I woke up at 5:30 this morning after a weird dream about Professor X and Wolverine.

It was one of those mind reading things. Wolverine was trying to save the day from something (whatever it was), but Professor X knew about it and wanted to stop him. Wolverine was trying to sneak out.

I think I was Wolverine, maybe. I don’t remember.

Anyway, I got asked the other day on Facebook about my habits:

Would love to see a blog (or just a reply) on your morning routine and nightly routines…

I know the epic 5,000 post covers this is some details.. but I’m noticing how “good” days and “bad” days can largely be guided by how we start and finish the day.

PS Let’s see a picture of the finished ink!

Right. Here’s what I do.

My life is structured around a set number of goals to complete every day. Some of those goals are tiny, others are large. Here is an incomplete list in picture form:


As you can see, I have tiny habits, like “Smile at a stranger” (which breaks my usual pattern of looking grumpy all the time), and then I have large ones, like “Finish all to-do’s,” which is a pointer to a another HUGE list in another app.

When I finish all of my habits for the day, like the ones in the list at right, I’m done. But there’s more to it than that.

I also deliberately plan the order in which I will do these, and the reason I do this is because it helps keep me cheery and motivated to do more.

So I wake up and immediately floss and weigh myself. These are like little wins that get me started on my habit building. Then I go into “Process mail“ and maybe “Take fish oil“ (very good for you btw).

Then my day is started and I’ll go into my calendar and see what my day is going to look like.

I also force introspection every day through a habit of free writing, which helps me think about my own path, or my work, or whatever else I feel like putting some thought into. You cannot trust yourself to think through important stuff in your head only. Because we are so distracted, it simply does not work. So this forces it to go on paper, where I won’t quit until I hit like 750 words.

So it’s almost like my day is structured with easy win > hard win > easy win > hard win-style loops that will keep me from feeling exhausted. Some stuff is easy, others are hard. With breaks obviously. And of course I forgive myself if ever I don’t get everything done. I draw a lot from Alcoholics Anonymous style ideas so that I can think one day at a time.

The final thing I wanted to mention about this is that often, at night, it is a great idea to just do one more thing. It can be small or big, doesn’t matter, but it helps set you off on the right foot and feel like you were extra productive today. For you that could be anything, maybe doing pushups, or writing a blog post.

It’s like bitch slapping tomorrow’s to do list with a kind of “OH YEAH? I GOT IT DONE TODAY” type attitude. Not sure why, but it works.

P.S.: The tattoo he’s talking about above, by the way, is a memento mori sleeve I got done by Yann Black, a well-known tattoo artist who happens to live 5 blocks from my house. It’s early in the morning right now, so I’ll put a picture of it in another post.





17 responses to “Work”

  1. Srinivas Avatar

    Thanks for sharing Julien. I’ve always kind of wondered about how you approach things. I haven’t gotten into the habit if using Lift. But the action method combined with Seth Godin’s adaptation of Zig Ziglar’s goals program has been my productivity bible. When interviewed Chris he said “the secret to getting things done is to keep working on them until you’re finished with them” which sounds funny, but usually simple solutions are the ones that are most effective.

  2. Jessi Avatar

    “Fuck you tomorrow! SHIT GOT DONE NOW.”

    As a grad student, I try to live my life like that, but theses don’t get written in a day.

    Something that helps me is to break down the process into chunks. I take the outline one day and work on bulleting argument points and things I should discuss, then the next day I fill in what I want each section to say (underneath the bullets), the next day is researching to see if what I want to say is crack-headed, the next day is revisions of the outline, and then the week after that is when I start writing. I look at the outline and craft my paragraphs and citations to focus on those bullet points. I try to shoot for at least two or three paragraphs per day, write the whole thing up, then spend time revising and researching more.

    It makes something that’s A LOT to do a lot more manageable.

  3. Ebony Avatar

    Sometimes I don’t know if your blog posts are satire or not.

  4. Dwight E. Avatar

    Great post Julian on the insight of your day. I agree that we all forget the small things in life actually add up. I know before I doze off, I always write a to do list for the next morning.
    It makes me feel good knowing that I already know the things that I need to do when I get up.

  5. Sacha Avatar

    Thanks Julien for all your tips.

    My new year resolution is to be more productive and organised and I’m building my own methods with a lot of your information !

    My main method is to, each day, do tasks from harder to easier but it’s sometimes hard to keep focused. I’ll try the hard-easy loop instead.

  6. Julianna Avatar

    I appreciate this. Mostly I love insight into other people’s lives, but this one is quite useful. Thanks.

  7. Matt Brennan Avatar

    Good stuff. It seems structured enough to get stuff done, but flexible enough to allow for what your day brings.

  8. Don R Sullivan Jr Avatar

    Man i get surprised by how well people are organised like yourself

    i really have to get my sh#t together

    i like this quote, i got to start taking action man,

    “Having the world’s best idea will do you no good unless you act on it. People who want milk shouldn’t sit on a stool in the middle of the field in hopes that a cow will back up to them”
    -Curtis Grant

  9. Katherine Bull Avatar
    Katherine Bull

    I love the easy –> hard –> easy view of your day’s tasks. I also do that. I get too frustrated when I try and do a lot of hard (often things I don’t feel like doing) in a row.

    I also love the forgiving yourself part. This was really hard for me to do for many years (Catholic guilt?) but finally letting go of self-criticism was SO freeing. It changed my life.

    Lastly, the mantra of “one day at a time” is really important for me.

    Changing all of the above in my life and psyche was really life changing.


  10. Joe Avatar

    Superb. While most people can’t and shouldn’t emulate Julien’s unique strategy (because it works for him…not necessarily you), this post illustrates the importance of having goals and a “groove” to get you there. One thing that is really key is having a vision of where you want to go, what you want to do, and how you want to get there. Then, your actions are guided by your vision. Are you moving toward your goal or away from it, and if you are moving away from it, how can you re-direct to start moving toward it again.

  11. Joe Avatar

    Inspirational. I am going to go paint the basement now.

  12. Marlon Avatar

    Lovely pic but it truly does not do it justice but I guess what really does. Live an hour from the Lake & just reminded me to not take for granted

  13. Howard Stein Avatar

    You mention Free Writing, and I have a wonderful book called Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Her ideas on writing are rich in variety and freedom and substance. Shambhala tiny pocket edition at
    and also on Amazon of course


  14. Rog Law Avatar

    I’m going through a lot of personal changes in my life right now, and this right here has been a major help and spark towards improving one of those areas.

    P.S. – The 2nd best part of all this is Sacha’s use of the Squall avatar =)

  15. JJ Avatar

    My girlfriend is going to be so jealous of your Yann Black tattoo when I show her. She has never been able to go through with it but has admired his work for years.

  16. Mark e Avatar

    This is good stuff. I try to start each day by reviewing long term goals and meditating or running and then creating an action plan for the day ahead while eating a breakfast high in healthy fats.

  17. Webbing Avatar

    Very cool story about the Wolverine and Professor X!

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