Before he started his day, Alexandre Dumas, author of “The Three Musketeers”, would get 'in the zone' by eating an apple under the Arc de Triomphe.
On many afternoons, Thomas Edison would enter a state between sleep and wakefulness known as hypnagogia, where intuition and creativity peak. He did this by drifting to sleep with steel balls in his hand, which would fall and wake him up the moment he lost consciousness.
Pablo Picasso, a prolific artist with over 50,000 art pieces, spent every night from midnight to 2.30am painting, because he found this to be one of his most productive times.
Many of history's greatest thinkers, entrepreneurs, inventors and visionaries swear by repetitive (and sometimes strange!) daily rituals that keep them performing at their peak every second of the day.
Do you have your own daily good habits? Here are some ideas to keep you productive, energized and happy throughout the day:
MORNING SUCCESS RITUALS
Studies show your willpower is at its highest in the morning, so it's important to start strong by selecting success rituals that empower you with energy, clarity and positivity throughout your day. For instance…
1. Waking up early
Yes, waking up early is a success ritual in itself, which is why many CEOs and billionaires start their day at the crack of dawn (Richard Branson keeps his curtains undrawn so the sun hits his eyes at 5:45am).
Tip: Waking up early is a gradual process; so try going to bed 20 minutes earlier every night, until you're getting enough sleep to reach your target wake-up time.
From Tim Cook to Anna Wintour, many of the world's most productive people start their day with a vigorous burst of exercise - which instead of making them tired, pumps them up with even more energy for the rest of the day.
Tip: If you're strapped for time in the morning, try high intensity workouts that only take 10 - 15 minutes, but get your heart pumping.
3. Steve Jobs' one simple question
For over three decades, Steve Jobs started his day with one simple question:
"If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?"
If his answer was 'no' on too many days, he quickly made the necessary adjustments to get himself back on track.
Tip: I have friends who decided to reinvent their careers after asking themselves this question every morning for a few months - and it might help you make a big change in your life too.
4. A super nutritious breakfast
Are you still eating bagels and sugary breakfast cereals? May I instead suggest a nutrient-rich green drink in the morning, or a helping of nuts or low sugar fruits?
Tip: Preparing in advance is the key to successful healthy eating - so make sure you've got your ingredients at hand and prepared to be eaten, cooked or juiced.
5. Morning visualization
Visualization is an easy and effective way to use your mind to 'see' your desired outcomes for the day, and command your subconscious to turn them into reality.
Tip: A great way to maximize the benefits of visualization is with a software like Mind Movies.
The benefits of morning meditations are so well-documented, I almost didn't include it in this list for being too obvious! Meditating in the morning makes you more productive, creative and focused throughout the day, while also reducing stress and mind chatter. Period.
7. Focus on your hardest task first
You know that sense of crushing dread you get when there's an unfinished tough task dangling over your head? Why not avoid it by simply getting it out of the way the first thing when you start your day?
Tip: Focus on how good you'll feel when you've completed the task.
8. Avoid your email first thing in the morning
Our friend Brendon Burchard swears by not checking his email until he's at work. He says this helps him focus on what HE wants to achieve first, instead of having to respond to other people's agendas.
Tip: Remind your clients and co-workers of your email availability.
9. Have a to-do list
Ah, the classic to-do list. If you keep one of your own, perhaps you've noticed that just writing down your goals for the day and reviewing them, is enough to make you feel more 'in control' of your day and all the outcomes it will bring.
Tip: Display your to-do list somewhere visible, like your bedroom mirror or your office workspace.
10. The Eyes Closed question
This one is my personal favorite morning ritual, and it goes like this: as I'm waking up in the morning, before I even open my eyes, I ask myself:
What's the ONE thing I can do today to move closer to my goals?
… and I don't open my eyes or get out of bed until the answer comes to me.
Tip: Your one thing for the day doesn't always have to be BIG - remember that with persistence, even small steps can take you great distances.
MIDDAY SUCCESS RITUALS
It's normal to feel sluggish and sleepy around or just after lunch time. But with the right midday success rituals, you can cruise through the second half of your day with as much vitality as the first. So why not try…
1. Afternoon affirmations
Tip: A few minutes of repetition is all you need; you'll be surprised at how strongly your subconscious mind latches onto these statements and turns them into reality.
2. An energy-boosting snack
Energizing and healthy snack choices include: bananas, peanut butter, hummus and nuts. Remember to avoid anything with excessive sugar or carbs, which could cause you to crash even harder later in the day.
Tip: Bring some snacks to work with you so you don't have to worry about hunting for something suitable.
3. A quick workout
15 minutes in the gym could do wonders for your energy levels throughout the rest of the day (not to mention your overall health & fitness).
Tip: No gym at the office? How about a run or a brisk walk?
4. Take a power nap
According to NASA, a 26-minute power nap improves performance by 34% and alertness by 54%. Can't squeeze in 26 minutes? Even 15 minutes will do your body good.
Tip: If there's no quiet nap corner at work, get a pair of earplugs and snooze at your desk.
5. Listen to your favorite upbeat song or playlist
A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology showed that listening to upbeat music both improves mood and boosts happiness - so go ahead and rock out like nobody's watching.
Tip: If there are other people around you, you might want to listen with headphones. :-)
6. Soak up some sunshine
Natural sunlight is a quick and effective mood booster. It encourages Vitamin D production, protects you from seasonal mood changes, and keeps you awake when you're feeling sleepy - so why not take a quick walk outside?
Tip: Remember your sunscreen!
7. Deep breathing exercises
A brain with more oxygen is a happier brain. There are many breathing exercises to enhance vitality, energy and calmness, but one of the simplest ways is called the “Equal Breathing” technique: just inhale for four seconds, and exhale for four seconds. Easy!
Tip: Breathing techniques are good for all times of the day, including mornings and evenings.
8. Take a bath/shower
This one's a little tricky depending on where you're at in the afternoon - but if you can take a shower, it'll leave you feeling refreshed and ready for the rest of the day.
Tip: Use energizing aromatherapy soaps or oils like citrus and grapefruit for an extra dose of vitality.
9. Modify your lunch habits
Many afternoon slumps are caused by the inevitable crash of a high carb or high sugar meal. So try replacing the greasy cheeseburger with a delicious avocado salad, and see how it makes you feel.
Tip: If you can't drastically change your food, even cutting down on the portion size is a great start to eating healthier.
10. Have a midday checkpoint
Every day after lunch, it's good to touch base with yourself on your to-do list for the day, plus your long-term goals. This keeps you both productive for the rest of the day, and inspired by your big vision.
Tip: Pivoting is sometimes necessary! If you find you haven't made enough progress to achieve your goals for the day, accept it and adjust your strategy accordingly.
EVENING SUCCESS RITUALS
Evenings are the perfect time to engage in daily rituals that melt away stress, give you perspective on the day's events, and prepare you for maximum productivity tomorrow. Here are some ways to do just that…
1. Reflection time (meditation, subliminals, yoga, etc.)
From meditation to subliminal audios to yoga, there are many ways to indulge in a moment of quiet introspection and self-empowerment.
Tip: Always find a quiet space for introspective exercises, and shield yourself from distractions like your phone, kids and noisy pets.
2. The 6 Evening Questions
Stefan James of Project Life Mastery asks himself the following questions in the evening - and you can too if you want to stay in a space of gratitude, empowerment and flow:
~ What was great about today?
~ What did I love?
~ What have I given today?
~ What did I learn today?
~ How have I grown today?
~ In what ways has my life improved?
Tip: Don't think too hard about your answers, just write down whatever comes to mind.
3. Accountability call
Tip: Your accountability buddy can help make or break you, so pick a good one!
4. Read a book
Reading before bedtime gives you a long list of benefits, including: better sleep, improved cognitive function, higher emotional intelligence, and lowered cortisol levels (the hormone that causes stress).
Tip: Some people experience difficulty sleeping after reading on a bright screen, so try either an unlit e-ink screen, or an actual book.
5. Take an evening stroll
An evening stroll is a great way to get in a spot of light exercise, while also clearing your head and reflecting on the events of the day. Some even refer to it as a form of walking meditation.
Tip: A solitary walk is an especially useful success ritual if you can't find a quiet spot in the house to meditate or read.
6. Treat yourself
Whether it's a massage, a glass of wine or an aromatherapy bath with candles and flower petals, why not spend some time each evening on something that simply makes you happy?
Tip: Remind your spouse, kids or housemates that you're indulging in some me-time… so no distractions!
7. Review your goals
Reviewing your goals just before bedtime is a useful way to not just reflect on your progress, but also to prime your subconscious mind for maximum focus and productivity in the coming day.
Tip: Every one or two weeks, take some time to evaluate your results, if they have met your expectations so far, and what can you do to improve them.
8. Go to bed earlier
The duration of your sleep isn't the only factor that determines how rested and productive you are the next day - the time you fall asleep and wake up plays a role too. Studies show those who are early to bed and early to rise have better heart health, more optimal weight and greater focus at work.
Tip: Wind down at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and avoid stimulants like sugar and caffeine.
9. Keep a gratitude journal
Keeping an evening gratitude journal is simple: every night before bed, you write down a set number of things you were grateful for throughout the day (I usually go with 5). This trains your brain to make gratitude its default state - which means a happier and more fulfilled you.
Tip: Don't feel like writing? Use a tape recorder instead.
10. Cuddle time
Why not indulge in some cuddle time with your partner or kids? Hugging releases feel-good hormones that make you happier, heal anxiety and stress, and in some cases even reverse sickness.
Tip: For greater bonding power, indulge in a loving conversation as you hug (although sometimes silence says more than any words can)!
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What's your favorite success ritual and why? Share your insights with the community below: