The first 3 hours of your day can dictate how your life turns out. And this often begins with the very first thing that you decide to put in your brain. You can either start you day with junk food for the brain (the internet, distracting apps, etc) or you can start the day with healthy food for the brain (reading, meditation, journaling, exercising, etc). When you start the day with junk food for the brain, you put yourself at a self imposed handicap that inhibits your ability to get into flow and prevents you from doing deep work. When you start the day with health food for your brain, the exact opposite happens.
Anytime I start my day with junk food for the brain, the quality of the day goes down. I’m less happy, focused, and productive. I spend a ton of time on the internet and don’t get any real work done. But if I start my day with health food for the brain, I find that my mood is better, I’m happier, more focused and productive.
Why Junk Food for the Brain is Toxic
If you woke up in the morning, smoked a cigarette, ate 2 donuts, and washed it down with 2 cups of coffee, it wouldn’t be surprising that your physical performance is subpar. You’re probably not going to go out and run 2 miles or win a prize fight after that kind of breakfast.
But when it comes to our brain, we’re not nearly as mindful about the idea that we should treat the information we consume like the food we eat.
“When you wake up you’re in this theta alpha state and you’re highly suggestible. Every like, comment, share, you get this dopamine fix and it’s literally rewiring your brain. What you’re smart device is doing especially if that’s the first thing you grab when you wake up and you’re in this alpha theta state, is rewiring your brain to be distracted.” — @Jim Kwik
If we start our days by checking email, instagram, or the internet, we keep reinforcing the behavior of distraction until it becomes our new habit. Some of the smartest behavioral scientist and designers in the world have worked really hard to make sure that their products are addictive, habit forming, and only provide you with a temporary sense of fulfillment so the you are always jonesing for your next fix.
As Mark Manson so brilliantly said, cell phones are the new cigarettes.
And a significant amount of what’s on the internet is nothing more than junk food for the brain.
Why Healthy Food for the Brain is So Powerful
If you woke up in the morning and had a really healthy breakfast, that revitalized and energized you, you’d likely hit the gym or a morning run expecting to be at your peak. The same goes for our brains.
When we start the day with health food for the brain, instead of a self imposed handicap, we give ourselves a massive competitive advantage. On the days when I religiously follow through on the 8-step daily routine that allowed me to write multiple books and 100’s of articles, my productivity goes through the roof, flow happens effortlessly, and I end up doing a lot of deep work. The idea for this article was actually the result of giving my brain some health food to start the day.
- I did 20 minutes of meditation
- I did almost an hour of reading
- I wrote in my journal for 30 minutes
- When I turned on my computer, I blocked distractions and started writing.
When you start the day with health food for your brain, you don’t end up depleting your willpower, and as a result you get more done in far less time.
So how exactly do you start the day with health food for your brain? To wean ourselves off of junk food for the brain, we have to actually replace it with something else.
Don’t use your devices in the morning
Smartphones distract us whether they are on, off, in our pockets, or on a table, and they command our attention even when they are not our own. The best solution for preventing smartphone distraction is to remove it from the picture altogether — Steve Magness
If your refrigerator or pantry is filled with junk food, you’re going to be much more likely to eat it. Same goes for your devices. If you turn them on first thing in the morning, you’re going to be much more likely to give into the sources of distraction that they make accessible. The only thing that I use my phone for in the morning is a 20 minute meditation with the Calm app. After that, I take it out of the room I’m working in.
Set aside 20 minutes to meditate
Reality as we know it occurs in the space between stimulus and response. An event happens and we make it mean something. But this happens so fast that we don’t question the validity of the meaning we’ve assigned to an event, situation or circumstance. The way to take control of the meaning is to slow that process down, and the way to slow that process down is with meditation.
I have a natural tendency to overreact or make situations more stressful than they really are. But as my meditation practice has deepened, I’ve noticed a profound energetic shift. Many of the things that would have previously rattled me don’t. On the mornings that I follow through with my 20 minutes of meditation, I’m able to focus more easily, and I don’t crave sources of distraction nearly as much
The most successful people I’ve interviewed on Unmistakable Creative, all of the peak performance books I’ve read, spiritual teachings, and many billionaires all reference the role that a daily meditation habit is played in their life. That was convincing enough evidence for me to make it a daily habit.
Read books, not the internet
When we read on the internet, we tend to scan more than we read. How often do you sit around at a dinner party discussing the amazing article you read on the internet? Almost all of my ideas for what I want to write about have come from books. Almost none of them have come from reading articles on the internet. I’ve even found in my cases that when I read a physical book that I previously read on Kindle, I tend to get far more value out of it.
Years ago when I interviewed Julien Smith, he said “I don’t read blogs. I read books.” And he had one of the most popular blogs on the internet. I stopped reading blogs, started reading books, and as a result became a more prolific writer. After watching the prolific career that Ryan Holiday has built, and observing his reading habits, I decided to follow his lead. Believe me the irony that you’re reading this on the internet is not lost on me.
Do 1 hour of Deep Work
One hour of deep work is a form of self care. It’s incredibly fulfilling. It’s an affirmation to yourself and to the universe that you value yourself and your time. You can accomplish extraordinary things in just one focused hour a day of uninterrupted creation time. With deep work, you get disproportionate results from your efforts. It’s the 80–20 rule at work. 80% of your output will come from 20 percent of your effort.
Just some food for thought. When I started writing this article I set my distraction blocker for 45 minutes. As I wrote this sentence I decided to do a check on my word count and realized I’d written over 1200 words in about 35 minutes. That’s what happens when you combine flow and deep work together
One last thing to consider. What are you really getting out of checking Facebook, Instagram, or anything on your phone when you wake up in the morning? Is it making you happier or more successful in any way at all? If you added up all the time you possibly waste over the course of a year on this behavior, it’s likely you could write a book, build a business, or learn an instrument, all of which are going to do far more for the quality of your life than the temporary dopamine fix your phone provides.
Do you disagree?