By Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of O2E Brands (the banner company to 1-800-GOT-JUNK?) and EO Vancouver member.
For any busy, career-driven person, it’s easy to get caught up in the grind. We pull all-nighters and push ourselves to the limit trying to maximize our output—but really, it’s zapping crucial energy that we need to be productive.
The thought of getting up before 6 am used to make me want to hibernate. Back when hitting “snooze” was my MO, I worked 12-hour days and I was constantly running on fumes. Now, I’ve made tweaks to my morning routine to ensure I hop out of bed at 5:55 am on the dot. I never thought I’d be that guy, but I’m more energized and productive than I’ve ever been before. And it was surprisingly easy; all it took was a few simple changes. Here’s how you can make the transformation from night owl to early bird, too.
1. Be Hyper-Specific With Your Wake-Up Time
Ever hit “snooze” the second your alarm goes off, only to hit it again (and again) every time it sounds? I have—and it messed up my natural sleep cycle. Turns out, this continued disruption to your sleep patterns will make you more tired than if you got up the first time.
Now, I’m super-precise with my alarm, and I refuse to hit snooze. Psychologically, there’s something about specificity that keeps your brain checked in. It can be any time you want—as long as you make it consistent. It might be hard at first but eventually, your body will adapt. Waking up at 5:55 is now so ingrained in my schedule that I often don’t even need to set an alarm.
2. Set One Intention Every Single Day
Post-wake-up, my first stop is the kitchen for a caffeine boost. As my espresso brews, I jot down a single intention for the day. I’m a strong believer that what gets measured, gets done—and you’re scientifically more likely to achieve your goals if you put them down on paper (or in my case, in my iPhone).
Intentions also help you lead a more focused life. On the days I don’t prioritize this practice, I’m less present and find it harder to concentrate. It works best if your daily intention is something simple and attainable—like “have a meatless Monday” or “go for a 5-mile run.” These are health-related goals, but my personal well-being has a direct impact on the business.
Intentions also help you lead a more focused life.
3. Take an Hour To Yourself Every Morning
By this time, it’s 6 am and I have one hour to myself before my kids wake up and the house gets hectic. I always use this “power hour” for personal development, whether it’s reading, working out, or learning a new skill.
The most important advice I can give you, though, is to never use this time to check emails or make business calls. If work-related stressors are the first thing you encounter in the morning, it can throw off your rhythm for the entire day. But if you kick off your day by focusing on yourself instead, you’ll feel centered and ready to head into the office.
If work-related stressors are the first thing you encounter in the morning, it can throw off your rhythm for the entire day.
4. Find a Way to Fuel Your Body Properly
When you’re always on the go, it’s easy to let a healthy diet fall by the wayside. But willpower is at its peak when you first wake up—so capitalize on it by starting your day with a nutritious, fulfilling meal. This will help you set (and maintain) good habits throughout the day.
An easy way to get into the routine of healthy morning eats is to prep your meals in advance. Mark Zuckerberg eats the exact same breakfast every day so he doesn’t have to think about what to make during his busy mornings. If you don’t have time to scramble your own eggs, find a meal delivery service (just ensure it’s a healthy one). This will help you stay on track even in the midst of a chaotic schedule.
5. Use Your Commute As Extra Office Hours
Though I try not to work when I’m not in the office, my 20-minute commute is the perfect time for quick calls (don’t worry, I’m always hands-free!). My assistant schedules interviews for when she knows I’m driving so I can be productive en route.
Our COO, Erik Church, takes productive commuting to the extreme: he lives in Toronto and works at head office in Vancouver, but not a second of his five-hour flights each way ever goes to waste. He schedules his time in-transit as though it were a workday, breaking tasks down into time blocks to maximize every minute. By checking off his to-do list when he’s somewhere over the Prairies, he’s able to be a more present leader when he’s on the ground.
6. End Your Day on a Positive Note
When I wrap up my days, I’m already thinking ahead to the next. And a productive tomorrow always starts with a good night’s sleep. I try to get to bed early enough to get seven or eight hours, keeping in mind that I won’t compromise on my 5:55 wake-up call.
Gratitude is extremely powerful for stress-reduction and it even improves your sleep.
As I fall asleep, I make a mental list of the 10 things I’m most grateful for from the day that’s been. Gratitude is extremely powerful for stress-reduction and it even improves your sleep. It’s also a reminder of what you’ve accomplished throughout the day—with family, fitness, or your career. Ending the day on a positive note guarantees you’ll wake up happy and refreshed every morning.