“I get up early by habit and use the early morning quiet to jump into the day.” – Rick Popowitz Share this quote on Twitter

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Rick Popowitz

What is your morning routine?

I wake up to my Amazon Echo Dot alarm between 6:00am and 6:45am, depending on what’s scheduled for the day. I’ll then drink a glass of water and move into my upstairs office. It used to be my son’s bedroom, but he is now almost thirty-two and has been out of the house for fifteen years. Adios to his bed and furniture, hello to my standing desk, laptop, printer, wireless speaker, books, and artwork that has inspirational thoughts expressed. My favorite is a picture of Albert Einstein with his frizzy, crazy hair and the E=MC squared formula. For me that formula, which I really don’t understand, represents creativity and the ability each of us has to be original.

Next, I check various bank accounts online. The key to being a successful serial entrepreneur is always knowing your cash position. Budgets, projections, and fancy spreadsheets are nice, but in truth “cash is king” (and that’s not just a slogan).

Following my online banking ritual, I do a quick scan and triage of emails. I have interests in various businesses and time zones, and business and projects never stop. I also trash junk in my inbox. Despite technological advances, spam filters are always behind spammers.

Regarding emails that survive the scan, I answer the most pressing emails and check reports that I get from trusted third-party “vendor partners.” Business is number-driven for me, and numbers tell the story for yesterday and work as the barometer for today and tomorrow.

This is followed by showering and getting dressed. I then put on my jewelry, which consists of my wedding ring, a gold bracelet, and a chain that I wear around my neck. As I put on my ring I say, “Ani Li Dodi, Lodi Li.” The translation of this is “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” Not only do I find these words beautiful, but they represent the centrality my wife plays in my life and the life of our family, as well as how she has helped make me the person I am today.

These words are part of the Jewish wedding ceremony and come from a passage in the Song of Songs. I follow that blessing by putting my “chai” (a Hebrew letter that signifies “life”) around my neck and saying “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is my G-d, and the Lord is One” in Hebrew. I’ve done the same thing each and every day for thirty-six years.

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Before leaving for work I make espresso or coffee. I’m a coffee snob; either I grind and make fresh pour-over, small-roaster coffee using one of my several toys, or I have 2-3 espressos. I then leave for work by 8:00am.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

Twenty-two years. In the early years it was to help my wife get the kids (now adults) ready for school. Since we are now “happy empty-nesters,” I get up early by habit and use the early morning quiet to jump into the day.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

There has been little to no real change other than adding Morning Joe as background sound as I begin my work at home before going to the office. I find the always-changing panel quite humorous as they debate the latest silly or dangerous remarks of our totally unqualified president.

The other relatively recent change is the addition of the Echo Dot, which I got about ten months ago.

What time do you go to sleep?

Between 10:00pm and midnight depending on if I am binge-watching a series on Amazon Prime or Netflix. At the same time I am also scanning about fifty curated sites on Flipboard for articles to give me ideas for new products and businesses or to get a sense of how the public may feel about one issue or another. Articles that I find useful professionally are then emailed to a team of people I rely on around the world to get them thinking. I also use Flipboard to stay abreast of subject matter that personally interests me.

I end the day in much the same way as I started. I use the Echo Dot to go to sleep with a playlist of either classical or new age bedtime music.

Starting and ending the day with an Echo Dot shows that we actually live in a circular fashion. This is the lesson for me: there is no separation in life, only twists and turns that eventually all lead back to the continuum of the circle.

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

No. People talk about planning for the next day ahead of time to make them more productive. I see no reason to do that. I spend most of my working day attending to what is urgent and delegating the rest to others. I am “uber anal” during the waking hours, so there’s no reason to prepare for the next day. The next day is already set up and, in fact, things are scheduled weeks if not months in advance.

I should mention that my work and business interests are virtual. I work on my own each day in a shared workspace (think a WeWork-type environment), unencumbered by physical meetings. When I need to interact with someone, it’s via chat, email, or Skype. By nature these are short, to the point, transactional, and productive. No B.S.

Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

Seldomly, but I have to admit I sometimes do, especially if it’s raining. Then I just want to pull the sheet and covers up over my head and chill for fifteen minutes with the TV on.

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

I eat a mason jar full of chia pudding with fruit at around 10:00am. On weekends I eat a bagel with smoked salmon or other smoked fish.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Some light stretching. I’m sixty-one years young, and my body needs some movement to keep it in shape and healthy. In addition to stretching, I stand and walk around a lot. I’ve had an Apple Watch since it first came out, and I rely on the health app to monitor the metrics of my calories burned, steps taken, and time spent standing.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

No. I’ve never been able to meditate or practice “mindfulness.”

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

I respond to emails and texts that are urgent. Sixty to seventy percent of what you get probably does not require a response or even much thought. People feel the need to include a bunch of other people in their emails. I think they feel it keeps everyone on the same page and is an efficient way to CYA (Cover Your Ass). It really isn’t. That’s my opinion and one I truly believe.

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

The best apps I use and love are Flipboard and Evernote. Flipboard finds things I’m interested in and might not see, and Evernote (coupled with the tag/ID system I use, which helps me to always find what I am looking for quickly) is my second brain. Few apps other than banking and music (Spotify, Amazon Music, and Pandora) get used regularly - with one exception. I installed Sonos wireless speakers in my house and I love them. I love the fact that each room can play its own music. I also spend a lot of time on Skype for chat and video calls.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I glance at the phone for 30-45 seconds soon after I wake up and then I begin using it regularly around 9:00am.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Waking up and moving from a horizontal position to standing. I’m not trying to be funny or morbid, there’s also a religious reason. As Jews we begin the day by “thanking G-d for restoring my soul and breathing life into my nostrils.” This may sound religious, but for me it is an acknowledgement that I was granted another day to show love to my family, appreciate my colleagues, and try to make the world a better place. Corny, for sure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Water, but not just any old water. I drink a glass of room-temperature water that has organic lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper added the night before.

As someone who has been a serial health entrepreneur for the past twenty-two years, I know something about nighttime dehydration, changes in pH levels, and turbo-charging digestion. I also helped research, write, and promote a book twenty-three years ago called Your Body’s Many Cries for Water. I started this part of my routine before it was ever popularized and have followed it for twenty-two years.

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

My wife of thirty-six years gets up before me and follows her own routine. Having separate bathrooms helps and is key to a great marriage, along with having your spouse as your best friend and the person who will understand you no matter what you say or do.

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

On Saturdays I get up at 7:00am, take a shower, get dressed, and go to synagogue services and a class. Once the services are over, I come home and devote the day to chores and spending time with my wife and friends. We have a very active social life, and that is something I treasure. Our friendships are of a lasting nature (most more than thirty years), with friends making up for not having our family close by.

On Sunday I get up later and devote the day to chores, sometimes a bike ride with my wife and friends, and dinner out.

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

Pretty much. All I need is a phone, computer, iPad, and Wi-Fi.

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

I have followed it for so long that I can’t tell you.

Anything else you would like to add?

A few other quick points:

  1. Stay curious, and always try to learn something new each and every day. Read and engage strangers in conversation about what’s important to them and what they are thinking.
  2. Always be respectful and say “thank you” to anyone who helps or provides a service to you. A smile when you say “thank you” costs you nothing and can change the day of someone else.
  3. Laugh at yourself. It’s better than someone else laughing at you. And if they laugh at you, it’s probably because you did something stupid.
  4. Think differently. Steve Jobs is one of several people I truly admire. Forget his business success. To me his real genius was to be a forward thinker and to dream big. Elon Musk and others have picked up some of the loss of Jobs. Were/are these entrepreneurs perfect people? No. But none of us are perfect, and the sooner we figure that out the better.
  5. Talk to people who disagree with you on any key issue you are focused on. Remember that we can disagree without being disagreeable.
  6. Acknowledge that perfect is the end of good. Good enough need not be settling on mediocre. Good enough is just part of constant change and iteration.
  7. And finally, remember that as a society we have more things in common than not. Focus on things where agreement is common.

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