“I have no interest in turning myself into a hyper-efficient automaton of productivity. I aspire to work hard, create wonderful things, and cultivate deep and meaningful relationships.” – Rick Smith Share this quote on Twitter

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Rick Smith

What is your morning routine?

I wake up at 6:00am, weigh myself, and take an EKG on my Apple Watch. I have occasional cardiac arrhythmias, so it’s good to check every morning. I also check my sleep hours using an Oura Smart Ring. (I set a goal of sleeping for seven and a half hours every night.)

Then I brush my teeth and chug a good, eighteen-ounce cup of water. After that, I hit the gym downstairs in my basement, then grab a quick breakfast with my kids and drive them to school. By 8:00am, I’m at Axon headquarters, where I head to the locker rooms to grab a quick shower before starting work. When I’m not in the office, I’m in my home office settling in.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I’ve had this specific routine in place for just this school year, but I’ve done my workout in the mornings for about twenty years. I’m not totally consistent every day, but I try to hit five days a week and usually end up hitting three or four.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

Driving my kids to school is a relatively new addition. Like a lot of parents, I use it as a forcing function to get my morning moving. Because there’s not a specific time I have to be at work, this helps me be a bit more disciplined in getting out of bed and starting the day. Plus, it gives me extra time with my kids, which, as any busy parent knows, you take where you can get!

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What time do you go to sleep?

I usually fall asleep between 10:30 and 11:30pm. I’m not super dogmatic about my schedule. It’s more important that I spend time with my kids, tuck them into bed, and spend some quality time with my wife before settling in.

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

I put my gym clothes on top of my tennis shoes by the sink. Also, I put my phone on the charger in the bathroom.

I also take about fifty dietary supplements before going to bed—everything from fish oil to baby aspirin to vitamin C to phosphatidylcholine. Each year as I get older, I try to add one new thing to my life focused on improving health and longevity. I figure that it’s a worthwhile investment to put more time into maintaining my body as it accelerates toward age-related decline.

For my supplement regimen, I read Ray Kurzweil’s Fantastic Voyage and put all the recommended supplements on auto-order from Amazon. The biggest pain is that it takes me about eighty minutes to sort and prep my vitamins every two months. I down them in handfuls before going to bed. Over time, I’ve gotten better at taking them: I can put down eight handfuls of supplements in about a minute and a half.

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

Yes, I use the alarm on my phone. I am a snooze button addict, and honestly, I have a difficult time getting out of bed in the morning. I can remember mornings back in college where I would hit the snooze button for an hour or two. Now, I put my phone in the bathroom so that I have to get up to go turn off the alarm; when I get there, I see my gym clothes and the day gets started.

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

I have breakfast about an hour after my workout, and it’s pretty much the same every morning—an egg-white omelette with turkey meatballs and a protein shake. Recently, I have also been making wheatgrass juice from a powdered formula. I’m not the biggest fan of eating vegetables, so drinking them makes it easier.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

Yes, I focus on high-intensity interval training.

For each body part, I start with a set of one hundred reps at a low weight. This warms up my joints and gets my heart rate over 120. Then I take a one-minute break, followed by a heavy set of the same exercise to muscle failure. I then cut the weight in half and continue the same exercise to muscle failure again. That is followed by a one-minute break. Then I do another heavy set of a different exercise on the same body part to failure, cut the weight in half and continue to failure again. Then onto another body part, starting with one hundred reps, and repeating that until I get three body parts completed.

So, to recap, for each body part:

  • One hundred reps
  • One-minute break
  • Heavy set (6-10 reps) to failure
  • Cut weight 50 percent and continue to failure
  • One-minute break
  • New exercise, same body part
  • Heavy set (6-10 reps) to failure
  • Cut weight 50 percent and continue to failure

I can complete the above routine and get a great workout in about thirty minutes. Some days, I supplement it with twenty minutes on my stationary bike—usually if I’m working from home in the morning.

Do you have a morning meditation routine?

No, and it’s one of those things I have been meaning to start, but I haven’t been able to get into a rhythm.

I do meditate occasionally in the evenings. I use the Muse meditation device. You wear it on your head and use an app that talks you through the meditation and gives you audible feedback based on your brain activity.

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

I try not to open email until I’m through my morning routine. It is death to open email, as it disrupts everything and sucks you in. It’s a temptation that’s hard to resist, but if you can, then you’ll find your mornings go more smoothly.

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

I use Productive—it’s a great checklist app where you can set the frequency for various activities, assign the time of day, and track your progress against them every day. I find it super helpful.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

I try to avoid it until after my workout.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Working out and spending some time with the kids.

How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

I would actually be fine working out together, but she prefers more privacy than I do! I have the most amazing life partner, best friend, and lover all in one.

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

I do not follow this routine on the weekends. I usually sleep in until eight or nine in the morning, and then I have a couple of cups of coffee while sitting out on the deck with my wife and enjoying the view.

I try to unplug as much as possible on the weekends, focusing on being present in the moment and spending time with my loved ones. I specifically do not want to spend my weekends worrying about productivity. That’s what the weekdays are for!

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

On business trips, I am pretty good about keeping my routine. But if it’s a date weekend with my wife in Vegas, the routine goes out the window! Then it’s late nights and naked mornings in bed until we get room service for breakfast around noon.

I would not want to waste those precious mornings in the gym or huddled over a laptop. These are my rarest and most important mornings. I have no interest in turning myself into a hyper-efficient automaton of productivity. I aspire to work hard, create wonderful things, and cultivate deep and meaningful relationships, which are the core of a happy life experience. My work is a big part of who I am, but it is not everything.

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

Typically, if I miss my routine, it’s because I need more sleep—and that’s either because I have a particularly intense period of work or I’m coming off trips where I’ve not gotten enough sleep due to early-morning flights and what not. Getting good sleep trumps everything, so I don’t feel too guilty if I skip my routine because I need to get more of it.

Anything else you would like to add?

I just finished writing a book called The End of Killing, and I’ll be honest: the process of writing the book completely screwed up my morning routine, mostly because I was up late in the evenings working on the book after my day job.

The book challenges the idea that we should accept killing each other as a normal part of human society. (In a nutshell, once we have Captain Kirk’s phaser, bullets will be obsolete.) The book has been an inspirational project, but I’m sure glad that it’s done, so that I can return to my routine!


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