There’s a newish platitude making its merry way around the internet, maybe you’ve heard it. It’s about getting up before 5 a.m. to achieve Massive, Ultimate, and Total Global Domination. It’s mostly in passive income and entrepreneurial type memes and usually attributed to Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett and somewhat mysteriously, Einstein. Apparently, they were all known for waking up before the birds and that’s why they are (were) massively successful and you are, well, just plain old, massively failing you.

I’ve found myself caught up in this one at times. It’s hard to look at those guys and not compare your own routines, wondering if maybe imitating Warren Buffett would also make you a billionaire. Then I realize that you could really take this too far and wind up drinking milkshakes in an Omaha diner every day. Shudder.

The thing is, none of the memes and articles ever get too deep about why we’re all supposed to wake up early and drink milkshakes. There are also no dots connected between parking in the handicapped spot and success. I think we can all stop pondering if that’s a good idea.

Over time I’ve learned that more important than simply copying what other successful people do or did in their daily lives, is the realization that what made them successful is that they created their own routines. If Steve Jobs got up at 4 a.m. every morning, it’s because it fit his lifestyle and made sense for the things he wanted to accomplish. He very likely didn’t know or care about Warren Buffett, Mark Cuban or Ariana Huffington’s daily routines. That’s what made them successful, the fact that they knew themselves and knew what worked for them.

Have a Routine. But Make it Yours.

I have a morning routine. It goes kind of like this:

  1. Wake up around 7:15 or so (I don’t use an alarm)
  2. Go to my movement space and do some yoga, stretching and/or meditation
  3. Make coffee and breakfast for our family
  4. Sit down and plan my day using my bullet journal

I try to stick to that routine as much as possible. There are, of course, days where I wake up tired, skip the yoga and go straight to coffee (coffee!). A couple days I might walk after breakfast instead of stretching before.

This works for me, but it may not work for you. You might even be thinking that I’m either lazy for getting up so late or insane for rising before 8:00 a.m.. And that is exactly the point. We are all unique. Every one of us has our own body clock and circumstances that change the way we structure our days.

Learn about yourself. Find what works for you and build your own morning routine around that. Otherwise, you might find yourself still not a billionaire and asking a Nebraska waitress if this is really how Warren takes his coffee.

For those of us who work at home, carving out our own special working space is a priority. Depending on your living situation, you might be lucky enough to have an entire room that’s designated as your permanent office. Or, you may feel fortunate if you can even hack together a tiny part of the bedroom that isn’t taken up by dirty laundry. Whatever you can manage, it’s crucial to have some kind of designated space (even temporary) where you can conduct your business.

Have you ever considered how amazing it can be to also carve out your own movement space? Maybe you have one and you’re loving it and it saves your life every day and you want to send me photos (please do). Or, maybe you’re wondering what the hell is a movement space?

A movement space is exactly what the name implies. Like your office, it’s a designated place for you to move your body that’s different from other designated spaces in your home, like the kitchen or the bathroom. Obviously, we move in those spaces. We move in all spaces. So how is this different?

What is a Movement Space?

It sounds fancy, but it’s really just a space designated for you to move your body without interruption, sort of like a space for meditation or spiritual practice. Like having a designated space for sleeping and for working, it’s a place just for you to move.

I’m sure you’ve read about the importance of getting up and moving regularly to avoid stiffness, (and possibly even death caused by deep-vein thrombosis. That’s fun to think about. Thanks, WebMD). It’s important for humans who sit a lot to get up and move frequently.

Creating a special space to practice a little bit of movement is just as helpful as having a designated place to work. If you claim a place for it, it’s more likely you’ll do it consistently.

What do you do there?

Unlike suiting up and going to a gym to lift weights or ride the elliptical, a movement space is more for things like easy stretching or yoga. That’s what I do in my space. You could do headstands, push ups, or even walk in place. The magic is in the fact that it’s totally your call. You decide how you’ll move there, and nobody is judging your movements or telling you to “AMP IT UP, NERDS!” like in your spin class.

You don’t need to build an addition for this

Your movement space doesn’t have to be a Silver Linings Playbook-style studio behind your house. In fact, it can just be a little bit of space on the floor. The important thing is that you designate that space as yours and it’s private, even if only while you’re using it.

I would suggest that you make it someplace other than the place where you work, if possible. The reason is that part of the joy and effectiveness of having that space is that it’s separate from your working space.

Here’s mine:

The rug is from IKEA, the glare is from the Sun.

This is actually a spot on the floor in my wife’s office. It’s got a big fluffy rug and just enough room for me to stretch out or do some yoga. I love this photo because it demonstrates that your space doesn’t have to be ready for a Dwell Magazine shoot. It’s not IKEA-catalog sterile and perfect and that’s okay for me. I mostly use it in the morning and of course, with her permission because it’s her work space. And yes, that’s an air mattress. We’re testing it because our son is coming home for the holidays.

I’ve actually designated even smaller spaces when traveling, like a little corner of my hotel room or once in the middle of a downtown law firm’s library (hardly used, very quiet, new carpeting).

The important thing is that your space is ready for you when you are. If you have to move the laundry or clean up the kids’ toys every time, chances are you’ll just say “forget it” and go back to work stiff and cranky. So designate your spot and keep it ready, always.

Share your space!

Do you have a movement space? Are you going to set one up? I’d love to hear about it. Photos optional, but always encouraged. Leave a comment below.

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.”– Ellen DeGeneres

One of the things I’ve always done when I’m feeling stuck or daydreamy, whether I’m working at home or in someone else’ office, is to get up and go for a walk. As soon as I start to lose focus, I know that I need to get up and move.

There are other things that are just too easy to do, like fall into an internet black hole if I’m on my laptop or check instagram if I’m in the middle of a print run. I’ve found that those things only make my stalled focus even worse. As if watching dancing an amazing dance video compilation seven times will jar me back into reality.

Those things are way too easy, but if you think about it, walking is even easier. You just have to get up and move away from your work area (if you’re in a wheelchair, roll with it, baby). You don’t have to go suit up in your workout clothes, you just walk as you are.

Inside or Outside?

The best walking place is outside, because you completely remove yourself from your stuck little space and see cars, trees, even other people (gasp!). For me, a short walk around the block does the trick.

If you’re confined indoors because of weather or you’re in prison (wait, does being in prison count as working at home?), you can just take a little tour of your space. Yes, seriously. There are times when getting up and walking little loops around my 300 sq. foot home office space was enough to get me back on track. And I didn’t have to dodge any cars or leaf blowers.

I was once working on a 2-month project in a law firm in Downtown Los Angeles. The hours were grueling and the daily work was never-ending. So going on a long walk in DTLA wasn’t always possible. In those times, I simply walked the complete circuit of the floor we were on. The regular staff working in their cubicles must have thought I was frequently lost, but that’s okay. I noticed that a couple of them did the same thing, or they actually went outside and I think that’s awesome.

The Really Real Benefits of Walking

A few things that regular walk breaks can do for you:

  • Releases endorphins, which sounds like dolphins, which are happy and cool, so in actuality it’s like dolphins for your brain
  • It can ease depression, unless you’re not depressed, so you can skip this one
  • It increases blood flow to your brain.
  • You get a creativity boost, as proven by Stanford University smarties
  • You wear out your shoes faster, which means…ooooh, shopping!

Walking is easy. Walking wakes you up. Walking is the solution to your stuckness. Try it next time you’re losing your focus and let me know what happens.

I’d love it if you would leave a comment below or send me a private note: dj@workathomegeek.com