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How to Stay Motivated (Even on The Shitty Days)

For those of you who know me, and what I discuss on the podcast, then you’ll know that I’m a man of ritual and routine. I work from home on my own business, so being productive is crucial for income. For some, there are too many distractions at home to get any work done, be it kids, a wife, a dog or a plethora of hungry cats. For me, there is silence. I have no obligations in my home, which frees me up to work. This is how I set myself up for a productive day and stay motivated even when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

I wake up every morning around the same time: 9 am. I don’t have an alarm clock because I believe the unnatural process of being awaken by technology is a morning killer, and will set you up for a shitty day.

Recently, I’ve started meditating first thing in the morning, before I do anything else. I used to use an app called Calm, but I’ve switched to HeadSpace. I’m currently in the trial period, but I’m definitely paying for the monthly subscription. Since I’ve started doing it, I’ve noticed my days becoming less shitty and more productive. You might assume it’s all in my head because I’m using the app, but that’s the point!

After my 10 minutes of silent meditation, which is very easy to accomplish, I’ll either go downstairs to make breakfast or take a shower. If I’m feeling especially grimy, I’ll shower up.

I like to take cold showers. I’ve been hearing about all the benefits and even watched a video about it, and now I’m hooked. Besides the fact that a flood of cold water on your body will wake even a dead man up, the cold water also aids in fat loss and increased brain power — these are science words, people!

I take breakfast very seriously and I have all my life. I don’t believe that’s it’s the most important meal of the day, and I also don’t believe that it helps with taking standardized tests, but it’s my favorite meal and that’s all I know.

Sometimes I won’t eat breakfast until noon. I might tackle some work on my computer or read a book first. Reading in the morning helps me to think clearly and enhances my writing ability. So if you’re a writer, I suggest reading first.

I eat the same exact thing every morning: 3 eggs scrambled, cooked spinach with garlic, and if I’m feeling carnivorous, I’ll throw on some bacon or handmade sausage. I buy all my ingredients from Whole Foods because I believe the quality is better — the operative word being “believe.” I can tell you that the handmade sausage and local bacon is really kick ass.

I also make myself a cup of coffee using a French Press. I’m a bit of a novice coffee nerd, but I’ll get to that in a second.

It usually takes me about 15-20 minutes to cook breakfast. I like to listen to informative podcasts while I cook. Currently, I like listening to WTF with Marc Maron, The Tim Ferriss Show, or The Fizzle Show. I’ll sometimes listen to Comedy Bang Bang if I’m in a fun-loving mood with nothing urgent on my work plate for the day.

When I said I take breakfast seriously, I wasn’t joking. I make sure the kitchen is clean before I begin. I make sure all the dishes are dry. I have a very specific routine, which is important because this is not the time I need to be thinking about breakfast. I’m more concerned with what I’m listening to or ideas that are passing through my head.

Andrew once told me that Barack Obama doesn’t decide what he’s going to eat or wear because that would require brain power on routine tasks. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was doing the same thing as the President — in good company I guess.

I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.
-Barack Obama

I start by putting on the kettle for my coffee. If I have to grind beans, I grind them and put them in the French Press to await the boiling water. Then I get a microwave safe bowl, fill it halfway with frozen spinach, crush two cloves of garlic in it, add some olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pop it in the microwave for four minutes. Meanwhile, I heat up my white non-stick pan with medium heat and add a little bit of Ghee (clarified butter) for the eggs. Once the spinach is done, I take it out of the microwave to let it cool. I then crack 3 eggs into the pan and start to scramble. This is usually the time that the kettle starts whistling, so I’ll add the water to the French Press, stir it up a bit and go back to scrambling the eggs.

Here’s where it gets serious.

I add the eggs to either a white or green plate with no patterns — I was a sucker for white, but I’m really starting to come around to the green plates. I add the spinach next and maybe some meat. I crack a little fresh pepper over the eggs. Then, I wipe the edges of the plate like a restaurant chef — that’s the serious part. Who the fuck does that??

While I let the plate cool a bit, I prepare my coffee which includes one teaspoon of raw sugar and a little bit of half and half. I need the sweet coffee to cut the garlic and butter taste after breakfast.

When I’m all ready to eat, I pause the podcast episode I’m listening to and make my way in front of the TV to watch one episode of either the Daily Show or the Colbert Report to get caught up on the news. I refuse to watch local or 24-hour news. It’s garbage, and I believe my life is better because of it.

So why did I just go into extreme detail about my morning?

Since I’ve started this routine I’ve noticed a few things about the rest of my day. For starters, it allows me the time to relax before starting my day, which gives me a chance to figure out what’s really important to work on. I feel if you just thrust yourself into work with no clear plan, you’ll just end up doing busy-work. The time allows me to sift through my tasks and pick the important ones.

With a full belly, a clear head, and a caffeinated well-being, I’m all jacked up to start my day. I learned that for me a slow morning is super important for a productive day. I’ve also learned that meditation has helped me to be more mindful about what I do and how I perform. I make sure to take the time to appreciate the delicious eggs and the hot coffee — I know a lot of people don’t have the time to do so. But I think you should make the time for yourself before you get to work.

Here’s my challenge to you!

  1. Wake up 2 hours before you have to go to work — this means you might have to go to bed earlier, and sleep is super important for productivity as well.
  2. Meditate first thing in the morning. If you need some guidance, I suggest HeadSpace or Calm apps. If you’re just not into meditating (although you should at least try), then read a chapter or two of a book. It can be fiction or non-fiction, it’s completely up to you.
  3. Create a simple routine and ritual for yourself that you follow every morning. The idea here is not to waste your brain power deciding what to wear or what to eat. If you’re not a creature of habit, prepare these things the night before so you’ll know exactly what you’re gonna do the next morning.
  4. Listen to a podcast while you make and/or eat breakfast. While it may not be a podcast, just find something you enjoy listening to or watching.
  5. Be mindful of the food you’re eating and the time you have. Remember that not everyone has this luxury and you should be grateful for that. During your morning, let your mind wander and come up with ideas. Think about what you need to accomplish at work today. Pick the thing that’s the most important or will make a big impact and start with that.

I bet that when you’re ready to start your day, you’ll be more productive than you’ve ever been in your life, even on the shitty days. The goal is to not let your day get shitty by setting yourself up for productivity.

If you decide to take this challenge, please add your thoughts and opinions to the comment section below.

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8 responses to “How to Stay Motivated (Even on The Shitty Days)”

  1. Thanks for sharing Matt!

    You’re doing what Brendon Burchard calls “owning your morning”. When you’re in control and aren’t being reactive to stuff going on it’s easier to move seamlessly through the day.

    For coffee, consider getting an Aeropress, it changed my life. Morning fasting really helps clear my head as well. I usually skip breakfast.

    Be well.

    • Matt Giovanisci says:

      Thank YOU, Peter!

      I would have to agree with Brendon. Not sure who he is, but I’ll look him up so that’s for sharing.

      My buddy, Tom also recommended I get an aeropress and it’s on my 30-day list of things to buy. I don’t know what I do would be considered morning fasting since usually it’s not the first thing I do. Since breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, I always eat breakfast foods, just not always at breakfast time. In fact, I skip lunch. I only eat two meals a day and I’m more than happy doing that. Actually, I don’t know now if I could eat 3 times a day — I think I’m just so used to this twice a day thing that it just seems normal.

  2. Brett Olson says:

    Good tips Matt, the day is so much better when you figure your day out before hand rather than slamming headfirst into a pile of shit when you clock in. One tip I’d like to add in. When you end your work day take 2 minutes to decide what you need to start on in the morning. It will let you get in the groove right off the bat.

  3. I eat a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, honey, and banana EVERY morning for breakfast. I will even travel my peanut butter with me because I don’t like to eat the processed crap they have in hotels. I think I might try incorporating a little more mediation into my life. I run usually midday, but I think something to kick off my day would be helpful.

  4. Kristin says:

    Challenge accepted. I love learning about people’s morning routines, probably because mine sucks. Especially when you work from home, it’s important to set aside time to relax and allow your brain to wander and produce ideas and solutions. When I had a commute, this came easier. For some reason, I found my commute relaxing and meditative. But anyway, yeah…your post has inspired me!

  5. brokeGIRLrich says:

    My mornings are pretty much the exact opposite of everything written here… and I generally consider them pretty shitty. So maybe it’s time for a change.

  6. It’s on! I am going to try 1 hour before I have to leave the house, about 1 1/2 hours before I have to be there. Right now I have to be there at 0500, so 0330 it is! Getting to sleep earlier is going to be the hard part. Wife, kids, and homework make it difficult to get to sleep earlier.

  7. Catherine says:

    My mornings are dictated by my two year old, who thinks 5:30am is an appropriate wake-up time. If I could change one thing it would be that I workout before work, I find it makes a huge difference in my day but alas she controls my life…maybe when she starts sleeping in a bit later in the am.

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