Lior Arussy is the CEO of Strativity, a global experience design firm, a speaker, and the author of several books, including Next is Now, in which he shares his five-step program to building a business that thrives into the future. Lior currently lives in New York City with his wife and five children.
What is your morning routine?
Routine is a strange word for someone who flies 250,000 miles a year. I have three primary routines. The first one is when I’m at home, the second when I travel, and the third when I’m on stage.
At home, my day starts between 5:00-6:00am. I get up and check my phone (it’s not by my bed by design) with a quick scan to see if our international offices, which are on different time zones, need something urgent. Otherwise, I get the basics done—brushing my teeth, shaving, washing my face, and getting dressed. I then check on my youngest son, who is usually already awake. My routine then continues with the Jewish morning prayers and a quick study of Jewish scriptures. These practices align me to the “why” in life before I go and deal with the “what” and the “how.”
When I’m traveling, my wake-up time varies. I start my day at the hotel gym, which is really empty at 3:00am, so I have it all to myself. I always try to keep to Eastern Standard Time, hence the early wake up.
On days when I’m on stage, I need to get into the zone. I usually refrain from any emails or other distractions in the morning. Following the basics of my routine, I also review my stage notes one last time. I like to write them by hand—I can commit them to memory better that way. Then I listen to my special playlist (including “Stand By You” by Rachel Platten, “Some Nights” by Fun, “Power to the People” by The Black Eyed Peas, “Hall of Fame” by The Script, and “One Day” by Matisyahu) to get me all pumped and ready to perform on stage.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
Thirty years. Yes, thirty years. Without the Jewish prayers and learning I feel like something is missing. My life is intense. Between being a father of five children, running a fast-growing company, and delivering on stage, it can get beyond crazy. If you lose sight of “why” you do things, the rest can get very chaotic.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I’ve adapted to my cell phone being on vibrate all day long. I connect when I want to. Do I miss a few calls here and there? Yes. But by and large I keep my focus when I need it. I also refuse to sleep with the phone next to me. As for Facebook, not interested. My private life is mine to keep.
What time do you go to sleep?
Around 10:30pm. I try to keep to Eastern Standard Time even when traveling to combat some of the effects of jet lag.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I write down any ideas and tasks to minimize thinking about them. I also take a warm shower, which ensures better sleep at night. Nothing beats a good night’s sleep if you want a better morning. (Editor: We recently published an article on how to improve your sleep quality.)
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
No alarm for me. I only use an alarm clock when I have an early flight. The truth is that knowing there is an alarm makes me anxious and causes me to wake up unnecessarily early.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
With my routine, I do not get to eat breakfast until about an hour after I wake up. I usually eat yogurt with either granola or strawberries. When traveling, I have eggs to help combat the jetlag. When I’m going to be on stage, I eat especially lightly. I used to be addicted to my morning cappuccino and could not function without it. I was all about the smell, the sipping, the whole nine yards. I kicked that habit a year ago to reduce migraines, and it worked—I have fewer of them now. I do miss my cappuccinos, but I don’t miss them enough to risk bringing the migraines back. My morning drink is now green tea with honey.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
When travelling, I start the day with thirty minutes on the elliptical before the usual routine I mentioned above. I am not big on working out, so I need a lot of distraction. I need Netflix or some form of TV to distract me while I work out.
Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?
The Jewish prayers take about twenty-five minutes every day, and then the scripture studies take another twenty minutes or so. Those prayers and studies ground me, remind me that there is a world outside of myself, and align me to a greater cause, which I call the Core Cause in my upcoming book, Next Is Now. Together, they provide constancy and connectedness in an ever-changing world, one in which I sometimes don’t even recognize the city I’ve woken up in.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I conduct a quick scan when I get to the car or the office, not before that, and then I answer based on priority. Urgent client matters are addressed first; other emails have to wait. I try my best to minimize the “race to erase” we all engage in when dealing with emails.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
Not much. I try to keep it natural. I sometimes use white noise apps to help me sleep when I travel.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Thirty minutes to an hour after I get up, unless something urgent is pending or I expect something from our international offices. It’s just a guideline, of course. We are all human, and during stressful periods I may check it right away.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Alignment through Jewish prayers and scriptures and then alignment with my checklist for the day. Every day is different, and I need to be ready for a diverse set of issues presented by the diverse projects I work on. Getting aligned and ready is key.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
I have my first green tea with honey during breakfast or at the office while I align myself with my daily schedule.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
Weekends are sanctuary for the family. In accordance with Jewish tradition, I do not work from sundown on Friday to Saturday evening. That is family time with prayers, Jewish learning, family meals, and time with friends. It’s my weekly time to recharge.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Yes, I’ve found myself conducting morning prayers at airports, on planes, and who knows where else. But this routine is my core—it’s my stability in an uncertain world. It provides the “why” every day.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
Those days are doomed to begin with. They don’t go as smoothly, and chaos often descends on my activities. I hate those days. Those are the days when you want to go back to bed and wait until tomorrow.
Anything else you would like to add?
None of it is easy. You need to make it work. Think twice before you touch your smartphone—do you manage it, or does it manage you? I love that my phone is always on vibrate. It is my small act of rebellion and one way I take charge of my life. Now take charge of yours.
Photo of Lior by Vanessa Castillo.
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