Are you exhausted? I feel exhausted just typing that question. Luckily, former Green Beret Sergeant Major (retired) Karl Erickson shared with Entrepreneur a military-tested morning plan of attack that boosts energy, productivity and sanity.
"Military morning routines prepare us for combat, but they also transfer well to the office, without a doubt," Erickson told me.
I must admit I was terrified he was going to insist on cutting out coffee when we spoke. Read on to find out if my fears were justified.
1. Get your blood pumping.
"In the movies, you always see members of the military out in the morning running in formation. Yeah, we do that in real life. Why? We do it first thing in the morning because you want to reach and sustain that high target heart rate. It’s not only good for the body, but it boosts your mental awareness. And it clears all of the tequila out of your blood stream from the prior night. Or martinis for those gentle types out there."
2. No, seriously, get your blood pumping.
"Vigorous morning training also prepares the body for stress. The body reacts to stress in different ways, and one of those ways is that your heart rate can skyrocket. So by exercising, you’re preparing your heart to physically handle the stress of the boardroom. Even when we spend a day on the shooting range, we also end a session with a stress test. Get that heart rate up."
3. Some is better than none.
"If you don’t have time to go running before you get in your car or on that train every morning, doing some exercise is better than none. Just doing 100 jumping jacks and five minutes of kettlebell swings will make a difference. You’ve got to make it part of your routine."
4. Just say yes to coffee.
"The military has done tests on every kind of stimulant and depressant out there and they have found that caffeine really doesn’t have any downside. In terms of early morning missions or late night guard posts, caffeine has proven to be the best way to keep alert without adverse side effects. So getting that cup of Joe in the morning will safely and efficiently wake you up and get your brain going.
"If Starbucks prices are making you want to quit coffee, I’d advise you not to do it before an important meeting. You will get a crazy withdrawal headache. I need my caffeine and always have a backup plan. When I’d take my sniper team up on a mountain in Afghanistan, you couldn’t make a cup of coffee because you’d be able to smell that coffee for miles away. So I had a bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans I carried with me to get my fix without letting the enemy know I was coming."
Related: How to Tell if Someone Is Lying
5. Establish a battle rhythm.
"That’s military speak for writing out your goals for the day. Have a list of your objectives, then draw out a plan for how you can achieve them. Do this every day, and you will start to see patterns. That’s how you gain efficiency. Start with your goal and backward plan on how to get to it.
"If I need to get on a plane tomorrow morning at 6 a.m., I need to stop drinking tequila an hour earlier tonight. I'm kidding, but this is how you find that a sustainable battle rhythm. Rather than stumbling through the day from one task to another, you have an established schedule. And make sure that schedule includes exercise! If you leave out exercise, you might as well bow like a sheep. You’ll be like all the other soft people out there. If you want to win on the battlefield, you’ve got to be disciplined."
6. Make lists and lists and lists.
"Make lists of everything you need to do every day, every week, every month. And go over those lists every morning. This helps you prioritize your days and eventually those lists of tasks turn into lists of accomplishments. Even if you only accomplish one thing a day, at the end of the month, you’ve completed 30 things you set out to do. Those small things add up and that provides a great mental boost that energizes you to do more."
7. Put on your grown-up pants.
"How you dress and take care of yourself is vitally important to conquering your day. Even in combat zones, you’ll see the soldiers have clean-shaven faces. Special Ops guys might grow beards, but that’s just to blend in with the locals. But their uniforms and equipment are in perfect order, clean and correct. Even in Ranger School, where you live like an animal, hygiene is harped on.
"They did studies that showed that just brushing your teeth will raise your morale 13 percent. So you get up in the morning, you’re all pissed off, you know you have a terrible day ahead of you, but take the time to present yourself as a true professional. When you know that all of your shit is correct, that gives you a big boost of confidence."
8. Turn off your brain.
"Getting enough sleep sounds obvious, but it is something many of us struggle with. The problem with taking drugs like Benadryl or stronger stuff is that yes, they will knock you out, but you won’t get any REM. That’s completely worthless sleep. You might as well just be unconscious.
"If you can’t sleep, get up and exercise, wear yourself out. If you’re mentally strapped, there are many mental games that you can do that are relaxing. People talk about counting sheep, I assemble and disassemble guns. I lay there and mentally take apart a firearm step by step. Now I’m not sure that would work for everyone out there, but the point is that I force my brain to concentrate on a particular task and in doing so, take my attention off what is stressing me out."
9. If you can't sleep now, sleep tomorrow
"The military did studies and eight hours of sleep is optimal. But the military pushes itself a lot and guys often go for long stretches without getting much sleep at all. Just like a lot of entrepreneurs. If you get two hours of sleep for three days straight, you're a zombie. But what these studies found is that if a guy gets little or no sleep for days, but then is allowed to rack out for 16 hours straight, he can regain all of that sleep that he lost. So turn off your phone, get those zzz's and recharge."