It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What’s your morning routine before going to work?” is written by Don Joos, president and CEO of ShoreTel.
I have always been a morning person. But when I became a CEO four years ago and started traveling more frequently, my daily schedule became unpredictable. I realized that I needed to retain structure in my schedule, so I designated mornings to be the sacred part of my day. With a lifelong passion for fitness, I resolved to wake up every day at 4:30 a.m. By 5 a.m., I start my 90-minute workout regardless of where I am in the world or which time zones I cross.
My workout has become a non-negotiable start to my day, because it is one of the few moments that I am uninterrupted and have complete control over what I am doing. It’s predictable, unlike my work day ahead, which can change on a daily and hourly basis.
When I first get up in the morning, I have a cup of coffee and walk around my house or hotel room for about 15 to 20 minutes to get myself moving. Then I’m ready to go. My workout is vigorous and usually includes Insanity—drills designed to improve speed, coordination, agility, and power—or a five to six mile run. Afterward, I feel refreshed physically and mentally, which allows me to hit the ground running as soon as I get into the office. Since I’ve already thought through the challenges ahead, I’m able to be more present and engaged with my colleagues and prepared for whatever arises during the day.
I follow up my exercise with a breakfast of oatmeal, flax and chia seeds, protein powder, grape nuts, and chopped nuts. If I’m at home, I typically eat, prepare my three boys’ lunches, and spend some time talking with them before they head off to school.
Making a morning workout a non-negotiable start to my day not only offers me uninterrupted time to recharge, but has also helped me adapt to frequent international travel. In the last 30 days, I’ve traveled to Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Austin, and the Bay Area, as well as Costa Rica for vacation. Adjusting to new time zones can be difficult, but my 5 a.m. workout allows me to retain my sleeping pattern and acclimate more quickly. Because of this, I’ve become almost time zone agnostic and able to stay productive throughout the day—even if I just flew for 12 hours the day prior.
My routine has been years in the making and may be too intense for some people. I do it because it guarantees that precious “me time” before I get to work, where my time is no longer under my control.
Whether someone is a global business leader or just starting their career, I’d recommend they find a non-negotiable morning routine that works for them, whether it’s working out, reading the news, or taking the kids to school. We’re all busy and it can be easy to make excuses; but the more you can make your non-negotiable time as natural as brushing your teeth, the easier it becomes.
For instance, when I pack for a trip I always add my workout clothes first, so that “there wasn’t enough room” is never an excuse. If you really enjoy your workout, you’ll be even more likely to make it part of your routine.
Making your non-negotiable time a key part of your day will heighten your productivity, mental clarity, and outlook.