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:
“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. He’d shoot hundreds of shots from all areas of the court. And he’d repeatedly go 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 investing your energy, attention, and time in the things that matter to you most.
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 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/end of the day is when we are groggiest (aka most impulsive.)
But when your behavior varies, so do your results. This means having:
- Irregular focus
- Unpredictable rest
- Mood swings
- Ups and downs in your energy levels
To create 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 structure on either end to keep the books in their best state!
The contents of your days are like a set of books. You can never predict what will happen during the course of a day. Some days will have you toppling left, and other days you’ll topple right.
But what if you created your own set of “bookends”? You may just find yourself better supported to show up at your best 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 backward to craft the “recipe” of behaviors that create 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 recovery
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.
Before I had a consistent morning ritual, I would do this all the time.
The trouble with this approach is that it’s reactive. Instead of starting the day on your own terms, you wake up and hand the keys of your mind over to the whatever happens to be on your device.
An effective morning ritual cultivates intentionality. Staying intentional in your direction, and present to your action is a clear recipe for successful days.
If you want to start your day with clarity and energy, consider incorporating these elements into your AM Bookend:
- Hydration: While you sleep, your body becomes less hydrated. Fix that by drinking water first thing in the morning. (Consider adding a pinch of Himalayan pink salt for some extra minerals, and lemon for a bit of zing!)
- 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: Cold showers wake you up, refresh the body, and clarifies your state of mind. And in the long run, cold showers help you build a mental tolerance for discomfort. It doesn’t start out feeling comfortable to stand beneath the cold water. But when you do it over time, you grow comfortable with discomfort. This comes in handy when doing anything worthwhile.
- Meditation: Meditation helps ground your mind in a place of presence and intention. It builds your ability to place your attention where you want it. Which is basically a superpower in an out-of-control, reactive, technologically-addicted society. (Need a place to start with meditation? I compiled a bundle of guided meditations you can download for free.)
- 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’s most important for you to do today? What would make this day amazing? 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, whey…), 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.
I include each of these elements in my AM Bookend. After years of playing with different approaches, this routine helps me start my day more energized, grateful for the life I’m living, clear on my priorities, and present to the action itself.
Put another way, my morning ritual helps me show 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 I wanted to do!
But the truth is clear: without good sleep, you won’t create great days.
The culprits that kept me from sleep were obvious: my smartphone and laptop.
Though I love technology, I’m conscious of its impact on wellbeing. In particular, blasting your brain with blue light from screens at night is a huge detriment to sleep quality.
Yet the fact remains that most people are addicted to their devices. So what can we do when our electronics remain so appealing at the end of the day?
It all starts by pre-deciding how you want to end each day by establishing an evening ritual.
Your PM Bookend is designed to prepare your body and mind for optimal sleep. This sets you up to make tomorrow an amazing day.
A few elements to consider implementing in your evening routine:
- Consistent bedtime: The body benefits from routine. Keeping a consistent bedtime helps your body maintain a reliable rhythm.
- Digital Sunset: This one is simple but difficult. Turn off your devices at least 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. (HT to Brian Johnson for the term.)
- Journaling: What went well today? What could been better? What would you have looked like at your best? What’s most important for you to do tomorrow? What else is on your mind? An active mind is the biggest barrier to falling asleep. Writing is a great way to get thoughts out of your head and onto paper.
- Meditation: Sitting in meditation can help you transition from a place of wakefulness and activity into a place of rest. To me, it feels like hitting a dimmer-switch. I don’t fall asleep, but I’m well on my way.
- Lowering lights: In addition to turning off your devices, lower your lights as much as possible. Light exposure plays an important role in sleep. It’s one of the factors the body and mind use to regulate the internal chemical shifts that promote sleep. Before bed, I turn to candlelight to ease me to sleep with it’s comforting glow.
- Blocking blue light: If you are using devices in the evening, don a pair of blue-light blocking glasses (like Swannies) to limit the impact of this light on your sleep cycle.
Make Each Day A Masterpiece With Daily Bookends
Morning and evening rituals are like bookends for your life. They add vital structure and support to every day.
When you know what sets you up to live your best days, you can integrate it into your AM Bookend. And with clarity on what helps you sleep best, you can create your PM Bookend.
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 you, rocking it!
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