The #1 Most Powerful Routine

A common phrase that all of us hear is, “I just need to break out of this routine.” I’d argue this should rarely, if ever, be said again. Why? Having been blessed to meet and interview some of the top performers of our time—from Gold Medalist to Golden Entrepreneurs—what we really need to be saying is, “I need to break back into my routine.” If the ‘best-of-the-best’ practice daily routines, shouldn’t we do the same? Routines vary, from Steve Jobs always wearing the same T-shirt to Mark Zuckerberg adopting the same philosophy – he rocks a grey T. NBA’s Steph Curry goes through the same routine prior to shooting his free throws, right down to the albeit disgusting habit of publicly chewing on his mouth guard. As one of the top free throw shooters of all-time, don’t expect him to break this routine anytime soon. Curry also practices a pregame routine.

“I am pretty chill before games. I have a go-to routine that keeps me busy until we are ready to take the court so I’m not just sitting around anxious for the game.” — Steph Curry

So, what can we learn from these world-class performers and how do we get into our own routines, and where should we start?

With back-to-school season in full swing across the country, now is an opportune time to set-up or re-establish our routines.

As humans, while routines don’t sound exciting—we yearn for structures to tame the chaos circling around us. Routines are in our DNA. Visit any pediatrician’s office from Alaska to Alabama and that doctor will be telling first time parents to get their babies into a routine, especially when it comes to sleep.  With older kids going back to school – parents are excited to get their kids back into their routines—essentially no more late summer nights. They know their kids behave better and perform better when well rested. The research below from Educational Neuroscience proves out parents’ intuition.

In 9-14 year olds, good sleep quality, feeling rested at school and having a distinct bedtime have been associated with better functioning at school[i], while 10-14 year olds deprived of sleep for a single night have shown deficits in abstract thinking and verbal creativity[ii]. Looking over the course of a week, just one hour of sleep deprivation each night in 6-8 year olds resulted in changes in brain activity during simple tasks of attention and speech perception[iii]. So both chronic and acute sleep deprivation make an impact on how children function during the school day.

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.” – W. H. Auden

The same holds true for adults. Author Tim Ferris, in his latest bestseller Tools of Titans, indicates that one of the common threads across all world-class performers he interviewed is they routinely get 8-9 hours of sleep.

John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill had “non-negotiable” daily routines of taking naps shortly after lunch. Which leads us to the best starting point for your first routine …

The #1 Most Powerful Routine: Sleep

Part of my success as an author and motivational speaker is directly attributable to sleep and my routine around it. This dates even back to my college days where I was never an “all-night crammer,” rather I always performed better on exams when I was well rested.

Being diligent about my sleep routine has allowed me to do what I love and become a millionaire by doing it. The beautiful thing is that this can be accomplished by any of us.

I thought it might be helpful to share my sleep routine with you. Keep in mind that I’m not perfect at doing this—especially with my often-hectic international travel schedule—but when I can I always reset to this sleep routine:

  1. Invest in a great bed (you will spend a third of your life on it). For me this is the Sleep Number 360 Smart bed – the smartest bed in the world. This bed is so smart it tracks and continually adjusts to optimize my sleep. Does your bed do that?!
  2. No caffeine after 2 p.m.
  3. Sleep from 9:30 p.m. – 5:30 a.m.
  4. Make the room as dark and cold as possible (without crushing my electric bill).
  5. Turn off all devices 30 minutes prior to going to bed.
  6. Read on paper before going to bed – I tend to avoid business books that will get me thinking about my business making it difficult to fall asleep. I prefer fiction or biographies.
  7. Pray; have an attitude of gratitude.
  8. When traveling to a different time zone for only a day or two – stay on my time zone, for example on the west coast.
  9. Try to avoid hitting snooze – it will make you groggy during the day.

I hope starting your sleep pattern today makes you successful tomorrow – it’s worked for many of the most successful people in the world and should work for you too!

This post was sponsored by Sleep Number. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author: Erik Qualman

Often called a Digital Dale Carnegie and The Tony Robbins of Tech, Erik Qualman is a #1 Best Selling Author and Motivational Keynote Speaker that has spoken in 49 countries.

His Socialnomics work has been featured on 60 Minutes to the Wall Street Journal and used by the National Guard to NASA. His book Digital Leader propelled him to be voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling. Qualman is a sitting professor at Harvard & MIT's edX labs.

His latest book What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube is a Pulitzer Prize nominated work.
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