Building a Morning Routine

All of us strive for more consistency in our lives.

We want to work out, read or meditate every day. We start with grandiose plans and good intentions, but soon our efforts decrease and we cut corners and make exceptions. Our consistency decreases. After a few weeks of struggle to keep up with our plans, we accept inconsistency as our normal behavior. We bury our ambitions and return to our old habits.

The Hidden Power of Consistency

“The acts of life we repeat every day need to be automatized. They must be turned into stable and reliable habits, so they lose their complexity and gain predictability and simplicity.”

Jordan Peterson, “12 Rules For Life”

One way of breaking out of this cycle is to establish habits that are easily maintained and executed – even if time is short or life gets in the way. Instead of trying to build multiple individual habits at once, bundling multiple habits together in a routine makes them easier to execute. If we make these routine part of our morning, we have the highest chance of staying consistent with our habits, as we can execute our routine before whatever happens during the day can interrupt our plans. Thus, a morning routine can be key to become consistent.

Yet, we might have days where we don’t get enough sleep and sometimes we’ll be exhausted even after a full night of sleep. In short, life will get in the way and times get tough. To execute our routines even in those times, we need to select the habits carefully and make sure they don’t take too much energy and time, so we can execute them even when we are exhausted or short on time. We need to have habits with a  baseline that is achievable even in rough times.

This approach brings multiple benefits: We can always do more than our baseline if we have the time and energy for it. If times get tough, we can still stay on the path. The beauty of setting  our morning routine up like this is that we can always do more. If we have time and energy we can go far beyond whatever our minimum morning routine is. But, during tough times we can stay on the path.

As my previous morning routine wasn’t set up this way, I became inconsistent when times got rough. Now, that I have setup a new morning routine, I want to invite you to build your own morning routine along side me! If you are interested in my morning routine you can read more about it here.

The Experiment

“Developing a routine of predictable, daily disciplines prepares you to be victorious on the battlefield of life.”

Darren Hardy, “The Compound Effect”

The rules for this months experiment are as follows:

  1. Pick any number of habits that you want to implement as your morning routine.
  2. Make them so small, that your whole morning routine takes ten minutes or less.
  3. Track your progress in a journal, a calendar or on a piece of paper.
  4. Keep yourself accountable by posting a progress picture every day on social media by using the hashtag #meaningfulpath

I’ll use the same hashtag to share my progress, so we can keep each other accountable and maybe you can kick my ass!

I’ll see you there!

Meanwhile, stay on the #meaningfulpath

Humble Habits

Most of us aspire to lead a productive life.

We dream that we’d get up one day, do a workout, take a cold shower, eat a healthy breakfast and work on our goals. Then we’d go to sleep, get up and do it all again.

In reality we hit snooze and roll over in bed.

We often have streaks of consistency, followed by days and weeks of inactivity.

Most of us struggle with the same question:

“How can I become consistent for a long period of time?”

When Life Gets in the Way

For a long time I answered that question the same way: Discipline!

I imagined that if I were more disciplined and forced myself to do everything I wanted to do, I’d be consistent.

Yet, I didn’t take into account what life could throw at me.

Over the last four months many difficult things happened: serious family problems surfaced, the father of a close friend died, my thesis neared its deadline and a bunch of other stuff pilled up on top of that. A lot had to be done with little time and with decreasing energy – I became exhausted.

When exhausted, it’s not easy and might not be healthy to force oneself to do more – especially not for a long time. At the same time it’s much harder to rebuild your routines and habits from scratch after weeks of not doing them.

After reflecting on the past months I’ve asked myself how I could stay consistent even in difficult times.

Start Small

I realized that when I established certain habits or  a morning routine, I often tried to do too much. My ego was sabotaging my efforts. I wasn’t humble enough to set up small goals that I could accomplish in difficult times.

I asked myself if I could establish an incredibly basic baseline. Could I establish a routine that was easy to accomplish, no matter what life threw at me?

That’s what I do now.

My daily morning routine looks like this:

  • Meditate for 1 minute.
  • Do 10 push-ups.
  • Reflect on the previous day by writing one line about it in my journal.
  • Write for this project for 5 minutes.

Doing everything on this list takes me less than 10 minutes every day. The beauty of this system is that I can do more if I have the energy and time to do so. As I’m writing this, I’m in the 5-minute writing-segment of my routine and have already written for over 45 minutes.

Of course I had huge internal resistance just thinking about setting such incredibly small goals. “You want to meditate for only one minute? Really? You used to meditate 30 minutes every day and now you can’t sit still for 15 minutes?!” But I realized that it was just my Ego talking. I stayed humble and accepted that my plan was a great baseline for a new morning routine and that consistency is far more important than efficiency.

Where to go from Here

This week I will try out the morning routine above and will reflect on it at the end of August. On September 1, I will settle on a morning routine and turn it into habits.

I invite you to do the same!

I’ll publish another post later this week, where I’ll set up criteria for the next month’s experiment: Building a morning routine for tough times.

I’ll let you know when that post goes live and I’ll also track my progress on Instagram and Twitter.

If you tried to establish routines or habits and failed in the past, consider getting on board and ask yourself which habits you want to include in your morning routine right now.

I’ll be back with more details on the September-experiment soon!

Meanwhile…

Stay on the Meaningful Path!

May – Daily Meditation

Recently, I had this really original idea that I absolutely wanted to share with you:

How about I try something new for a month? How about I call it a 30-day experiment?

Now, I know that your first reaction to this might be “oh god, another one of those?” and that is totally understandable. Challenges of all kinds have been the jazz lately, so let me explain…

30-Day Experiments – but why?

Firstly, you might ask why I chose the name “experiment” instead of challenge?

The main reason is an episode on The Ground Up Show I’ve listened to a few months back about experimenting with new habits and ideas regularly. I still like this idea and think that this name fits much better than “challenge”. This is mainly because we can try different things and instead of placing expectations on ourselves that can sabotage our efforts, even before we have begun, we simply try new and reintroduce old habits and see if we want to stick to them. “Experiment” fits that idea a lot better, than challenge.

“I would say conduct experiments rather than making lifelong commitment. So, if there’s something that you want to try out say: ‘I’m gonna commit to this way of doing it for 30 days.’
So, when you get 15 days in and you feel like giving up you’re like: ‘I don’t know if this is working out for me’, you can tell yourself: ‘I only got 15 more days let’s go ahead and follow through and finish!’ Instead of feeling like a flake when you’re done, you get to feel proud of yourself for keeping your word and committing to something. And if you want to switch it up, then you can recalibrate or if you want to keep it going you can say: ‘let’s do it for another another 30 days!'”

T.K. Coleman, “Dreams Don’t COme True, Decisions do

Now, the basic idea is still the same: we either pick a new thing that we haven’t tried before, or we try to integrate an old habit back into our daily schedule and stick with it for a month. Afterwards, we see how we feel and what we’ve learned and then decide if we want to continue or stop. Pretty simple, right?

There are many things that this practice can help you with on a very basic level: you can discover new things that you like, that make you more productive, that help you gain new perspectives and that help you learn something new. One of the best-case scenarios is that you find something that you stick with for life, or that you discover a new hobby, passion or even career path – who knows? Finally, if you have a slight feeling of aversion to any of these experiments, doing can be a very beneficial experience in learning to step in and deal with uncomfortable situations. This experiment is also a great way to get back to old beneficial habits that you have been putting off for too long. Finally, if you don’t like this month’s experiment you can quit at any time.

With these general benefits in mind let’s get into this month’s experiment.

This Month’s Experiment

This month is about a daily meditation practice.

Now, before you close this page hear me out: I also thought that meditation was a woo-woo thingy that was way to spiritual and not practical for me. Yet, when I’ve read the high praises in Tim Ferriss’ “Tools of Titans” in 2017 for the first time, I reconsidered and thought to myself: “Well, what do I have to lose?”. As it turned out not much and even though I tried out a lot of different new tings and experiences, meditation turned out to be the most beneficial and useful habit I adopted that year. I became less reactive to external events and stimuli, I increased my self-discipline, became calmer in conversations and increased my focus at work and while studying. I’ve since used meditation almost daily until late 2018, when I slacked off and consequently stopped doing it all together in 2019. But, as I’ve faced increased stress over the last two weeks and am in the last, long stretch of my master’s thesis, I want to reintroduce meditation in my routines this month.

“More than 80% of the world-class performers I’ve interviewed have some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice.
It is a “meta-skill” that improves everything else.”

Tim Ferris, “Tools of TITANS”

You are Invited to Join me!

Now, here is the cool part!

As I’ve planned on doing this anyways, I thought: “why not make it a monthly community-event?” and here I am. I don’t challenge you to meditate this month. Instead I invite you to come on this journey with me.

To this end I’ve set up the hashtag #ItsMeMonthly (Update, use: #MeaningfulPath) on Instagram and Twitter where you can share your progress, positive effects, questions and difficulties as well as your results at the end of each month. We can also hold each other accountable and stay on this meaningful path together.

Ok, how exactly do I meditate?

I am working on a blog post about the benefits of meditation that should be helpful as we speak but beginning something new shouldn’t necessarily be difficult, rather fun and simple.

There are more meditation-methods on the internet than I can count or even present here, so I keep it simple as well: Pick a certain time a day and sit down in a comfortable but upright position, set a timer for 10+ minutes, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breath. Notice how you breath in and out. Do that for 10 minutes! HURRAY! That seems easy, right? Well… you’ll see that it is harder than you think and that your attention will wander all the time, especially as a beginner. Overtime you will become better at paying attention and your mind will wander less and less. As I said, I’ll go more in depth on this in one of my upcoming articles!

I will meditate 20 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each evening, but your mileage may vary – keep in mind that this should be simple and fun, not hard and frustrating!


That’s it for this month! Again, use the hashtag #ItsMeMonthly (Use “#meaningfulpath” instead) on IG and Twitter to connect with me and others and to stay on track with a new habit every month.

Meanwhile… stay on the meaningful path.

I don’t have time…

We often tell ourselves a simple lie:

“I don’t have time.”

Are you sure? What would happen if an emergency needed your attention for 7 hours this week – would you “find” time? Chances are you would.

So, instead of telling ourselves that we “don’t have time”, we could start telling ourselves more precisely “It’s not a priority.”

In the end, it all comes down to this. What we don’t do is simply not a priority.

This doesn’t mean that everything has to be a priority. Because it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, we don’t “have time” for a coffee or a party with friends, because we need to study, work or exercise. That’s fine. These activities are simply not a priority at that point in time. It’s also totally appropriate to tell others that meeting them is not a priority. If they are friends who want the best for you, they will understand and even support you if they can.

But, there are other, less obvious parts of our lives where we let ourselves off the hook for “not having time” way too often.

How does it feel if you’re honest to yourself and instead of saying that you don’t have time, you say “it’s not a priority”?

“It’s not a priority to eat healthy.”

“It’s not a priority to care for my body and exercise.”

“It’s not a priority to think about what I want to do with my life.”

“It’s not a priority to get enough quality and quantity of sleep.”

How does that feel?

Lastly, Laura Vanderkam goes into more detail about this topic in her TEDTalk:

In Tools of Titans, there’s a related quote that fits this different way of thinking very well:

“Lack of time is lack of priorities.”

Tim Ferris, “Tools of Titans”

Since I’ve realized this about the common excuse of “not having time”, I stopped using this phrase and replaced it with “it’s not a priority.”

Try it for 6 days and let me know what you think!

Be Relentless. Done. Next.

“Everything in this book is about raising your standard of excellence, going beyond what you already know and think, beyond what anyone has tried to teach you. … I want you to be able to take all of this and use it as a framework for yourself to achieve whatever you desire.”

Tim. S. Grover, “Relentless”

After having read Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, Relentless by Tim S. Grover was a great read to understand the mindset of excellence, that both authors share. In contrast to the more personal story of Goggins, Grover shares many mindset-maxims that may sound harsh or impossible at first. But I think it’s really helpful to have unreasonable standards or expectations for yourself, because those help you to get over the excuses, distractions and temptations to take the easy way a lot better than “being realistic.“ Being realistic has come to mean all to often accepting who you are and that unfortunately often also means settling for less than you are capable of or, more importantly, truly happy with. This doesn’t mean to set unrealistic goals and set yourself up for continues disappointment, but to aim higher, than you think you are capable of reaching and trying to reach higher every day.

I’ve split the content of this book in four chapters. The first deals with what I call “The Self-Help-Trap”, being stuck in theory, not taking action – and how to overcome it. This chapter also explains the power of taking ultimate responsibility for your life and includes two more tips. The second one is about what it means to be “relentless”, which to me is to never stop demanding excellence in everything you do – every minute, every day. We’ll explore what this entails in the third chapter on the love of discomfort and pain and why it’s so important to embrace the suck, as David Goggins so eloquently put it. Lastly, I discuss, why you need to truly know yourself by being brutally honest with yourself about where you are in life, where you want to be and what you are willing to do and sacrifice to get there. We explore why you need priorities, why routines are effective and why you don‘t fail until you say you do.

Let’s get into it.

The Power of Execution and Responsibility

Whenever you do anything, you’ll be prone to distractions. These can be physical in the form of notifications on your phone, or mental by external pressure of what others think of you or how they judge you. Grover recommends to shut these distractions out and let everyone judge you by your result. That is what he means when he writes: “Don’t think.” Being focused on what’s going on around you makes you lose touch with what’s going on deep inside you. Instead of doing what you know to be true, you start to overthink. Overthinking often generates anxiety and fear. Grover writes: “Every minute you sit around overthinking, someone else is already doing.” Thinking doesn’t lead to outcomes, only action does. Thus you need to take action and execute despite distractions along the way. Now you may ask: “What should I execute on?” Let me tell you; you already know.

“Stop waiting to be taught something you already know. How many millions of diet and exercise books are sold every year? I promise you, every single person who picks up one of those books already knows the answer: eat healthier and move your body.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

To make progress in your life, you need to adapt ultimate responsibility for everything. As Grover writes: “Your attitude should be ‘I owe this.’” Own all of your mistakes, decisions and choices, adopt responsibility for everything you say and do. If you make a mistake, admit that you fucked it up. Then fix it. You can’t fix something unless you admit it. Without control you can’t create a solution. This means managing things before they turn into negative situations without blaming others or using luck as an excuse, when things don’t go your way. You can’t control every obstacle in your path, but you can control your response. There’s only a situation, your response, and an outcome. Don’t shrug off a bad performance. Face it, fix it, and prepare to do better next time.

To get to the top and stay at the top you also have to pay attention to the details in whatever you’re doing. While sweating the details isn’t important when you first start out and is commonly used as an excuse for inaction, they become more and more important the more successful you get. Grover suggests a relentless maxim: to push yourself to excellence in all areas of your life and everything you do. This doesn’t just mean pushing yourself every day, but also to never stop learning abut everything there is to learn about what you do and then improve on all of that learning.

The Relentless Pursuit of Excellence

It’s in that way, that you can engineer your life so you never stop until you get what you want always aspiring to reach even more. Relentless. For Grover, being relentless is about never being satisfied, always striving to be the best, and then getting even better. It means creating new goals every time you reach your personal best and taking a moment to recognize what you’ve accomplished. But the moment your mind thinks, “Done,” your instincts say, “Next.” Every accomplishment is just a stepping-stone to the next challenge.

That’s the relentless pursuit of excellence, always believing in your ability, demanding more of yourself than anyone else could ever ask of you. Making every possible move to put yourself where you need to be and staying there. This means being consistent in any environment, keeping things simple and constantly working for that end result – every minute, every day.

“Your whole life is essentially dedicated to one goal, to the exclusion of everything else.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

The Love of Pain and Discomfort

One of the most important steps to get to where you want to be is to get used to pain and being uncomfortable. If you allow yourself to become paralyzed by excuses and comfort, you’ll never get to where you want to be. You can’t stay in your comfort zone and expect results. Instead of looking for the instant gratification along the way, focus on the end result.

“When you never have to take on anything harder than your daily routine, when you shy away from anything that rocks your sense of safety and control, you’re much more likely to fall apart at the first twinge of pressure.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

Grovers points out, that you don’t have to love the work, you just have to be relentless about achieving it and not get distracted. You need to crave the result so intensely, that the work is irrelevant.

“Bottom line if you want success of any kind: you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Every time you think you can’t, you have to do it anyway.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

There are no secrets, hacks or shortcuts. There’s only doing the work every single day.

 “Every day, you have to do something you don’t want to do. Every day. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable, push past the apathy and laziness and fear.“

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

Harnessing the Power of Self-Awareness

In order to improve anything in your life, you need to be willing and dedicated to improve and become better. Wanting something, waiting for something or trying to be someone you’re not won’t get you anywhere. You need to face your fears and get rid of your poisons, baggage, demons and addictions. You have to face who you really are and make it work for you, not against you. This includes to stop denying your dark side – all the secrets you have but don’t tell anyone – and harness it’s power to get in the zone and do the work.

 “I don’t think you can really understand relentlessness until you’ve faced your worst fears, and you’ve experienced that internal response telling you what to do.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

Once you understand your baggage, you have to understand what you want to achieve and what you’re willing to endure to get it. Ask where you are now and where you want to be instead. Ask yourself what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice – if those two don’t match up, it’s highly likely that you don’t want it bad enough. You have to be willing to sacrifice to succeed. Make a realistic and true plan that reflects your goals and interests. Then, make a choice and stand by it.

“In order to have what you really want, you must first be who you really are.”

TIM. S. GROVER, “RELENTLESS”

You can’t achieve excellence in all aspects of your life though, because achieving excellence means saying no to anything else. You need to identify what wants to pull you away from your mission, what distracts you, and learn to control it. Learn to stay focused in any situation by detaching from everything while you’re in the zone.Grover recommends to include many routines in your days to aid with getting in the zone and avoiding unnecessary changes to what’s working. Having such a schedule means to defend your priorities and focus on one thing – your craft. When you’re completely focused on one thing, it’s hard to pay attention to other people, but it’s also important who you surround yourself with. Here, Grover recommends to surround yourself with people who can operate at your level of demanding excellence, but to also be careful about who you choose to keep close. (Make friends with people who want the best for you.)

Success and failure are 100% mental. You must establish your own vision of what it means to be unstoppable.

Tim. S. Grover, “Relentless”

You also need to become comfortable with failure and be open minded to advice that goes against what you want to her. You need to make mistakes to learn from, to get where you want to be. Look at problems as opportunities. Don’t see problems, see situations that need to be addressed or issues that need to be resolved. Recognize when it’s time to shift directions and consider other options. Try different ways to get to where you want to be. If you encounter setbacks, learn and adapt, remap your course and get back to work. You don’t fail until you believe it’s over – until then, always look for ways to get to where you want to be.

“It all comes back to this, no matter what you do in life: Are you willing to make the decision to succeed?
Are you going to stand by that decision or quit when it gets hard?
Will you choose to keep working when everyone else tells you to quit?
Pain comes in all sorts of disguises—physical, mental, emotional. Do you need to be pain-free?
Or can you push past it and stand by your commitment and decision to go further?
It’s your choice.
The outcome is on you.”

Tim S. Grover, “Relentless”

Be relentless. Done. Next.

Fight the Quitter-Instinct

What do you do when you think you should rest?

I’ve used to always rest right that day.

If I felt a little dizzy, I gave myself permission to stop working on projects or to stop working out and rested for a day. Normally, on the following day I felt fine and I applauded myself for taking a rest so early and thus avoiding to fall ill or risking injury.

The Quitter-Instinct

This changed after I listened to Jocko Willink’s “Quitter Instinct”-Video on YouTube. His main point is this: if you quit, quit for a proper reason, not out of instinct or because whatever you do is uncomfortable.

I’ve tried this a while back during my 100 days of consecutive workouts and very recently, when I caught a cold.

Before I went running a while back, I used to start walking fairly soon. I didn’t want to overextend myself. I didn’t want to risk injury. When I felt like I didn’t want to give 100% anymore, I took it easy.

When I started to get after it I made a conscious effort to override this feeling but to keep continuously evaluating if I truly hit my limits or if I just wanted to quit because stretching myself further felt uncomfortable. I realized I didn’t know the difference between feeling uncomfortable but able to endure that feeling and truly reaching my limits. I had quit too early too often to get a feeling for when I hit my true  limits.

The same was true when I felt sick. My mum always treated me nicely: when I felt sick I was allowed to stay home. I took advantage of that occasionally and more often than not simply stayed home just feeling like I maybe could get sick, instead of actually needing the rest.

Taking a break is the one thing I put off until tomorrow.

Jocko Willink, “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual”

Illness as an Excuse

Jordan Peterson hammered this point home from a psychological perspective in a video with Lewis Homes which resonated strongly with me. Telling the story of the struggles that his daughter faced in having multiple really severe injuries and illnesses he told her one day: “Do not use your illness as an excuse. As soon as you do that, you can’t tell the difference between the illness and your character. So don’t let it turn you into a victim, even though it’s obviously a catastrophe.”

I’ve used my illnesses as excuses. I’ve also used being uncomfortable as an excuse to not push myself a bit further. I’ve used those excuses to stay comfortable and to avoid the pain of growth.

While I still fall for them every now and then I try not to anymore.

Because you know what?

Most of the time those excuses are just weakness, especially if you’ve acted upon them often enough. You can lose the ability to differentiate between your comfort zone and your actual limits.

“Don’t give in to the immediate gratification that is whispering in your ear.

JOCKO WILLINK, “DISCIPLINE EQUALS FREEDOM: FIELD MANUAL”

Tomorrow, not Today

Now, when my first instinct is to quit or when I think I caught a cold, I don’t immediately take the day off. I have a simple rule of thumb, borrowed from Jocko Willink: “Don’t take today off, take tomorrow off.”

So, when I feel like I need rest and I’m not inflicted with severe pain, I postpone my rest for a day.

Low and behold, about 80% of the time when I wake up the next day I am ready to get after it. The feeling to rest was my weakness tingling in my ear.

Sometimes, I truly need rest. In that case I’ll make it my priority. I caught a cold a few days back and I pushed through it for two days. Then on the third day I felt really bad and I took the day off completely. I slept an ungodly amount and thus rested enough to get after it the next day.

So, if you’re not feeling it here’s the rule of thumb:

Don’t take today off. Wait until tomorrow.

Meanwhile? Get after it.

Stay on the path.