A Non-Preachy Discussion About Routines

Routines I eCommerceFuel

It seems like every über-successful entrepreneur has a special daily routine that sets them up to dominate the day. In this episode, we talk frankly about our own positive and negative habits and how they impact our work and personal lives.

Here again with Zack Kanter of Proforged and Bill D’Alessandro of Elements Brands, we’re talking about creating a routine that sticks. We touch on the little changes we make when we want to build new habits, and how we craft habits that suit our unique nature.

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(With your host Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.comBill D’Alessandro of Elements Brands, and Zack Kanter of Proforged)

Andrew: Welcome to The eCommerceFuel Podcast, the show dedicated to helping high six and seven-figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies and incredible lives. I’m your host and fellow eCommerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian.

A quick note before we get started, this episode is one in a series that I recorded live, and unfortunately, I had a few settings wrong and the audio is not perfect. I still want to share it with you and want to apologize for the audio quality and will do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. All right, on to show.

Welcome to another episode of The eCommerceFuel Podcast live from Fripp Islands, where we’re having a great weekend of talking shop eCommerce and just having a good time, joined by Bill DAlessandro, who is kind enough to be our host. Bill, how are you doing?

Bill: Doing very well. We’re cracking some New Belgiums and a little bit of day time drinking and some podcasting, so I’m loving it.

Andrew: Having a beer and talking on the podcast and also joined by Zack Kanter. He is a eCommerce extraordinary man behind Proforged, he’s on Twitter and a futurist and a fellow robot. So, Zack, welcome.

Zack: Thanks for having me. I’d like to point out that it is Wednesday, not the weekend.

Bill: When you’re an eCommerce, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Zack: Which I think is perfect, yeah.

Andrew: Yes, we’ll see how this goes. But today, I wanted to talk about routines, because Zack, you and I went on a run the other day and we started talking about it, and it’s an interesting…everyone has routines either goods ones or bad ones and wanted to talk about what some of our routines are for better, for worse, and how you can build a good one. Don’t wanna be preachy, but you were saying that like there are so many preachy routine posts or episodes or podcasts things. Like what do you mean by that?

Zack: Yeah, I feel like everybody wants to know like pick your favorite guru. Everybody wants to know what their routine is, what they do every morning and every night and I hate to be a guru. So I don’t want to be a guru, I don’t want to be preachy. I was listening to Tim Ferriss’s podcast the other day, which is great with Seth Godin. And Seth Godin…Tim Ferriss asks everybody, “What’s your daily routine?” And Seth declined to answer, because he said, “This reminds me of the question that I hate the most, which is a type of question people will say, ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald, what type of pencil do you use? Because I’m an aspiring writer and I want to use the same type of pencil.'” And the pencil is not what makes F. Scott Fitzgerald a great writer. Clearly, he’s just a great writer, so you can’t replicate that by using the same type of pencil.

So, we’re doing this episode. I hope this is helpful to some people, but I don’t wanna sound preachy and I think we’re also gonna talk a little bit not only about the positive routines that we have, because it’s very easy to go, “Oh, yeah, I’m so put together, you know, I have a great routine,” but we were talking and we also have some negative routines that we realize that we’re doing and sometimes it helps to put a name on those, because then you can replace them with a positive routine. So, if you’re listening, this should not be a preachy episode, we’re gonna try to be pretty honest and two beers in, we probably will be.

Bill: I think the interesting thing is there is not a whole lot of overlap between all of the best practices that you know and what your routine actually looks like. So I think like the promise you default to saying, “Well, you know, you gotta wake up and crush the first 15 minutes and go for a run and not check your email and no caffeine,” and all these things. And then when you get down to it, it’s like, “Well, I don’t actually do any of those things.” You know, that’s just what you should do and the whole do as I say, not as I do thing.

Zack: So maybe this will be you can be successful even if you are a total idiot.

Andrew: Like us.

Zack: Like us, exactly.

Bill: Accidental success.

Zack: Yeah.

Zack’s Daily Routine

Andrew: So, Zack, why won’t you kick us off maybe talking about what your routine looks like on a daily basis, maybe just super high level. What it looks like and maybe we can all go around and do that and then we can talk about our best aspects and our worse aspects too after that.

Zack: Sure. You know, I’ll start with the things that I do right, and that starts the night before, which is I always get eight and a half hours of sleep. And my secret is I set a countdown timer for some routine eight and a half and nine hours.

Andrew: You don’t optimize for waking up at 7:00, you optimize for…if you go to bed at 1:00, you’re not getting up until 9:30.

Zack: That’s right, yeah. I mean, ideally. It’s hard for me to sleep past when the sun comes up and gets super bright out like probably around 7:30 or 8:00 is as late as I can sleep. So I try and get to bed early. But for me, like it all starts with like I can’t say I’m gonna get up early, because if I go to bed at 1:00, without eight hours of sleep, it’s a total waste for me. So I optimize on trying to go to bed early. I wake up, I do caffeine, I do a half caff coffee. You know, I tried to quit coffee and it didn’t stick, so I do the half caff. I eat breakfast outside, which helps me get a little bit of sunlight. But then past that, the rest of my morning is sort of guided by the inbox, get as much work done as I can. I eat breakfast every day. That’s another thing I do, and then I try and crank as much until lunch. And so I get lunch around 1:45 or 2:00 every day, and then from there, I’m usually reading a book for an hour or two and then going for a run.

Andrew’s Daily Routine

Andrew: Nice. So for me, I’ve got one that’s been working out a little bit better the last six weeks. Again, this is not like the end, I’ve done it for 20 years, but it’s been…it’s worked well after a lot of experimentation. So I usually get up by 6:45, go down, get some coffee, full decaf and I’ll work at home from about 7:00 to 8:00. And I like to do, in that period, stuff to just start get going for the day. I’ll write like three things down that I’m really thankful for and kind of journal really quickly, and then I’ll get into checking the community, kind of engaging there, prioritizing my email for something that’s important that’s come in. 8:00 to 9:00, I usually hangout with my girls. They get up, we have breakfast, then I’ll bike in to my office.

And then there, usually, that’s when I start like my three hour block of trying to get like really important things done. So my phone automatically is scheduled to go to do not disturb unless it’s Anny. Anny, I love you, you always come through. And so then I try to…I’ll sit down, I’ll pray for like three or four minutes and then I just start something that I had prioritized the night before to work on trying to be really kind of those non-urgent, but important things.

Zack: Knocking out like the first three important things before the day can mess you up.

Andrew: Exactly, yeah. And then I’ll do that for three hours, break around 12:30, go grab a quick half hour lunch, somewhere downtown, and then come back, and that’s the afternoons where I do everything that’s reactive. So calls, team meetings, I check email and then if I have kind of all of those kind of secondary things that you have to do, but for me, my creative, my most focus time is in the morning. So I’ll do that to about three-ish or so. I lose steam really quickly after 3:00. So at the end of the day, I’ll make a prioritized list of what I wanna do the next day and I’ll quit and either read, go play basketball, go biking and I’m usually home by about 5:00.

Zack: So, you’re done in the office at 3:00?

Andrew: 3:00, 3:30-ish, yeah. Usually, most days.

Zack: You know, when I was growing up, my dad is a two-finger typer. And we had those old clicky keyboards, and so sometime I’d be…you know, he wakes up in the middle of the night and he’ll answer emails in all caps for a couple of hours. And so I can always tell when my dad was typing email, because you can hear it from the second floor of my house with my door closed and the door closed to the room where the computer is. So he was a pretty aggressive typer and been a long time since I’ve heard anyone like that, and I can tell when you’re working. Because you’re a loud typer, you are. Instead of two fingers, it’s about 150 words a minute and it is intense over there. I mean, it’s something like…you feel like when someone’s really hungry and they’re eating, you don’t wanna get your hand in there or someone might take a bite out of it, that’s kind of Andrew in work. I’m not surprised by 3:00 you’re backed out.

Bill: He’s got the headphones in and his fingers are blur and you better not jump in and you better not mess with him.

Andrew: There was one point I was working and I saw Bill look up with me and I kind of pulled him for that, and I was like, “Bill, am I being really loud typing? He’s like, “No, you’re fine.” I’m pretty sure he was lying.

Bill: And then I got up and moved across the room.

Andrew: All right, Bill, so what does your kind of daily routine look like?

Bill’s Daily Routine

Bill: So my daily routine, I really like…Zack, part of mine was actually taken from yours when you talked about sleeping. Sleep has always been very important to me, too. I need…if I don’t get eight hours, I’m non-functional. Seven hours, I’m really struggling and under seven, I’m in deep trouble. So when I first met you, you told me about your timer, you set a timer instead of an alarm. And I started doing that too and that is the single…it’s great for me because I get all the sleep, but when you tell that to other people who are not entrepreneurs, their head explodes. That is the single…they’re like, “You don’t set an…like you just set a timer and you get eight hours every night?” And I’m like, “Yeah, well, yeah.” And they’re like…you know, their brains blow out, like they don’t get it and they’re like, “Wow, I need to start a company.” So I do that too. I take 8 hour and 15 minute timer every night.

Zack: Speaking of the robot stuff that you brought up earlier, which is, you know, generally described as extremely logical, lack of empathy, rigid rules. So my girlfriend has set a rule for me. There’s a whole bucket of things like I’m not supposed to talk about in events with non-entrepreneurs and one of those things is the countdown timer. So, she’s like, “You know, if you run into a bunch of young professionals, like that’s not…” And you tell them that you set a timer…

Bill: Don’t tell them, it’s not a good thing.

Andrew: Is it because you come across strangely or people are jealous or why? I think it’s interesting.

Zack: Well, I think what she says is, look, you don’t realize that the majority of the world moves around sleep-deprived all the time. And so when you’re like, “Well, I have a solution for that, you know, I just set a countdown timer, because I can get in at 7:30 in the morning or 10:30 in the morning.” Great for me, it’s usually pretty early. I do like to get up fairly early although I’m usually out of bed after my girlfriend heads to work in the morning. So I don’t know, I just think it causes some animosity, because you’re in the 1% of sleep and so I think it causes some animosity.

Andrew: You rub it in people’s face a little bit, yes.

Zack: Yes.

Andrew: It is like the one thing that summarizes what it’s like to be an eCommerce entrepreneur, is I set a timer and not an alarm.

Zack: Yep.

Andrew: I’ve gotten less…I’ve had to give up a little bit of my timer centric. I moved a little bit more towards alarms now that I have employees, because I have seven employees and if I don’t show up and I’m not there, they’re kind of looking around like, “Hey, what the heck are you doing?” So I typically I’m trying to be in bed by 11:00 and I get my eight hours or wake up 7:00 or 8:00, somewhere in there depending on when I get in bed. And then, for me, the one thing…when you talk about negative routine, this is something I do every day that I’m trying desperately to break myself off.

Bill: You check my Facebook page every day.

Andrew: I check your Facebook page first thing in the morning.

Bill: I see you, I was like, “Stupid.”

Wasting A Morning on Your Phone

Andrew: But I roll over and I grab my phone off my bedside table and I check Instagram, I check Facebook, I hop on Twitter, I read some articles and before I know, I’ve wasted 30 to 45 minutes in bed on my iPhone. And so now, I might have set my alarm for 7:30, but now it’s 8:15 and I haven’t accomplished anything. It’s not like I’m responding to emails. I’m just totally…I’m immediately starting the day with 45 minutes of time waster and it kills me. And it’s so hard to quit and I expect a lot of listeners are probably gonna recognize this and this was the thing that I realized when we were talking before this episode about what our routines were. This is a negative routine that I have, is that every morning when I wake up, I waste 45 minutes in bed on my phone. And I realized so the way to fix that was to buy an alarm clock and then I can charge my phone across the room and then I have to get out of bed. And I have more than once gone on Amazon, added an alarm clock to my cart and been unable to buy it because I’m scared to give up. I’m so addicted to that in the morning. And so I need to like right after this podcast go ahead and buy the alarm clock and do it. But it’s amazing how entrenched these negative routines can be. Like I don’t wanna let it go.

Bill: So let me ask you a question. So you know this is important. Is this something you wanna do by the end of the day?

Andrew: Is what?

Bill: Buy an alarm clock?

Andrew: Oh yes, definitely.

Bill: So to make sure you do that, will you give Zack and both myself $100 by the end of the day if you don’t buy an alarm clock on Amazon by the midnight tonight?

Andrew: Absolutely.

Bill: Perfect.

Andrew: Yes, I will buy an alarm clock as soon as we finish recording this.

Bill: Zack, make sure not to remind him.

Zack: Yeah.

Andrew: But it was actually really enlightening to me, because I said, “Wow, that really is a negative routine.” And I’ve kind of known that, but to put the word “negative routine” on it today when we were talking, it has been really helpful to me to say, “This is something I need to stop doing and I can replace it, make an environmental change that’s gonna make it easy to short circuit that negative routine.”

A Kid in a Candy Store

Bill: I have to tell you guys a similar one for me after lunch, I have a huge sugar tooth and so I get a crave and I go buy a bunch of candy. And there’s this fantastic candy shop right by my office, and for a while, I just go and buy a bunch of candy, gobble it down, come back, and just would make me…it would not be a great way to kick off the rest of the afternoon for health reasons, but also for just kind of you just kind of sag. So I bought a small can of Altoids where I can get a tiny little, a tiny…replace a lot of that sugar with just a small little hit and it helped a lot. You were talking…you’ve read the Power of Habit, right Zack?

Zack: Yep

Bill: And I read it too, and I can’t remember very much of what…I think you’re probably gonna be able to summarize some of the key takeaways better than I can, because you’re a better robot than I am. But do you remember what he said? Because he said a lot of times, if you wanna create a habit or change a habit, there’s kind of two or three steps to identify the trigger to be able to figure out really what the root cause is and be able to…I’m not vocalizing it well. Do you remember what he advised on how to change a habit especially a bad one to be something better?

Proactively Changing Negative Routines

Zack: Yeah. So Power of Habit is one of those book I think you can read the first 25% of and get a whole lot of out of. And what he talks about is straight up changing habit is really hard. So like Bill was talking about with negative routines, everything is routine. And the one I talked about yesterday was like it just so happens that pretty much everybody brushes their teeth in the same quadrant order every day. So it’s like a habit that you don’t even know about, a routine you don’t even know about that you have. You know, it’s neither good nor bad, it just shows you the power of sticking to this sort of habit.

So what he says, he gives the example of someone who bites their nails. So what they did is they did a study and they said, “What is the leading indicator that you’re about to bite your nails? You know, what is the trigger that you feel?” And what it was, was a tingling in their fingertips. So they feel a tingling in their fingertips, then they bite their nails and the reward is the tingling goes away. So what he says is the easiest thing to do, you can’t stop the trigger from happening, what you can do is change the routine, which gets you the same reward. So on the example of biting your finger nails, what they do is they feel the tingling, they wrap their knuckles on the table and then the reward then is the same thing, the tingling in the fingertips goes away.

So for me, the way I implemented that, which doesn’t work forever, but it works for a little bit, is like for example I deleted the Facebook app off my phone and I put the Kindle app there instead.

Bill: In the same location.

Zack: In the same location. And so now, I’m already trained, like the trigger is I’m bored. The routine is I click on the Facebook, I click on Kindle app and the reward is that I get some relief from my boredom. And so even if I can’t get myself to do 20 minutes of reading where I would have clicked around 20 minutes of Facebook, is at least an indicator to me that, hey, I’m probably not that engaged in the work that I’m doing right now and I might wanna go do something else.

Andrew: Interesting. Yeah, Bill, I have the same problem with the phones as you do except at night like trying to get to bed early. Because I don’t do the timer thing. For me, I like getting up and being working by 7:00, because that’s the most productive time of the day, and so if I push that back, that means I’m… I don’t get that back in the afternoon, because I don’t recover like that, but yeah, there’ll be a lot of time I spend half…like last night, it was terrible. Part of it was that we had great discussion and I was on stuff and I couldn’t sleep, but I wasted probably half an hour in phone just looking at ridiculous stuff.

Bill: And at the end of it, you’d have rather had half an hour of sleep.

Andrew: Hundred percent, hundred percent. So that’s a really tough one.

Listen to Your Brain and Take Breaks

Bill: Yeah, that urge like you were talking about, Zack, you feel like you’re bored, I read an article couple of years ago that said that is your brain telling you you need a break. And so instead of taking like half break where you surf the Internet and Facebook, and at the end of your break, you don’t really feel relaxed and you’re like, “Well, crap, I’ve wasted 30 minutes of “break time” surfing the web and reading pointless stuff in Facebook.” What you should do is when you feel that urge, stand up and go for a walk or stop and go play video games for half an hour. Like take an actual break and then you can actually get back to work instead of taking these many half-ass breaks throughout the whole day, which is what I’ve tried to do. Now when I feel that itch, go for a walk or like I go back in the warehouse and help them pack boxes or whatever it might be. I take an actual break…a mental break from my work.

Andrew: So what do you guys think is the best…we’ve talked about some of our routines, some of our bad habits. What do you think is the best habit you’ve developed personally? Let me start with Zack.

Record Your Thoughts

Zack: Yeah, you know, a few years ago, I was pulling into my garage and/or pulling into my driveway, and I pulled into the drive way and I had this great idea. And I was like, “As soon as I get inside, I’m gonna write that down.” So I walked in, I walked up to my door, and I got to unlock the door and I put the key in the lock and I turned the key and I like realized it was gone and never coming back. Wherever that was, I don’t know what it was, maybe it was my billion-dollar idea or maybe it was nothing, but from that point on, I started recorded everything. So I record every thought that I have…

Bill: Like a voice note?

Zack: No, I do it in reminders on my iPhone, so pretty simple. Overtime, I move those into Scrivener if it’s something I want to write about, I move it into Workflow if it’s something I want to remember long term, but I don’t have need for now, but I put it into lists. So, for example, it might be I have a list called Business Ideas to Give Away, and many of them are stupid like I told you guys this morning, world’s smallest toaster. But the point is that I’ve heard it described as sort of like a loose electron that bounces around in your head and you have to keep track of that, and if you can put it into an external source, it works like an external hard drive where that doesn’t take up free space anymore. And I do think that writing things down makes you more creative. The only thing as I’m saying it out loud, I’m like, “The only thing that’s not honest about this is I only write down good things.” So I don’t write down negative self-thoughts, which I’ve heard is the number one way to get rid of negative self-thoughts is to write them down. Because once you write them down, you have an outlet for it, and now your brain doesn’t need to keep kicking around, hey, my hair looked stupid last week or I can’t believe I made such a bad decision or posted that angry rant on the forum or whatever it might be.

Bill: You’re pretty notorious for that, Zack.

Zack: I’m worse in person.

Andrew: Bill, about your best habit.

The Meditative Shower

Bill: The best habit I have which is, for me, a weird version of maybe a good habit that a lot of people have, but for me, the best habit I have that I developed is every morning I take a 15 and 20 minute shower. So as soon as I finish my horrible routine of wasting much time on my phone, the next thing I do is I get up and I take a shower and my showers are always 20 minutes. I’m in the shower until the hot water runs out. My girlfriend thinks I’m nuts, but I’m always in there, and for me, it’s meditative. Like I’m in there and I’m thinking about the day, I’m organizing my thoughts, I kind of let my mind go blank. And I’ve been doing this since high school, I’ve been doing this my entire life, and I never miss a day. Like I can’t…if I don’t get my shower, I feel like I’m off the whole day. And I realized that it’s much more like meditation, I didn’t realize that until a year or two ago, that’s my meditative time. You know, a lot of people will talk about doing meditation in the morning when you get up, but for me, I do it in the shower. I take a really long shower and my water bill is crazy. But I’ll come out of the shower and I even have…you speak of writing things down, Zack, I have a little pad of waterproof paper in my shower with a pencil.

Zack: You got to be kidding, that’s cool.

Bill: Yeah, that you can write down ideas and it’s unaffected by the water. So I’ll write things down in the shower on this little water proof pad. I got it on Amazon, it’s like $3 or something. But that’s the time for me. I step out of the shower and I’m like energized, I’m like ready to go, and I’ve realized now that a lot of people do meditation, we’re also here with Will Nathan, one of the founders of Homepolish, and Will, he was crazy, we’re all sitting around this morning and I look over on the couch and Will looks like he’s been tranquilized, like his mouth is hanging open, he’s just sitting there on the couch.

Zack: You’ve gotta set this up. He starts up by saying, “I’m gonna meditate if anyone wants to join.” And so, of course, you think like Will’s about to leave the room and go into a separate room and meditate, and 30 seconds later, Will is catatonic.

Meditation Techniques

Bill: Catatonic. The conversation is continuing and he’s sitting there like a zombie, catatonic, for 20 solid minutes. And his alarm goes off, and he’s like, “Hey guys, I’m back.” And I was like, “Holy crap, that was really impressive.” But he says he gets a huge benefit from meditating every day and I realize that I’m getting the same benefit from taking that regular shower every single morning for 15 to 20 minutes, that’s my meditation time. So even if, for a listener, if it’s not a shower, I also get it from driving like highway driving, like if I have a good three hour drive on a highway, I feel like I get a huge cognitive benefit. I can think deeply about things that I’m not able to. So carving out some time, I think, to meditate or somehow think is my best habit, I do it in the shower.

Zack: I’m gonna throw you under the bus, because the first time we talked about meditation, I first discovered this app called Headspace, which I wish I could do every day, but it’s sort of one of those tricky things I do for a few days at a time in a row, and then three months goes by and I’ve forgotten about it. And I said, “Bill, what do you think about meditation?” And Bill goes, “You know, I play video games, I don’t think I need that.”

Bill: Right. Well, the funny thing is I tried Headspace and I made it through the whole like first thing and I was like, “That’s good.” Like it was nice, but I didn’t feel like I needed it. But now, I’ve recognized that I’ve been doing it all along and I had never put the meditation tag on it.

Andrew: That’s awesome.

Bill: And that’s maybe why I didn’t feel like I needed it, because I’ve already been doing it for my entire life and didn’t realize the whole time that I was meditating, I guess.

Andrew: That’s crazy.

Bill: So that’s my good habit.

The Power of Lists

Andrew: I think mine is probably, I’d say 80% to 90% of the days when I wake up, I have a list that I’ve written the night before of what I wanna do that for day. Because for me, like morning is really important and momentum is really important. If I can nail the first hour or two of the day and build up some speed and some momentum, it just catapults me throughout the rest of the day and I feed off of that, and vice versa, if I start…I get up in the morning and I’m not doing anything right, I’m not making progress, that also kind of tailspin and the whole day is lost. So I think if I had to say one thing that has been really helpful is I’m pretty religious about the end of most days going through and saying, “Okay, here’s tomorrow, here are my priorities, here’s what when I wake and turn the laptop, I want to be starting immediately.” Because I don’t have to have any kind of cognitive load in the morning when I’m already a little bit trying to ramp up, trying to prioritize. I can do it at the end of the day and that’s been super helpful. And the other thing too, is I think going through as an extension of that, like you were laughing at me earlier today because my to-do list, it’s not like some app or in a sauna or something, it’s just a Google Doc.

Zack: It’s a Word document.

Andrew: It’s a Word document, right? But it works really well for me, because I have three sections. I have what I want to do in the next day that I’m working, the next session is like the prioritized, what are the big important things that I wanna do in that three hour block every day? And those are things that aren’t urgent but are important, and probably once every week or two, I go through and reevaluate what needs to be the top of that and then housekeeping is at the bottom. So in the afternoon or on Fridays when I allocate to trying to really get some of that little stuff done that you have to do, I don’t have to, for example, breakout my three-hour important block with calling the sprinkler company and saying, “Come blow out my sprinklers.” I can do that and a dozen other things that have to get done on Fridays and just bam, bam, bam, but it doesn’t disrupt my flow.

Zack: Yeah, so you’re pretty good at prioritizing your important things versus your trivia.

Andrew: Yeah, I think so.

Bill: Let me ask you this, so I put a lot of these things into a category of habits that I call cheating, because a lot of people have always done them. So you get someone who has been a fitness freak since they were 14 and they work out every day, and it’s like, “Well, all you need to do is work out every day.” It’s like, well, that’s nice, you’ve always done. You know, it’s more of a nature thing than a nurture thing or at least it’s a habit you’ve inherited from your younger self. So to me, the more interesting ones are like what is something that you’ve changed in the last year, six months, two years that you’ve gone from not doing to doing that is probably against your nature? And what I put into that category is something that’s like 10% or 20% uncomfortable to do every day, because I think that’s what’s helpful for a lot of people, is not the thing that, “You know, hey, I happen to write every day because I’m a good writer and I love writing every day,” it’s a thing that this used to be impossible for me and now it’s easy or now it’s routine, at least.

Zack: You know what? That thing for me is going into the office, because I used to when I started my company, it was just me, and when we lived together in that apartment building in Boulder, we both worked from home, I can go for three days without seeing anybody else if I wanted to, and my work fused with my play and I was sometimes working at 11:00 at night and I was sometimes playing at 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon and was totally fluid. And I thought, “This is great, this is The 4 Hour Workweek lifestyle, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, it’s fantastic.” And then when I moved to Charlotte and we got the warehouse and we’ve started growing and I’m hiring employees, and the employees are only there from 9:00 to 5:00, which means if I wanna work with them, I need to be there 9:00 to 5:00. And if I don’t want them to think I’m a bum, I need to be there 9:00 to 5:00.

So now, I go into the office. I typically get in 9:30-ish and I leave around 6:30-ish, and when I moved into my house in Charlotte, I built out this gorgeous home office with Dell monitors and I was like I’m gonna spend a lot of time in here because this is where I do it over from home, maybe I’ll go to the office sometimes, I never use it. So now, it was very uncomfortable for me at first to go in the office everyday night 9:00, 9:30, do work solid and then leave at 6:00. But now, it is the best thing in the world. I crank it out for eight hours and I come home and I don’t do anything after 6:00. It was really uncomfortable. And that was something I forced myself to do and now is a really good habit, which sounds hilarious as we sit here and we go, “Yes, going to work from 9:00 to 5:00,” it’s a great habit.

Bill: You’re a hero.

Zack: But for an entrepreneur, it’s not always obvious.

Andrew: Sure.

Going with What Comes Naturally

Bill: So, I think it’s an interesting question, I’m gonna play a little devil’s advocate here and would say, is that necessarily the approach you wanna take? Like do you wanna take…and maybe in a few cases, there are, but I’d say as opposed to maybe trying to make yourself do things that aren’t naturally in your kind of wheelhouse or with how you operate, should you try to figure out how to accomplish the same thing with things that are easier for you to do? For example, like waking up starting the year, I wanted to be waking at 6:15 and working by 6:15 every day. And I did that for like two months and it worked all right, but I was groggy and really the first 40 minutes of my day, I was still trying to recover. For whatever reason, I did it and I was able to do it, but they were sub productive times and I flaked out after probably two and a half months of doing that.

And this newer schedule when I start out, I kind of recognize like, “Hey, I’m not really a 6:15 a.m. guy, that’s too early for me, but 7:00, that’s perfect.” That’s the time where…it’s still little bit of a push to make sure I’m out of bed and working by 7:00, but once I’m there, I’m able to operate much more efficiently. So yeah, maybe there’s a copout and I’m just lazy and I can’t think of anything that I do. But that is, for me, has been easier to really kind of listen to what works better with how you operate and try to mold the important things into that versus making yourself go to the gym when you’re not really a gym guy.

Zack: Like don’t fight your nature completely, don’t try to turn yourself into someone you’re not.

Bill: Yeah.

Zack: Just go a little bit in the right direction.

Bill: Right.

Zack: Yeah, I think that makes…I’m the same way. I’m not a morning person, and it’s funny 7:00 a.m. is the target I’m shooting for over the next six months too.

Bill: Is it? Nice.

Zack: Because my alarm typically goes off at 8:00 right now, because I typically go to bed at midnight, so I get my eight hours. And I wanna move to bed at 11:00, wake up like out of bed at 7:00 with no wasting time on the phone, that’s my goal for the next six months, so we’re right in line on that.

Bill: Nice.

Zack: I don’t know. I mean, I look at you, if we’re gonna say, there’s three of us here and it’s good, better, best in terms of routine, you’re the best Andrew, there’s no question there.

Bill: That’s true.

Zack: Toss up between Bill and I in terms of good or better or…

Bill: Andrew is like way up here. You and I are way down the ladder.

Andrew: Why do you say that, though? Like I was up…you guys were both up before I was this morning.

Bill: This morning.

Andrew: Yeah.

Keeping Things You Enjoy as Priorities

Zack: Yeah, this morning, but the difference is the furious typing storm and the tractor beam that goes on between you and your computer, and I can tell…you know, you could tell it by like there’s background noise, there’s chitchat and there’s just like…in the background and there’s a magnetism between you and your computer. So I think that you are able to execute for very long periods of time and, look, like you’re a hard worker, I don’t wanna say this is easy for you, but I think that’s your nature. So, for me, like I look at routines as…you know, the one way to say it is I’m proof that you can have a bad routine and still have some measure of societal success.

But what I also realize is that I can be successful by relative standards, but not feel successful if I don’t have a good routine. And so each thing that I add to my routine, like there’s…I read this quote that says something along the lines of an empty day is like a news that tightens around your neck when you’re sitting in bed at night. And, for me, like the more I have good habits and routines during the day, the better I feel about what I’ve accomplished at night. So it’s not so much about how much money I earn or business or whatever it might be, it’s more about how much I feel like I’m pushing my own boundaries and being able to improve potential. And I could say today the only habit that I have, which I call something I’ve done almost every day or every other day for a year is running. And so running is my best habit that I do every day and past that, I would say I still I’m gutted by inbox, I wake up and check my email, I check my email at night, I use Twitter a lot, things like that, but I think adding more things like running will be how I feel best about how I’m living my life.

Bill: You can feel like you’ve won the day at the end of the day.

Zack: Yeah.

Bill: And it goes a long way like the fact that you went for a run and if you did your meditation in a day, you can feel like I won the day even if the whole rest of the day was a loss.

Zack: Yeah, or it’s like that general who says, “Make your bed in the morning, because at least on the day that your dog dies and your car breaks down and you get fired, at least you have made the bed.”

Andrew: Right. You made the bed and you come home at night to a made bed.

Zack: Right. I don’t make my bed.

Andrew: I don’t either.

Making Your Day Better, Not Perfect

Zack: But it’s harder than it looks is a problem, and I think like the whole sick joke is that you are attracted to the routines that are bad for you as opposed to you’re attracted to the routines that are good for you. So like you talked about your sugar habit or me with checking Twitter first thing in the morning or Bill with whatever it might be. So I think that’s the hard part and it’s not about you having a perfect day, but it’s like how can I make my day a couple of percent better, maybe not every day, but maybe every other day.

Andrew: So getting close to wrapping here, but maybe in closing, anything that…maybe strategies or maybe thoughts on techniques that we can maybe share with people to think about how they can structure a better routine or maybe get into a better routine. Like, for example, Zack, you had one talking about the three days per week versus the ever day. Maybe dive into that just a tiny bit here on the closing.

Zack: What I used to do is say when I wanted to get in shape, and I used to work out for six months at a time and then a long time would go by without going at all. You wake up a year and you say, “I haven’t been to the gym in a year, what happened?” The problem was I used to say, “I wanna work out three days a week.” So on Sunday, I’d wake up and I’d say, “The whole week in front of me, seven days, what’s the rush?” Monday, well, maybe the pressure is starting to build and Tuesday, all right, actually get to the gym, but then I’m too sore Wednesday to go again, and so it’s sort of gets to be this really slippery slope and maybe get two days in something like that and then it’s just not a very easy to schedule, because for me, I like rules, so it’s very easy for me to follow very specific rules. So what I realized what works for me is every other day, because now I wake up and it’s binary. Today is an on day or an off day.

Andrew: Spoken like a true robot.

Zack: So if yesterday was an on day, today is an off day, and if yesterday was an off day, today is an on day. And once you find yourself doing every other day of something, which is how I started out running, it’s really easy to switch to everyday. And then you only take time off when you need and I think like, for me at least, that’s the key, not everybody works the same way.

Making One Change at a Time

Andrew: Yeah, for me, I think the key is to change one thing. A lot of people will go, “Oh my God, my routine is awful. Let me sit down and design a new routine.” And they’ll get out the color pencils and the calendar and they’ll block it all off. And then you’ll fail because you can’t just change your life on a dime. So I think the takeaway for a lot of people should say examine my life. If I have a negative routine, what steps can I do to get rid of that? Like I’m gonna go buy an alarm clock today right after we stop doing this, and that’s the step I can take to eliminate my negative routine. And do that until not having the negative routine is part of your routine until it’s actually effortless to not have the negative routine. And then you can take another step. Or if you don’t have any negative routines, if you’re some sort of superman, then you can say, “What kind of positive routine, what’s the most important thing for me to add?” And add that one thing and then do that one thing religiously until that one thing is your routine and you don’t even think about it and then you can add another thing. If you try to change your life all at once, you’re gonna fail, there’s just no way.

Bill: I love that, because there’s the whole concept that was popular 400 years ago about alchemy, which is how can I turn lead into gold? And I forgot who it was. It was either Sir Isaac Newton or Halley, who dedicated their life to try and figure out alchemy. And so they read all these books and they did all these experiments trying to figure it out. It’s like you’re one of the smartest people who ever lived. If you just became a gold miner, you’d be a billionaire. And so it’s not about finding the silver bullet, it’s about chipping away a little bit day by day and figuring it out, so I think there are no silver bullets and if you look for that, you’re gonna die a poor man.

Zack: There’s no perfect routine, just find a way to make your routine 10% better.

Bill: I think the reason why I get so invested in routine is because it’s easy to think…well, I think people know this but really owning this, understanding, is a different level that success or failure doesn’t come by like big pushes for a month here or there, almost more often than not, like when you see some who’s really successful or have done something impressive, it’s because they did little things consistently everyday over years and years and years. And it’s like, again, maybe this is a cliché and people know it, but what you are is the summation of all the little habits you build up. And if you can build that up and you can win a day after day after day, like you just make so much progress. That’s the way to go ahead and so that’s why I love routines so much. It’s because if you can win with a routine, that’s it. You’re not winning with billionaire company, you win with a company by building a great routine, I feel like.

Zack: I think long term large scale success is the compound interest of winning every day.

Bill: Yeah, absolutely. Great.

Andrew: Boy, this is awesome. Zack Kanter, if you’re not following him on Twitter, it’s @Zackkanter, that’s Zack with K, correct?

Zack: Z-A-C-K

Andrew: Z-A-C-K Kanter on Twitter. Tons of great stuff, and of course, Bill DAlessandro from Elements Brands @BillDA as well. We’re gonna have one more episode here from Fripp Island, talking about Amazon. So next week, tune in, we’re gonna be discussing what Amazon is gonna be doing with shipping. Are they gonna buy FedEx, are they going to take them over? We’ve got a couple different viewpoints here. I’m gonna be moderating this one and letting Bill and Zack just at each other’s throats, so it should be fun.

Zack: Always fun.

Andrew: So, boys, thanks for joining me.

Bill: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Zack: Thanks for the beer.

Andrew: Want to connect with and learn from other proven eCommerce entrepreneurs? Join us in the eCommerceFuel private community. It’s our tight-knit vetted group for store owners with at least a quarter million dollars in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for membership at eCommerceFuel.com.

Thanks so much to our podcast producer, Laura Serino, for all of her hard work in making this show possible and to you for tuning in. Thank you for listening. That will do it for this week, but looking forward to seeing you again next Friday.

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