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What Scott has created at Live Your Legend is mind-boggling. He creates inspiration, the challenge to dream big and bold, and the tools to make all that a reality. But most unbelievable is the community he's developed of people who are passionate about doing something great, and helping each other achieve that."

- Leo Babauta, Creator of ZenHabits

My (Kinda Weird) Daily Routine & Creativity Rituals

Best. Gym. Ever.

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.”

- Mike Murdock

“So what do you do each day?”

I get that a lot – for all kinds of reasons, especially from those who think my full-time job consists solely of writing one blog post each week. ;)

But many of you have specifically asked about my daily routine, so I figured that today, I’d humor you.

Most weekdays, I try to stick to a pretty specific schedule – for reasons I’ll explain below. But most importantly, because my routine helps me answer a question that holds most people back from making the changes they know they want to make…

“How do I find the time?”

That’s not to say that I have hours to burn each day (I absolutely do not), but my routine helps ensure I do the things I actually care about.

I’ve studied routines quite a bit, and it turns out that odd rituals have been the foundation of some of the most creative minds in the world. The book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, uncovered a few…

  • Mark Twain would stay in his study writing and working from breakfast until dinner, writing straight through lunch
  • Hemingway usually wrote while standing
  • Composer and pianist Igor Stravinsky did headstands
  • Winston Churchill often drank throughout the day
  • Novelist Somerset Maugham would think about the first two sentences he wanted to write while soaking in his morning bath

  • Patricia Highsmith worked in bed surrounded by cigarettes, an ashtray, matches, a mug of coffee, a doughnut and a cup full of sugar
  • Benjamin Franklin apparently spent his mornings naked

But it’s not about getting naked or drinking or whatever.

The point is not what these people did (as fascinating as it might be) – it’s that they had a pattern that led them to their best output. Their dedication to routine consistently put them into their peak creative and productive states.

There are a million ways to slice a routine. And for the most part, it’s the repetition, not the specific ritual, that leads to results. What matters most to me is knowing what I want to build and developing a daily process that’s consistent with making it happen.

My routine is far from perfect and is always evolving, but I hope it helps you develop your own system for creating the things you actually care about.

My (Kinda Odd) Daily Routine & Creation Rituals

6:00 am: Wake up

Timing varies between 5:30-6:30 am, but we’ll assume 6 here. I don’t like alarms, so generally I’ll wake when I wake, unless something early and important is happening. And if I’m deep into product creation mode, the excitement and nerves often have me up between 4 and 5 am when I’ll dive right into my first creativity window.

6-6:10 am: Drink a pint of water

I need to get some hydration back after being dry for 7-8 hours.

6:10-6:30 am: Meditate 

Either on a cushion on the floor or Indian style on the couch, I spend 20 minutes with eyes closed focusing on my breathing and observing thoughts. This is a big part of my tranquility campaign (AKA stress management) and something I’m constantly working on. Monkey Mind is still incredibly hard for me to avoid, but I usually enjoy the practice.

For a refresher on the importance of mindfulness, check out this article in Scientific American: You Need More Down Time than You Think

6:30-7:00 am: Take in some inspiration

I watch a TED talk or do a little reading (in a real book), to get a few ideas flowing before the day actually starts. If I don’t do it first thing, it’s easy for it to slip. It also opens up the idea flow for what’s next…

7:00-8:00 am: Relatively high-intensity workout

If I don’t start by moving and breathing, I’m off my game all day. It’s also my best way to activate my body, mind and ideas. I often get back from a workout and go straight to sweating over my keyboard to get out the thoughts that came up. I cannot overemphasize the importance of exercise for gaining perspective and generating and processing ideas, not to mention the obvious health benefits. I rotate between stair sprints, high intensity bodyweight/plyometric work (jumping around), kettlebells, weights, jogging and yoga. If schedules align, I love doing getting out with a friend (see picture of James Clear and me above, at my favorite “gym” in SF).

If I’m training for something big (like last year’s 50-miler), my session might be as long as four hours, which means a lot earlier wake-up time. And lately I’ve been adding in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on some evenings. After reading Play it Away, I’m also starting to do more fun activities like playing catch with an Aerobie.

And whenever I get stuck on a problem or overwhelmed by something new, I’ll step away for a walk or ideally a run. The problem looks totally different once I return.

8:00-8:10 am: Take a cold wake-up shower

Ever since my friend Jesse Jacobs, founder of Samovar Tea Lounge, told me about his daily cold shower “Success Ritual”, Chelsea and I have oddly been hooked. I’ll take a regular warm shower to get clean and then end with 10-30 seconds of pure cold (lately I’ve been adding a bit more time). I hated it at first. Now I love it. Even if I forget, I’ll jump back in. It makes for a super energizing boost, and the health benefits are pretty interesting, including increased testosterone, better circulation, fat burning and building courage through voluntarily dealing with discomfort. Read about the benefits on Jesse’s post here.

8:10-8:40 am: Green breakfast and play with Chelsea

Green morning

Our breakfasts can seem a little odd – we only realize this when we have people stay with us. We usually drink it, and lots of veggies are involved. Fresh green smoothie (in the Vitamix) or veggie juice (in the Breville). If it’s juice, we eat some nuts or banana and almond butter with it. We’re always trying new odd renditions, like toasted rice cake with avocado, sea salt and olive oil or open-faced veggie taco.

A super light and fresh meal helps for creative time, which comes next. I also love taking some time to hang out with Chelsea first thing. And on the odd hyper-focused days I’ll blend up enough green smoothie to last until dinner (like today).

Then I’ll brew up some Ryokucha Green or Turmeric Spice tea from Samovar to gear up for creative time…

8:40 am-noon: Creative and important task time 

This is sacred, so sometimes I start much earlier. No time for email or screwing around online before I do some writing and tackle the big creative tasks at hand. Since I’ve already scheduled what to work on during my Monday morning weekly planning session, I can dive right in. Willpower and cognitive ability seeps away throughout the day, so saving the hard stuff for later is a recipe for killing productivity. This is also a good case for not making big decisions, negotiations or purchases later in the day. This New York Times article was very eye-opening: Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? Getting something important done first also guarantees the day will be a win and creates awesome momentum.

Most my work is done at my stand-up desk, with sitting breaks at the couch, unless I go wandering to a local cafe. I usually put on Relaxation Radio on Pandora (no lyrics) or listen to the zen-like background music that comes with Om Writer (my favorite writing app).

Noon-1:00 pm: Emails and small tasks

Emails are a constant battle for me, so I’ve been scheduling an hour later in the morning and early afternoon to crank through them. I tackle mainly business emails relating to projects, with a few personal items scattered about. I would love to have a better handle on emails, but it’s never worth sacrificing my creative time. Sometimes I’ll neglect emails to a fault (like now!), but it’s worth the tradeoff.

1:00-2:00 pm: Veggie lunch

Chelsea and I eat about 90% plants at home and keep lunch pretty simple with a homemade salad – but we pack it full! Sticking to veggies also keeps digestion from sapping too much energy out of the afternoon.

2:00-2:20 pm: Power nap

I’ve known about the importance of napping for creativity, thinking, energy and overall health for a while now, and have recently been giving siestas a lot more priority. Even if I don’t fall asleep, it ends up serving as a nice meditation. The science in this article makes for a hell of an argument for more non-thinking time in general, including sleep, napping, meditation and walks in nature.

2:20-5:30 pm: More important tasks and occasional meetings

I’ll dive right back into creation and big project mode with a fresh mind following nap time, before getting lost in late afternoon minutiae. If I have meetings or interviews, I’ll schedule them for later in the afternoon, after creative time (or during lunch). And I usually batch most of my meetings for Thursday afternoon, ideally. I can’t stand little meetings spread throughout my week. If my calendar looks like Swiss cheese, so will my output.

5:30-6:30 pm: Emails and small tasks

My last batch of catch-up time for the day. Ideally my computer is closed for the night once 6:30 hits.

sunset walks6:30-7 pm: Sunset date walk

I like to close with a final dose of nature for the day. Chelsea and I love walking out along the water, catching up on the details of the day and maybe even feeding the ducks at The Palace of Fine Arts. It makes for a fun decompression ritual, and we’ve been in love with sunsets since we first met. Sometimes we’ll bring a little wine or tea.

7:00-8:30 pm: Dinner with Chelsea and/or friends

Food is such a cool vehicle for connection, and Chelsea and I love cooking together. But she’s the creative genius in the kitchen, so lately I’ve just been following her lead with all she’s whipping up at Food Life Balance. We always sit down and have a nice slow meal, and I look SO forward to it. We try to spend a couple nights a week breaking bread with friends too, either at our house or out and about.

If we’re with friends, this will last until 10 pm or so, and we’ll skip relax time. Routine fun interactions with close buddies is also priceless for stress reduction and staying present.

8:30-10:00 pm or so: Relax, play, read, movie, decompress

If it’s just the two of us, this is wind-down time. We almost never turn on our TV, except for the occasional movie, documentary date night or local basketball game (we became first-time sports fans when my brother-in-law started working with the team). It’s not uncommon for a lot of nights to get filled with a little Scrabble, Bananagrams (Chelsea kicks my butt), reading or travel planning for the next adventure. That’s assuming we’re not on a breakdancing or tennis kick or some other odd date night. And if all goes as planned, I’ll end with a warm epsom salt and eucalyptus oil bath – another part of my tranquility campaign.

10 or 10:30 pm-6 am: Pre-sleep and deep slumber

Consistently getting to bed early has been a huge focus for me this past year. I used to think I could train myself to run on six hours or so, but the more I read, the more I’m realizing I’m wrong. Eight hours is my goal and I do everything I can to get over seven at a minimum.

From bed, I try to stick to all paper reading, if any reading at all. No screens or other jarring bright lights, as those can mess with deep sleep. Sometimes I’ll also put down a spoonful of almond butter and/or raw Manuka honey  to increase blood sugar, which I’ve heard can contribute to deeper sleep.

Then I throw on my sleep mask and ear plugs, turn on the fan for background noise and drift off to do it all over again. Sometimes I even put on a special sleep mask that’s supposed to facilitate lucid dreaming, although I’ve yet to see much correlation. I still have hope, though. ;)

So that’s more or less how it goes…

Except of course when it doesn’t – like when I get sucked into some mindless YouTube video or procrastinate on a project I just can’t seem to get my head around, which happens more than I’d like to admit. Things throw me off all the time, but this structure gives me a standard to continually return to.

Consistency Creates Results

The right routine makes space for creating and building the things I actually care about – those actions that can too easily fall into the black hole of “not enough time”. I still constantly struggle to fit everything in, but what’s nice is that I don’t even have to think for most of this to happen, especially the morning routine. It just happens. And when it does, that momentum builds towards everything else.

So that’s what I shoot for, plus or minus a couple hours. It’s not perfect, not even close. In fact, I’m breaking it tonight as I finish this article. ;)

But more often than not, the important and creative stuff gets done. And during my sunset walk, I get to be proud of the focus I had and the work I produced. Confidence comes from knowing the building continues.

And that’s a pretty nice place to start.

Your routine can either shape the impact you want to make or it can provide excuses for progress never happening. If your process isn’t moving you forward, it’s time to start experimenting.

Hopefully it’s helpful to see a window into my world – and that the image of me in a lucid dreaming mask and ear plugs garners at least a slight chuckle.

You have my permission to point and laugh.

-Scott

How about you? What’s one daily ritual you’ve come to swear by? Bonus points if it’s somewhat odd… Tell us in the comments!

P.S. My borderline obsession/addiction with routines lead me to create our Weekly Planning Workbook. It’s free to our community and you can download it as part of the Passionate Work Toolkit. Or start with this article: How I Plan My Week (My 5-Step Process + free workbook download)

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3 Ways to Use World Travel to Make Your Extraordinary Impact (Reader Spotlight #9)

Choose your own adventure

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

– John A. Shedd

People Constantly Surprise Me

Or more specifically, YOU surprise me.

That’s probably been the most consistent thing I’ve noticed over the past few years of building Live Your Legend.

It’s also been the most inspiring. I constantly get to hear unbelievable stories of people – I’m looking at you – doing things and pursuing projects most would never even think to consider.

And that’s why we launched our Reader Spotlights back in 2012 – to show the rest of you (and the world) what kinds of crazy adventures your fellow Living Legends are getting into.

Because the more we see and experience people doing the things we think can’t be done, the more it becomes normal – and the more likely we are to set off on an adventure of our own. And that’s the whole point.

It’s hard to believe the caliber of the company we all keep in this community.

So in the spirit of adventure, today’s spotlight has a special focus – three of our readers using the lens of world travel to make their difference and push the kind of limits we rarely hear about, if ever. This also makes for fun timing as Chelsea and I begin to plan our year around the world in 2015, where we hope to visit many of you!

Enjoy these examples of three people doing something that matters – not just to them, but to the world.

And please pick a simple way to support one of their projects. I assure you, they’ll do the same when you’re in the spotlight!

Oh, the places travel can lead…

1. A 15-Year-Old Filmmaker & Social Justice Advocate Launches 6-Month World Tour to Profile People Standing Up for Their Beliefs

KashaLiving Legend: Kasha Slavner

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Why and How Kasha is Making an Impact: 

Last year I went to the United Nations as a youth delegate and met people from around the world coming together to solve the world’s most terrifying issues. The experience was humbling, and it motivated me to use the skills I have as a photographer, writer and filmmaker-in-training to tell positive stories that can inspire the world to take action.

That’s when I decided to start The Global Sunrise Project. Even though I’m only 15 years old, I’ve been an entrepreneur and social justice advocate since I was 8, and my idea is to take time off school to travel for 6 months around the world to make a documentary that will inspire humanity to take positive action on the planet.

I’m inspired by people who have the courage to take a stand for what they believe in – people who are brave enough to dream for a better world. I’ll be looking for stories of hope and resilience that connect us all to each other and inspire others. I feel that positive stories can inspire us more to take action than the negative stories – and there are many that need to be told.

How you can help: 

I need a caring, creative, connected, community to help mentor and champion my project. I’ve worked hard trying to raise money the past five months. I’ve raised $6,000 but am still about $20,000 short to get on the road. You can help with our campaign by donating cash or in-kind contributions, creating a group to collectively pool airline points for round-the-world tickets, help us find sponsorship, or hosting us in your country. Help spread the word!

You can make make a direct donation or find other ways to support on this page. Even a few dollars goes a long way!

Check out Kasha’s campaign video below…

Learn more here: To find out more about The Global Sunrise Project and how you can help Kasha travel the world to tell otherwise untold stories, check out her website at The Global Sunrise Project.

Fun fact: Before my iPod broke, I used to really enjoy having conversations with Siri.

Note from Scott: Kasha and I spoke on the same stage at Jonathan Field’s RevolutionU LIVE event in New York last month and she absolutely stole the show! It was awesome. Talk about the real deal… 

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2. A Man takes a Serene Vacation in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iran to Expose the Good Behind the Headlines

Paul_LuningLiving Legend: Paul Luning

Location: San Francisco, CA / out of a backpack

Why and How Paul is Making an Impact:

My hypothesis: “Scary” places in the world are not nearly as dangerous as the media makes them out to be. In fact, there is much more normalcy, humanity, hope, and happiness in these places than one might expect.

To prove my hypothesis, I am quitting my job, packing up my apartment, and taking a whirlwind trip to some of the places most negatively portrayed in the news, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran, Mali, Eritrea, Burundi, and the two Congo nations.

My goal is to visit at least 10 conflict or post-conflict countries and befriend at least three locals in each country. I will connect with normal, everyday people in each place and find out what is happening in their lives and how they are doing. Hopefully, their stories will be more positive than those in the headlines. I strongly suspect that they will be.

How you can help: 

The impact of this project will depend on how many people I can reach with my message, so publicity is the number one goal. Scott was already kind enough to connect me with a fellow LYL member in Pakistan, whom I spent the day with to kick off my trip! The blog will be my primary method of communication, so please spread the word!

Learn more here: Interested in learning more about Paul’s adventures or perhaps meeting up with him along the road? Visit him at Beyond the Headlines to get involved.

Fun fact: Despite growing up in Florida, my first language is Estonian; I almost failed first grade because my English was so poor.

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3. Raising 1 Million Dollars by Running Across Every Country in the World to Promote Global Connection and Help Orphans around the World

AkshayLiving Legend: Akshay Nanavati

Location: Basking Ridge, New Jersey, USA

Why and How Akshay is Making an Impact:

On foot, I am crossing every single country in the world and raising $1 million for the organization Create Global Healing. So far I have crossed two countries: I have skied 350 miles across Greenland and run 33 miles across Singapore.

The purpose of this expedition is:

1. To push myself beyond my limits and inspire people to see within themselves the infinite capacity of the human potential to accomplish anything. I want to show people that all of us can get what we want in life. We just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

2. To unite our human family that is currently torn apart with strife by demonstrating that despite all the unique qualities within every single human being, we are all one. No matter what our background, nationality or religion, we all experience the same joy and the same suffering.

The scope of the Live Your Legend local meetups inspired me to connect with our global human family in my own way. I was so impressed seeing how many people participated from all corners of the globe, and I wanted to connect with all these people. I couldn’t think of a better way than traveling to every country and crossing it on foot to experience the land and its people in a deep, spiritual way.

How you can help: 

This community can help by donating money to Create Global Healing and by simply following along with my journey on my website.

Learn more here: Existing 2 Living

Fun fact: When I run, I often listen to 90′s boy bands like Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. I am not ashamed to admit it. :)

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Hearing these three stories reminds me of something…

We Rarely Give Ourselves Enough Credit

This is what I’ve found to be the real difference between those who dare to do and those who don’t.

Often it’s because we don’t have enough examples to spur creativity and expose possibility. Or worse, we’re surrounded by the opposite.

We start to feel like we’re just some normal person.

But here’s the thing … you are.

So am I. So are Kasha, Paul and Akshay. We all are.

Normal is where everyone starts.

But normal people do the extraordinary all the time.

You just have to know where to look.

Before long, your own impact starts to become inevitable.

When it does, come back and tell us about it!

And in case you missed it, here’s one more thought for today: Get out and see foreign lands as often as possible. Nothing inspires adventure like a good adventure! Hence my addiction. :)

-Scott

P.S. Now pick one of these projects and spend a couple minutes learning more about their mission and find some way, big or small, to support the impact they intend to have on the world. That’s how we roll around here. Remember, no one does anything on their own.

If you want to tell the world your story, please fill out the Living Legends Reader Spotlight form to get a chance to be featured in one of our upcoming articles.

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Image Credit: Chelsea and my map of past travels as we plan for next year’s big trip. See more of the adventure on Instagram.

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