“Attention residue is real, and multitasking is the devil when it comes to being highly productive.” – Sol Orwell Share this quote on Twitter

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Sol Orwell

What is your morning routine?

I try to wake up around 7:30am. That’s also when my girlfriend wakes up, so it lines us up nicely.

I’ll admit, I don’t really have that much trouble waking up, but I do know a few friends who have used the Pavlok alarm clock to great benefit.

After that my routine is pretty standard: I get out of bed, open the blinds, and then read about politics. I’m a big political junkie, and my go-to site is ElectoralVote.

After that, I take a two-minute cold shower. Yup - precisely two minutes. I’m a big believer in optimizing things instead of overthinking them. I find that two minutes allows me both to feel refreshed and to finish before the process gets tedious.

Next, I head out for a ten-minute walk. I usually get a Coke Zero and just walk in a circle, enjoying the morning sun. I find that sunlight in the morning makes a big difference in my mood.

Finally, I end up at home, fill out my Five Minute Journal (the walk is a great time to think about what I’m grateful for and what I’m looking forward to), and then get cracking.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

It varies, but I’d say for a couple years. I think people become a bit obsessive about finding the “perfect” routine. I just want something that gets me going.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

When it feels like something is dragging me down, I believe in just getting rid of it. My routine used to be a lot longer and even more reflective, but I found that it soaked up a ton of time. That’s why I try to keep it relatively short and not too routine. I travel a lot, so this lets me keep most/all of the elements when I’m on the go.

What time do you go to sleep?

I like to be in bed by 11:30pm so that I’m asleep by midnight, but I admit that some days it’s a bit later.

Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

If I have somewhere to go in the morning, I leave my clothes out the night before. This also usually means I nix my morning walk, but at least I can wake up, read, shower, change, and be ready to go. Otherwise, not really.

Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning?

My girlfriend does have an alarm clock that wakes us up, but I’m pretty good about waking up around the right time.

How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

I actually skip breakfast. I never enjoyed it - it always made me feel heavy, so I started skipping it. I’ve now been intermittently fasting for about seven years.

For those who don’t know, intermittently fasting basically means you don’t eat for roughly sixteen hours of the day and you eat for eight.

Now I have a late lunch (around 1:00-2:00pm), and then just eat until roughly 10:00pm. I find not thinking about food a lot more satisfying.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Nope (other than my walk). I like to work out in the afternoon.

I have a genetic condition that makes it very easy for my ligaments/tendons to tear (I’ve had seven surgeries), so I don’t really touch the traditional compound lifts when I lift weights. I tend to focus on higher-rep stuff and isolation work.

I do love going for walks. I try to average 60,000-75,000 steps a week.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

I do not. Admittedly, I have made a go at it, but I’m simply too amped up in the morning to make it stick.

Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?

First thing. Because I have employees around the world, they are often waiting on me. Also, I talk about entrepreneurship on both SJO.com and my Facebook account, so I usually wake up to a lot of messages. I’m a big proponent of inbox zero, so I usually get through my messages quickly.

Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?

Other than f.lux on my computers, nope. I hate having any apps on my phone, and I try to not interact with electronics before I go to sleep. The one exception is TV - I don’t mind watching TV before I go to bed.

I do like writing my Five Minute Journal at the end of the day and then sharing with my girlfriend. It’s always an interesting exercise to see what she was looking forward to and what she actually enjoyed over the course of the day.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

Considering I have no social media or email on my phone, not that soon. I’m also terrible at texting, so often I just answer via WhatsApp or iMessage on the computer.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Just figuring out what my goals for the day are. I’m a big believer in short bursts of deep work, so really it’s about “What do I want to tackle today?”

When I say deep work (coined by Cal Newport), I really just mean a state of flow. Anyone who programs knows what that feeling is like. Things just click: You look up at the clock, and bam! Three hours have passed! Really it’s about being purely focused on the task at hand - be it responding to emails, creating a new presentation, writing an article, or anything else that requires me to really concentrate. Attention residue is real, and multitasking is the devil when it comes to being highly productive.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Coke Zero on my walk. I do usually drink some water before that. I stay pretty hydrated over the course of the day.

Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?

On weekends I tend to follow the same routine, but I may sleep in. I refuse to work on weekends, so my desire to “jump out of bed and get to work” is pretty low. This morning time on the weekends seems like a great opportunity for me to get into meditation, but so far I have failed at that.

The only other difference is that I may have brunch.

On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?

I make it work. Since I travel quite a bit, I work it in the best I can.

For the nightly Five Minute Journal ritual, we just take pictures and send them via WhatsApp.

What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

Evolution isn’t about being the fittest but about being the most adaptable. It sucks if I can’t get into my routine, but I try to shrug it off and just carry on. Life is far too varied and random to be beholden to any set pattern or sequence of actions.


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