Kobe Bryant is the 3rd highest-scoring professional basketball player of all time.
During his 20-year career, there were ups and downs. But one element remained consistent: his pre-game ritual.
You might expect that the pre-game routine of the best-of-the-best would be like a secret recipe.
But the opposite was true. Bryant was never secretive about his approach, saying “I figured out at an early age, even if I showed them what it is that I do, they wouldn’t do it, just because it’s so boring and so much repetition that it takes a long time to do.”
So Bryant would arrive to the court hours before any other player to do that “boring” work.
- Shooting hundreds of shots from all areas of the court
- Repeatedly going through the motions of the moves he’d use in the next game
Focusing on the fundamentals isn’t fun or flashy, but it put him in the best state to achieve his goals on the court.
The same is true in your life.
Preparation via the Fundamentals
Although you aren’t a professional basketball player, you have your own set of goals, responsibilities, and opportunities to pursue each day.
A basketball career is made up of individual games. Your life is made up of individual days!
You could say that the “game” in life is to make the most of these days by spending your time on the things that matter to you.
But in addition to what you are doing, how you show up to those activities matters just as much. (Which is why managing your energy is such an important practice.)
Bryant recognized this reality, and created a preparation ritual to help him show up to every game at his best.
Even if you don’t realize it, you have your own preparation rituals that you go through every day.
They take place in the first 45-90 minutes after waking up and the last 45-90 minutes before going to sleep each day.
Most people fall into a habit of doing whatever they feel like in the moment. After all, the beginning and end of the day is when we are groggiest.
But when your actions vary, so do the results of your actions (how you show up in the day).
- Irregular focus
- Unpredictable rest
- Mood swings
- Ups and downs in your energy levels
To create the more consistent results (better moods, focus, and energy levels) all it takes is a consistent approach!
Daily Bookends: The Not-so-Secret Secret to Consistent Great Days
My favorite way to think of these preparation rituals is as Daily Bookends.
Books on a shelf will topple over if you don’t give them support.
Bookends provide extra support on either end to keep the books in their best state!
Your days are like that set of books. You will never be able to predict what happens during the course of given day. Some days will have you toppling left, and other days you’ll topple right.
But what is you created your own “bookends”?
You’d find yourself better supported to show up at your best each and every day.
Key Elements of Effective Bookends
Like Bryant’s pre-game ritual, Daily Bookends are not meant to be flashy or exciting. They’re just meant to work. 🙂
Here are a few of the key elements that should guide you to create your own Daily Bookends.
- Consistent goal: Your routine is designed to prime your body and mind for a certain state. You get to decide what you want that to be. 🙂
- Consistent activities and structure: When you know the state you want to achieve, work backwards to craft the “recipe” of behaviors that creates it. These behavioral recipes aren’t perfect, but with the same ingredients, you’ll get a consistent output.
- Consistent execution: A preparation ritual only works if you take action and follow through! This takes discipline and focus. (Simultaneously, it strengthens your discipline and focus. So if those qualities aren’t your strong-suit, simply working towards consistent execution will help you build discipline.)
There are two bookends to every day:
- AM Bookend: The morning ritual that primes you for activity
- PM Bookend: The evening ritual that primes you for rejuvenating rest
Together, they help you make the most of every day. (And in turn, make the most of your life!)
AM Bookend: The Morning Ritual that Primes you for Activity
Ever done this?
- Snooze 3 times
- Begrudgingly grab your phone and check notifications
- Read breaking news
- Check social media
- Realize you’re running late
- Frantically rush to get dressed, eat some food, and jump out the door.
If that sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. (I used to do the same thing all the time.)
The trouble with this approach is that it’s entirely reactive. Instead of starting the day on your own terms, you wake up and hand the keys of your mind over to the internet, letting it drive you to whatever state it wills.
A morning ritual should cultivate intentionality. Because you make the most of your days when you’re intentional in your actions, and present to what you’re doing.
If you want to start your day with clarity and energy, here are a few elements to consider incorporating into your morning ritual:
- Movement: Moving your body helps circulate blood and oxygen through the body and brain. It also helps you eliminate stiffness and discomfort that can nag at you throughout the day.
- Cold showers: Hear me out here! I’ve been taking cold showers for over 2 years and it’s one of my favorite things. In the short term, a cold shower instantly wakes the body up and clarifies the mind. At first, these are very uncomfortable…Sometimes painfully so. But in addition to building a physical tolerance for cold, you build a mental tolerance for discomfort. This comes in handy when doing anything challenging or worthwhile.
- Breathing: Meditation helps you ground your mind in a place of presence and intention. It’s the necessary counter-balance to the out-of-control, reactive mind fostered by our smartphones. (Need a place to start? I compiled a bundle of free guided meditations to get you started.
- Journaling: What are you grateful for? What are you going to do to make today a great day? What’s on your mind? Putting pen to paper in the morning helps you connect with where you’re at, and prime yourself to take action and make the most of the day.
- Planning: What do you want to do today? What’s most important? Starting the day by writing a basic plan can help you stay on-track later when other things pop up.
- Fuel: What you eat, and how much you eat impacts your energy levels and attention. If you like to eat breakfast, keep it light so you don’t start the day with a brick in your stomach. As for what to eat, I recommend a mixture of protein (e.g. eggs, fish…), vegetables (e.g. leafy greens, broccoli…), and healthy fats (e.g. nuts, avocado…). Protein and healthy fats keep you satiated, and veggies provide necessary nutrients.
Each of these elements are present in my morning ritual. I find it helps me start my day more awake, grateful for the life I’m living, clear on what I want to do, and present to the act of doing it.
In short, showing up as a higher version of myself than whatever rolled out of bed when the alarm went off. 🙂
PM Bookend: The Evening Ritual that Primes you for Rejuvenating Rest
I used to struggle at the end of the day…There was always so much more that I wanted to do!
But over time I realized that without good sleep, it’s nearly impossible to have great days.
The biggest culprits that were throwing off my sleep? My smartphone and laptop.
I love technology, but I’ve also become cautious of it’s impact on our wellbeing.
It’s clearly understood that looking into screens late at night is a detriment to sleep quality.
Yet our electronics can be so appealing at the end of the day…What is there to do about it?
What saved me from my technology-addicted ways was pre-deciding how I would end each day by establishing an evening ritual.
An evening ritual is designed to prepare yourself for rejuvenating sleep. (Which sets you up for better doing in the future.)
A few elements to consider implementing in yours:
- Consistent bedtime: The body likes routine. Having a consistent bedtime keeps you on track with the rest of your routine. And remember, daily bookends are about adding structure to the beginning and end of your day so the middle part is as great as possible!
- Digital Sunset: This one is simple but difficult. Turn off your devices 60 minutes before going to bed. (Bonus points for doing it even earlier.) I keep my digital sunset at the same time every night, aligned with a goal for a consistent bedtime.
- Journaling: What went well today? Why? What are some opportunities for things you could have improved? What else is on your mind? Writing is a great way to mentally end the day, getting your thoughts out onto paper.
- Lowering lights: In addition to turning off your devices, as you start preparing for bed, lower the lights as much as possible. Before bed, I turn to candlelight to ease me towards sleep with it’s comforting glow.
Support Your Best Self With Daily Bookends
Morning and evening rituals are like bookends for your life, adding structure and support to your days.
With clarity on what sets you up to live your best days, you can integrate it into a morning ritual.
And with understanding of what helps you sleep soundly, you can take action to follow-through with it.
You won’t always get it 100% perfect. But that’s not what it’s about!
It’s about understanding what helps you show up at your best, and taking steps in that direction each and every day. Here’s to better sleep and better days!