I did the wrong thing for 2,097 mornings. That is the number of workdays from February 15, 2008 to July 6, 2016. On July 7, I heard a click... as if I'd finally found the magic combination of a lock after trying many sets of digits.
I am based in Los Angeles but do business with approximately 20 Wall Street firms. I am their client. From the moment they get to their offices in Manhattan at 7:30am Eastern time (4:30am in L.A.), they bombard me with spam email and voicemail. All of them, every day.
From February 15, 2008 to July 6, 2016 I used to open my eyes before 6am California time, grab my phone and go over their emails and listen to their voicemails, then I would check the news in Bloomberg. I always thought that was the quintessential routine of the West Coast finance professional.
99.9% of the time, the news was outdated and inconsequential within 24 hours. 99.9% of the time the emails from Wall Street were either a reverberation of the news or sales pitches of bad ideas. 100% of the time nothing was urgent.
By the time I got to work, my brain was filled with inconsequential spam, news, and bad ideas.
So I started trying different things and, finally, I realized that when I do all of the following things, I experience wildly creative and productive mornings.
1. Guarantee 7 to 8 hours of sleep by going to bed early.
I don't go as far as setting the PM alarm clock (it rings when it's time to sleep), but I try not to stay up past 10:30pm. If I do, then I wake up later, so I always get at least 7 hours in bed. 8 is better than 7.
2. No wake up alarm, ever.
It may be just me, but whenever I set the alarm clock, I have crappy dreams about the alarm ringing or some monster telling me the alarm is about to go off at any moment so be prepared.
3. Stretch for 30 minutes.
I focus on the hips, hamstrings, upper back and shoulders with a mix of passive stretching and pails/rails. This releases joint and muscle tension accumulated during the night and makes my body fully movable again.
4. Headspace for 10 minutes.
Nothing beats my antivirus for the brain.
5. Running/cardio for 15 minutes.
A fast and short run in the morning gives me immediately a 12-hour mood boost. It's a low investment with a high return.
6. Take a very cold shower.
If steps 1 through 5 are skipped, then a cold shower is imperative. It gives me the necessary change of state to get things done. I explain more here.
7. Never, ever check email, news, or have any type of contact with the world until I have settled in my office, had a long sip of chilled sparkling water, and thought about what I want to accomplish today.
Following number 7 along with 3 other items on the list, pretty much guarantees me a great morning.
Now, this is how I ruin everything:
Sometimes I look at the stock market and I think I can secure gains in a very short time because it is mispriced. That's the idiot me speaking. When the idiot takes control, I make bets and check my positions every twenty seconds. Nothing gets done. I walk around the office in a state of exhilaration or depression, depending on how the bets are performing.
But what's much, much, much worse is going to bed knowing that in the morning, at 5:30am (8:30am in New York), the employment report will be released (that's tomorrow, October 7, 2016) and that one has 40 put contracts on the S&P 500.