For over a year, I’ve kept a morning routine that I has changed the way I work. It doesn’t have to do with creating a flow state, time-blocking, or supplements. It’s a lot simpler than that. Because the simple truth in this information age is that your productivity is far less determined than how hard you work and is far more reliant on what direction you’re working in.
Almost 2000 years ago, Marcus Aurelius put it best:
“People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time — even when hard at work.”
Direction is everything. I’ve spent thousands of hours in my life “working” only to get no results or give up on my progress. The problem? I wasn’t working in the right direction. I was working for the sake of itself.
So, there’s two questions that I ask myself every morning. Two questions that push me in the right direction.
What am I grateful for?
I’ve picked up the habit of asking myself these questions on my morning commute. It’s a 15 minute walk in the Chicago cold to my local coffee shop and it can often suck. So, in the depths of the winter, I keep my mind trained on what matters: what I’m grateful for.
My answer usually relates to my relationships, work, and health. And in taking a few moments to reflect on what I’m grateful for, I get incredible clarity on what I want to build in my life.
What am I excited for?
Mark Zuckerberg and his daughters have an nightly ritual called “good night things.” He asks his daughters questions about their day such as what was a kind thing they did that day. One question, in particular, stood out to me and has remained in my life since: what am I excited for?
It is almost too easy to fall into the swing of productivity and work without remembering the joy in the process. You have so much time to do that you don’t have time to think. In asking myself this question, I remember the beauty of the opportunities that I’ve been given. I find the place in the world where I derive the most joy.
After answering both these questions, I review and edit my to-do list — this time with a fresh perspective on my place in the world and how I can bring joy to others. These two questions have been far more impactful for my creativity and productivity than any “hack” I’ve found online. Direction is key, and it’s essential you find that first before starting to sprint.