Personal Growth

My Morning Routine

There’s been a lot written in the past few years on the benefits of having a morning routine. I’ve definitely hopped on this bandwagon over this period and experimented with a variety of routines. I’ve tried waking up at 5am, sleeping in until I naturally wakeup, and everything in between. Over the past year or so, I’ve refined my routine to a point where it’s gotten quite comfortable and productive.

While I’m sure the current structure will change over the course of time and through different seasons in my life, knowing that I have a firm foundation in my morning routine is really helpful. I don’t complete all 8 components to my routine every morning. For example, if I have to catch an early morning flight, I may only complete 1 or 2 components and try to make up parts of it throughout the rest of the day. I try to stay away from making it a rigid timesheet and more of a guideline.

Before I share with you the components of the routine, there are a few notable benefits to mention about a morning routine.

1. Minimizes decision-making early in the day

Willpower is a limited resource and making sure you don’t expend too much of it early on the day is crucial to your daily success. With a clearly defined routine to follow in the morning, you minimize the number of decisions to make yet still maintain productivity. No longer are you thinking “what shall I do this morning?” You’ve set a series of helpful activities in the morning that have become a habit. That’s a good thing.

2. Starts the day with quick wins

Have you heard the expression “eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”? Having a morning ritual to take care of the quick wins at the start of the day can make the rest of the day feel like a win – even if it was a really shitty day. You’ve taken care of some important self-care activities so you can chalk down the rest of the day as a success.

3. Provides an opportunity for self improvement

I really enjoy using the morning for self-improvement activities including reading, meditation, and journaling. Personally, the morning is when my mind is most relaxed and rejuvenated so putting in time for self-improvement work is highly effective.

So without further ado, here’s my morning routine.

1. Make coffee or tea

2. Read

3. Meditate

4. Journal

5. Set a work and personal goal for the day

6. Admin work*

7. Blog/write

8. 7-Minute Workout

*Includes replying to personal emails, buffering social media articles, reviewing personal finances, etc.

Each component of my morning routine takes between 5 to 15 minutes to complete. In order to make sure I keep on track with my routine, I use a Pomodoro timer to alert me after 15 minutes. It’s a helpful way to keep the momentum going.

The process of developing this routine took me about 3 years to complete. It’s important to remember that a routine is a cumulation of habits you’ve built up. So if you’re new to morning routines, I would recommend starting small. Pick one habit you’d like to do every morning and after you feel like you’re in auto-pilot with that habit, add on another one. This way you’ll build confidence in yourself and the joy you find in completing the habit every morning will lead to a virtuous cycle.

Do you have a morning routine or are you working on developing one? Let me know what yours looks like in the comments below!


A Conversation with Travis Hellstrom of Advance Humanity

In this post, I get to share with you a conversation I had with Travis Hellstrom. Travis leads Advanced Humanity, a consultancy that works with everyday humanitarians, nonprofits, and businesses. After college, he decided to forgo medical school to travel to Mongolia as a Peace Corps volunteer. He spent a total of four years in Mongolia where he also met his wife. Travis is an author of multiple books including the Unofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook and Questions for the Dalai Lama, and just an all-round good guy.

I wanted to interview Travis because of a course he created called Crafting Your Purpose. It’s a simple four-week program designed to help you understand your values, your major life roles, and ultimately helping you craft your purpose. We breakdown some of the exercises in the interview and I ask him what inspired him to create the course. If you’re interested in learning more, you can access the first exercise for free.

Travis and I have a wide-ranging conversation in which we also talk about his daily habits, favourite books, and so much more. He’s a fascinating guy with a lot of depth and soul. Hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I enjoyed it myself!


Connect with Travis:

Twitter: @TravisHellstrom

Resources from the interview:

Crafting Your Purpose Course
Peace Corps
Peace Corps Response – Short Term Placements
Unofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook by Travis Hellstrom
Advance Humanity
B Corp 101
Freedom App
Productivity Planner

Book recommendations:

7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey
Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port
Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John D. Mann
Pivot by Jenny Blake (pre-order now)
Book Summaries

Actionable Book Summary: “What to Say When You Talk to Your Self” by Shad Helmstetter

“Your success or failure in anything, large or small, will depend on your programming – what you accept from others, and what you say when you talk to yourself.”

– What to Say When You Talk to Your Self (page 25)

If there are so many “keys” to success being offered by self-help books, motivational speakers, and YouTube videos, why do many of them fail to deliver the results? And for the many great ideas that have worked for people, why does the impact only last for a few days or weeks? Shad Helmstetter, in his 1982 classic What to Say When You Talk to Your Self, believes that the missing ingredient in successful change lies within yourself.

There are many fantastic self-help strategies and tactics that can make a meaningful impact on your life. But if the programming within ourselves is not programmed correctly, our well thought-out and well intentioned actions can be derailed. Helmstetter believes that our programming can be corrected by something called “Self-Talk” – literally, what you tell yourself when you talk to yourself. With improved Self-Talk, you can learn to adjust your programming and be able to rely on yourself to optimize your outlook and build true, inner-confidence.Continue reading the summary here.

This summary was written for the Actionable Book Club – a book club where members read a business/leadership/self-help book every month and summarize their biggest takeaways. If you’re interested in learning more about the Actionable Book Club check us out here. To see the full collection of over 800 book summaries – available for free – visit

Personal Growth

Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Everyday (Part II)

This post is a two-part series on the Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Everyday. Part I can be found here.
 It’s not the years in your life that counts. It’s the life in your years. – Abraham Lincoln
 In Part I of the post, I introduced the seven questions you should ask yourself everyday. If you haven’t read that post yet, I highly encourage you to go back and read it before continuing. This post is about how to implement these questions on a daily basis. I’ll show you the tools that I use to remind, record, reflect, and act on the questions.


A quietly underrated aspect of the daily questions is making sure you remind yourself to record your questions. In the early going as you’re trying to build up the habit, having a reliable reminder is essential. In fact, Marshall Goldsmith (who writes about the Daily Questions in his book Triggerspays someone to call him at the end of everyday to ask him his daily questions.

If you can’t afford to pay someone to call you everyday, you can use a free automation service like IFTTT to schedule a daily reminder email. In the reminder email, I plug-in the link to the tracking spreadsheet (see the reflection section) so I can easily access it when I need to record my score.

In whatever way you remind yourself, the important part is that it’s automatic. Whether it’s an alarm on your phone or a friend who calls you, make sure it’s on your radar at the end of the day without taking up much effort.

Speaking of the “end of the day”, I’ve set my automatic reminders for 5:00 p.m. I’ve found that the timing is good as I’m typically wrapping up my workday between 5 to 6 p.m. Your timing could be later like after dinner or right before you go to bed. Find what time works the best for you to receive the reminder.


I record my scores on a Google Sheet. I prefer the spreadsheet because it’s cloudbased and accessible wherever I can get the internet. Google Sheets also have the same functionality as an Excel file so if I wanted to slice-and-dice the data, it’s pretty easy to do. In fact, I’ve plugged in a chart that helps me visualize my daily scores.

Screenshot of sample spreadsheet

I’ve created a sample spreadsheet for you to use. Feel free to go in and make a copy for yourself by going to File -> Make a Copy. You’ll notice that I’ve added a few scores already just so you can see it in action. Delete those scores when you’re ready to start recording.

When I’m recording my scores, I have a couple of simple rules for myself:

  • Trust my initial gut-instinct for the score.
  • Stick to whole numbers. Decimal places are not allowed. (This makes it harder to “sit on the fence” with a score).

Finally, my recommendation is to record at least 21 days of consecutive scores. It’ll be a helpful baseline to start seeing some trends with your scores.


Once you’ve recorded the score of the day, now comes perhaps the most important part – reflection.

I use a service called TalkSpace which provides unlimited text/voice messaging with a licensed therapist. On days that I have something I want to talk through, I open up the TalkSpace app or webpage and leave a message for my therapist. The therapist responds within 24 hours with her thoughts and perspective. I’ve been using TalkSpace since May 2015 and it has been an indispensible part of my personal growth toolkit.

Whether you use a service like TalkSpace or not is up to you. You may prefer writing a quick comment in the Google Spreadsheet or journaling about it or calling a friend to talk through your day. The important part is to pull your thoughts outside your mind. You’d be surprised how much clarity you get from verbalizing or writing your thoughts down.


If you stop just with recording and reflection over a period of 21 days, you’re still going to get a lot out of it. But if you’re like most people, you’ll want to take action on the information that comes out of your daily questions.

There isn’t a cookie-cutter method for you to take action on these questions. You might prefer to collect data for 90 consecutive days before making some course adjustments or you may want to take action on a daily basis. There is no “right” answer.

That said, for me, I generally like to work on improving my score on one question over the course of a month. For example, if I’ve noticed that “Did I do my best to set clear goals?” is consistently a low score for me, I’ll focus on improving that score over the course of a month.

To remind myself of the question I’m working on, I use a Google Chrome plug-in called Momentum that gives you space to set one goal everyday.


Every time you open up a new tab, you’ll see the Momentum dashboard and remind yourself what the one goal was for you (along with a beautiful photo that changes everyday). It’s a nice way to keep the question top-of-mind throughout the day.

Every morning, before I get started with my work, I open up my spreadsheet and review yesterday’s scores. I plug in the question I’m working on – currently it’s “Do my best to set clear goals” – and go about setting my goals for the day.

And that’s it! Rinse-and-repeat this process everyday. The next step which I’m currently developing a process for is a quarterly review of my scores. Stay tuned to the blog for more thoughts on that.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts with this process? Do you think it’ll work for you? Is there anything missing that you’d add?