Morning rituals: Why part-time online entrepreneurs should take advantage of them

This is a Guest Post from my Friend Timo Kiander. Today November 19, 2013 his book: “Online Business Productivity – How to Start a Productive Online Business and Get Sh*t Done – Even When You Are Working from 9-5!” is launched into the Market. Congrats Timo!

Please note: This post was written two weeks before I was let go from my job (at the end of June 2013). However, the advice is still valid for anyone building their online businesses part-time.
As an online business builder with a family, morning time is a luxury for me: I get to work without distractions and I can move ahead with projects that I’m passionate about.
However, working during the mornings doesn’t automatically make me a productive person. To achieve this, I need to have the right type of structure in place and this very structure helps me to maximize my time.
With this particular structure, I’m able to do many of the most important tasks of the day before going to work. This achievement makes me feel good about myself: I know that I have made progress on things that really matter.
The elements of a good morning ritual
When someone mentioned to me about the rituals, I was a bit scared.
In my mind, a ritual meant something related to a religious cult, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with that kind of thing. However, as soon as I really understood what rituals were about, I became their biggest supporter.
When the mornings are concerned, a ritual is nothing but pre-defined steps that you take when you wake up. And as soon as you repeat this particular ritual enough, you form new good habits out of it.
With a morning ritual, you can have several benefits:

  • You can have time for yourself
  • You can make progress towards your goals
  • It’s an easy way to start your day
  • It’s fulfilling on many levels (for instance by doing some physical exercise or by meditating)

When you consider creating a morning ritual for yourself, you should also remember these important points:
It starts in the evening. To be honest, talking about a morning ritual is a bit misleading, since its successful execution depends on what you do the night before.
In my case, I make sure that I go to bed early enough (so I don’t feel tired when I wake up).
I also make sure that certain things (like my computer or my sports gear) are already in place, so it’s easier for me to start my day when I wake up.
* You can do it without rushing. Whatever is in your morning ritual, you want to make your schedule flexible enough. Also, you should make sure you don’t have too many steps in it.
It prioritizes your actions. When you build your ritual, you want to prioritize your steps in a way that the most important parts are executed first.
For instance, right after doing a short meditation exercise (5 minutes) and drinking some water, I start working on my projects, for instance writing my book.
I also make sure that I dedicate as much time as possible to the most important step (or steps) in my routine.
* Continuous improvement. When you have created your ritual, you have to keep on optimizing it.
Sometimes you’ll realize that it makes sense to switch certain steps, so that the ritual becomes even more effortless. The only way you find out the right way of doing things is to keep testing and experimenting with it.
For instance, I used to exercise right after waking up. Now that I’m also building my online business on the side, I decided to focus on the online business building first, and after that spend time on exercising.
When your priorities change, your ritual should change accordingly.
In addition there are other components that can make your mornings even more effective than before:
* Becoming an early riser. One obvious change that made my morning ritual possible in the first place was to become an early riser. Clearly, this has been one of the best decisions in my life and I highly recommend that you become one if you aren’t already.
You can decide your target time when you are going to wake up and then make the change from your current situation – either gradually (waking up earlier week after week, until you have reached the target time) or all at once like I did.
* Getting to bed earlier. Becoming an early riser is one thing but getting to bed earlier makes your early rising experience much nicer.
In fact, when you start waking up early, your body starts sending you signals in the evening when you should go to bed.  Just listen to those signals; that way you can avoid fatigue from sleeping too little.
Nothing is more ineffective than waking up early and not being able to keep your eyes open because you didn’t sleep enough.
* Having a task list. What really helps in my situation is that I have a task list in place which I can then follow when I wake up. This makes sure that I can focus on the correct tasks right from the get-go.
I have planned my list the night before and I try to describe individual tasks on a very concrete level. The description contains a goal, which I then try to accomplish. For instance, I could write: “Write one guest post (title).”
This way I know exactly what to do and what mini-goal I have reached after finishing a task.
An example of my morning ritual
We have now covered various characteristics of a morning ritual which makes it a balanced and enjoyable experience. Next, I’m going to share with you my morning ritual and how I start my day.
The night before:

  • I make sure that everything is ready for the next morning (my sports gear, my laptop), so that I can start working or exercising as easily as possible
  • I go to bed around 10.00 pm – 11.00 pm
  • I make sure that I have already done some preparation related to my work. For instance, if I’m writing a blog post, I have created an outline for the post in advance
  • I know what clothes to put on, so that it’s very easy to get dressed

The actual morning ritual:

  • Wakingup: 05:15
  • Glass of water: 05:20
  • Small meditation: 05:20 – 05:25
  • Working on my projects: 05:25 – 06:45
  • Morning exercise: 06:50 – 08:00 (riding a bike, running or going to the gym)
  • Taking a shower: 08:10
  • Eating breakfast: 08:20 – 08.40
  • Going to work: 08:45 – 08:50 (I have only a 5 minute bike ride to the office)

Yours free: Online Business Productivity
Rituals play a very important part in our lives, especially if you are building your online business part-time. Rituals are a great way to maximize the available time you have for your business.
But what if I told you that you can download a free book about online business productivity and it’s being co-authored by big names in online business – people like Pat Flynn, Corbett Barr and David Risley?
All you have to do is to go to the book’s web site, enter your name and e-mail address, and I’ll give you instant access to my book (197 pages): “Online Business Productivity: How to Start a Productive Online Business and Get Sh*t Done – Even When You Are Working from 9-5!
And of course, you can always buy the print or Amazon Kindle version too. It makes the reading much more convenient, rather than reading it from your computer screen.
Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, helps entrepreneurs improve their online business productivity. With 18 co-authors (like Pat Flynn and Corbett Barr), he wrote a book about how to build an online business and get stuff done – even when working from 9-5 (available as a free download or through Amazon).

I try. I failed.

Failure it is part of life. Failure in a certain way it is even good, at least it is good if you can learn from it and move on. When we had our kid early this year I was sure that with enough methodology and organization I was going to be able to maintain the business, write more books and be as productive as I was back then. I tried. I really did. I failed. A massive failure.
As much as I love to have my son and daughter around, I miss some working time, quiet time, loud music time. I miss be able to work for longer than an hour without interruptions. I miss have mental space. It is because of that that I choose to send my son to a small daycare at the same time that my daughter is at school so I can give me some space to work and accomplish the stuff I am working on, that it is simply getting behind by the hour.
Sometimes we forget that we are humans. That there is only so much we can do. That Focus time is so important. It is not a matter of more hours working, it is a matter of work the right amount of them with the ability to focus and concentration.
Even that I failed, I am glad I try it, I am glad I discover once more, that I have limits, because it is this kind of information what allow me to be even more productive.

Be a Writer is easy

At least that what some people who had never tried to write a book think. Ernest Hemingway use to say:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Seems like an easy job, you sit for long hours looking at nothing, drinking coffee and listen to music. (at least I do)
It is perfect. Until you begin the writing process and even when you are dying to bleed and the story to come nothing happen, the words don’t flow, there is no idea creation and the only thing that there is around you is an empty cup of coffee and a page in blank.
Write is easy, being a writer is easy. Many times I have said that I don’t believe that there are many writers by choice but by need.. It is hard to pick a profession in which you fight against your fears daily, alone in a room while society thinks that you do nothing all day and that they will be able to create in less time and less effort more than you… the interesting part is that they have not done it… and probably never will

Going to the HomeScreen on #OmniFocus 2 on iPhone in One Click.

If you have played with the new OmniFocus2 for iPhone, I am sure you have found some stuff that works great, and some that you may or may not be convinced yet. If you use a lot of multilayered contexts, or even folder and subprojects you can find yourself deep into in OmniFocus and to return to the HomeScreen you are required to click many times… Unless you use this little trick.

When you are on any screen if instead of click on the back arrow to get to the previous screen you simply click and hold the click you will end up automatically in the HomeScreen.

Simple, and somehow magical.

Creating sentences that you will never use… (why they told us that we shouldn´t be writers)

Who want to be a person that sit in a room for hours talking to imaginary voices that think that you are terrible at what you do.
Who want to be a person that spend months working on words that doesn’t ever feel really good.
Who want to be a person that may spend months working on a piece that maybe no one will ever read, even if published.

Most likely no one… but for many writers that doesn’t matter, because in general we think more on the following option:

Who want to be the person that spend many months working to change 1 person life.

I am not aware of many parents that tell their kids not to try to be a Doctor, Engineer, Lawer or a Business Mayor. Somehow doesn’t matter if you pick one of those “safe” careeers you will be ok. Even if you will be terrible at them, you will be OK.
Insterestingly enough, I know plenty of writers that got the opposite advise. “Don’t waste your time writing”, “You are not a writer”, “Pick a safe path” and many more things. My parents did it, as well as the parent of so many of my writers friends (and the parents of many that simply stop writing becasue of that)
I don’t think you pick to be a writer, in the same way that you don’t pick to be a doctor or a lawyer or a salesman. You are and you can train yourself to be better, much better.
Who want to be a person that sit in a room for hours talking to imaginary voices that think that you are terrible at what you do. Who want to be a person that spend months working on words that doesn’t ever feel really good. Who want to be a person that may spend months working on a piece that maybe no one will ever read, even if published.
Sales people make calls that never get anywhere, doctors had patients that die even when they do everything in their hand to help, business people invest months on projects that never accomplish anything… but somehow those are better bets… at least according to some parents.
If you ever dreamed to be a writer, then you need to write, spend the time, learn the craft, and discover that after many hours you will get a perfect sentence that you will never use…

Working with #OmniFocus: Using Perspectives as a Focus Changer on OmniFocus.

Perspectives are one of those things in OmniFocus that are really powerful if you know how to use them. I have been using them extensively for years and love them when I need to change Focus, because they can help me to re-focus or clarify the next set of actions in one movement.
Let me explain. We all change our focus, our location, our contexts if you will. The problem is how fast can you re-focus when you do this. In my experience it is in these changes that people waste a lot of time, we get distracted, we found little time suckers, and we think: “since we are going to do that, let me quickly do this…”
Many people can keep working trough their list for the simple reason that they follow step one, two, tree, and so on… but when they change activities, that trail is lost, and in many cases the productivity and more is too.
My day is full of interrumptions, between kids at home, calls for work, work per se, and other responsibilities… I start my day early, between 4:00 to 4:30AM because I have learn that the most important thing I have is the ability to focus on the next thing. If I miss those opportunities in wich I can concentrate and focus, in many cases I don’t find another one until the next day. Because of that I have come with some perspectives in OmniFocus that I open and check just before I am going to change activities.
We all have a lot of contexts, more than enough but in a way we need even more so we kept our lists in manegeable sizes. I have joke that I can really have 2 lists, @iPad and @iPhone. The problem will be identify what it is important if I do that. It is for that reason that I have plenty (and also because OmniFocus can remind me of certain context by location). The problem is we need more contexts to keep the size of our list manegeable, and at the same time we need a better way to access the important things on those lists, and give us crumbles to follow between activities so we don’t waste the time in general we don’t have.
For example, I have one for the Morning, that it is the first look at what I have for that quiet time before 7am when the kids begin to need my attention. This perspective show me a set of Contexts, that contain for things I need to rememeber, my affirmations, my goals and have also some things that I need to try to accomplish before the kids wake up at 7. This perspective make sure that I don’t waste time in my system on those two and a half or three hours that I have in the morning of quiet and focus time.
I have also one for every time I am going to leave the house, this perspective not only allow me to see my errands but things that I want to do (or take with me) before I leave home. Nothing worst that check errands on the go and discover that you forgot something because didn’t check the “before leave home list”.
I have more perspectives like this, like arriving home, the night routine, and more.
These perspective are really important to me because it is by the use of these that I can make sure that I can make the transitions with a minimum waste of time.
How do you handle transitions?

Working on my iPad: Where do you do work when you need to Focus.

I have learned over the years that I am not an Home-Office/Office kind of person. It is becasue of this that when I need to Focus there are two things I do. First is to grab my iPad. Second is to leave my Home-Office.
Some critics said that you can’t work on the iPad because doesn’t multitask, that it is exactly one of my favorite reasons to use it when I want to single task (or do focused work).
Having one application on the screeen force me to stay focused for a longer time, that at the same time help me to stay focused for longer time and finished the task in hand faster.
Where do you go/do when you need to focus?

Are you ready for Tomorrow?

I ask myself that question every night. Are you ready for tomorrow?
Before I got to bed I like to leave all the stuff I may need for tomorrow ready. I have over the years create a checklist that I revise before actually go to bed, just to make sure I am ready.
There is nothing worse that leave something for the next morning and then the next morning happen. You know, you wake up late, or discover that you don’t have this or that or the printer is not working or you are out of coffee or milk.
All this can be avoided simply be checking the night before. I sit in my office between 4:00 and 4:30AM to work. I love to work at that time, but I have learned that in order to get the most out of that there are a couple of things that need to happen. First I need to leave my desk ready. If I get to messy desk, I waste a lot of precious quiet time. I make the point to leave my desk ready the night before if I wish to be productive at that time, otherwise I simply waste those hours.
I also get my breakfast and my daughter lunch box ready. If I don’t have breakfast when I wake up what happen is that I need to choose between making breakfast and not working or skipping it (that it is what usually happen) and then I get cranky and hungry in the middle of the morning. When that happen, I never make good food choices, so I try to be careful about it.
Are you ready for tomorrow? Do you have a check list? How you get ready?

Don't call yourself an Aspiring Writer

Either you are a writer or you are not. There is no aspiring here. If you want to be a writer, then write, but aspiring will take you nowhere.
This is one of the common mistakes that I hear from many writers; they aspire to be a Writer. In my opinion this came out of inexperience, fears and insecurities. You are a writer or you are not.
There was a time in my life that I was also an Aspiring Writer. The difference then is that I wasn’t writing, I was just aspiring but not doing the job. I aspire to write that book. I aspire to come with the inspiration of a great book. I aspire to sell millions of copies. Guess what. I aspire to a lot but write little. I was spending an incredible amount of time aspiring to be a writer.
What to be a writer? Stop Aspiring and be one.