little alcove and I want to put a desk in there, I want to make it exactly the right size that I want it. I want to configure it so it fits what I want, which kind of fits into how I talk about productivity. It’s really about customizing.

That’s what I love about building things yourself is that ,I’ll sit down with a piece of paper and I’ll sketch it out and then I’ll kind of dream. It’s kind of like setting a goal. I’ll set a dream for myself of what I want to build and then I get started with the logistics of how I’m going to build it, what I need to cut, how many pieces of wood do I need and all of that.

I think it kind of fits into what I do professionally, but it’s a really creative outlet for me. I just love looking at something and saying, “You know what? I built that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, yes that is satisfying. I only have a few things that I can point to, but it does feel good. I even feel proud of – I have a treadmill desk quote/unquote, which is really just-

Tonya Dalton
Oh yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
A piece of plywood that has been sawed just perfectly for the dimensions, but it makes the difference. I can now do some things while walking on the treadmill.

Tonya Dalton
You know what? It works. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. It just has to work.

Pete Mockaitis
I made that in the sense that I told the guy at Home Depot how many inches it should be and then he did it. It works great.

Tonya Dalton
… using the guy cutting the wood at Home Depot to take care of that for you. That’s called delegating, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Totally. Right.

Tonya Dalton
It’s outsourcing and that’s a good thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I could have purchased a fancy thing on Amazon for five times the price, so I did feel sort of clever. Anyway, that’s building things. Let’s talk about the company you built and what you do. inkWELL Press, where’s the name come from and what is it all about?

Tonya Dalton
Well, it’s a good question because I’ll be honest, when we were sitting down and thinking about starting inkWELL Press, I think it was like a 20-page document of names. We’re just brainstorming and thinking through names.

The whole process really of starting the business was very, very intentional. I had had a previous business and I made the decision to close that first business that I grew. I started that first business starting with $50 and I grew it to the point where my husband could come work with me.

I found that even though I loved the life that I had – it had allowed. It had allowed us to work together. It allowed us to move where we wanted to move, which is Ashville, North Carolina. I didn’t really love what I was putting out into the world. I didn’t love the impact that I was making.

I made this decision to close that business even though that was our sole income for our family. It paid our mortgage and paid for things like building furniture and fed my kids. But I wasn’t passionate about it. I made the decision that I was going to close that business.

When I decided I wanted to open up inkWELL Press, it was a really, really intentional process. It was me sitting down, really thinking about what I’m most passionate about and creating a business around my true purpose. Through that process I began to uncover what I really wanted to do.

I wanted the name to really fit with what I was doing. The name inkWELL Press has ink is in lower case and then WELL is in all caps, because it’s really about having a life that’s well lived. It’s really about living well. All of our products have that well aspect to it. Our planners are called the liveWELL planners. Our meal planner is the eatWELL planner.

To me, it’s really about at the heart of what I talk about to people and what I produce and offer to people, it really is about living their best life. I wanted the name to reflect that.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. I would love to dig into this. You have a lot of perspective when it comes to living well, particularly in the realm of productivity. You’ve got the podcast, The Productivity Paradox, and a course and more. So I would just love to dig all around this area and maybe we can start with when folks are feeling overwhelmed, there’s too much, they’re panicked, it’s just – it’s overwhelming. It’s overwhelming.

Tonya Dalton
It’s overwhelming. It’s so true.

Pete Mockaitis
What do you do with that?

Tonya Dalton
Well, what’s funny is that I talk to a lot of people in all different walks of life, people who work for corporations, people who are entrepreneurs, people who are students, women, men, all kinds of people of all different ages. I’ll say to them when I meet them, “How do you feel about work? How do you feel about your business? How do you feel about your tasks at home?”

The word I hear again and again is overwhelmed. They’re overwhelmed by the amount of things that they have to do.

I have this belief that – I believe that far too many people feel overwhelmed by everything they have to do each day, so they push aside their goals and their dreams because of that overwhelm. I really think that the purpose behind what I talk about and what I create is to help alleviate that overwhelm.

I often tell people that overwhelm isn’t having too much to do; it’s not knowing where to start. That’s what I like to talk to people about. Where do you start? How do you prioritize? How do you figure out what it is you want to do first? What do you want to do next? Then really creating a life that’s around that because at its heart, productivity is not about getting things done. It’s about doing what is most important. That is really what helps us feel really satisfied and really happy with our days.

You know, too often, I feel like people run around busy all day long. When they slip into bed at night and their head hits the pillow, they feel really unsatisfied. They feel unsuccessful. “I should have done more. Why didn’t I get more done?” even though they were busy all day long. That’s because they’re living in this state of overwhelm. Instead of really working on the tasks that will move them forward towards the life they want, towards their goals, they’re putting out all these fires.

That’s really what I like to talk to people about is getting over that feeling of overwhelm, cutting through the noise and the clutter and getting to what is most important to you. That’s really the heart of it too is that ‘to you’ part. It has to be customized to you.

Too often these productivity systems that people teach and talk about, they’re designed so that the productivity system is in the center and you’re supposed to work your life around it. I teach the opposite. I believe your life and your priorities are at the center and then we create a system together to work around that. That way your priorities are always front and center in your life. That’s what helps alleviate a lot of that overwhelm is really knowing where you want to focus.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really astute and intriguing as I’m pondering this. I think there are times in which we feel overwhelmed sort of temporarily in terms of oh, this month. It’s almost sort of like maybe too many commitments have appeared at the same time.

Tonya Dalton
They do tend to align like that, don’t they? Like the planets all align and everything is coming at the same time.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess that’s my experience of overwhelm most often is I don’t feel overwhelmed for like a whole year, but I feel overwhelmed oh this month and that month and maybe that month, so maybe a quarter of the year I’m overwhelmed, which is a quarter of the year too much for me.

Tonya Dalton
Right. Agreed.

Pete Mockaitis
How do you think about some of those dimensions in terms of it’s just a confluence of stuff like, “Well, here we are with family and work and all the other-“

Tonya Dalton
And volunteering.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. All at once.

Tonya Dalton
And projects and we have people pulling on us. A lot of times that convergence of everything hitting at the same time, sometimes that is out of your control, but a lot of times, it really is in your control. It comes down to the choices you’re making. Productivity at its heart is about making a series of choices every day of what you’re going to focus on, what you’re going to work on.

Often I tell people that, if you’re finding that you’re in this state where you feel like everything is aligning at the same time and your weeks are so jammed packed you feel like you can barely breathe, it’s because you’re saying yes too much. I think we feel obligated oftentimes to say yes. It feels good in the moment and then five seconds later you think, “Why did I do that?” Or we feel guilty, like we’re supposed to say yes.

But I like to remind people that every time you say yes, you’re saying no to something else. We don’t realize that we’re saying no every single time we’re saying yes. Oftentimes the things that we are saying no to are the things that are our priorities—our family, our passion projects, our goals, time for ourselves, those things that are really important to us. We’ll push those aside and say no to them in order to say yes to somebody else’s passion project or whatever it is.

Often I like people to really look at what are these opportunities that are showing up for you and do you have to say yes to every single one of them? We have this belief that opportunity only knocks once. Sometimes that’s true, but just because it knocks once, doesn’t mean you have to open the door every single time.

We really need to filter and figure out what is it that you want to say yes to. What are your yes’s because oftentimes when we’re saying yes to everything, we’re really at our heart saying no to the things that are going to make us happy in the long run.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell us when it comes to establishing these matters that are deeply important and worth saying yes to, how do you think through those to identify that really well and clearly?

Tonya Dalton
People get caught up in this idea that everything should be treated equally. They want to treat all tasks as equal, when really we need to stop and prioritize. We think that by doing all the things, we’re really moving forward, but when we try to do everything, we end up doing nothing. We’re kind of spinning in circles. We’re not really moving forward in that direction we want to go.

I really think it’s important for you to stop and prioritize. Really what I tell people is use your North Star as your filter. When I talk about your North Star, it’s really your mission statement, so not just what you do, but why you do it. That’s your mission statement. Using your mission statement, using your vision statement. Where are you dreaming that you want to go? Then your core values, which is what’s defining your actions.

Your mission statement, your vision statement, and your core values work together to create what I call your North Star. That’s what helps guide you.

When opportunities show up to us, what we should do is we should ask ourselves, “Does this fulfill what it is I want to do? Does this fulfill my mission or does it fulfill my vision, where I want to go? Does it fulfill one of my core values, something that is truly important to me that I want to define my life?”

When we use that as our filter, that really can help us understand what we want to say yes to and what we want to say no to. A lot of people get confused when we’re talking about tasks and they feel like well, tasks that are important and tasks that are urgent are basically the same. They think that urgent and important are two of the exact same things. They’re really not.

Important tasks are tasks that drive you forward. They move you towards that North Star of where it is you want to go, while urgent tasks are simply tied to time. They are not necessarily important. They’re just a fire that feels like it needs to be put out. It’s the pings on your phone and the phone calls and all those different things.

They feel important because they’re so urgent. But many times we take care of those urgent items before we take care of what’s really important even if those urgent items aren’t really important to us. I think that really helps us to prioritize if we filter and we figure out what it is we really want to do using that North Star and then asking ourselves, “Is this truly important to me? Is this going to move me towards the life I really want?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And working with your clients, I’d love it if you could share some examples of mission statements, visions and operating values. What is the articulation sound like in words?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah. One of the things that I feel people get caught up in with mission statements and vision statements and core values is it feels so heavy. It seems like this really big thing. I think for a lot of people, that’s a big road block. That becomes something that feels so heavy and important, that they just think, “I can’t even deal with it.” It feels too big.

I like to remind people that just like you grow and evolve, your mission and your vision statement and your core values, they grow and evolve with you. The person you are today is not the same person you were five years ago or ten years ago or twenty years ago or beyond. You have changed and so has your North Star.

One of the things I find that most people get really caught up in, especially when we’re talking about mission statements, is they think about all the different things they do. They want a mission statement that ties in all the different tasks: work, and home, and volunteer stuff, and maybe homeschooling their kids, and maybe what they’re doing for their promotion. It becomes this big mishmash, this really long mission statement.

What I really try to get people to do is to list those items, list those things that they really do enjoy and what they do and then I ask them to figure out why is it you do that. The why is really the heart of your mission statement. Your mission statement doesn’t have to say exactly what it is you do, but it speaks to why you choose to do it.

“I do this because it helps others to live a better life.” “I do this because this fulfills my need to educate other people.” “I do this because I love helping the elderly.” I do what I do. That’s really what we want to do is we want to distill it down to what do these tasks that you really enjoy doing, what do they have in common? What is the common why that you experience there? That is the heart of your mission statement.

So I usually tell people that your mission statement starts with ‘to,’ because it tells you what you do. Then it’s really short, to the point. It’s easy to remember. It’s easy to talk to and it’s easy to use as your filter. You don’t want to make it so complicated and so convoluted that it’s muddling everything up. It’s supposed to help clarify.

Then when we think about the vision statement, that at its heart is not about goal setting. It’s really about dreaming big. It’s about dreaming about where you want to go.

For me, I want to be the global solution to help women uncover their priorities all while keeping my own in focus. You can see it’s big. I’m saying global there, but I also say it in a way that makes it sound like it’s absolute. It’s absolutely going to happen. I don’t say, “Well I’d like to-,” or “Boy, it would be nice to-“ You say it as an absolute.

Where is it I really want to go if I can dream as big as possible? That’s the beauty of vision statements is it really allows you to stretch yourself.

Then the core values, which is the other part of that North Star, those are the things that define your actions. What are the things that really define what’s important to you on this path towards that vision, that connects you from your mission to your vision? Really, it’s taking those together and then using that as your filter.

Pete Mockaitis
Then the vision then – you say that’s not like ten life goals, but it’s rather sort of a big unifying dream.

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, it’s a bold statement. It’s a bold statement about where it is you are going to go.

Pete Mockaitis
It sounds like the vision you provided is in a professional sense, but you also included sort of your own thing in there as a—

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, because it’s important to me that I don’t just talk about productivity, I don’t just talk about living an intentional life, it’s really important to me that I live that life. If I’m going to talk to people about being intentional, being mindful, I really need to make sure that I’m doing that for myself at the same time, so keeping my own priorities really in focus all along.

Pete Mockaitis
When it comes to the values, can we hear some example articulations of those?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah. For me, intentionality is really important, adventure, learning, all of those things tie in to what it is I want to do. Learning fits into that because I love learning. I love reading about studies.

I love learning and figuring out how your brain works so that when I am talking to people on the podcast or on episodes of Tonya TV or wherever, I’m able to really give them evidence, like, “This is how our brain works, so-“ It helps people understand like, “Oh, I’m not alone in this. This is normal,” or, “This is okay.”

For me, that core value of learning is really important because that’s part of not just what makes me happy as an individual, as a person, it also really helps me professionally.

One of my other core values is adventure. So I’m an entrepreneur. You can’t be an entrepreneur without loving some adventure because there is no stability in entrepreneurship.

That really ties in there as well, really pushing the boundaries of what I know and allowing me to stretch beyond my comfort zone, which is another thing that I talk a lot about, really getting out of where we feel most comfortable, like those comfortable sweatpants that we wear, and stretching ourselves to try new things.

I started a podcast almost 100 episodes ago, which seems crazy, but that was an opportunity for me for adventure, of stretching myself and tying in that core value of learning because I didn’t know anything about podcasting before I got started.

Having these core values allows you to really look and say, “What is it I want to do? What actions do I want to do to move me towards that vision?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, really cool. I know a lot of folks when they’re thinking about productivity or balance and stuff, this work/life balance or work/life integration concept is tricky and fraught with guilt. They feel like we’re letting down family or letting down colleagues. How do you think about this?

Tonya Dalton
Well, I’m a big believer that balance is bogus, that there is no balance. I think balance is what I like to call a rainbow problem. It sounds really good, but it doesn’t really exist. You can’t really get there because if we’re balanced, it means that all the areas of our life are equal. By definition, if all areas are equal, we’re not really leaning into one area or the other, we’re standing still. We’re really stagnant. What we really need is harmony.

By that I mean we need to lean into the different areas of our lives. I talk about these three areas of our life of work, personal, and home. When you really want to move forward in one of those areas, let’s say you really want to work towards a work goal, you have to lean into that area. You have to spend a little more time, a little more energy, a little more attention at work. And so we can’t spend as much time maybe on our home goals or our personal goals.

The trick here though is this, we can’t learn into work and stay leaned over. It’s kind of like riding a bike. If you want to ride a bike, you can go straight all day long and stay perfectly balanced, but if you want to go in any direction, like you want to turn right, you have to shift your balance over. We can’t stay leaned over so far; we have to eventually shift back up so we’re upright, otherwise we’d fall down. It’s the same way in life.

We can lean into these areas, let’s say we’re leaning into work because we’re working on getting a promotion. After a quarter, then we need to shift back and maybe then we need to lean a little bit more into our personal life or lean more into our home life and figure out what those goals are. That way we’re not staying too shifted in one area, but we’re continually moving that balance back and forth. I think counterbalance is so important.

I often talk to people about balance doesn’t really exist because we don’t want all things to be even. We really want to look at the harmony of the whole. Looking at the harmony of a year or looking at the harmony of a week.

Balance seems to fit in this tight constraint of 24 hours and we think, “Gosh, I have to get all of my priorities taken care of in this 24-hour period.” Well, if you look a little bit wider and you zoom out, and you look at the 168 hours we have in a week, it’s much easier to see where you’re leaning in and counterbalancing and then leaning into a different area and counterbalancing.

Yeah, maybe you didn’t make it home for dinner on Monday night, but you made it home for dinner four nights that week. If we just look at the balance of the 24, we get to Monday evening and we feel like we failed. “Gosh, you know what, I never make it home. I never spend time with the family. I’m so busy working. I’m so disappointed in myself.” Right? This is the talk that we have with ourselves.

But if you really zoom back and you look at the harmony of the 168 and you see, “Okay, I didn’t make it home on Monday, but I made it home on Tuesday. I made it home on Thursday. I made it home on Friday. I did pretty good. I made it home the majority of the days.” That’s really where our happiness lies. It’s okay that we’re not taking care of all of our priorities every single day as long as they’re getting taken care of, overall.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. Thank you. I also want to get your take on when it comes to sort of the key habits, practices, routines that sort of make all the difference for keeping things flowing and operating well week after week.

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, well, I love habits because I think sometimes people think about habits and they think about biting your nails or smoking. Habits can sometimes have this bad connotation, but habits are really an amazing thing. There was actually a Duke University study that showed that about 40 to 45% of our daily actions are actually habits.

We’re already using habits to a degree. I mean, think about it. When we get dressed in the morning, we don’t have to think about each and every step of putting on our pants or brushing our teeth, we do these things, without thinking about it. They become habits.

I love taking habits and really making them intentional, really making them so that they push us towards spending time on our priorities, that they push us towards that life that we really want to live, and they take a lot of that thinking out of it.

Some of the habits that I really like: I get up in the morning. I have a morning routine, which is essentially just a series of habits that go one after the other. Each one triggering and acting as a springboard for the next. I like to get up early in the morning before everybody else in the house is up because I find that that’s a great time to get my work done and really focus.

And so I get up in the morning and I start with a little bit of meditation, a little bit of prayer. Then I go and I get a glass of water. This was a habit that I actively worked to cultivate because First of all, I’m not a morning person. I tell people I get up early and they’re like, “Well, you must be a morning person, so it’s easy.” I’m not a morning person at all.

So I discovered that one of the things that you can do to really help yourself in the morning is to have a glass of water because your body is dehydrated after not having any water all evening long while you were sleeping and that really gives you a boost. So that’s one of the first things I do. I have a glass of water. Then I brush my teeth. Then I go out into the living room. I do some stretches and I start working.

Then I go through the routine of waking up my kids when it’s time to do that. Making lunches, that whole fun routine.

But then one of the things that I really think has made the biggest difference, which is part of that morning routine or this morning habit is when I get to my office space, I start with ten minutes of focused planning. That  for me is the habit that has really changed the way I feel about my day. It really gives me this ownership over my time.

So I sit down before I’ve checked email. At this point, I have not checked in with email. I’ve not let anybody else’s fires become my fires. I sit down and I plan out what I want to accomplish for the day. I sit down. I don’t make a to-do list because I do not believe in to-do lists. I make a priority list. I create a priority list. I start at the top and I work my way down for the whole day.

Then after my ten minutes of planning, then I worry about checking in with email and then they can come in and they fit into my day wherever they fit because at that point I’ve put in my important tasks into my day. I really feel like that’s one of the best habits that I’ve created for myself is this ten minutes of planning.

And then at the end of my workday, I do this habit I call it the five minute to peak productivity, where I spend a minute writing down my wins for the day. I write down for one minute how I felt about my day, what was my stress like, did I put too much on my plate? Then I spend a minute writing down the things I’m grateful for, for that day.

Then I write down for the next minute, minute four, I write down how have I worked towards a goal, because I believe you should work towards at least one goal every single day. And then the last minute, I write down what are the things I would like to focus on for tomorrow? That allows me to get those items out of my head and onto the paper, so that when I go home I’m not thinking about work anymore.

And what I do with that sheet of paper, that five minutes to peak productivity, I leave it on my desk so that way when I come in the next day for my ten minutes of planning, I have a little springboard right there ready, to help me with my ten minutes of planning. I look through, I can see my wins from the day before. I see what I said the day before that I wanted to focus on, and I use that to build my momentum.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. I liked the way you said it the ten minutes of planning creates the ownership in terms of “All right, this is the game plan,” and then you’ve done it prior to email. I’ve been getting more into that myself in terms of that making all the difference there. It’s sort of – oh, go ahead.

Tonya Dalton
I was going to say email can be such a rabbit hole. We get in it and we’re digging through and it never seems like we’re at the bottom of it. And it generally is filled with a lot of things that other people need from us. I think it’s so important to have that ownership over our time and to feel like we are choosing how we spend our time.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. I’m curious to know, with that ten minutes sort of you’re referencing your yesterday thoughts that you wrote down in one of those five minutes, are there any other kind of key, sources that you’re looking to during this ten minute window. Is it your calendar? Is it your vision? What are some of the – does it come right out of your head or are you kind of referencing back some documented pieces in generating the plan of the day?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, I love that question because we don’t want things floating around in our head because then they’re just taking up room. It takes up space and it takes up a lot of the calories that our brain is burning. We want to get them out of there.

What I do is I do a brain dump. I call it a purge. I do a brain dump on Sunday, I do it for my family. On Monday morning I do it for work. I very intentionally keep those separated. I don’t want to think about work necessarily until Monday morning so that my Sunday is really focused on family.

What I do during that time is I write out what are the things I want to accomplish this week. I pull things from my calendar. I’m writing down and just getting the things out of my head so that when I’m sitting down for that ten minutes of focused planning each day, I take that weekly kick start, that’s what I call it, I take that weekly kick start and I’m pulling from that in order to put in what I want to accomplish.

The nice thing about that purge, that brain dump is that that’s allowing me to do that zooming out that we talked about, looking at my week as a whole, getting a bird’s eye view of where I am and where I want to go for that week. And so from that, I’m pulling each day. I’m not just pulling it out of thin air or having to do a lot of thinking. It’s really automatic and on autopilot because most of my ideas and thoughts, I’ve already gotten down onto paper.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Well, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Tonya Dalton
Well, let’s see. There’s so many things. I love talking about productivity. I think the thing is that I think people get caught up in when we’re talking about, how we want to run our day and how we want to live our lives is we get caught up in this idea of doing so much and feeling good about checking a lot of items off our list.

And I just want to remind people that life is about quality rather than quantity. It’s not about checking a lot of items off our list. It really is creating that life we really love and that life that we want. When we really intentionally build these habits into our day so that what is important to us sits front and center, that really allows us to feel so much more successful at the end of the day.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, my favorite quote is from Oprah. She says, “Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way.”

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely.

Tonya Dalton
I think that’s really important, especially when you are trying to take ownership and focus on living life with your priorities. There might be some people who are disappointed that you’re not going to say yes to everything they ask you to do, but it doesn’t work that way. Oprah’s pretty smart.

Pete Mockaitis
You mentioned you liked learning the studies, is there a favorite study or experiment or bit of research that really resonates with you?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, well, I mentioned that Duke University study, which is one of my favorites. But I have another study from the University of London that I really love. It was on multitasking. What I love about it is so many people are so proud of how they multitask. They think that multitasking is really helping them be more productive.

What this study found is that, when you multitask, not only does it really take you longer to do the work, but the quality of your work suffers significantly. As a matter of fact, when people multitask, they do the same work that’s equivalent to someone who has missed an entire night of sleep or someone who has smoked marijuana.

People are usually surprised by that because they think that they’re being so productive, but really, when we’re trying to multitask and do too much, our work really suffers. But the most, astounding thing I think from that study was this, they found that the better someone believed they were at multitasking, the worse they were.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing.

Tonya Dalton
I think that’s fascinating because we think that we’re really good at it, but we’re really not so good.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Tonya Dalton
My favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre because I just love classic novels. It’s just a genre that I love. That is my favorite fiction book that I go back and read every year or so.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool?

Tonya Dalton
Well, my inkWELL Press products of course. For that routine that I was telling you about, I have a notepad that helps you with your brain dump. Then I sit down with my daily planner and that has a priority list built into it, so you can really just plug in your items and categorize them by priority. I think that really helps.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Tonya Dalton
My favorite habit is probably my ten minutes of focused planning that I do every day. I really feel like that sets me in the right path for every single day. And I think one of the mistakes a lot of people make is they try to plan out their whole week let’s say on Sunday, but then it’s really easy to get behind and feel like you’re under water the whole rest of the week, so, really taking that ten minutes to plan that day and to make the plans for that day achievable makes a world of difference.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget that you share that really seems to connect and resonate and then people quote it back to you?

Tonya Dalton
The one that resonates with a lot of people I think is that overwhelm isn’t having too much to do; it’s not knowing where to start. I think that resonates because once we figure out together where it is you want to start and what you want to do next, that feeling of overwhelm really does go away. And it really feels a lot better to be more in charge of your day.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them to?

Tonya Dalton
I would probably send them to my website, InkwellPress.com because I have links to my podcast there. I have links to my courses, my episodes of Tonya TV are there and of course my products are there as well.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Tonya Dalton
Yeah, well this is what I would say is a lot of times we hear advice or we hear tips and thoughts and ideas and we get excited about it and we want to try to implement everything all at once. What I would say is, start small.

Take one piece of advice, maybe something that I talked about today, maybe it’s taking and doing the ten minutes of focused planning and focus on just doing that one thing for the next month. Build that in as a habit and then use that as a springboard to start building in other habits that really help you live intentionally. Starting small and feeling some success and getting some wins under your belt really can go far in helping us not feel that overwhelm.

Pete Mockaitis
Well Tonya, thanks so much for taking this time. It’s been a whole lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck with the podcast, Productivity Paradox, and the company, inkWELL Press, and all that you’re up to.

Tonya Dalton
Well, thank you so much. This was great being on here. I really enjoyed being on your show.

357: The Six Morning Habits of High Performers with Hal Elrod

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Miracle Morning author Hal Elrod condensed the six habits of the most successful people in history into the SAVERS acronym and describes how they changed his life—and how they can change yours, too.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Approaches for silence that generate new ideas
  2. How NOT to do affirmations
  3. The impact of tiny amounts of exercise

About Hal

He is one of the highest rated keynote speakers in America, creator of one of the fastest growing and most engaged online communities in existence and author of one of the highest rated, best-selling books in the world, The Miracle Morning—which has been translated into 27 languages, has over 2,000 five-star Amazon reviews and is practiced daily by over 500,000 people in 70+ countries.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Hal Elrod Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Hal, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Hal Elrod
Pete, I’m feeling awesome at my job of being a podcast guest right now, so ….

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, well you’re off to a great start with the enthusiasm.

Hal Elrod
You got it.

Pete Mockaitis
I also hear that you’re enthusiastic about UFC. What’s the story here?

Hal Elrod
Yeah, it’s kind of funny because I’m the most non-violent UFC fan I think that there is. For those that don’t know, UFC is Ultimate Fighting Championship. If I would have ever turned on the TV and saw two guys fighting, I don’t think I ever would have gotten pulled in.

In 2004 I think it was, I just turned on the TV on Spike TV and the reality show The Ultimate Fighter, which for those of you who don’t know, this is actually how the UFC turned – they were a failing company and they turned themselves around by putting fighters in a reality show.

It was like the Real World meets UFC fighting, where fighters lived in a house together for six weeks and they competed in a tournament, where they’re fighting each other and they’re sharing rooms with each other. I got really connected to the storyline of the fighters. Then I actually cared about what they were going to do. Then fast forward, I’ve been a fan now for gosh, 13 years or so.

Now it’s just two people that are – the people that compete in the UFC, they have to master seven or eight different fighting disciplines. There’s no other sport – in basketball, you just master basketball. In UFC, it’s you’ve got to be proficient, not proficient, you’ve got to be excellent in wrestling, and excellent in jiu-jitsu, and excellent at karate, and excellent at boxing, and excellent at all these different styles.

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched a full hour of UFC programming before. I’m impressed by what these athletes do. They are fit – in great shape. I just hurt watching it, so I think I turn away. It’s like, “Ow,” then I find something else.

These athletes – you literally at the top level, in the UFC essentially, you’ve got to be as good as Michael Jordan at basketball and while you’re as good as Jordan at basketball, you have to as good as Tiger Woods at golf and – these guys train, they’ll train – they’re basically train 12 hours a day, 6 to 12 hours a day. They’re training – Monday they do wrestling for 3 hours, then they do boxing for 3 hours. Then Tuesday – it’s just crazy to have to train not just one sport, but 7 or 8.

Pete Mockaitis
That is why their physiques are striking. It’s like that person is among the fittest that I’ve beheld.

Hal Elrod
And their cardio, to compete at that level and do that.

Yeah, the funny part is I’m non-violent. A lot of times in a match it will get too violent for me. I love the sport. I love the storyline. I appreciate the athletes, but yeah, when it gets bloody and stuff, which it does sometimes, I’m like, “Ah, ….” It’s funny, I’m a huge fan, but I don’t like when they hurt each other.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. It’s funny, that’s sort of like – that’s kind of one of your things is you are such a positive guy and talking about sort of potential and possibility and how to unlock that largely in terms of getting the momentum going through morning routines. I’d love it if you could give us maybe the short version of your incredible story about how you got into morning routines to become such a believer. What happened in your life that sparked this?

Hal Elrod
Yeah, I usually frame the story by saying I’ve had a few rock bottoms in my life. Those kind of, each one was the catalyst for a different component of my life’s work today.

Let me start by just saying to define a rock bottom, it’s something that we’ve all had. In fact many of them will have more of them. I define a rock bottom as simply a moment in time, moment in your life, a moment in adversity that is beyond what you’ve experienced before.

I don’t compare one person’s rock bottom to another and say, “Well, mine’s worse than yours or yours is worse than hers.” It’s relative to who you are at any given moment in time.

When I was in elementary school and my girlfriend broke up with me, we had been going out for two weeks that was a rock bottom for me. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t imagine going to school any more, like life was over relative to who I was at the time.

The major rock bottoms I had when I was 19 years old I was one of the top sales reps for Cutco Cutlery. I never considered myself a salesperson but a buddy got me into – “Give this a chance.” I’m like, “Eh, I’ll try it just to get you off my back.” Ten days into the career I broke the company record. That sent me on a path of oh, maybe I’m not this mediocre person I’ve been my whole life. Maybe I can do something extraordinary. I went on to break all these records.

A year and a half into the company that I was working with then, I was giving a speech at one of their events. After my speech driving home in a brand new Ford Mustang – I had bought my first new car a few weeks prior – I was hit head-on by a drunk driver at 70 to 80 miles per hour. Then my car spun off the drunk driver, another car hit me from the side, directly in my door at 70 miles an hour and instantaneously broke 11 of my bones.

My femur broke in half. My pelvis broke three separate times. My humerus bone behind my bicep broke in half. My elbow was shattered. My eye socket was shattered. Ruptured lung, punctured lung, ruptured spleen, so on and so forth. I actually, clinically, I was dead. I clinically was found dead at the scene. I died for six minutes, was in a coma for six days and was told my doctors that I would never walk again.

Came out of the coma and three weeks later took my first step and went on to fully recover and walk again. That was really – the turning point for me there was – or I decided maybe I’m meant to do more than just stay in sales because I was going to stay with the company forever. I loved the company. I decided I had to do more.

I had always wanted to be a professional keynote speaker, Pete, because I had been speaking at all these conferences for my company. I thought man, I would love to do this for a living. There are these people like Tony Robbins and you see all these – this is what they do. I would love that. It would be like a dream come true.

I had this kind of – I don’t know if you’d call it an epiphany or just a realization – I thought maybe that’s why I’m going through this experience. They say everything happens for a reason, but I’m a firm believer that it’s our responsibility to choose the reasons. It’s not predetermined. It’s not fate. It’s not out of our control.

Something bad could happen, you can say “This happened because life’s unfair and there is no God.” You can find all sorts of reasons why everything happens or you can say what I did, I went, “Maybe I’m supposed to learn from this and grow from this and take this head on so that I can learn how to teach other people to take their adversity head on.” That’s what I did and I launched that into a speaking career.

Then fast forward and kind of bringing it to what led into more morning rituals, in 2008 when the US economy crashed, I crashed with it. I lost over half my coaching clients, I was a coach at the time, half my income in 2008, couldn’t pay my mortgage, I lost my house, I cancelled my gym membership, my body fat percentage tripled in six months. It was just this real six month downward spiral.

A sequence of events led me to go on a run and listen to an audio from Jim Rohn.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Jim Rohn. The musical—

Hal Elrod
The great Jim Rohn.

Pete Mockaitis
I love the music in his voice.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, absolutely. Jim Rohn, this is the quote that he said on that run. This quote came to my life faster than I ever thought possible and it really is the catalyst for the Miracle Morning. He said “Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development because success is something you attract by the person you become.”

In that moment I went, I’m not dedicating time every day to my personal development, therefore, I’m not becoming the person that I need to be to create the success that I want in my life. I had this epiphany that I’ve got to go figure out what the world – I’m going to run home and figure out what the world’s most successful people do for their personal development.

I’m going to find the best personal development practice in history of humanity or best known to man and I’m going to do that. And I didn’t know what it was going to be. I ran home and I Googled best personal development practices of millionaires, billionaires, CEOs, Olympians, you name it.

And I had a list of six different practices. They were all timeless. They had all been practiced for centuries. I almost went well, none of these are new. I think we’re really conditioned in our society to look for the new, the new app, the new movie, the new season on Netflix. We want new, new, new. We’re all new.

Pete Mockaitis
And you’ve got to update the app like every month.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, exactly. I almost dismissed these. I was like, ah, these are timeless. It’s almost really silly. When you really translate it you can say these are the practices that the world’s most successful people have been doing for centuries. I want something new. It makes no sense.

The epiphany I finally went, wait a minute. This is what successful people do. I don’t do these. Then the real epiphany was which one of these am I going to do and then I went wait, what if I did all of these.

What if I woke up tomorrow morning an hour earlier, because that was the only time I could figure out in the schedule to add an hour. I was working all day trying to not lose my house, which didn’t work. I lost my house. But I was just trying to stay alive, stay afloat. I didn’t feel like I had any extra time.

Even though I wasn’t a morning person I thought if I want my life to improve, I’ve got to improve. I’ve got to wake up an hour earlier and I’ve got to do one of these six practices. The epiphany was what if I did all of them, what if I woke up tomorrow morning an hour earlier and I did the six most timeless, proven, personal development practices in the history of humanity.

I woke up the next day, I did them. I sucked at all of them. We can talk about what the practices are, but I didn’t know how to do – one is meditation. I didn’t know how to meditate. I didn’t know how to do any of these things really well. I was really terrible at all of them.

But one hour into it my very first day, my very first hour of what is now called the Miracle morning, it didn’t have a name back then, I felt incredible. I felt confident for the first time in six months. I felt energized. I felt motivated. I felt like I had clarity.

The realization is if I start every day like this, where I become a better version of the person I was that went to bed the night before, and I do this consistently day after day after day after day, it is only a matter of time before I become the person that I need to be that can create the success that I want, any level that I want in any and every area of my life.

I thought it would 6 to 12 months; it was less than 2 months that I more than doubled my income. I went from being in the worst shape of my life physically to committing to running a 52-mile ultra-marathon. I had never run more than a mile before. My depression went away within a couple of days. Because my life changed so dramatically and so quickly, I started calling it my Miracle Morning. The rest is history.

Years later I wrote the book and now it’s this worldwide movement with about a half million people from what we can track every day do their miracle morning and the results are really amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s an awesome story. It makes sense in terms of having engaged some of these practices. I love the gumption, okay, I’m going to do all of them. You put this together into a snazzy acronym, SAVERS, standing for these six steps of silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading and scribing, which means writing. I understand you’ve got to make the acronym work, no shame there.

Hal Elrod
It was my wife’s idea for an acronym. I was writing the book one day and I was frustrated. I go “Sweetie, Stephen Covey’s got the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Robert Kiyosaki’s got the Cashflow Quadrant. These gurus always create this memorable system.” I said, “I’ve got these six hodgepodge practices and I didn’t invent any of them.”

She goes, “Sweetheart, why don’t you get a – calm down first of all,” because I was all stressed, she goes, “Why don’t you get a thesaurus and see if you can find other words with the same meaning and make an acronym?” The acronym is a huge part of it. She gets all the credit for that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. I guess along with that then, I’d love to dig into each of these practices and just hear a little bit in terms of what it means then the best practice or a pitfall associated with doing it or an optimal dosage or amount of time to do each of these.

I imagine in many ways the answer is it doesn’t really matter, just do something like that and you’re all good. But if there’s some finer points to maximizing, well, hey, you’re the expert. I want to hear them. Let’s dig into silence and then the rest.

Hal Elrod
Here’s what I’ll preface all of this with. I am a very results-oriented person. A lot of these six practices are taught in a way that’s kind of woo-woo, that makes somebody feel good while they do it, but they don’t necessarily see measurable improvements in their life.

And for me that was unacceptable. It was unacceptable in my own practice, but then especially when I wrote the book I thought, I need to make these really practical and actionable and not just fluffy and airy-fairy and woo-woo. I’ll give a tip on each of these in terms of how do you make it kind of practical and results oriented.

The first S in SAVERS stands for silence. I’m actually really – it was originally meditation. I’m really glad that it became silence because some people, their silence is prayer. They might not want to meditate. Or for me it’s actually a combination of both. But meditation is really the crux. It’s the majority of my time in silence.

If you think about it, most of us, we don’t have a lot of time in silence. It’s usually we’re – it’s kind of chaos from the time we get up, then we’re in the car listening to podcasts or the radio, music, something like that. Then we’re at work with people and on phone calls. There’s usually not a lot of time for kind of peaceful, purposeful silence.

Yet that’s when – when we quiet our mind, that’s when our best ideas come. We tap into our inner wisdom. We tap into the wisdom of – if you want to get woo-woo for a second – the universe or higher intelligence, whatever you want to call it, God.

But meditation, the way it’s been taught, people often – they’re taught to clear your mind. Most people, they can’t do that or it’s very challenging and it takes somebody years to get where they can actually do that. Well, for me, I want results. I will use my meditation as a way to set the mindset for the day.

I’ll look at my schedule and I’ll go “Okay, what do I need to accomplish today?” It depends on what’s on the agenda. I just finished writing a new book. When I was working on that book, every day, every morning, I’d meditate before I’d write and I would go, “Man, I need ideas.” I need some content for today. I would set my intention for the meditation.

My intention would often be “Okay, what am I working on? What chapter am I working on today? I need ideas for this chapter.” I would just set that as an intention. Then I would meditate. I would always have my notes app on my phone in front of me with my timer going for ten minutes usually is what I meditate for.

I don’t think there was a single day where I wasn’t flooded six ideas, where I would pause the meditation timer, I’d open up the note tab and I would write an idea. Then I would go back to mediate and then I would just sit there.

Here’s the difference, I wasn’t trying to think. When you force thought, you don’t usually get your best thought. It’s in those moments – that’s why when we’re in the shower, not even thinking about something, we have our best ideas. When we’re falling asleep, not even thinking about something, we have our best ideas.

This is a way to engineer that space for you’re tapping into your genius every single morning so that you bring those ideas and that clarity into your day. That’s one way to meditate.

Another way to do it is sometimes I might have a speech for that day and I go “I need to feel confident. I’m speaking.” I will literally just affirm things while I’m in my meditation. I’ll just affirm things like what did I do today – I chose three statements.

I’ve been having some cognitive challenges because I just went through – I just finished cancer. I beat cancer, but I still have chemotherapy ongoing for maintenance and it really – the effects to your cognitive ability are really damaging. They call it chemo brain. They kind of laugh it off, but it really – it’s a very real thing what it does to your brain. I’ve had a lot of trouble with my memory and this and that.

This morning I just meditated on saying “I am brilliant. My brain is brilliant. My memory is excellent.” I forgot what the third one was. Anyway, the point is use meditation not to remove thought. You can. Sometimes I’ll meditate in that way where I just try to get a state of being really loving and peaceful.

But ultimately I typically will have a specific result that I want to generate internally, either mentally or emotionally, and I will set that intention going into the meditation. I will use the meditation actively to do that. I will think something over and over and over while I deeply feel it in a way that will serve me for the rest of the day. Any questions? Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Can you give us a sample of your internal dialogue of going over and over and over again?

Hal Elrod
Yeah, that was the one today. Here, I’ll bring it up real quick.

This morning I went “My brain is brilliant. My memory is excellent. My heart is pure.” I just affirmed that. What’s interesting is we’re about to get into the A of SAVERS, which is affirmations. But I often will combine the SAVERS.

For example, when I get to the E in SAVERS is exercise, while I’m exercising, I’ll often do the V, which is visualization. I’m then making that mind-body connection and leveraging the power of both simultaneously. I’m also being efficient with time.

“My brain is brilliant. My memory is excellent. My heart is pure.” That is an affirmation, but I will meditate on that affirmation and then kind of get the benefits of both.

Sometimes I will – I have pictures – I’m in the room where I do my Miracle Morning right now. I have pictures of my children, my family, my wife up along the wall. Sometimes I will just look at those pictures and just maybe look at one. I’ll look at my picture of my daughter like I am right now and I’ll just internalize the gratitude and the love that I feel for her. Then I’ll close my eyes and I’ll just meditate on that for a minute or two. Then I’ll go to my son.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say meditate on that, you’re just sort of experiencing that.

Hal Elrod
I’m just feeling it.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to letting your mind chatter in any direction.

Hal Elrod
I’m just deeply feeling it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, I’m just deeply felling that emotion. Yeah, that experience.

I’ll use meditation a lot. I’m big on gratitude. I’ll often use meditation – I’ll simply take the emotion of gratitude or the experience of gratitude, most people when they experience gratitude, it’s usually at the intellectual level. If you say “What are you grateful for?” they can list things off. They feel it in their head, but there’s a big difference between intellectual gratitude and deep, heart-felt soulful gratitude at the level where it puts you in tears.

I’ll use meditation to try to get there, to try to get to feel that much of an emotion that serves me. Again, the emotion – gratitude is one, it could be confidence, it could be love, it could be whatever.

I do pray. I’m a big believer in the power of prayer. That’s a whole other conversation, but prayer on even the scientific level as well as the spiritual level. A lot of times I’ll use my silence as prayer and I’ll just – for me, it’s very fluid. There is no right or wrong and that’s probably the biggest – here’s the biggest key.

Let me, whether we close with this for this portion, but when it comes to silence, if you’re at all overwhelmed by meditation or anything like that, set a timer on your phone for ten minutes and be in silence for ten minutes, that’s it.

The only way you can fail is if you judge yourself for any part of your experience. If you go, “Oh, I shouldn’t be having these thoughts. Oh, I shouldn’t be thinking. Oh, I shouldn’t be feeling this way. Oh, I shouldn’t have thought of that.” That’s the only way you can fail at silence is to judge your experience. If you just sit there in silence, you cannot help but get value.

Number one, it lowers your cortisol levels. Cortisol is the fear and the stress chemical in your body, the hormone that causes fear, that causes stress. When you sit in silence, it’s scientifically proven – there are over 1,400 scientific studies that prove the benefits of meditation. It’s scientifically proven that when you sit in silence, it lowers your cortisol.

Now, granted, if you are intentionally thinking stressful thoughts, I don’t know that that would achieve that objective. That’s where judging yourself is a stressful thought. But yeah, if you sit in silence, you will lower your stress, you will gain clarity, new insights will come into your mind and you’ll get better with practice.

Your first day in silence is your worst day in silence. Every day that you do it, you’ll stumble upon new levels of consciousness, new ways of feeling, thinking, being that once you grab them, you can then get there quicker, easier, stay there longer. The benefits of spending time in silence will simply be amplified and deepened over time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Then with silence, what makes it silence is just that you’re not actively reading something, listening to something, tapping away on your phone, you are – or in motion, so you are seated and you may have your eyes closed and you’re just sort of letting your own internal self be the focus.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, exactly. I like to sit up straight. I bought a meditation pillow on Amazon a few months back. That’s been big. There’s something about just having a – it was like 29.99 or something – having a spot that I specifically go to meditate. Because before I got lazy in my meditation where I was doing it on the couch kind of slouched over.

If there’s any wrong way to meditate, really the big one is judging yourself for the experience, thinking that you’re doing it wrong. You’re not. As long as you’re in silence, you’re not doing it wrong. If you have a negative thought, just let it pass and focus on something positive.

But if there’s a wrong way to mediate beyond judging yourself, it is your posture. When you sit slouched over, laying down, your breath slows, you’re not – you want to find the balance between relaxation and alertness, attentiveness. Sitting up straight, sitting tall, breathing deeply, being really alert and aware, but very calm and relaxed, that’s the ideal state for that silence.

Like you said, it just means that there’s no stimuli. There’s no stimuli, where you’re not focused on something. That’s why closing your eyes is good. Now there are ways of meditating where you can have your eyes open. Sometimes I will open my eyes and so I’ll look at the pictures of my family or I’ll look at a beautiful picture of a sunset/sunrise that puts me in a really nice state.

But yeah, everything that you said is correct, just doing – by the way, setting a timer is the other piece I was going to mention. You don’t have to think “How long am I doing it? Am I doing it long enough? Should I do it longer?” Don’t be checking the clock, just have your timer set.

That way you know, “I’m free for ten minutes to not think about anything,” or think about, whatever, “I’m free for ten minutes just to sit here in silence. I’m not going to lose track of time because that timer is going to go off when it’s time for me to get up and do my affirmations or whatever’s next in your Miracle Morning.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Cool. Yeah, let’s talk about the affirmations next in the Miracle Morning. What do you mean by that and what do you not mean by that?

Hal Elrod
I’m biased in that I’m often asked do you have a favorite of the SAVERS and the politically correct answer would be no, they’re all equally important. But the answer is affirmations are my favorite by far.

Affirmations are – first let me just say, I believe they’ve been taught incorrectly or ineffectively I should say by self-help gurus, if you will, for, I don’t know, decades. I don’t know how long. But let me define what an affirmation is then I’ll talk about why they’ve been taught wrong and what I find is the most effective way to do them.

An affirmation is simply a written statement that directs your focus towards something of value. Now, you could write affirmations that were negative, that were not of value. Obviously that’s not an objective of yours. We have written statements that directly focus towards something of value.

The way affirmations have been taught, there are two problems with the way they’ve been taught for decades, I don’t know, centuries, I don’t know how long.

Number one is a form of affirmation that’s essentially lying to yourself, trying to trick yourself into believing something that is not true or is not yet true. For example, let’s say you want to be a millionaire, well, a lot of self-help pioneers have taught, just put the words “I am” in front of whatever you want to be and say that to yourself until you believe it.

You say, “I am a millionaire. I am a millionaire. I am a millionaire.” But we all know the truth. We know our truth. We’re not a millionaire. We want to be millionaire. We say, “I’m a millionaire,” our subconscious or even our conscious mind is going to go “No, you’re not. You’re lying.” Then you’re fighting with reality, which is never ideal. The truth will always prevail.

You go “I am a millionaire,” and your brain goes, “No you’re not. You’re not even close.” You’re like, “Shut up. I’m doing my affirmations.” Number one problem with affirmations the way they’ve been taught is lying to yourself is not optimal.

The second problem with affirmations the way they’ve been taught is that self-help pioneers have taught you to use flowery passive language. We’ll still on the topic of finances. You may have heard this affirmation; it’s very popular, or some variation of this. “I am a money magnet. Money flows to me effortlessly and in abundance.”

A lot of people say that affirmation and they really like it. I believe they like it because it makes them feel good in the moment. They go, “Man, I checked my bank balance this morning and it was negative, so I need some affirmations to make me feel better. I’m a money magnet. Oh, that feels good. Money is flowing to me effortlessly. All of my financial problems will be taken care of by the universe,” or whatever.

It’s like no, that’s not how money works. It’s not effortless. That’s very rare. Go buy a lotto ticket, hope. That’s not going to happen most likely. The way that money is created is by you adding value to the world or to the marketplace and then you’re compensated for that value.

I’ll give you an example of how to use affirmations in a way that is not based in lying to yourself or in this passive language that makes you feel good at the moment, but takes your responsibility away from creating the results that you want. There’s four steps to create affirmations that produce results.

Number one is, affirm what you’re committed to. Don’t say, “I’m a millionaire,” or not even “I want to be a millionaire,” say “I’m committed to becoming a millionaire,” maybe even add a when, “By the time I’m 40 or 50,” or whatever or in the next 12 months or 24 months, or whatever.

Start with number one what am I committed to. It’s a very different when you affirm something you’re committed to versus something that you think you are or want to be that you know you’re not.

The second thing is why is that deeply meaningful. After you affirm what you’re committed to, reinforce, remind yourself, why is that deeply meaningful to you. If you want to become a millionaire, why? Is it because you want to … financial freedom for your family, because you want to buy fancy cars.

Depending on how meaningful it really is, that’s going to determine how much leverage you have over yourself to actually do the things necessary to get you there. That’s number three is affirm what specifically you’re committed to doing that will ensure your success. What are the activities you’re committed to that will ensure your success?

I’m committed to increasing my income to $100,000 a year and saving 50% or whatever. Get very specific on the activities that you’re going to do. When I was in sales I would affirm how many phone calls I was going to be making every day because I knew if I made that number of phone calls, my success was inevitable. I couldn’t fail. The average … would work themselves out if I made my phone calls every day.

Then the fourth part of the affirmation formula is when specifically are you committed to implementing those activities. When are you going to make your phone calls? When are you going to run every day to lose that weight? When are you going to take your significant other out on a date or tell them you love them or write? What and when are you going to – what are the activities and when are you going to do them?

Those four steps: what are you committed to, why is it deeply meaningful to you, what activities are you committed to doing that will ensure your success, then when, specifically, are you committed to doing those activities. Those are the four steps create what I call Miracle Morning affirmations.

Miracle Morning affirmations are practical and they’re result-oriented and they reinforce the commitments that you need to stick to ensure that you achieve the results that you want to achieve in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig. It. Well, we’re having fun here, but I could get perhaps the one-minute version of the visualization, the exercise, the reading and the scribing?

Hal Elrod
Yeah, I’m long-winded, so thank you for setting me up. I appreciate that.

Visualization, here’s what I’ll say two things on it. Number one is the world’s best athletes, almost all of them use visualization including UFC fighters. There’s a reason for that. It’s they visualize themselves performing optimally and achieving their goals so that they go there mentally and emotionally before they ever step on the court or before they ever open the book or before they ever write.

They’ve already gone there in their mind, so when it’s real time, when it’s game time, when it’s practice time, it’s that much easier to go there.

The other thing I’ll say on visualization is don’t just visualize the end result, visualize – in fact, more important, visualize the activity. See yourself getting on the phone to make those calls. See yourself opening your computer to write those words that’s going to make that into a book. See yourself going to the gym or lacing up your running shoes and heading out your front door, especially if you don’t feel like it or you don’t like doing those things.

See yourself doing it with a smile on your face in a way that’s appealing. When I was training for my ultra-marathon, I hated running. Every morning I visualized myself enjoying running. Because I did it in the morning in my living room, when it was time to run, I actually had already created this anticipation that I would want to do it. Then I actually felt that when it was time to go for a run. That’s the power in visualization.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Now when you say visualize yourself, I’m thinking almost like dreams. Sometimes they’re first person, sometimes they’re third person. Do you visualize, like you’re seeing yourself from a third-person vantage point putting on the shoes?

Hal Elrod
You can do both, but I usually do yeah, first person and then – or no, third person, where I see myself from the outside. I see myself like I’m watching a movie of myself. Part of that movie will involve me looking in the mirror usually. That’s part of it almost always.

Pete Mockaitis
The dramatic montage music.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, exactly, exactly. Yeah, feel free to play the music. Literally play that music on your phone while you’re doing the visualization. A lot of people do that.

The E is for exercise. Here’s what I’ll say is that if you like to – if you don’t exercise at all, this applies to you. If you exercise – if you already go, “Dude, I go to the gym after work or on my lunch break or I like to run in the evenings. It’s my-“ this still applies to you and here’s why.

I’m not telling you that you need to switch your gym time to the morning, what I’m telling you is that the benefits of exercising in the morning even for 60 seconds, if you’re sitting on the couch going, “I know I should – I don’t have any energy. I’m so tired,” stand up and do 60 seconds of jumping jacks.

I promise you at the end of the 60 seconds, you’ll be breathing hard. Your blood will be flowing throughout your lymph system. Your brain – the oxygen, your cells will be oxygenated. You’ll feel ten times more awake than you did before you did those 60 seconds of jumping jacks.

I in the morning usually do stretching followed by a seven minute workout. That’s an app on the phone. It’s also on YouTube. It’s totally free. I highly recommend it. It’s a full body workout in seven minutes. It’s fast-paced, so you get cardio as well as strength training, as well as stretching and flexibility. That’s what I recommend in the morning, just a little bit of exercise and –

Pete Mockaitis
What’s the video or app called? The seven-minute thing?

Hal Elrod
7 Minute Workout, number 7 Minute Workout.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s just called 7 Minute Workout. Okay, that’s easy.

Hal Elrod
Yeah, it’s phenomenal. There’s a few different apps. I use the free version. Then the – actually although I subscribe to the monthly version to open up all the different exercises and different workouts and this and that.

But the R is for reading. I don’t need to say much on this is that we’re all, every single one of us is one book away, whatever topic we want to improve in our life, we’re one book away from learning everything that we need to learn to improve that area of our life.

You want to be happy? There’s a book on that. In fact, there’s hundreds. What to have an amazing marriage? There’s a book on that. In fact, there’s hundreds. Do you want to be a millionaire or be wealthy and financially free? There’s hundreds of books on that.

In fact, so I just made a documentary called The Miracle Morning. It reveals the morning rituals of some of the world’s most successful people. In that is world-class entrepreneur Joe Polish.

He said that, he goes, “When I meet someone and I say ‘What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year?’ and they go, ‘Well, I don’t read. I haven’t read a book.’” He said, “It blows my mind that in places where people have access to books and they know how to read and therefore they have access to everything they need to know to transform anything in their life to be at the most extraordinary level they could be,” he says, “It blows my mind that people aren’t reading every single day.”

Why aren’t you reading every day? It could be five or ten minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be a long time. Think about it, if you read 10 pages a day, that’s 300 pages a month. No, no, let’s say 5 pages a day, that’s 150 pages a month. That’s one self-help book a month, 12 a year. You’re a different person.

You’re separating yourself from 95% of our society and you’re joining the top 5% that reads those books because you’re learning everything you need to transform any area of your life. Any questions on reading and then we can dive into the last one?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. No.

Hal Elrod
Okay. The final S is the word scribing. That’s a pretentious word for writing, but I needed an S for the final part of the SAVERS to round out the acronym.

For me, journaling is – this is where goal setting is involved in scribing. That’s under that umbrella. Journaling is what I would – that would be my scribing. I use an app called Five Minute Journal. They also make a hardcover version if you prefer to write by hand. You can also just write freehand on a piece of paper.

The Five Minute Journal, I like it because it’s scientifically researched and it’s very simple and takes five minutes. It’s simply pre-prompted statements or questions. There’s just a few.

In the morning it’s three things I’m grateful for and the three most important things that I need to do today to make today a great day. I don’t know if it’s worded that exact words, but that’s paraphrasing. Of all things on my to-do list, what are the three that will make the biggest difference in my life, my business, etcetera.

Every morning I start by focusing on three things I’m grateful for, which remind me that my life is already amazing. It doesn’t matter what’s going on outside of me if I focus on internally what I have to be grateful for, everything is – there’s always things to feel amazing about. There’s always things to complain about. What we focus on becomes our reality.

I start with gratitude, then I look at my to-do list, I look at my goals, like okay, of the infinite things I could work on today and out of the 20 things that are on my goal and to-do list, what are the three that will make the biggest impact for me right now and move me forward toward my most important goals?

If you think about it, most people we don’t take the time to just get that level of clarity. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it’s a game changer.

Because here’s the problem, most of us are busy. Every day we’re busy. Being busy tricks our brain into thinking we’re being productive. But productive isn’t busy. Productive is busy doing the things that move us toward our biggest goals, our greatest dreams, the life that we truly want to live and the impact we truly want to make.

That simple act of scribing every morning, forcing your brain to clarify it in writing, what are those top three priorities, that is – for me, that’s been a game changer. It’s allowed me to make massive progress on these goals that once were just fantasies that I never even thought – really believed I could accomplish.

Like making a documentary, that was a fantasy. I didn’t know how to do that. Now we just debuted at a film festival. That will come out probably later this year.

A lot of that is because of – it’s all because of the SAVERS. It’s all because of this process reinforcing the beliefs through meditation, through silence, and affirmations, and visualization, and all of these practices all combine to really create optimal physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual kind of capacity every day that will allow you to become the level ten person that you need to be, if you will, on a scale of one to ten, to create the level ten life that you want, that I believe that all of us really deserve.

Pete Mockaitis
That is beautiful. Thank you. Well, Hal, tell me, anything else you want to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Hal Elrod
The point is that the SAVERS, any one of them will change your life, but if you implement – try them all for a month. I would say do the 30-day challenge, the Miracle Morning 30-day challenge, do them all for a month, either 5 minutes each for a half an hour total routine or 10 minutes each for an hour routine.

Then you’ll have real experience to go, “Okay, do I want to keep doing all 6 of these?” Maybe only 4 of them really resonated with you. You only want to do 4. Maybe 4. It could be 5. I don’t know. But try them all and see what happens. It’s pretty life changing.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Now could you share with us a favorite book?

Hal Elrod
Favorite book is – well, it’s this book – one of my favorite books is called Vision to Reality. In fact, let me give you two. They’re by the same author. I just got her new book. Vision to Reality is her first – I think it was her first book. Oh no, it’s her second book by Honoree Corder.

Her new book is called Stop Trying so F*cking Hard Live Authentically, Design a Life you Love, and Be Happy. It’s in my hand right now. I’m reading. I’m about halfway through. I am loving this book. She’s a great author. She’s written like 25 books. Her original Vision to Reality has been my favorite for a long time, but I think the new one might surpass that. It’s called Stop Trying so F*cking Hard.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool?

Hal Elrod
Favorite tool would be that app I mentioned earlier, the Five Minute Journal app. That’s one of my favorite. I put one picture every day and it allows me to capture my life every day for the past few years that I’ve used it. Reflecting on that is really meaningful.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite nugget, something you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Hal Elrod
The biggest thing is we all usually have this monkey on our back of urgency, like, “Man, I want to be where that guy is or where she is.” “Man, I have all these goals and dreams; I want to be there now.” It creates this feeling of scarcity, where we’re not where we want to be.

What I found, not only in my own life, but studying other people is that any time you find yourself wishing or wanting that you were further along than you are, just realize that when you finally get to the point that you’ve been working so hard for so long, you almost never wish it would have happened any sooner.

Instead, you look back and you see the timing and the journey were perfect. All of the adversity, all of the challenges, it all played a part in you becoming the person that you needed to be to get where you want to go. If you can take that hindsight and bring it into your life now, use that to be at peace.

No matter where you are right now, no matter what’s going on, no matter difficult or whatever is going on, be at peace with where you are, every day, along that journey while you simultaneously maintain a healthy sense of urgency to take action every day to get where you want to go. But don’t get there out of a feeling of stress, and anxiety, and I’m not where I want to be, just embrace where you are.

If you’re alive, you’re perfect. No matter what’s going on around you, all that matters is what’s going on inside you. Be at peace with where you are and take steps every day to get where you want to go.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Hal Elrod
Go to MiracleMorning.com. That’s probably the best place. There’s a bunch of resources there. You can put in your name and email and get the first few chapters of the book for free. You can get – it comes also with an audio training for free on the Miracle Morning, a video training for free. Of course, the book on Amazon you can get the audio book, the paperback, the Kindle. That’s probably the best place to buy it.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Hal Elrod
Yeah, here’s the thing, to be awesome at your job, I think to be awesome at anything, it’s really about who you are as a person. There’s so many components to that. There’s your knowledge, your emotional intelligence, your physical energy, the enthusiasm that you bring. There’s many components to who you are.

To me that’s what the Miracle Morning is. It’s dedicating time every day to become better. Not that there’s anything wrong with you, but we all have unlimited potential as a human being, if you want to get better at your job, become a better version of you, dedicate time to your personal development.

Here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be in the morning. You can do a miracle evening if you wanted. Just dedicate that time so that every day you become better than you were the day before. You become more knowledgeable, you lower your stress, you increase your belief in yourself, your confidence. All of the things the Miracle Morning does for you, you do that every day and you can’t help but bring a better version of you to work every single day.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Hal, this has been a real treat. Thanks for unpacking this and giving some finer distinctions. I wish you and the Miracle Morning and documentary and all your up to tons of luck.

Hal Elrod
Pete, man, I appreciate you. Thank you so much for having me on. For those of you listening, I love you. I appreciate you. Thank you for tuning in and please leave a review for Pete on iTunes.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

354: Establishing Evening Routines to Optimize the Day Ahead with Jarrod Warren

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Success 101 podcaster Jarrod Warren details an evening routine that will grant you a deep, restful sleep—and a successful way to tackle your day.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to turn stress around with your perspective
  2. Eight tips for a solid evening routine and quality sleep
  3. Why to consider taping your mouth shut, literally

About Jarrod

Jarrod is the managing director of a financial planning practice and hosts the Success 101 podcast.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jarrod Warren Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jarrod, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Jarrod Warren
Pete, I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me on.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, I’m excited to have you too. I want to start with your story. It sounds pretty dramatic and interesting with regard to you. You have experienced some burnout and in a powerful way, and also bounced back in a powerful way. How does that work?

Jarrod Warren
Well, I’m just super excited that I bounced back in a powerful way because I find so many people don’t do that. They get into this burnout routine. I call it a routine because they sit there and they stay in it without even really understanding how to get out of it.

I would have told you probably back in 2015 when I started experiencing some of the burnout, the fatigue, the self-sabotage, that stuff had been going on long before I actually got into it, but it really came to a head I guess and really came to a point where I was like “Man, I can’t do this anymore.”

There was a lot of pride wrapped up in that. I’ll be transparent with you. There was a lot of people are not going to outwork me, people are not going to out sleep me. Sleep was a big thing that I had a lot of pride wrapped up in. My parents could operate on very little sleep, still do to this day.

I was one of those guys that I would tell people “I’m experiencing a lot of stress. I can’t get a lot of sleep.” Their first thought is, “Well, have you tried melatonin? Have you tried these sleeping pills?” I’m like, “No, no, no, make no mistake about it, I can sleep. If I close my eyes for just a couple of seconds, I’m out like a zombie.” I just don’t stay in bed very long.

I’m setting my alarm for super early in the morning. I’m getting up really early in the morning. I’m just not in bed very long.

In 2015, I really thought my brain was turning to cabbage. That’s the best way I can describe it. I couldn’t focus on things. I couldn’t concentrate on things. Of course, people say, “Oh yeah man, I have ADHD. I can’t concentrate either.” This was way different.

I was concerned about early onset dementia, things like that. I just couldn’t focus on anything. I couldn’t look people in the eyes and have straight conversations because my brain was sending signals to my body that things are not right. I didn’t know what to do with that because I had never experienced that before.

Some of your listeners out there hearing this might think, “Man, I’m going through some brain fog. I’m going through some fatigue. I keep fighting through that and things aren’t getting better. They’re only getting worse.”

The best way I can describe it, Pete, is I was walking – visualize this – I’m walking down this road and this giant wind, this hurricane-force wind just keeps blowing me off the road and I’ve got to get back up on the road and then it blows me off again or I wobble around. That’s what my thought was like during the day.

I’d always been a super hard charger. We may get into some of my career and what I’ve done and things like that, but I’ve always been a super hard charger. I was like man, this is not good. This is not right. I can’t do. I can’t run at the pace and the hustle and the grind and all this stuff people talk about. I can’t do it anymore because I’m so fatigued both mentally and physically and the mentally started taking over more than the physically or the physical.

I went to a neurologist, one of the leading neurologists here in Dallas. He got in there with his staff and for like two hours they just typed away on computers. He came back to me and said, “We’re going to run you through a bunch of tests. We’re going to run you through a lot of scenarios as far as testing out what this is because if there’s something there, we want to know what it is. But, my friend, I think you need to get some sleep.”

Of course, I’m like, “Okay, doctor.” I’m like okay, I kind of want there to be something. You never wish there to be something but it’s like “I want there to be something because that can’t be the answer.”

He comes back and says, “Like I said, we’ll run you through the tests, but you need to get some sleep. What I want you to do is I want you to track your ten day rolling average of time in bed, from the time you go to sleep – from the time you get in bed to the time you get out of bed. I want you to track your ten day rolling average.”

Pete Mockaitis
Ten day rolling average. That is a very specific statistical measure of your sleep.

Jarrod Warren
I get now why he said that because if you just track your every single night sleep, there’s going to be so many data points over the course of even a six month or a three month period that it’s not indicative of how your real sleep patterns are going. I understand why he did that now.

I said, “Okay, I’ll track my ten day rolling average.” On my first ten day rolling average, Pete, my time in bed was four hours and three minutes. That was just ten day rolling average.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s just time in bed. That’s not even your sleep.

Jarrod Warren
Yeah, exactly, exactly. That’s time in bed.

Pete Mockaitis
Were you using just a standard notepad or app or how were you kind of getting the data?

Jarrod Warren
I use an app called Sleep Cycle.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Jarrod Warren
It’s awesome. So many people in the bio-hacking community and neurological community, the sleep community, people that I follow nowadays and associate with, they follow this Sleep Cycle app. It’s so good.

What I would do is I would get in bed at night and I would set my alarm. I would start. Then when I’d wake up in the morning the first thing I’d do is turn that thing off and it would track my sleep time. It’s awesome. It’s an incredible – it’s just an incredible app.

Four hours and three minutes. I reported that to him and his team. He said, “Like I said, we’re going to run you through an MRI, a neurocognitive brain study, an eight-hour neurocognitive test,” which wore me out, by the way. I’ve never been so mentally fatigued after that eight hour test of just using my brain all day long. He said, “But I think you need sleep.”

It was pretty apparent what he was getting at at that point was how important sleep is. I hadn’t really gotten into this bio-hacking, this peak performance type state that I’m in now, which is why I run my podcast, Success 101 podcast, that’s where all of this came from, which is just understanding how important all of this is.

He said, “Look, we’ve got to get you to five. It’s still going to suck at five hours, but we’ve got to get you to five and then we’ve got to get you to six.” I’m proud to say that since the end of 2015 to right now when we’re recording this in 2018 and really for quite a while in 2018 now even since almost the beginning of the year, I’ve been right at seven hours of sleep per night.

You’ve got to give some things up. If you’re a hard charger out there, if you want to be awesome at your job quote/unquote, if you’re looking at our society today, especially the Western culture, they tell you to be awesome at your job, you’ve got to hustle and grind. You’ve got to muscle it through. You’ve got to run through the brick walls. Nobody wants to do that.

I think we’re going to get out a couple of generations from now and realize “Man, they had it all wrong.” This whole social media hustle grind. Who knows what’s going to be around at that point. But nobody wants to do that. Everybody wants to just show up and have money fall in their lap and have the business deals fall in their lap. But the problem is we’re going about it in such a wrong way.

That was my story. It was like I had done the hustle for so long. I’d muscled it through for so long. I’d worked hard for so long and then life happened. I had my third child. I was running an office, a financial planning advisory firm that I run, which is my main staple here, coaching advisors, working with my own clients. Everything just kind of hit.

My burnout, I remember it just like yesterday. I was walking through my bedroom – it wasn’t even a really tough day. It was just a mediocre day. I’m walking through my bedroom. All of the sudden, just imagine taking 2 200-pound sandbags and just putting them on each shoulder. For the first time in my life I felt this physical weight. It was all for my mind, but it was a physical weight.

I got in the fetal position in my bedroom, something a guy like me, being transparent was too prideful to do in the past. I probably looked at those type of people as weak people. When I heard about panic attacks, I’m like, “Okay, let’s just be tougher. Let’s just work harder. Let’s just-”

Pete Mockaitis
Suck it up. Walk it off.

Jarrod Warren
Yeah, right. Let’s go. I’ll compete with you in anything. I’m the most competitive person you may know. Here I am in the fetal position in my bedroom. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I’m going “Holy crap, what is this?”

I sat there for a couple of minutes. I gathered my thoughts. I recognized it. I was like this is a physical weight on me right now. I did some deep breathing exercises. I stood up and I sat on the edge of the bed. I remember it like yesterday.

It’s crazy. I don’t know why I’m getting emotional thinking about it right now. But I sat on the edge of the bed and I just thought literally what I just said. I was like, “What crap is that?” I got up slowly and I changed my clothes. I went and had dinner with my family.

About two months later to the date, something about half as bad happened. It wasn’t quite as bad. I just kind of stopped for a second and sat there and recognized it for what it was. I’m like no more, no more, no more, no more. Because what I realized was I was a shell of a person that I thought I was.

I was wrapped up, without even realizing it honestly, wrapped up in this pride of work harder than anybody, challenge anybody, competitiveness, that builds energy. I realized wow, I’m going about this the wrong way.

I remember the very next morning I woke up and thought something’s got to change. I’m going to be a horrible husband, a horrible father, a horrible mentor. I call myself a leader, what the heck am I doing. I didn’t know what leadership was. Leadership to me I realized was just a title.

I chastised people early on about that. So many people are chasing titles. They want to get in these positions and they don’t even know how to lead people then I found myself in that position. I was like, “Whoa, man. Holy cow, what a hypocrite I am.” I had to take a big step back.

Funny enough, I started listening to old school people, classic people like Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar. What they taught me was is that optimism, which I always thought was kind of pie in the sky, hocus pocus, just shoot for the moon and you’ll land in the stars, all those sort of things. I’m like what the heck does that even mean?

I started realizing man, these guys understand functional optimism, which is life really sucks. Life is bad around you. This is a pretty chaotic world that we’ve built for ourselves, but look at all the blessings that you have that you can really understand to sink your teeth into each day and focus on those things. I started really understanding that.

Then I started noticing. It’s like you buy the red car and everyone on the street’s driving a red car. I started noticing that I’m burnt out and everybody else is burnt out too. I started recognizing that.

Where the Success 101 podcast was born was really me understanding that and saying, “Man, I’ve got to help people.” I’ve got to help people understand that you can hustle, you can grind. You can compete. You can do all of this. But if you’re not doing it in a smart way, you’re only not going to be great at your job, but you’re going to be pretty horrible in life as well, as a father, a husband, a leader, a mentor, a fill in the blank, whatever.

That was my path to a complete 180 turnaround. I’m so fortunate. I’m so blessed I learned that at a young age because where I am today – I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have that turnaround. Where I am today, I’m just so thankful where I am now because I’ve gone through that.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m intrigued then because we have a unique situation. Sleep has come up numerous times on the show as one of the top things you can do to boost your performance. In you, have we an intriguing case study in that you were hardcore doing very little sleeping. Now you’re doing normal, recommended amounts of sleeping. You experienced a huge relief/release, no longer this crushing weight and pressure, which is awesome.

I guess I want to also focus in kind of talking to your former self, who when we’re talking about hard charging, no time for sleep, let’s get her done, let’s make it happen, all that stuff. Tell me, how has your performance been enhanced or impacted by increased sleep?

Jarrod Warren
Oh, it’s been unbelievable, just in the way my brain works, the way my body works, the way I process things, even down to the level of forming sentences differently than what I did before.

Because remember, early on, I told you I thought my brain was turning to cabbage. People kind of laugh when they hear that. I’m like, “No, really.” That’s not just me fabricating an idea or thought. I really felt that something was super wrong. What it showed me was it showed me the true importance of sleep.

I’ve been fortunate, I’ve been blessed. I’ve accomplished some things in my business, my financial planning career with my clients and running the office that I’m running here in Dallas at a topnotch financial firm and being an entrepreneur where all the financial risk is on me and with three kids. Actually, Pete, what happened was, I started having more kids and getting less sleep and performing better than before I had kids.

The typical persona of what people go through is they start having more kids, they have less sleep, they have more stress. I was able to combat that before all of that happened and actually do the reverse of that even with three kids now and running a 50% office and my own financial planning practice. When I say I’ve had a complete 180 turnaround, it’s the real deal. I’m so fortunate I went through that.

Pete Mockaitis
You talked about less sleep, so you had a recovery period of normal sleep and then you had more kids and then less sleep or could you—

Jarrod Warren
No, no, no, I’m saying most people have more kids and go through less sleep. I had more kids and went through more sleep.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’m with you.

Jarrod Warren
Because I had learned my lessons early on. Again, that’s why I’m fortunate. I’ve got clients who are in their 40s or 50s that are talking about really hitting this – call it a midlife crisis. I don’t know if that phrase is used a whole lot anymore, but just call it this reality of man, I’ve really wasted a lot of life. I’ve done things the wrong way. I’m coming to this revelation that I haven’t done things the right way.

I’ll be honest with you man, this happened to me just out of nowhere, but at the same time I’m so glad that I went through this before I was in my 40s or 50s because I look at those people and go man, that would have been me. I would have been even worse off than them. How much time waste?

If people ask me what my biggest fear is, it is a wasted life. You can quantify that in many different ways for many different people, but for me it has to do with what are you doing to add impact to other people? As a financial advisor I feel like I have a huge responsibility to add impact to other people, but also my family, also my wife, also my friends.

Pete, you know, years ago I went to my wife’s graduation and George Bush Senior – not to be political here – but George Bush Senior was talking there, whatever you think about him. He comes out and says, “I’ve been all over the world. I’ve done this. I’ve done that. I’ve been the President. I’ve done this. I’ve done that.” He said, “And the most important thing in life is family and friends.”

The crowd kind of just erupts because when somebody says something like that after what’s he’s accomplished, you’re like, “Wow, if he can say that, what are we doing?” I realized for my family, my friends, my business, it’s like wow, what a blessing it is to learn this at such a young age so that I can be awesome at what I’m doing every day because hindsight is 20/20.

Pete Mockaitis
So then can you tell us when it comes to – what’s the trick to getting more sleep while having more kids at the same time? How does one accomplish this?

Jarrod Warren
Wow, where do we start? Right now we’ve been in a hotel for four weeks because my youngest daughter decided that one of my older daughter’s shorts should go down the toilet and flooded our entire house. They came in – yeah – they came in and moved everything out of our house. If you go in our house right now it looks like a war zone.

We’ve been in a hotel for four weeks, looks like we’ll be there for another four to six weeks. It just – it’s one of those things. It is what it is. But I’m looking at that going, “Man, how would I have handled that before? How would I have looked at that?”

If you’ll let me, Pete, I’ll kind of go down this path of what, like I said, the hustle, the grind, muscling it through, hard work versus working hard. I do think there’s a difference there, kind of doing the same things that got you there doesn’t work as you get older.

Your question of as you have more kids, getting more sleep, it’s like if you keep doing the same things you were doing when you were 25, I mean, I used to go work out at 10:30 PM when I was 25 and I looked at that as a stress relief. If I went and worked out at 10:30 right now, that would be a huge stressor in my life just with everything that I’ve got going on.

But I’m really big on – like you have to have a morning routine and an evening routine. I know those phrases – your listeners may hear that and go, “Oh man, I’ve heard that like 100,000 times on other podcasts.” It’s kind of that old dead horse that’s been kicked too many times, right? But I’m going to keep coming back to it. You have to have a proper morning and evening routine.

I’ve said many times before, 80% or more, probably more than that, but 80% or more of an incredible day actually starts in the PM, the night before. People try to start attacking the day from the time they wake up and really we’re not very good at that. We snooze too much. I snooze – for 14 years I snoozed for an hour, over an hour. I would set my alarm for an hour before I had to get up knowing I was going to snooze for an hour. How ridiculous is that?

But 80% or more of an incredible day is actually starts at the PM. As a society Pete, we’re incredibly sleep deprived, especially here in the West, where we’re getting less than six hours of sleep. It’s actually almost down to five and a half. You might as well round it down to five and a half now. A couple of generations ago they were sleeping over ten hours a night before the light bulb was invented.

How do you think that changes a society? How do you think that changes a mindset, like your daily mindset when you’re grinding it out? Why do you think nowadays there’s so many people on SSRIs and stimulants and Adderall and Ritalin?

Why do you think that the depression rates and people saying that they’re unfulfilled are at all-time highs even though we have more technology, more ability, more opportunities to do more in business and profitability today than ever before and people are making more in our society, especially here in the West, than ever before. But worldwide, why do you think that is?

It’s because people are ruining their minds, just as I was. Science backs this up. Like stress, if you look at stress, stress is not good or bad. It’s all depending on how you look at it because you can say stress is what got me to the point of life that I am because it really challenged me or you could say stress really got me depressed. It all depends on how you look at it.

But stress stimulates the brain and it creates a chemical called noradrenaline. That improves or I guess disconnects neural connectivity. That’s why so many of us perform better before deadlines. You’ve probably heard that before from your guests. It’s like if there’s a deadline, if there’s a stressor, if there’s something I’m going to perform better at that.

But it’s a difficult balance because if we let stress impact us the wrong way, then we’re going to be going down the path that I was going down for so long. If we’re pushed too far, our bodies actually react by producing a steroid called cortisol. Your listeners may be very familiar with that. That puts us in a hyper-alert state. It increases our heart rate. It impacts all the people around us.

That’s what I was doing. I’m like, “Man, I’m a really bad leader. I’m a terrible husband. I will eventually be a terrible father if I stay on this path.” I had really high levels of cortisol in the blood testing that I did along with very, very low levels of testosterone and DHEA. I was really destroying my adrenal glands.

In fast-paced workplaces today like we’re all in, we’ve got to look at this stress as good stress. We’ve got to learn how to turn stress into good stress or we’re going to have adrenal fatigue.

For any of your listeners listening out there, if you haven’t heard to haven’t experienced adrenal fatigue, go Google that. There’s probably 100 million articles out there about what your adrenals do and how they play a very crucial part of you guys being really good at your job every day and really good at life.

But as leaders, we’ve got to check in to make sure that our top performers aren’t going through high stress levels, that we’re turning stress into positive stress without having people really drift into distress, I would call it.

Pete Mockaitis
So then, let’s talk about it. First of all, evening routines. I’ve heard much more about morning routines and we’re having Hal Elrod on the show a bit later.

Jarrod Warren
Oh, I like that.

Pete Mockaitis
I know he’s going to rock out on the morning routine, so let’s focus on the evening.

Jarrod Warren
His book – just to kind of go into that. When I was going through all of this, his book the morning – basically The Miracle Morning and The Miracle Morning for Sales People, which I read second, I mean genius.

Again, I said 80% or more of a great day starts actually in the evening. If any of your listeners are hearing this and they’re thinking “Man, I agree with Jarrod. I’m stressed. I’ve got a lot of stress going on. But wow, he’s talking about a lot of work, a lot of stuff I’ve got to do,” I really want you guys to maybe listen to this a couple of times through if you’re feeling that way and really dissect what I’m saying.

Because here’s the deal, and this is what I’ve learned, Pete, is that there’s a lot of things in life that if they constrain you, they can add more stress to your plate, let’s just face it. You’ve got these constraints, you’re bundled up.

But when you’re looking to eliminate stress, you’re looking for more of a positive mindset, you’re looking to turn a 180 from all the things I’ve described, having a structured lifestyle, especially a morning and evening routine, since that’s what we’re talking about here, can actually give you a ton of freedom.

I had Ed Mylett on my podcast recently. He and I both talked about how constrained lifestyles, if you’re doing it for the right reasons to reduce stress and get in a better state of structure, can actually give you more freedom rather than making you feel bound up.

What do I do in my evening routine? First of all I’m always testing. If you go to my tools and resources page, I think it’s Success101Podcast.com/Resources, you’re going to see all of the tools and testing that I always do. It’s my most updated page that I have on my site because I’m always testing new things.

But I would say number one, just at a base level, you guys have to be using a light blocker at night. When I say at night, again, 80% of a great morning starts the evening before, I would back that even up further until like before the time you get off work. I use a blue light blocker on my Apple devices all through the day and on my Windows devices at work all through the day. You’ll never—

Pete Mockaitis
So like f.lux?

Jarrod Warren
Yeah, I use f.lux.

Pete Mockaitis
So you’ve got f.lux going all day?

Jarrod Warren
Yeah, all day long.

Pete Mockaitis
F.lux, we can share what f.lux is for those who don’t have it yet. Explain what f.lux is.

Jarrod Warren
If you’ve got Night Shift on your phone, I’ll leave that on 24 hours a day. In fact, I’ve got mine set up from 2:59 AM to 3:00 AM, so there’s like a minute there when I’m sleeping that it goes back to the regular state because you can’t just keep it on all the time.

But if you ever pull up my – people pull up my phone all the time to look at a picture or look a document or whatever and they’re like “Why’s it so yellow?” I’m like, “Oh sorry, I’ve got a filter on that. Let me turn it off.”

But I use f.lux as well on my Window’s devices. You can do that on Mac also. But I’ve always got a filter on all of my devices. Now some people would say blue light is actually really good for you early in the mornings to get you awake. After what I went through, I don’t – I’m not trying to play that game at all. I’m like man, I’ll keep the filters on all day long. It doesn’t matter to me.

But if you’ve got those filters on your phone or on your computer, like f.lux or like Night Shift, that’s going to eliminate a ton of problematic blue light for you guys. If you just keep it on – like now if somebody gives me their phone and I have to watch a video for like a minute or two, like the blue light literally starts hurting my eyes. It’s kind of crazy how that works.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’ve got to give a shout out to a recent sponsor, Phonetic Eyewear, who makes these glasses that reflect a portion of the blue light. I’m wearing them right now. They’re pretty cool.

I like it that it’s very subtle. It’s kind of hard to notice that the white difference unless you’re really looking closely and flipping them off and on, which is nice so that you’re getting some protection without feeling like the whole world looks weirdly yellow.

But so you’re – how yellow are we getting if I may ask with your f.lux? Is it like halfway on or 100% on?

Jarrod Warren
I’d say it’s halfway on because if you put it 100% on it would almost be red. It would be completely red. I have that as well. I will send you, Pete, if you want to link it up in show notes, I will send you how you can turn your iPhone completely red at night.

If I’m sitting, like right now we’re in a hotel, so it’s not ideal. We’ve got two bedrooms and a small, tiny kitchen that we’re – it’s just like oh my gosh. If you told me this five years ago we’d be living in this, I’d be freaking out. But we’re good. We’re totally good. My kids are all – I’ve got three daughters. They just all kind of climb into bed together.

But when I’m sitting in there with them because of course it’s kind of scary at night in a new place. They’re like, “We want you to sit in here,” so I’ll kind of get on my iPad at night, but I can triple tap my home screen and make my screen turn blood red at night.

That’s really cool because if you just have Night Shift on, even if you turn it all the way down to the lowest level at night – my recommendation to you guys would all be to be super disciplined and have a digital sunset. As soon as the sun goes down, you guys never look at a screen again.

But if you have to look at a screen to check a message or if you want to watch a movie with your wife in bed at night or whatever, I can send the notes to show you how to turn the color themes on your iPads/iPhones, whatever, I don’t know how to do it on Android, but turn it to blood red and you can turn it down really low. It’s really cool.

But during the day it’s about halfway on, so it’s more of like a yellow tint, like a washed out looking yellow tint. I’ve got that on 24 hours a day. I think there’s enough study out right now for people who are in older generations or when we get out to older generations that are showing that our eyesight is going to be gone from all this blue light.

The only time that I have blue light on my phone and I turn all of that off is first thing in the morning if I’m checking – I try not to check emails first thing when I wake up to start my day off in a reactive state, but if I want to do something fun, if I want to check social media whenever I wake up or I want to check ESPN on Saturday mornings for college football, I’ll actually turn blue light on in full effect, full effect because that will wake me up really fast.

But if you’ve got that on all the time, there are so many studies showing how it’s going to really decrease our eyesight over time and there’s – let’s face it, there’s not enough studies on these iPhones yet. They just came out in 2008. There’s not enough studies yet to really determine how all of this blue light is really going to affect our – or impact our vision. I’m telling you there’s going to be a lot of people needing glasses earlier in life because of all the blue light that’s coming through their screens.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Okay, you’ve got f.lux. You’ve got a link coming to us. Thank you. I will put that up with the show notes with regard to getting the super red very quickly. Then that’s part of the game is keeping the blue light from messing with your sleep. Awesome. What else?

Jarrod Warren
I’ve got my good friend James Swanwick out in California, who I’m always promoting his glasses because he’s got these blue light blocking glasses called Swannies.

I’ll tell you my first – when I first started diving into this way back in the day, I bought these literally seven dollar welder’s glasses off of Amazon to wear at night. My kids thought I looked like Bono. They kind of laughed. It’s kind of funny. But you’re in the comfort of your own home, so who cares.

But we’d be watching TV at night or we’d be doing whatever before all these blue light blocking technologies. I’m like, well, hey, I’ve got these amber looking glasses on that look ridiculous, but man, they sure are helping me wind down. I’d put those on about 90 minutes before I go to bed.

Now, fortunately, several companies have come out including James Swanwick. My friend Dave Asprey over at Bulletproof, they’ve got these glasses that will really help you wind down a lot faster. You’ve got to use a blue light blocker on your screens. You’ve got to use the blue light blocking glasses if you’re watching TV though because most TVs nowadays don’t have blue light blocking technology.

I think in the future that’s going to be – I mean if company like Apple, a trillion dollar company, has realized the need to put blue light blocking technology on every single device they make, the TV, Samsung, all these other – LG, all these other TVs, they’re going to come out with that soon enough. But for now you’ve got to wear those glasses. Luckily they look pretty stylish. They’re pretty good.

That would be number one is use a blue light blocker, whether it’s glasses on a TV that doesn’t have a blue light blocker or use it on your mobile devices like Apple that does.

Second thing is you’ve got to have a caffeine curfew. Caffeine is powerful. Your listeners are going to know if you’re being good at your job and you’re being great at what you do, let’s face it, most people nowadays, they’re chasing after some caffeine. It’s a nervous system stimulant, but if your nervous system is lit up at night, you can forget about high-quality sleep. You can forget about a great morning the next day.

Guys, set really a hardline unbreakable curfew that your body can remove that. Pete, I don’t know if you’ve ever done any research on this, but caffeine has a half-life of about six hours for your average person. That’s average. There’s going to be some people it has a half-life of like eight hours. That means eight hours after you drink a cup of coffee, half of the stimulant response is still going to be present there in your body.

I’ve seen people drinking coffee after dinners at night. I’ve seen people drinking coffee at five PM just because they’re like, “Man, I’m slammed. I don’t want to go home feeling so groggy. I’m going to kick a little caffeine before I go home.” It’s like ah, don’t do that. For the average person it’s a six hour half-life, so three hours after you have that cup of caffeine, you’re still going to be wired.

If you have that after a dinner at night with friends or at a restaurant or whatever, and you’re sitting there at 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock trying to go to sleep, you may have half of those caffeine remnants still in your body.

For me, I shut that thing off at 2 PM. I have no caffeine after 2 PM, none, whatsoever. I love coffee. I love the taste of coffee. Right now in Texas, it’s super hot, so I like iced coffee and nitro coffee and everything that’s cold. But after 2 PM, I’m not having any stimulants whatsoever. I’m trying to do things to wind down, which is more in the GABA supplements and things like that, which we can go into.

But just remember don’t have any – like have a caffeine curfew. Don’t have any caffeine after about 2 maybe 3 at the most PM and you’re going to get an awesome sleep.

Third thing is use high quality magnesium. Pete, especially for us as guys, we’re really deficient in magnesium. Just in our Western diet we don’t get it as much as we should. But magnesium – I had to do all this research because I didn’t know any of this – but it helps optimize circulation, blood pressure, balance of blood sugar. It helps relax your muscles if you get the right type.

It helps reduce pain if you work out and you’re a little sore from your morning workout or your evening workout. It’s going to help reduce all that. It’s going to calm down the nervous system, especially to keep your mind from just running crazy.

But magnesium is the number one mineral deficiency in our world today, especially in our Western culture as I keep coming back to. Getting your magnesium levels up, can almost instantly reduce your body’s stress load, improve the quality of sleep.

I use a product called Calm. You can go to my resources page as I mentioned earlier and Calm is on there. It’s not something you want to take a lot of because you’ll be on the toilet at night because magnesium makes your body flush out – again, it’s a muscle relaxer, so it makes your body flush out a lot of things. But it’s going to help you really get to sleep.

Then lastly, I want you guys to get your rooms blacked out. This is one that I was a little slow to come around on. If you read my friend Dave Asprey’s book called Head Strong. I had followed Dave Asprey for a long time, the creator of Bulletproof. He said he was coming out with a new book called Head Strong. I thought, “Man, okay, maybe I’ll get it.” I’m not really sure what else Dave can teach me. He blew my mind with all the things he came out with.

But one of the main things he talks about is mitochondrial function. Mitochondria is the powerhouse of your cells. It’s what energy comes from. It’s what good sleep comes from. It’s what really a good rested mind comes from. So many people are sleeping in very bright light situations.

Especially right now, I posted a picture just the other day on my Instagram page, Jarrod Warren Consulting, that showed one of those hangers that you hang pants on in a hotel room. I’ve got the hanger pinching the curtain rods because I’ve got the curtain rods all folded up just to where no light can get in whatsoever and I’ve got the hanger pinching those together. I think I said something like tips to a good night’s sleep or something. I listed those as one of them.

But having light sources of any type in your bedroom can seriously disrupt your sleep patterns. Again, I would have heard of that five years ago and gone, “Oh man, come on. Really? Just go to sleep.” But even using an eye mask. I use an eye mask every night. I use nose spacers now to get really good deep nostril air, which builds nitric oxide, which helps you sleep a lot deeper.

Here’s the big one. I may lose your listeners on this, but I learned this from my good friend Patrick McKeown, who wrote the book The Oxygen Advantage. I tape my mouth shut every single night with surgical paper tape. Every night. I’ve done this for almost two years.

Pete Mockaitis
I have heard Patrick McKeown recommend this before. He’s Irish, right?

Jarrod Warren
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So if you go to my—

Yeah, if you go to my podcast, I’ve got two episodes with Patrick McKeown. I had to have him on because I started understanding how when you tape your mouth shut at night, most of us are mouth breathers even during the day, so you can imagine when you go to sleep at night.

Pete Mockaitis
Mouth breather.

Jarrod Warren
But you lose almost a pound of water at night just through dehydration, breathing through your mouth and through your skin, and sweat. You’ve probably heard those mattress commercials where they’re like, “Hey, every eight years you need to change your mattress because it’s got like such and such pounds of skin and sweat and all kinds of stuff in it.” It just grows, right? But we lose over a pound of water every single night just by breathing out of our mouths whenever we fall asleep.

If you tape your mouth shut with paper surgical tape, which I’ve done for almost two years now. I use nose spaces because I broke my nose twice early in life playing basketball. I’ve got a severely deviated septum. I probably need to go get some surgery done on it. Like if I breathe in really hard, one nostril that completely collapses.

If you have any listeners out there that are experiencing that, you may want to get some nose spacers. I’ll hook that up – I’ll let you know, Pete, in your show notes how to hook that up as well. I’ve got nose spacers. I’ve got an eye mask on to completely black things out. I’ve got the mouth tape on.

Pete Mockaitis
You must look terrifying. It’s like who is this monster.

Jarrod Warren
Yeah. No, my wife has a field day. She’s like, “Oh my God.” She doesn’t prescribe to any of this. But she’s tired a lot during the day. I’m like you’ve got your phone in your face. You’re not doing anything – I’m a champion of thinking eventually she’s going to come around, but who knows.

But I do this every night. Again, your listeners may hear this and go, “Man, I’m not getting great sleep. I’m already stressed out. That’s so much workload to my plate of everything that I have to do.” I’m telling you, if you will structure your life in this way, you will have such a better life.

I mean literally now it’s to the point that I put that tape on my mouth at night and my brain automatically starts winding down no matter what I’ve done because it just knows man, it is time for sleep. I’ve got the nose spacers in because of the deviated septum. If you don’t have a broken nose in two places, like I do, maybe you don’t need to deal with that. But I’ll send the link for your show notes. Then the eye mask. Then I even sleep with ear plugs in.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Jarrod Warren
Back when we had our first kid, I was running a brand new business here with a 50 person office and I was like – I told my wife I was like, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to get sleep.” She was such a champion to let me get sleep. But I put Hearos – they’re called Hearos ear plugs. I’ll send you the link for that as well. Hearos ear plugs, the highest decibel rated ear plugs.

I put those – literally if somebody broke into my house at night, I’d be in big trouble because I don’t know that I’d wake up at all. I put the Hearos ear plugs in, the night mask, the nose spacers and the tape over my mouth. I’m telling you man, I sleep like a rock. It’s awesome.

I get up. I’m so refreshed in the morning. Most days I don’t even need any caffeine. I don’t need anything to get me going. I splash a little water on my face and I’m ready to rock and roll with a very positive clear mindset. I’ve gone through all my sleep cycles and I am good to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Now I’m well convinced. We’ve had some previous sleep doctors on the show with regard to the sound blocking and the light blocking. I often end up with the ear plugs and sleep mask myself.

I want to dig into this mouth covering business. The advantage is that it kind of forces you to breathe through your nose and thusly you’ll lose less moisture. What’s this doing for me, this mouth taping?

Jarrod Warren
Well, again, you lose over a pound – the average person loses a pound of water every single night.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s why I like to weigh myself in the morning, Jarrod.

Jarrod Warren
Yeah, right. Make sure you urinate too.

Pete Mockaitis
I do.

Jarrod Warren
A lot of people weigh themselves before they urinate, that’s like two pounds there if you’re really trying to track your weight.

Basically, you can lose just through your mouth, and that’s not including your skin and your sweat, but you lose over a pound of water. Basically look at it like this, you’re dehydrated by less of a pound every single night just through your mouth.

If you tape that shut, first of all you’re going to retain that. Secondly, if you’re in a place with high allergies, which I never had allergies until we moved to Dallas about seven years ago. But it’s like – I don’t know. I feel like it’s the allergy capital of the world. Every year about three or four times a year, I was getting complete like absolute laryngitis. I couldn’t talk. I would have to cancel three or four days of my financial planning meetings.

I don’t have that anymore. Why? Because I don’t let all that cold air down in my throat. I’m retaining my hydration. I’m also making sure that I’m building more nitric oxide. If you look at nitric oxide and all the benefits that it has for your heart, for your lungs, for your brains.

Pete, I know you don’t promote this a lot, but if you’re looking at – as a guy, if you’re looking for more blood flow in the areas you really want blood flow as a guy, nitric oxide is going to do that, if you get what I’m saying there. There’s a lot of reasons to build nitric oxide.

Your nose builds that based on how we were created and how we were made. Your mouth doesn’t do that. Also, when you breathe through your mouth, you do deep chest breathing. If you’ve studied any breathing exercises from Wim Hof or my friend Mark Divine about filling your belly full of air, like there’s so much of a – gosh, where do we go with this.

80% of serotonin, which is the feel food chemical that your brain makes is actually produced in the gut.  A lot of that happens with you breathing into the gut, not breathing in through your mouth. When you breathe through your nose, you breathe through the gut. You fill up your belly, big deep belly breathe.

If you guys are trying to get relaxed out there, if you’re like “Man, I’m dealing with a super hard day,” just stop, sit back in your chair or I’ve got a standing desk here. Just lean back on a surface, just kind of relax for a second, sit down, breathe deeply through your nose. Science has shown that four deep breaths – four to six deep breaths for most people can significantly reduce blood pressure, stress, cortisol, all of those sort of things.

If you’re doing that all night long and you’re breathing through your nose and deep belly filling your air versus deep chest filling, which builds cortisol, just imagine how much more refreshed you’re going to wake up and be ready to take on the day and be awesome at your job.

Versus not doing that, waking up dehydrated, especially if you had a little bit to drink and you’ve even more dehydrated. You hadn’t drink enough water, which I was bad about for years. It’s just – the science, it’s just not arguable behind it as to how your body works and how you build nitric oxide, how you reduce dehydration and how you wake up more rested every day.

Tape your mouth shut at night guys. If you’ve got a deviated septum, like I do, use nose spacers. I’ll send you the link, Pete. And if you are in an area that has any light whatsoever, I’ll also send you the link to the best sleep blackout mask that I’ve ever tried in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, Jarrod, I would say link away. I’d love them all. I’d also love to the extent that you’ve got the journal articles and studies and research support, that’s great. Some of them I’m already convinced on, like yes, of course, it must be completely dark. I’m well on board. Others, it’s like – this mouth taping sounds a little weird, but I’m always down to try.

Jarrod Warren
It sounds nuts. It sounds nuts, man.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m always willing to experiment, Jarrod. I’m looking at the Amazon page right now for paper surgical tape. Am I looking at one inch wide? How wide do I want it?

Jarrod Warren
Yeah, one inch. 3M, 3M surgical paper tape.

Pete Mockaitis
Micropore.

Jarrod Warren
Micropore, yeah, that’s correct.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’m looking at it. You’ve got it.

Jarrod Warren
You want surgical micropore hypoallergenic so that it doesn’t cause any – the worst thing that I have in the morning, and if you call it the worst thing, it’s like it’s a little stickiness on my lips from the glue. But it’s hypoallergenic. It’s microporous, so it breathes a little bit but not enough for you to open up your lips at night.

The surgical paper tape, that’s what top surgeons use whenever they tape up people. Your skin has to breathe. It has to be porous. It’s all just a perfect recipe for you to put on your lips at night.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it’s funny. I see it’s got some 743 reviews. I’m guessing a segment of them are people like you who are taping their mouths shut.

Jarrod Warren
Yeah. You hear that and you’re like 743 reviews, holy cow. How have I not been privy to this?

Pete Mockaitis
Well maybe there are probably like physicians like “This is great. After I draw blood I use this.” Then some are like, “I’ve been taping my mouth shut. My wife loves it.”

Jarrod Warren
It’s still weird to me. Two years in I’m literally – maybe I’m over two years now – two years in and I still put that on my mouth at night. I tell my wife – she’s talking to me at night and I’m like, “Okay, I’m putting my tape on.” She’s like, “Okay.” Two years in she’s used—

Pete Mockaitis
She’s like, “Finally. I wish you would have done that an hour ago, Jarrod.”

Jarrod Warren
Right. You should have put that on for the last three days. But it’s still weird. If you feel normal putting tape onto your mouth and putting ear plugs in and putting nose spacers in, if you feel normal doing that, like I’m more worried about you than not.

But that’s just – that’s the culture, the society that’s built for us today is that you hear that and you’re like, “Oh, that’s weird,” but do you want to be like the culture that we’ve built today? Do you want to be getting less than six hours of sleep at night when two generations ago before the light bulb was invented, we were getting over ten hours of sleep?

The depression, the SSRIs, the Adderall, the Ritalin, the caffeine. Just look at how our society operates today and say do you want to be like that or do you want to be a little off the beaten path and see what science has really come up with as far as what helps your body at night.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, well Jarrod tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things.

Jarrod Warren
I would encourage your listeners to shower at night instead of in the morning just because that’s going to help you get up faster without having to take the shower. I think so much of this is mental. If you feel like you have to get a shower in the morning like I did for so many years, then you’re going to feel like “I’m groggy. I’m walking into the shower. I’m wiping out my eyes in the shower. I’m going to stand there for a long time under the water.”

You just get a slow start to your day. Take the shower the night before and if you’re going to get in the water during the morning, take a cold shower. Turn the nozzle as cold as it can go. Your mitochondria in your body, your systems, everything wakes up.

The very first thing you guys want to do in the morning is to drink about 32 ounces of water to kick start your adrenals and kick start your system.

I would encourage you guys – Pete, I know we’re rushing through this kind of fast here at the end, but I would encourage you guys to do a little bit of sea salt, Himalayan pink sea salt and a little bit of lemon squeeze, like lemon juice is fine if you don’t have a natural lemon, but that’s going to help it to be more – it’s going to help wake up your adrenals in the morning to where you’ve got a little bit of salt, a little bit of lemon.

You’re crushing 32 ounces of water in the morning right when you wake up because you’re so dehydrated in the morning.

Then just make sure that you guys aren’t snoozing for 14 years like I did to where you start your day off so reactionary.

We haven’t even talked about alcohol, but I would say, I mentioned having a caffeine curfew in the evening, make sure you guys have an alcohol curfew for those of you who drink about three hours before you go to sleep because the REM sleep – and we don’t have time to get into this right no.

But the REM sleep and the deep sleep, the REM and the deep, as you’re cycling back and forth through those, you can’t cycle though those at night to get a super deep sleep if you’ve got alcohol in your system more than three hours before you go to sleep. That would be another – I guess, reverting back to the evening here – that would be another thing that I would tell you guys.

But just make sure you’re aware of what you eat and drink the night before including junk food, high carbs, alcohol, all of that before sleep, you’re going to – it’s going to be really hard for you to get in deep sleep if you’re doing that.

Pete Mockaitis
Great, thank you. Now could you share with us a favorite quote?

Jarrod Warren
Oh man, I have so many. I think my favorite quote is by Abraham Lincoln. I’m a big historical – like in fact this weekend, we’re going out to our farmhouse. I can trace my fatherhood all the way back to the late 1600s. It’s like father, father, father, father, father, father, all the way down to me. I’ve got these three girls and I’m an only child. I’m like, “Holy cow, it’s all going to end. It’s all going to end right here.”

But the Presidential, like the American Revolution, all of that is really – I don’t know why, it just kind of gets me. It’s just so important to me.

But my favorite quote I would think is by Abraham Lincoln. It says – I hope I don’t butcher this – but it says “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that matter, but the life in your years.” He was even smart enough back then to realize man, it’s not how long you live, it’s how many years in every year you actually live. I think that’s what I’m striving for nowadays is am I really living every single day.

A lot of the stuff you’ve heard on this podcast, a lot of the stuff in my evening/morning routine, it’s so that I can freaking live every day and be so different than I was before when I was dying. I know a lot of your listeners are going to resonate with this where they feel like they are just dying every day, but they’re trying so hard to grind it out, that doesn’t work.

It’s not the years in your life that matter, but the life in your years. If you’re not doing a lot of the stuff we talked about today, you’re not going to have a lot of the life in your years.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you, thank you. How about a favorite book?

Jarrod Warren
It would have to be With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham. If you guys haven’t read With Winning in Mind – Lanny Bassham is a mental strategy coach that coaches a lot of golf pros, a lot of Olympic athletes. If you think about the Olympics and you think about golf, what two sports really need more mental management than that? He runs a mental management clinic.

His book With Winning in Mind. He’s got a couple different books out actually. His son, Troy, has a book – Troy Bassham – has a book called Attainment. It’s like the 12 steps toward peak performance. Of course, that’s what my podcast is all about, so I’m all about that.

But With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham is one of my favorite books on the planet because it talks so much about how the brain deals with what we deal with every day and how you can really retrain that for being better at what you do each day.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Jarrod Warren
Man, the tool would be what I mentioned before. It’s going to be the sleep app. If you’re not tracking your sleep at night and if you don’t have a good morning and evening routine, then you guys are setting yourself up for failure every day.

Now, there may be some people, like I did for so many years, who could thrive without having that, but I would argue eventually you’re going to hit a brick wall. Eventually you’re going to be a shell of the person that you could have been. Don’t let that happen. Make sure you’re tracking your sleep.

Make sure you understand that 80% of an incredible day actually starts in the PM by getting all the blue light out of our face and using a sleep tracker at night. I actually use now the Oura ring. If your listeners are familiar with the O-U-R-A, the Oura ring.

It actually tracks my sleep in a little bit of a better way by not just tracking what time I went to bed and what time I got up, but actually tracking my sleep cycles because if you’re in a bed with a wife or a partner like I am, you can’t – the sleep cycle app, you can actually lay that on your mattress. If she’s moving around or if she’s doing something – it doesn’t know when I’m moving or not. With that device on your finger, it’s actually a lot better. That would be my tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. How about a favorite habit?

Jarrod Warren
Man, this is a tough one and this is one that if your listeners hear this, I would love some accountability on. It’s spending at least one hour a week in silence and deep thought while note taking.

I don’t know why – I have no idea with everything that I’ve learned why this has been so hard for me to get my mind around, but blocking off at least one hour – or not at least, but blocking off one hour on my calendar to where I sit in silence, I sit in deep thought and I journal. It’s been really hard – probably over the last six weeks I’ve been better at it then I have ever been in my life. I hope to continue that.

But if your listeners are like I am where they’re just kind of go, go, go and they can’t calm the mind and they’re busy all the time, this is probably one of the most important habits you guys can lock in.

Because what do people say? They say if you have a few minutes each week, you should meditate and spend time in silence and really calm the mind. If you feel like you don’t have time to mediate and calm the mind, if you feel like, “Man, I don’t have that time. I’ve got to be doing other things,” then you probably need two or three times that time for meditation because you’ve really got a real issue going on there.

But that would be one hour a week in silence and deep thought with note taking. I would really encourage your listeners to do that. That’s something I’m working on. I’ve gotten a lot better at, but for hard charging performers that want to be excellent at what they do each day, it’s really hard to just stop and be in silence, but I think it’s going to be the biggest game changer for people that really over time master that.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that seems to connect and resonate and gets quoted back to you frequently?

Jarrod Warren
It’s just to be present.

Pete Mockaitis
Jarrod, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Jarrod Warren
Oh man, thanks so much. My website is Success101Podcast.com. The resources page I’ve mentioned a couple of times is Success101Podcast.com/Resources.

If you guys want my book, which I don’t put out on Amazon, I don’t put out anywhere because I thought originally I was just going to give it out to clients and advisors and things like that, but it’s become – it’s been a blessing. It’s become really popular. It’s called From Success to Significance. I’m giving away the e-version of that right now.

If you just go to Success101Podcast.com/Book and you select the e-version, the e-book version and put “freesuccess101”, you’ll get a code to download that for free or if you want the paperback version, just enter Success 101 and you will just pay the shipping cost in the US.

It’s kind of a workbook that I developed, where people could go through and really understand what creating a vision, creating goals, creating a more positive mindset looks like. I’ve gotten – I’ve been so fulfilled by that because I’ve gotten such good feedback. But that’s where people can find me.

On Instagram I’m under Jarrod Warren Consulting. I’m on Facebook under Jarrod Warren as well. I’m kind of out there where you can find me. But it’s all pointing back toward sharpening ourselves, being at better at what we do each day by eliminating stress, distractions and really all the stuff we talked about with morning and evening routines.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Jarrod Warren
Man, I think I’ve already said it. I think it’s the morning and evening routines. I know that sounds so boring and ho hum and whatever and I would have felt that years ago, like, “Okay, yeah, I’ll do that. But what’s the real secret.” I think that’s it.

I think it’s really understanding that you’ve got to quiet your mind at the end of the day. You’ve got to make sure that you’re getting in bed on time. You’ve got to make sure that you understand in your mind that 80% or more of an incredible morning is only going to become – is only going to come whenever you focus on the PM and just making sure that you’re living a very essentialism or minimalistic type lifestyle, where we just get rid of all the noise.

I’ve always been such a big podcast fan and news fan and reading fan. Information is power. Information is power was such a common phrase years and years and years ago, like 30 – 40 – 50 years ago when there wasn’t a lot of information. Now we’ve got so much information that we almost have to say information can be noise and really just cutting out some of that is helpful.

I hope your listeners take a lot away from Success 101, which the Success 101 podcast is just how do we get back to the grassroots of success. It’s not making tons of money. It’s not being super influential. It’s how do we get back to all the stuff we talked about today toward the 101 of success. I think we’ve missed a lot of that in our society and I hope we get back to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Jarrod, thank you so much for sharing the goods. This was a whole lot of fun and I wish you tons of luck and a wondrous sleep night after night.

Jarrod Warren
Pete, thanks so much for having me here. It’s such a blessing. I just want to affirm you for just helping people be better at what they do day in and day out through your podcast and all the guests that you have on and all the episodes that you’ve had. What an incredible time we live in today where you can tune in and listen to podcasts like yours and mine and get so much information. I just really hope your listeners take a lot away from that.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

350: Productivity Principles to Make Time for What’s Important with Jake Knapp

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Jake Knapp shares how to deliberately design your day around what’s important to you, and how to give yourself more energy in the process.

You’ll Learn:

  1. A fresh definition for what makes a day successful
  2. Why and how to set the highlight of your day before it starts
  3. Approaches to clear out distractions for laser focus

About Jake

Jake spent 10 years at Google and Google Ventures, where he created the Design Sprint. He has since coached teams like Slack, Uber, 23andMe, LEGO, and The New York Times on the method. Previously, Jake helped build products like Gmail, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Encarta. He is currently among the world’s tallest designers.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jake Knapp Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jake, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Jake Knapp
Pete, thank you so much for having me, really excited about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to have you as well. I want to start where perhaps many of your interviews have started, your lack of a spleen. Tell us the whole story behind this.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, I don’t have a spleen. I lost it while playing basketball. Not like it fell out or anything. But I was in high school and playing basketball. I took a really weird hard fall, where I actually sort of got caught up with my legs caught up on somebody’s shoulder and fell down really hard.

I lived – I grew up on this remote island, not super remote, but you have to get there by ferry boat up in Washington State. In order to get sort of medical care, you have to be helicoptered off the island if it’s an emergency. They did that. By the time they got me to the hospital, I had almost bled to death internally.

I had about – as it turns out they just had to sort of cut me open, see what was going on, and they had to take the spleen out because there wasn’t time to fix it, so I have no spleen and that’s the backstory.

Pete Mockaitis
That is wild. It sounds like you play basketball hard. Maybe that is a good thing for people to learn about like, “This guy is a badass.”

Jake Knapp
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Your latest book, it’s called Make Time. What’s sort of the big idea behind this one?

Jake Knapp
Well, to try to tie it into the spleen, I guess.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh please do.

Jake Knapp
Let’s see if we can. That was a near-death experience for me at the tender age of, I guess I was 16 at the time. I suppose that a lot of the idea in Make Time is about making good use of time. It’s about the idea that we have limited time in our days and in our years and in our lives and every day matters.

I think a lot of times it’s easy for the important things to get pushed off to someday, important work projects, important people in our lives, important hobbies or things that we hope to do or dig into or invest in. This is a book of sort of practical techniques for making time every day for whatever is important and making attention for it so that you can really pay attention and enjoy every day.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. It sounds super worthwhile. I’d like to maybe get a picture in terms of the difference this research and material and insight has made for you or your co-author or some readers. Could you give us maybe a little before/after or transformation story/case study of kind of what it’s doing for folks?

Jake Knapp
Yeah, it’s probably best to tell my story, my experience with it. I’m a designer by trade, a software designer. That’s what I have done for about 20 years. In my life I was building products. I worked at Microsoft. I worked on something called Microsoft Encarta, which most people probably don’t remember.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I do remember that.

Jake Knapp
Oh, okay, cool.

Pete Mockaitis
The encyclopedia on CD ROMS?

Jake Knapp
Exactly, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That brings me back.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, that was great except – it was great the first couple years I worked there. In the early 2000s when I was there it was kind of when Wikipedia was just taking off. It was also – I learned a lot of lessons. I learned a lot of lessons about the business of software. About 15 years ago I was really like, “Gosh, really every day is important. I need to make the most of it.”

But I think that this crucial moment, it’s something I describe in the book happened in I suppose around 2012, where I’m with my two sons. One of them is a baby at this point and the other one is maybe eight years old. I’m playing with them in the living room in the evening. It’s this great moment. It’s this great family moment.

I’m on my iPhone. I’m on my iPhone and I don’t even know what I’m doing. I’m just unconsciously pulling it out and looking at my email or looking at Facebook or whatever. My older son was like, “Oh, dad, what are you looking at on your phone?” not like trying to call me out.

Pete Mockaitis
Excuse you.

Jake Knapp
Just like, oh, like he was curious, like it must be something interesting if you’re not going to playing trains with us here. I was like, “Oh man, I don’t even have an answer for that. I don’t know why I’m looking at my phone. I have no good answer.”

I just – that kind of thing has happened to me a number of times, but at that one finally it was like something kind of clicked where I was like, man, I have been working for many years to try to figure out how to as effective and as efficient as I can at work, as productive as possible.

Yet here I am rushing to process as many emails as possible and go through as many meetings and get as much done as I can so that I can be home early and spend time with my kids and yet I’m not even mentally present. I’m just kind of checked out.

At that moment I was like, screw this. I deleted Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and YouTube and I shut – there’s a way to turn Safari off on your iPhone. I figured out how to do that. Just kind of in this kind of craze. I even deleted Gmail and I worked with the Gmail team at that time. I was like I can’t even handle this. Just took everything off of the phone.

The weird thing was that that was – that actually ended up feeling amazing. I kept the phone. The phone had still a lot of great stuff on it.

Pete Mockaitis
You can make calls. You can get and receive text messages.

Jake Knapp
Right. But you’ve got maps. You’ve got Uber. It’s got a great camera. They’re actually still – even though smartphone if you take away all that stuff, there’s still a lot of great things it can do.

That was – that is kind of like this moment where at that shift, all of the sudden I was like wait a second. I have just been accepting whatever kind of came at me from new products that came out or the expectations at work. I’ve just been kind of saying, “Yeah, I’ll meet this req. I’ll do this. They’re all good.”

I started to realize that the default settings were not necessarily beneficial for me and taking on everything was not necessarily – and this is kind of an obvious realization, but for me what happened from there till now was that I started to kind of question the way my days were spent, the way my time was spent.

My co-author and colleague at the time, John Zeratsky, and I were working on this process at work, where we were helping teams. In one week, we did this thing called a design sprint, where we would totally structure the whole week and have the team focusing on one project for the whole week. We were optimizing how they spent their time and we started to just do the same optimizations with our own time.

For me, it went from like I had this long-time dream of writing a book, but I had never even written so much as a kind of a blog post. All of the sudden as I started to make these shifts, the kind using the tactics from the book, I started to create time and space to write, basically by shutting down other things, saying no to other things, redesigning my calendar.

It’s kind of changed my life. Since then I’ve written three books. One of which is not published yet, but just coming out. Then another one, which is just finished. It feels more whole. It feels more like the way I want to spend my time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. You said it feels more whole, could you give us maybe a little bit more of a picture if you could paint in terms of the before and the after, how does it feel? Because I think some folks might need an extra push or oomph of motivation.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, totally.

Pete Mockaitis
They’re thinking, “There’s no way I could do that.”

Jake Knapp
Yeah, I guess actually that’s kind of the – I would have said the same thing if I heard this because I’ve read every productivity and time management book and often felt like they were – there’s a lot of really smart systems out there and philosophies, but for me at least, when I applied those, I usually just ended up feeling guilty. I was like I’m not doing that thing and I’m still just as overwhelmed by everything that’s going on.

The simple before and after I guess would be that before I used to judge my success at – let’s just talk about work, my success at work based on how productive I was, so how well was I kind of getting done all the things that I needed to get done.

I would every day – like working at Google, the amount of email that you receive is just astonishing, like come into work – actually maybe it’s not so astonishing. I don’t know. But at least when I first went there, I couldn’t believe how much stuff happened on email.

I’d come to work in the morning and have hundreds of emails to deal with. I felt like if I processed all of that email by the end of the day and got back to zero, that was like I’m on top of my email. If everybody who puts a calendar request on my calendar – if I can go to those meetings and help everybody with what they have going on, then I’m helping everyone on the team and that’s really good.

If I’m kind of processing through all of the to-do list, all the items on my to-do list and I’m on top of my to-do list, if I’m doing all those things, then I’m being productive. That’s kind of the before.

The after is I still have to deal with emails. I still have to meet with people. Those things don’t go away. You can’t zero those out. But the after is to start with what is most important to me each day before I do anything else, to figure out what is the one thing that at the end of the day when I look back on today, I want to say is the highlight of my day.

Sometimes it might be spending time with my kids. Sometimes it might be – there’s this big, sizeable chunk of this project that I want to do today. But I’m going to start with that thing and I’m basically just going to put me first on the schedule. I’m going to do whatever I have to do to clear that out.

If it means that I’m not checking my email until after that work is done, then I do that. If it means I’m going to have to push some meetings around or say no or cancel something, that’s what’s going to have to get done. But that thing always comes first. It means that the chances of it getting done are – they’re like 95%. They’re not 100%, things happen, things come up.

But that’s really the shift for me has been from trying to be productive and trying to get as much checked off as possible to trying to be really purposeful and to look for a way to do larger things, not just tasks.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s cool. You’re saying now how you determine whether or not you had a success that day is whether you did the key thing that you identified as opposed to whether you did everything?

Jake Knapp
Yeah, absolutely. Kind of I guess we’re pulled in two directions in the modern world. If you have an office job especially, but I think it’s very hard to escape because technology and email and messaging is so much a part of all of our lives.

We talk about this in the book, about being pulled between on the one hand what we call the busy bandwagon, which is like this expectation of instant response, this expectation of speed, this sort of cultural norm that we have in the United States of fill your calendar as close to full as possible. If somebody asks-

Pete Mockaitis
I loved your graphic in the book. It made me chuckle.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, yeah. It’s just like busy. It’s just like every single moment is busy. Sometimes it’s like three things at the same time overlapping. I feel like that is actually quite widespread, this notion of being packed. If somebody asks me at work or in my personal life, “How are you?” this expectation that if I say busy, that’s a good thing. I’m like, “Oh man, it’s crazy, crazy busy,” that people will say, “Oh, yeah, yeah good.” It’s sort of insane.

On one hand you’ve got that pull of okay, just a fire hose of stuff coming at you. You respond to it as fast as you can, go to everything you can, work as much as you can. On the other hand, you get exhausted from that.

Then on the other hand, we’re pulled by what we call the infinity pools, which is all of this entertainment or distraction which is available at our fingertips at all times and is incredibly compelling. There’s always something new on my phone or on my laptop or whatever, the non-stop breaking news, the social feeds, the updates from my friends, all these cool things. There could always be something new.

My personal email is like this. There always could be something new on there. These things are sort of pulling back and forth. Netflix. All these things are just kind of pulling you in the other direction. Once you’re too exhausted from the busy bandwagon, the infinity pools pull you back.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it’s a great point. It’s like, “I’m so exhausted, but I want to sort of be entertained and rejuvenated, but I don’t want to go hiking because that’s too hard, so maybe something fun will be on the news or Netflix.”

Jake Knapp
Yeah, totally, totally. It’s just – it’s not our fault that we don’t have the time for the things that matter the most to us. We’re stuck in the middle between two really powerful forces.

The fundamental idea that we have is – and this thing that we observed, especially from getting the chance to work with a lot of different teams. We worked with probably 150 different companies. We would have the chance to say what they were doing all day at work for a week and to experiment with it.

It turns out you change a few of those defaults, the default settings, the default work cultural settings, and you start to open up time and attention. Because things are so crazy right now, you actually don’t have to make the largest changes to have a really significant impact.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a nice optimistic view. It’s like it is so screwed up-

Jake Knapp
It’s so bad now.

Pete Mockaitis
If you do just a little bit, you’re going to see huge gains.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. For example, one of the things that we talk about in the book is the importance of building energy and this is just a simple observation. If you want to focus on something every day, if you want to have 60 to 90 minutes of time where you really focusing on something, you’re in the zone, you’re going to need energy, physical energy, mental energy. You’ve got to have a full battery to do that.

We’re all sort of basically the same kind of creature we were 200,000 years ago. We’re in this modern world. Everything is totally different. It’s not – we don’t live in caves anymore. We don’t live in the wild. We’re in homes and we’ve got screens everywhere. Things are really out of whack.

But if you want more energy, a simple change you can do is start dimming the lights and dimming your screens in the evening time and to not look at screens after say 8 PM. You can start actually turning down the lights in the house to make it more like if you’re not living in a house, which is the sun sets. Maybe there’s a fire. This is kind of the environment we grew up in. Sorry, not grew up in, but evolved in, which I guess is the same as growing up.

Pete Mockaitis
As a species. Yeah.

Jake Knapp
Yeah. But otherwise, the default is there’s blue light or bright white light shining on us until we’re so exhausted we’re lying in bed with our head spinning trying to fall asleep. You make that little shift and that makes a huge difference. Those opportunities are everywhere. Those little things where stuff is so out of whack and you make a little shift, it can make a huge difference.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that a lot.

I love the way your book is organized. You just gave us one great tactic when it comes to the energizing. Because you’ve got sort of four steps and then underneath them what you might call clusters. Then underneath those, 80 tactics. It was really kind of fun so you can sort of just jump into whatever catches your attention or go deep into “Oh yeah, I need to know everything about this.”

Could you maybe give us kind of the overview picture of what are the four steps and the maybe your sort of super top favorite tactic that you have in each of them? I know you’ve got 80 to choose from, but if you could start with four and then maybe we’ll go a little more.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, I’ll try. I’ll do my best. Yeah. It all starts off with that idea of setting a highlight. Again, it’s starting off in the morning or perhaps some people they do it the night before. My co-author, John, does it the night before. But it’s looking at the day ahead and saying, “Okay, when this day is over –“ let’s say somebody says, “Oh hey, Jake, what was the highlight of your day today?” I should design that. I should in advance figure that out so that I make it happen. I make it as good as possible.

I find that actually it’s pretty easy for people to get into the zone where they can just make a gut decision about what this highlight is, but at first it’s kind of assessing, “Okay, is there something that’s really important to me?” Maybe it’s not urgent. Maybe there’s nobody begging for it, but it’s this project at work. Perhaps it’s really – I know it’s important and I know it can easily get pushed aside.

Maybe it’s something from work. Or maybe it’s something that’s going to bring me joy, like I want to spend time with somebody I really care about. Or maybe it’s going to be something really satisfying, like making progress on a hobby. Whatever it is, it’s picking that thing that’s going to be probably 60 to 90 minutes long.

It’s not a task. It’s like more than a task. It’s not a whole big giant goal, but it’s in between. It’s figuring what that thing is and writing it down. Today, this is going to be my highlight. Highlight, that’s step one. Step two is-

Pete Mockaitis
If I may-

Jake Knapp
Yeah, excuse me.

Pete Mockaitis
… dig it up for a smidge. I like how you distinguish that. It’s not a task. It’s not a goal. It’s in between. It’s 60 to 90-ish minutes, something that can be done within a chunk of attention or one sitting or standing. I think we’re both on standing desks right now.

Jake Knapp
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So kudos. It makes me feel cool if the productivity guru thinks it’s a smart move. I love my mat too, the Topo.

Jake Knapp
The mat is huge.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh me too. Is it the Topo by Ergo?

Jake Knapp
Yes, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
What are the odds? I did not see your mat earlier. Well, look at us, a couple of dorks.

Jake Knapp

Yeah, yeah, Dork City here, but yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s fun. You can kind of – it seems like I’m playing a little bit with – someone said it’s like a playground for your feet. I think so.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, right. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So highlight was where we were discussing.

Jake Knapp
Highlight.

Pete Mockaitis
But when it comes to highlight, so it’s more than task. It’s less than a goal. It’s 60 to 90 minutes. I want to get your view on – boy, there’s many, many ways that you might land upon what to highlight. What are some of your favorite provocative questions or criteria or guideline to say ah, of the thousands of things that you might choose, here are some indicators that it might really be worth a highlight?

Jake Knapp
I think that one of the best ones – and if you’re starting off trying out this make time framework, this is a really good one because it yields immediate results. It’s usually pretty easy to answer. It’s like what would be the thing that if at the end of the day I didn’t do it, I would be so pissed off at myself? I think this is all-

Pete Mockaitis
Pain avoidance. Yes.

Jake Knapp
I know I experience this a lot. I feel like a lot of people experience it. I hear people talk about this a lot. It’s like “I can’t believe that – like I knew this was the thing that I really needed to work on and yet I was just reacting to other stuff all day long. How did that happen? I’m kicking myself now.”

That’s really – that’s like probably the easiest one – the easiest way to find the highlight is like what will you – is regret avoidance. There’s a lot more positive ways to do it, but yeah, it’s that. It’s sort of like, “What would I – what would be such a bummer if I didn’t actually do it?”

Pete Mockaitis
I love that so much. Often I sort of feel that the pain of that sort of the next day or week, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I’m in this crazy rush. I’m so unprepared. I feel real dumb. Why didn’t I handle this yesterday or whenever I should have?” Yeah, sometimes the regret comes at the end of the day like, “Oh bummer of a day,” and other times it comes later when you’re reaping what you’ve sown.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Then the flip side, the flip question is what might create a really nice memory for the day. If I can imagine the memory – I think for people who keep a gratitude journal or have ever done that, I think it’s hard to keep any kind of a journal consistently, at least that’s my experience.

But if you’ve ever done that and you ever think about writing down at the end of the day something that you’re grateful for, it often – it has this nice effect of evoking these little snapshots. It’s like, “That was really lovely when I took a walk in the park,” or, “when I was focused quietly and I was practicing music,” or whatever – well, I guess it wouldn’t be quiet if you were practicing music but, “I was focused and I was practicing music.”

I think those snapshots – like what would be a really lovely snapshot for my day. That’s another kind of provocative question that can help and often helps me.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Okay, so we talked about highlight. What’s laser?

Jake Knapp
Okay, laser is about clearing out distraction, creating some space so you can focus on that thing. I think that this is maybe where the way we think about accomplishing these highlights, accomplishing these things you really care about each day is different from a lot of systems or a lot of the way people talk about this problem with distraction today.

Because we – I feel like it’s very rare nowadays we talk to someone and say, “Oh, how do you feel about your iPhone, your Android, whatever, your smartphone?” Very rarely will people say, “Oh yeah, everything’s great about it.” People have mixed feelings about their phones. They feel like they’re on their phone too much.

I feel like there’s a tremendous amount of guilt about phones. Even Apple and Google are like – they’re releasing software to help you – or at least to measure how much you’re on your phone so you can presumably in the future feel even more guilty about it.

But our sort of take on this is yes, those things, those paths of least resistance will distract you and they will keep you – they’ll get in the way of doing that thing that really matters to you, that highlight, but when you know what the highlight is, like half the battle is won when you actually have this thing that you’re excited about doing, when you know – when you start to identify “This is my priority. I’m putting me first.”

Then like, “If I cannot be distracted for an hour, an hour and a half, there’s a great reward.” That’s part of the thing that I think is different.

The other thing is we’ll say we have a lot of concrete tactics for shutting things off. The whole deal with laser is you’re going to shut off distraction, you’re going to be completely offline. You’re not going to be using anything that isn’t mission critical to your highlight. By shutting that stuff down, this is another place where things are so out of whack, you can create time. This is a place where you can actually make time.

If I’m not constantly bouncing around between email and Slack and a million other things, but I’m just doing one thing, it’s like there’s more hours in the day all of the sudden. If I’m not constantly checking my Facebook feed or responding to things in that way, again, I’m kind of creating time because I’m not sort of Swiss cheese-ing my attention. It actually sort of creates time out of nothing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. Then is there a particular kind of time that you just snag on the calendar, like this is the window and do you aim for a particular window or vary it or what’s the best way to play that game?

Jake Knapp
Yeah, as I mentioned I’ve been – I’ll just tell you personally what I do. I think everybody has to – we talked about this idea of designing your day. Everybody has to design their day with what makes sense for them. We have some different patterns, different things that we do.

Like I said, for the last couple years or last year and a half I’ve been self-employed, but before that I worked for Google for ten years, before that I was working at Microsoft for years and years. I was very used to this idea of being at work all day.

Sometimes in many jobs you don’t really control your time when you’re at work. I had this goal of writing books. I figured out many years ago while working at Google that if I want to make time for that, what I needed to do was really reclaim some time at the end of the day.

After my kids went to bed, after everybody went to bed, I realized there’s this window of time, because I’m kind of a night owl, when I’m actually usually awake, but I’m not getting anything out of that time because I’m just – my battery is drained and I’m just distractible. I’m just watching TV or whatever. I’m just kind of winding down.

Not that there’s anything horribly wrong with that, but I realized there’s a goldmine of time that I can sort of reclaim. For me at that time, it was at the end of the day. That was highlight time. For my co-author, John, he created that time at the beginning of the day. For him, it was first thing. I’m going to do that before I do anything else.

Often at work, the highlight time might be – it’s always easier earlier in the day before there are other commitments that have come up, before emails have come in. I think as soon as you open up your inbox, all of the sudden you’re in reaction mode. It’s very hard to keep that sort of nice clear focus that we often have when we wake up.

The morning time tends to be better usually before other things happen. But a lot of times it’s a matter of what we call bulldozing the calendar and actually pushing some things out of the way to make it whenever you can.

Our sort of hypothesis is that you can do this at some point in your day every day. It might be before anything starts. It might be after everything’s over. But a lot of the times you can clear it in the middle.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. We did the highlighting. We did the lasering. You mentioned energizing. Let’s hear a little more about that.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, the energize it’s like, okay, you’ve got the target, which is your highlight. You know where you want to head today. You know what you want to happen. What I do with laser is you’ve – we’ve got a lot of tactics for shutting down distraction so that you can be – your mind can be clear and you can be ready to focus, kind of getting into the zone.

Energize is all about having the physical and mental energy to do the thing, to really bring your best attention to your work. I think there is so much out there in the world about ways to be more physically active, ways to eat better, ways to sleep better.

I think this new, certainly in the last few years, a lot of stuff feels like it’s so intense. It’s like – a lot of like really – like these supplements you should be taking or just like a lot of – it feels really stressful. It’s like really – in sort of the last few years as we were – as John and I were really into this topic and researching it a lot, you read this stuff and I just feel so bad about myself because I’m like, “God, I’m not doing anything.”

Our kind of principle is like look, if you just do a little, you get a huge amount of reward. Just do a little, that’s fine. If your goal for getting more physical activity is that you want to improve your cardiovascular health, or you want to live a few years longer, all those are wonderful things, but they’re very abstract. They’re very far away.

If I want to get more physical activity because I want to look better, like look like somebody in a magazine, realistically I’m not going to get there. I think a lot of those things are really disheartening.

Our whole point is if you will just build the energy so that you get an immediate reward today of you had more focus. The thing that you really cared about, that you were really excited about, you got more out of it because you had more energy, you get an immediate reward for doing it.

In my experience, that transformed the way I looked at exercise, the way I looked at eating, the way I looked at sleep, and even the way I looked at talking with people. Actually talking with people face-to-face instead of over texts or emails or whatever, is actually a way to boost energy. We’re social creatures and we get an energy boost from talking to people.

A lot of those things, if you have this immediate reward and you realize that you don’t have to do something heroic, you don’t have to be training for a marathon or anything, if you just get a little emotion, if you just change a few small things about the way – maybe you have coffee, for example. Most people drink coffee. There’s little tweak you can make to that to boost your energy.

Then when you have this immediate reward loop, it’s a game changer.

Pete Mockaitis
What I’m hearing is the key to really getting this energy thing flowing is not so much doing a long-term program of supplementation that will mold your biochemistry into something else over the course of three months, but rather finding the things that give you more energy that very day?

Jake Knapp
Yeah. I mean I don’t want to say that – there’s a lot of folks who are experts in the body and experts in what you can do with it and the kinds of things we all ought to be doing. I’m just not that person. All I can say is if you really care about your time and you really care about the quality of your day and the quality of your experience in the moment, energy matters.

The kinds of things you need to do to have high-quality energy today, they’re not crazy. You don’t have to start some new boot camp with a trainer. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You don’t have to do crazy things. Small little things, these kind of tactics we talk about in the book, that can make a big difference.

For example, I take the bus to work for years and years, if you can find a way to get off the bus a couple stops early and walk a little further, it actually creates more energy throughout the day. That’s not – that doesn’t sound like I’m really exercising a lot, but just that little bit of extra walking will give me more energy throughout the day. A small thing like that.

There’s a lot of little tactics and ideas about just tweaking the knobs on things to get a boost.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I resonate with that walking piece because my Fitbit tells me my step count. It’s tricky working from home. Sometimes that step count is tiny. It’s like … crack the four digits. It’s like 920 steps. Oh wow, that’s really a bummer.

Sure enough, I really do notice kind of the difference in terms of feeling zesty, alive, energized and rearing to go if there are days of tiny amounts of movement versus even moderate amounts of movement.

It’s funny because I think I used to have a little bit of this ‘go big or go home’ hardcore, being like, “That’s not a workout if there’s not a weight bench involved,” or “That’s not a big enough dumbbell to mean anything.” It really doesn’t seem to be the way our body’s work.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, right. We evolved for constant motion. That’s part of being a hunter/gatherer, you’re moving around a lot looking for food. We thrive, our brains perform better when we’re moving.

But this idea of ‘go big or go home’ you’re exactly right. That just totally mirrors my experience. We were talking about basketball earlier. I mentioned this in the book. I was really into basketball, really, really into basketball. I’m six foot eight. There’s really no avoiding it. You’ve got to-

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, freakishly tall.

Pete Mockaitis
Could not tell from the video.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, yeah, video takes off a few inches. Yeah, I loved playing basketball. As I started my career I would – I’m playing in these gyms and leagues and things. I loved playing basketball. When I’m playing I can’t – it’s hard for me to stop, so I’ll play to the point of exhaustion and then would come back to work. I might be playing at lunch just wiped, just wiped out.

Every time at basketball, you’re almost inevitably going to get some kind of little injury, whether it’s somebody cuts you with their nails, which is gross, but totally happens, or it’s a twisted ankle or an elbow to the face, whatever it might be. I’m just kind of a bit broken and worn out. I can’t do anything the rest of the day, so I’m actually kind of sapping my energy.

I can’t – I have to recover, so it becomes this irregular workout. Then all of the sudden I might not do it for months because it takes – the threshold to get in there and play basketball is pretty high and then I’m overdoing it. This whole cycle was really busted. But for me I was always like, well, that is exercise. It doesn’t count unless I’m doing – it was like this whole ego thing for me.

At some point I realized after doing that I – I had taken my son for a jog and he’s a baby in the stroller the day before. I get back to work exhausted from basketball. I’m like, “God, I’m worked. I can’t do anything.” Then I realized that the day before I did this jog, which didn’t even count to me, I was just getting my son some fresh air, and I felt way better the whole day at work.

That for me made the connection that I needed to do something small every day. I started to just try – okay, I’m going to change my parameters. The small everyday thing is great. It’s fine. We don’t have to be ultra-marathoners. We don’t have to be – do anything heroic. We don’t have to have eight-pack abs. It’s all right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. I wonder any kind of guidance or threshold when it comes to the amount of motion that’s just right, like not so trivial that it makes minimal difference and not so big that you’re just wiped out from having done it. Any sense for what’s just about right?

Jake Knapp
Yeah, I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve seen a lot of – looked at a lot of studies, read a lot of books about all kinds of studies about the health effects of exercise.

I think one of – there’s a book that does a really nice summarization of the effect of lots of things on the brain. It’s a book called Brain Rules. This was really – this was also the thing that finally when I saw it happening for myself and I had read this book, I believed it. Those two things together made it happen for me.

He says, you look across all the research, it’s like 20 – 30 minutes gives you kind of the optimal – it’s going to give you a mental boost. It’s going to give you most of the benefit that you’ll get. Even if you work out longer, you’re going to get most of the benefit. In my mind it’s like if I can get 20 to 30 minutes a day, that’s great. I try to work it into the structure of my day.

For example, a typical day for me now is take my younger son to school on the bus and run home. That run happens to be about 25 minutes and it’s just perfect. That’s built into my day now and I’m never going to be running a marathon with that level of everyday exercise, but I have more energy and I feel sharper mentally every day with that amount of exercise.

But the other part of it is to not be down on yourself if you can’t get to 20 for some reason. You’re feeling a little under the weather, there’s just not quite enough time. If I can get five or ten minutes in, if I can just take a walk. Anything helps.

A lot of times not having this super harsh threshold for yourself, will mean that I get out the door and maybe 10 minutes turns into 20 minutes. Maybe once I’ve broken the ice, it actually goes longer. But 20 to 30 is I think a really nice guideline if you can build it in.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Finally, the reflect stuff is in there.

Jake Knapp
Yeah. This idea of reflect comes from I think from being steeped in building technology products for so long. We talked so much about having hypothesis about what might happen when we build a product and then launching it and trying to measure what happens.

This idea of measuring and running experiments is really built into the culture at Google. I think both in the way that we built products and in the way teams worked and the way individuals worked, this idea that we’re going to run an experiment and we’ll measure. It’s basic scientific method stuff.

But the challenge I think with a lot of these systems people talk about, people like me talk about for doing things, a lot of the studies that we hear about, a lot of the science that we hear about is that it’s – it might be credible when I read about a scientific study, but I’m not going to really, really, really believe it until I know it’s true for me.

Knowing what’s true for me and my life is the most powerful thing. Having that experience of what happens in my life when I do this thing.

The idea with reflect is that I’m going to – at the end of every day I’m just going to take note of what I did during the day and see what worked and what didn’t and kind of take note on that and just start to frame this idea of what I choose to focus on, so the highlight part and this idea of distraction as a thing that I can experiment on and this idea of building energy as a thing that I can experiment on.

Once those things are framed as experiments, it also makes me be a lot gentler on myself. I’m not going to be as self-critical. I’m going to realize that if I falter today, if I made a mistake, well, what can I try differently tomorrow that might make it work?

This is not something that you have to do for your whole life. You don’t have to constantly at the end of every day be filling out a form, but we think that if you start off doing this process in the first—maybe week or two—you’re answering a few questions and just taking a moment to reflect back on the day, that you can pretty quickly tailor a system that makes sense for you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good.
Well, one exercise that you did Jake, which I find really intriguing because I’ve done a little bit of this is tracking your energy. First of all, how do you quantify that and how do you record it and how do you input it? I want to hear that side of things. Then I want to know, what are some of the insights that emerged for you? Was it worth doing?

Jake Knapp
Yeah, it was worth doing. It was an extremely dorky activity. I have to – this is before the era of Fitbits. Nowadays you can measure your sleep with an app and tuck your phone under the pillow. There’s a lot of smart watches. There’s so many things you can do. This was – I suppose it was 2008 I want to say, maybe 2009. I just thought I don’t feel like I have a handle on my energy. I don’t feel like I know where it’s going.

What I did was I kind of hacked together this system of things using a Google spreadsheet and a form that I could answer a few questions on the form and it would put the answers into the spreadsheet and a calendar notification that would come up at a time when I knew I would typically be at my desk at work and would prompt me to fill out what I call the Jake pop quiz.

I would answer the questions and then it would go into this spreadsheet. Then over time I could go back and kind of look at that spreadsheet and see what was what.

I didn’t have a – there wasn’t really a way that I could think of to accurately quantify my energy, so I just said okay, I’ll accept that it’s going to be unscientific. I’m just going to score it on a scale of I think one to ten. I’ll make notes of the things that I did.

I started as I did this first it was just kind of what’s my energy level then maybe some open comments I would fill out for myself. Then over time I started to realize – I thought that I had an idea about what some of the things were, the patterns that were giving me energy or taking energy away, so I started to ask some specific questions about exercise and what I ate and how I slept.

I have to say that the conclusions, the sort of findings from this, they were exceedingly impactful for me, but – and I’ll tell you what they were – but I’ll tell you, they’re going to sound obvious and stupid, but they were very powerful.

One of them was if I exercise in the morning, I have a lot of energy throughout the day, I have more energy throughout the day as long as I don’t overdo it, so a small amount of exercise in the morning makes me feel better all day long and more energized. Obvious, right? This is not groundbreaking New York Times front page news, but this was a big deal for me.

Pete Mockaitis
When you know – like you know, know, know it’s true for you having seen it in your own log-

Jake Knapp
Exactly. Yes, exactly, right.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re now absolutely convicted as opposed to “Oh, well studies suggested,” like you said earlier, “Oh studies suggested that this is good.” Okay, yeah, well maybe I’ll give that a shot. It’s a very different level of oomph internally.

Jake Knapp
Yes, totally. My usual experience of reading a study about health is to be like, “Interesting,” and then also feel bad about myself. That’s the mental path – I mean I guess this is neurotic, but I’ll read about it and be like, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and then like, “Oh man, I should really do that.” But ‘I should really do that’ it just doesn’t happen. It just makes – I just don’t feel good.

This was like, oh yeah, when I do that thing, when this happens – it was just a much more concrete way to introduce that idea into my head. It was something I knew already, but I started to believe it.

Another thing was don’t eat a really sugary dessert after lunch. That kind of craters my energy. I have a sugar crash. Pretty obvious. I don’t think anybody would be like, “Wow, I can’t imagine that having a sugary dessert after lunch would make you not feel good,” but lo and behold that was really useful for me to hone in on.

It was insights like that, the things that are really obvious. But what I started to I guess dawn on me is that it’s like a little tiny shift, as I shift these things just a little bit and I see every day as an experiment rather than a judgment on my character, it’s a whole new ballgame. It’s a whole new ballgame.

Focusing in on my energy and on the things that I could do with my energy – because when you have energy, I’m happy and I can kind of work on the things I want to work on. I can be more present with the people that I’m with. All these good things flow from that.

Again, it makes this instant positive feedback loop. I’m getting good results right away. I don’t have to wait months and years for this health habit to pay off.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, we could talk at length about 80-ish tactics, so maybe I’ll just hit the one you mentioned earlier. What’s the thing you can do with your coffee or caffeine for better energy productivity?

Jake Knapp
The number one thing that you can do is to figure out what your cutoff time is. This is – I know that this is true and I know that it does not sound very thrillingly new and fresh.

But if you talk to doctors – if you know a doctor and you talk to a general health doctor and say like, “What’s the number one thing people come to you for?” A lot of doctors will tell you – I have a friend, a couple friends who are doctors who will say, “Yeah, the number one thing people often struggle with is sleeping.” They have a hard time falling asleep. A lot of people come to the doctor for that.

“Okay, what happens when somebody comes to you because they’re having a hard time sleeping?” “I’ll ask them when’s the last caffeine that you have during the day?” The answer is often either that they don’t actually know when it is or they know when it is, but they say “But it’s not that. It’s not caffeine.”

Pete Mockaitis
“It doesn’t affect me that way. I know.”

Jake Knapp
Yeah, “It’s fine.” The truth is that caffeine affects everyone differently. It does affect everyone differently, so it might not be that, but there’s a good chance it is because caffeine stays in the bloodstream a lot longer than we think. Well, doctors and scientists know how long it stays in it, but I don’t know. I don’t consciously think about how long it stays in the bloodstream.

Like four hours – the way you metabolize it, it varies by person, but typically even like four hours after you’ve had the caffeine or the half-life is really long. Often you might have coffee at four and then be going to bed and you still have a lot of caffeine in the bloodstream.

The caffeine is blocking the thing that makes us groggy, so there’s this little molecule that’s supposed to bind to the receptors to tell us that it’s time to go to sleep and if the caffeine is still there, it’s going to mess with your sleep. Then this creates obviously this compounding effect. You have a hard time sleeping one night. You have lower energy the next night. You need more caffeine. It’s problematic.

That’s a big one. But really I guess the bigger thing is just if you identify caffeine as – because most of us consume caffeine in one form or another if you – which means we’re addicted to it. Most of us are addicted to caffeine.

You don’t have to stop drinking caffeine, but if you’re aware that this has this really powerful effect on your energy, this drug that we’re taking into our system has this really powerful effect on your energy – I’m a coffee drinker myself, but if you know what it’s doing and how it works and then you can design the way you use it so that you have your peak energy when you want it.

You’re not drinking caffeine when you’re not going to be getting a benefit from it or actually harming your energy level. It makes a huge difference.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there maybe a starter rule of thumb you might try out?

Jake Knapp
Yeah, starter pack, yeah. The starter pack for it is to wait in the morning until like maybe 9:30 to have your first cup of coffee because when we wake up we have cortisol that kind of will naturally – it’s a stress hormone, which is naturally higher in the morning. It’s going to kind of arouse your body up and wake you up. It’s kind of how our body naturally wakes up.

If you have caffeine then while the cortisol is ramping up, it’s kind of wasted. You’re getting this – the lift from the caffeine, you were going to get it anyway from your body.

But what happens is if you have coffee first thing in the morning, your body comes to be accustomed to that and it’s going to produce more of the drowsy-causing molecules so that you’re going to feel drowsy, you’re going to feel groggy or you’re going to have more sort of withdrawal symptoms in the morning and you’re going to need the coffee just to fight the withdrawal symptoms. It’s kind of wasted.

Basically I think of that first coffee in the morning as being really wasted. Unless if you really enjoy – if you get some satisfaction out of it as a ritual, that’s fine, but you should know you’re kind of causing yourself trouble maybe for nothing. 9:30 AM is the range of the first cup of coffee.

Then I think for most people it’s smart to maybe start with 2 to 2:30 PM as the last cup. Then see what happens. Some people can go a little later than that. But I usually think of that as the coffee window.

I think one of the key things is having coffee before you crash, so before you get tired. Once you’re already tired – this is a really big deal.

I have a friend who’s way into coffee. He’s basically read every study. He’s started a couple coffee companies. He’s bought beans in Central America. This guy is just way, way into coffee. He sort of informed me about all this stuff.

He’s like, “The biggest deal is, you’ve got to know that if you’re already tired, it’s kind of too late for the coffee to do its thing.” By the time you’re already tired, all of those receptors have already – the groggy thing has already bound to the receptor thing and the coffee, which the – caffeine, which would normally get in there and kind of block it from binding, it doesn’t have a place to go.

That’s another kind of big key. Caffeinate before you crash, and start a little later than you think, and end a little sooner.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Well tell me Jake, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Jake Knapp
Yeah, I think that the biggest thing kind of in summary to consider—if you were to consider taking a look at my book, I think the biggest idea is a small shift can make a big difference. And our time is really important. It’s all we have. All we have is our time and all we have is our attention. That is what our life is made up of: time and attention.

If a day goes by where we’re constantly distracted, we sort of lose that day.

If you’re willing to try a few experiments, I think that you can get more out of each day. It doesn’t have to be a huge, dramatic life shift. It’s really small things that can change the balance of the way those moments are experienced.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Jake Knapp
“There’s more to life than increasing its speed.” It’s a quote from Gandhi.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Jake Knapp
There’s this study from Berkeley. I can’t remember the author’s name at the moment. But it’s basically like when you interrupt someone, it takes them on average 23 minutes to get back to the task that they were working on, which is just astounding, 23 minutes. That’s so long. That’s a significant part of the day to take 23 minutes to get back to the thing. I think it’s actually it’s like this wonderful number that seems both astonishing and also extremely true at the same time. I love that one.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Jake Knapp
My favorite book, one that really sort of changed my view on things is this book called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.

But the one that I think I would really recommend is this newer book by the same author, these brothers, Chip and Dan Heath, called The Power of Moments.
Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool?

Jake Knapp
One of my favorite tools is something called the Time Timer. It’s like an alarm – a timer basically with a big face, but it’s got a dial. You can turn the clock dial and you see this big red disk come out that shows you how much time there is. Then once you let go, the red disk starts to disappear. At the end it beeps.

It’s very simple actually, but it is brilliant because it makes time – the passage of time visible in a way that no other thing I’ve seen can accomplish. It’s a physical object. It’s not something on screen. There’s something about a physical object sitting on my desk, how powerful that is, or sitting on a conference table in a meeting room, just incredibly powerful tool for making the passage of time visible. It creates I think a wonderfully positive sense of urgency.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, whoa, I pulled up a picture, so it’s kind of like a pie chart that’s shrinking.

Jake Knapp
Yeah, a pie chart is a great word. Yeah, pie chart, that’s an excellent descriptor. Yeah, so it’s shrinking. It’s just constantly shrinking.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Jake Knapp
I think that probably the one that’s been the most powerful for me is exercising in the morning before I do anything else.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with readers in particular?

Jake Knapp
I think that the idea of deleting everything, all the apps on your phone, but keeping the smartphone is something that has been surprisingly sticky and powerful idea.

I think that we’re so used to the idea that we should get as much as we can, really get our money’s worth out of new technology that the idea that you would really selectively cut off a lot of the potential functionality of an amazing device like a smartphone and that if you just have half of what it can do or a third of what it can do, it’s not only just as good, it’s actually better to make it distraction free.

I highly recommend experimenting with deleting the thing that you think is the most distracting on your phone and if possible everything that has infinite content. Taking email off of your phone is unbelievably life-changing for me.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Jake Knapp
You can check out JakeKnapp.com just if you want to find out more about me. But if you want to skip me and get straight to the book, it’s on MakeTimeBook.com.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Jake Knapp
Yeah. I would say if you can make a – identify what the most important project to you at work is right now and think about what’s something that’s going to take 60 to 90 minutes on that most important project. Not a task because sometimes a task is so small that it’s just not meaningful and it’s easier to push aside, but dig a little bit deeper and find that larger chunk of time that’s going to be 60 to 90 minutes.

Then put it on the calendar and make an agreement with yourself that during that 60 to 90 minutes, you’re going to turn off your Wi-Fi, you’re going to put your phone on airplane mode, you’re going to go totally offline and just do that thing for 60 to 90 minutes and see how it feels. I predict that you’re going to feel more awesome afterwards.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Getting more awesome, that’s what we do here. Thank you Jake. This has been a lot of fun and so is your book, Make Time. I wish you and the book all the luck and success. I hope that you are transforming lots and lots of people’s experience of time and work and life goodness.

Jake Knapp
Thanks so much Pete. Really appreciate you having me on.