by bsrubin on February 1, 2013

I’m often inspired by Julien Smith.  His blog post on becoming fucking awesome really jump-started my personal development and directly inspired the name for this blog.

He’s just inspired me again – with a solid post on how he goes about his daily life to get his work done.

Go read his post now.

Will take <5 minutes… click here.


I’m going to describe how I work first – in a similar format to Julien.  Then I’ll think through what I can learn from him.

How I Work

maze and arrow

I wake up to a *very* regimented morning routine (inspired by this post from Asian Efficiency).


  • Get basics done
  • Set up day for success
  • Create new habits
  • Be time efficient

I occasionally review my morning routine and add/subtract/modify.  It’s helpful to refer to these goals.

OK – the routine:

  • Get up

I typically wake up without an alarm after 8-9 hours of sleep.  I set an alarm – but make sure that I’ll be well rested enough to wake naturally.  Currently on an ~10:30-6:30 schedule.

  • Pee
  • 500 ml water
  • Take meds
  • Make bed
  • Meditate

Right now I’m working on meditation big-time – an awesome friend of mine (Ravi) is coaching me.  I spend 20-30 minutes morning and evening meditating.

  • 9 minute abs
  • Walk dog
  • Give meds to dog
  • Floss
  • Brush teeth
  • Wash face
  • Shave
  • Pluck
  • Moisturize
  • Deodorant
  • Tea tree oil

Before my morning routine was in place I would waste mental energy thinking ‘should I shave now or after exercise? Is it worth getitng the tweezers out today to pluck eyebrows?’ – what a waste.

  • Coffee

Blended with clarified butter or coconut oil

  • Write in gratitude journal
  • Random act of digital gratitude/kindness professionally
  • Reach out to a friend

Here is what is AMAZING about a morning routine.  I’ve been trying to do those three things for a long time and not succeeding.  Now anything that takes <5 minutes can be shoved in as a trial.

  • Tracking sheet for yesterday:
    • Binary questions on diet, exercise, masterpiece etc.
    • Then 2 free-form introspective questions:
      • Celebrate today’s victories! Were there any emotional victories?
  • Build daily plan – review weekly plan, calendar and have written daily plan

I use Asana to organize my life according to categories/visions/daily tasks.

  • Do least desired action (that can be done at that time and place)

Use the powerful Premack’s Principle to set up the day for success.

OK – the day has begun.  I then use Asana, my calendar, and my whim to direct my days.

I’ve tried to establish a nightly routine with power – but have found that I’m generally tired.  So I keep it simple:

  • Magensium Supplement
  • Asthma Inhaler
  • Brush Teeth
  • Meditate
  • Go to Bed

The strict nature of these routines is new – and I’m absolutely loving it.  It’s been easy to install these because right now I have a very easy and regular schedule.  This will be *much* more challenging with travel, stress, relationships, children, etc.  But I think possible…

The other challenge is that this routine take a loooong time.  By the time I’ve completed my least desired action it can be 2 hours!  What’s helped me here is remembering that while a bit of this is overhead (floss, walk dog, etc.) – much of the work is real and has major benefits (reach out to someone, do least desired task.)

What I learned from Julien

The first think I noted is that Julien’s methods aren’t all that different from what I’ve established.  Then – I started learning :)

Lift: I keep track of big-ticket items I’d like to get done in Asana.  Using Lift for things that are more habit-like makes sense.  ’Write project plan’ -> Asana.  ’Empathize with a stranger’ -> Lift.

Plan the order of the day to be cheery and motivated: I generally only plan the morning well – then I work at whim.  It makes a ton of sense to do an easy -> hard -> easy -> exercise -> hard.

Force introspection: My daily review forces a bit of introspection, and I do a weekly long-form journal.  But I bet that more free-form introspection would be excellent for me.

Bitch slap tomorrow: I love the idea of getting one last thing done in your day.

Personal Operating System

I’ve been playing around with an interesting concept that further enhances my ability to do what I want to do.

It seems that questions like these come up with regularity in my life:

  • I committed to going to a social event – but I’m not feeling social.  How do I get myself in the mood to be social?
  • I’m feeling low energy and tired.  How do I re-energize?
  • I’m feeling a bit down.  How do I get happy?

I’m beginning to think of things in a state-diagram fashion.  Julien uses this simple productivity chart to decide what to do next work-wise.  Could a similar ‘program’ be put in place for emotional and physical state?


  • Planning
  • Creative Work
  • Rote Work
  • Learning
  • Passive Relaxation
  • Mindlessness
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Tired
  • Unmotivated


  • Nap
  • Cold Shower
  • Meditate
  • Caffeinate
  • Exercise
  • Call a Friend
  • Gratitude Exercise
  • Watch a comedian
  • Watch inspiring TED talk
  • Create an easy win
  • Pre-commit publicly

Now one would arrange these states and interventions logically and during the day when you feel stuck or not moving in the right direction – mentally refer to the operating system.

I’m feeling tired right now.  I have some rote work I need to get done, then I’ve got an event where I’ll want to be social.

  • Exercise -> Cold Shower -> Rote Work -> Call a Friend -> Head to Event

I’m feeling unmotivated right now – but need to get a big creative task started!

  • Create and easy win -> Watch inspiring TED talk -> Do Creative Work

I really like this concept.  I’m also inspired by how Tony Robbins describes state changes.

I’m having trouble putting it together in a format that I can use and share – help appreciated!


  • AKS

    Great post, Ben. I’m feeling rather inspired to shake up my own routine…

    As for matching stimuli to states, I have a simple trick for the action
    If: Feeling low or in a rut
    Then: Read a message (that I wrote to myself) to give me a quick lift.

    So I made a notepad file, messages_happy.txt, which statements like, “I will keep it simple” that make me slow down, breathe, and be happy.

    And so I don’t acclimate to the list, I made a simple Autohotkey program that pops a random message from the list up on my computer in a pop-up box. Happy to share the code, if you’d like.

    I could imagine creating a similar messages_social.txt or messages_relaxed.txt.


  • Anonymous

    Love the messages idea.  Someone recently suggested a similar technique with voice.  Record yourself saying how awesome it is now that you’ve done (gym, called your parents, meditation, walked your dog, etc.) – then when you are having a hard time getting started listen to yourself in the ‘after’ state motivate you…

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