As an entrepreneur, my family is my why and the biggest motivation for what I do. My wife and my kids are my top priority—I want to be able to spend as much time with them as possible. I also want to be able to give them everything they need to succeed in life, and to be an amazing role model for them by serving others and creating an ethical business.
Your motivation might be different: I hear from a lot of readers asking how to juggle starting their business while still holding down a day job. Whatever your reasons, I want to share with you the most important tools I use to help me tackle each day with the right mindset. These are the apps, strategies, books, systems, and other tools I used to enhance my productivity and stay focused on what’s most important to me. They help me in using my time wisely and effectively so I can be there for my family, both in the day-to-day and the bigger picture.
I’ve loosely structured this chapter as a “day in my life” to explain how I use these different tools, apps, methods, and other resources to set myself up for success at different phases of the day. At the end, I’ll share a few additional mindset resources, along with a teaser for my number one recommended resource for building an unstoppable entrepreneur’s mindset.
These tools have definitely helped me save time, approach everything I do with the right frame of mind, and shaped my life for the better. I hope they’ll help you, too!
Here's what to expect in this chapter:
- Phase 1: Sleep and The Miracle Morning
- Phase 2: Meditation and Exercise
- Phase 3: Work!
- Phase 4: Lunch and Learning
- Phase 5: Family Dinner and Bedtime
- Some More Mindset Tools
- One More Tool: My #1 Recommended Mindset Resource
[Disclosure: Some of the links in this chapter are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking the link, I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you.]
Phase 1: Sleep and The Miracle Morning
To start off the day, I usually wake up around 6 a.m., although sometimes it’s a bit earlier depending on what time my Sleep Time app (for iOS and Android) wakes me up. I use Sleep Time because it helps me wake up with a lot more energy. It does this by analyzing my movements throughout the night, graphing my sleep cycles, and waking me during my lightest sleep phase.
This app has taught me about the importance of knowing my sleep cycle. Have you ever woken up groggy even with a solid eight hours of sleep? That’s typically because you’ve awoken during the middle of your sleep cycle. With Sleep Time, it wakes you at the perfect time so you wake up ready to take on the world. There’s no better way to start the day!
Another tool that has helped me kick off the day right is a book called Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson of The Model Health Show. I highly recommend this book. It has helped me optimize my sleep in ways I didn’t know were possible, including, as I discussed with Shawn on SPI 125, an improved mental focus and overall better performance in my day-to-day tasks as an entrepreneur.
I don’t often get a full eight hours of sleep; my average is about six hours. But, as a result of Shawn’s amazing book, those six hours are masterfully optimized, giving me the best six hours I can ask for.
After my six hours of sleep, I walk to the bathroom to splash some water on my face, brush my teeth, and head downstairs to drink a glass of water. From there, I jump into a few exercises I learned thanks to Hal Elrod’s life-changing book, The Miracle Morning. I have a great conversation with Hal on SPI Podcast episode 140, one that’s resonated with a lot of people.
What Hal illustrates in the book still resonates with me. Thanks to Hal, I’m reminded of the importance of being consistent with my morning ritual, starting with writing in my Five-Minute Journal, which is filled with writing prompts that encourage you to engage with the world in a positive, focused way. I do this every morning and it puts me in the right frame of mind to start the day.
Phase 2: Meditation and Exercise
After my five focused minutes of writing, I meditate with the help of an app called Muse. It comes with a headband (like something out of Star Trek) designed to analyze my brain and provide real-time feedback on what happens to my brain while I meditate. When you enter a meditation session, you can hear whether or not your brain is in a state of activity or calm. When it’s in a state of activity, you hear rushing water and a loud, rustling wind. When it’s in a state of calm, you hardly hear anything, which is the place you want to be. Once you’re calm for a long period of time, you are rewarded with the peaceful sounds of birds chirping.
I like Muse because it helps gamify meditation while keeping track of it. That was an issue I had when I first started meditating, using an app called Headspace (for iOS and Android). Headspace is great, but I wasn’t getting the real-time feedback I needed. Muse, on the other hand, is a tool I use every single day, and it has totally helped me calm my mind, focus on my breathing, and get set for the day.
Following my meditation, if the kids aren’t awake, and usually they’re not at this point, I will make some breakfast or exercise. In chapter 4, I talked about how exercise can be helpful in getting your energy going and jump-starting yourself into work mode.
Depending on the type of workout my trainer, Jeff McMahon of TotalBodyConstruction.com, has texted me, as well as the time I have before my kids wake up, I may do the workout at home or go to the gym. If I don’t have the time in the morning, I’ll do it later in the day.
Speaking of, I like to use Strava (for iOS and Android) for my workouts, especially if I’m running or cycling. When I trained for a triathlon back in 2015, Strava was such a useful companion. The interface is functional and well designed, it tracks your performance and maps your activity, and you get to see how you stack up against other cyclists or runners who’ve tracked activity on the same path, so there’s that motivating, competitive element I’m really drawn to.
If there’s still time after my exercise, I’ll read a bit, which I usually do in a couple of ways, either through my Kindle app on my iPad, or I listen to a book through Audible.
Phase 3: Work!
We drop our kids, Keoni and Kailani, at school around 8:30 a.m. Although I used to check my email in the mornings, I don’t check email at all anymore! In fact, the only time I “check” it is when my executive assistant, Jess, and I have a 30-minute to 1-hour weekly check-in phone call on Monday. In this call, Jess goes over my urgent emails and gets direct answers from me for them. (If something is truly urgent and time sensitive she'll let me know on Slack—more about that in a bit.)
I’m usually in the car when taking that call with Jess and on the way to my coworking space, where I usually have either scheduled appointments (like interviews or office hours), or time set aside to film with Caleb Wojcik for the YouTube channel.
For my day-to-day tasks, I like to organize my week with Google Calendar. It’s the first thing I open up when I get to the office. Typically, each day of the week is assigned to a specific task, which helps me organize my thoughts around a specific function and mentally prepare for what the week is going to bring. If you’re as busy as I am, this is a pretty helpful way to organize your week!
To kick off, Mondays are typically writing days, though not always. When it happens on other days, I have a block of time set aside for it, and it's usually dictated and handed off to a team now. Our whole team uses Google Docs for writing in conjunction with CoSchedule, another tool Team SPI uses to manage the editorial calendar. If it is a writing day, I open up CoSchedule, and head over to the specific writing task that Janna, our content director, has assigned me for that day. Although I used to do most of my writing directly by clicking on the Google Docs link in the CoSchedule calendar entry and typing away, these days I tend to record my thoughts in audio form and upload them to Rev.com, an awesome transcription service. Then a member of the team downloads the transcription file and edits it.
Tuesdays are my podcasting/video days. I’ll use CoSchedule to help me determine which podcast episodes I need to record and any podcast-related meetings I need to attend. I will also spend time on Tuesdays inviting people onto the podcast or working on guest spots for other podcasts. I love this aspect of the podcast prep process. Some Tuesdays are also set aside for filming with Caleb in the studio.
Wednesdays are usually for meetings, so I start the day with a mastermind meeting. I talked about the huge value of having a mastermind in chapter 6, and you should definitely check out that chapter if you want to learn more about masterminds.
I usually follow my mastermind with an editorial team meeting on Zoom. We discuss current and upcoming editorial projects and, most importantly, we get to see each other’s smiling faces. Working with a remote team for the most part, it’s great to have that human (sort of) face-to-face connection every so often.
The remainder of the week (well, most days, really) is for Slack. Slack is by far the most essential app I’ve used in growing my business. It’s a powerful tool designed for efficient communication among teams, and we use it relentlessly. It’s reduced our need for email, and allows us to engage in real-time and organize conversations around specific projects. When I need to refer back to a conversation, because it’s organized the way it is, it’s easy to search for what I need.
Slack also connects with Dropbox and Google Docs to make it easy to access shared files. If you have more than one person on your team, and prefer a more efficient and organized communication tool, sign up for Slack. You won’t regret it!
Staying Focused at Work
So all the tools above are great for helping me organize my work life, but there’s another layer I need to address if I want to actually stay productive and focused on the right things.
I use the [email protected] productivity app all the time. When I need to get in the zone, I put this app on and select a piece of music that’s scientifically proven to increase productivity. They have a desktop/web app version too, and although it’s subscription based ($2.99 per month), I find it very useful, and it actually does help increase my productivity.
I tend to listen to the classical channel, although there are many more to choose from. Music was part of my upbringing, being in marching band, so I like having it in the background. But I don’t like having it with words or super rhythmic because then I begin to turn my band brain on and start analyzing the music or singing along, lol.
The [email protected] app helps you stay focused. But the allure of distraction is always there, especially when it comes to our phones. It can be helpful to know how much time you’re actually wasting on your phone each day, and on which apps, and the Moment app figures that out for you!
If you’re like me, you’re probably too scared to know, but it’s necessary so you can begin to cut down on wasted time you might be burying in your little device. Moment sends me a daily report of where I’ve been spending most of my time on the phone, and it’s handy because since I know I’m being tracked, I can really become more efficient while I’m on there. I hate seeing that I wasted one and a half hours on Facebook when I wake up the next morning, and it forces me to think about how I can do better every single time. Moment has saved me hours out of every day, and although you may not like what you see, it can do the same for you, too.
And finally, probably one of the most important tools of all, is one that can block you from viewing unproductive sites that you frequent. The ones I recommend are SelfControl (Mac) and Cold Turkey (PC). These tools restrict access to your own “blacklist” of sites that are distracting you and preventing you from moving forward with what you should be doing. If you find yourself visiting Facebook or Twitter too much, you can use one of these tools to stop yourself from getting stuck down a rabbit hole.
Phase 4: Lunch and Learning
After my meetings, around the afternoon, I will usually cook something quick at home with April. Or, if we want something quick outside the house, I’ll go to the nearby Chipotle. I always use the Chipotle app (for iOS and Android) when I do. In fact, if a restaurant has an app, I use it whenever possible. The Starbucks app (for iOS and Android) is fantastic too. You can quickly fill out your order, and pick it up when it’s convenient. Apps like this help me save little bits of time here and there, which all add up at the end of the day, giving me an extra bit of time to focus on the things that matter.
After I replenish my stomach, I always make time to replenish my brain. As a podcaster, I think it’s essential to listen to other podcasts. There are so many great ones out there, including The Model Health Show, as I mentioned. The way I approach podcast listening is based on what I’m working on in a given day, so I usually don’t focus on the latest episodes, but on the ones that are relevant to my focus for that day.
But Pat, you may say, how on earth do you find time to listen to podcasts? Well, I usually find time when I’m driving. Whether I’m on the road to a speaking event or driving around San Diego meeting up with fellow entrepreneurs, that’s my podcast listening time.
In addition to podcasts, I replenish my brain by finding relevant content on blogs and on YouTube. (I don’t do this part when I’m driving!) To help organize this content for later use, I use Evernote (for iOS and Android), both on my phone and desktop. It allows me to create different folders for specific topics so I can refer back to it when I need it. And when I’m on the go, I like to use the Rev Voice Recorder (for iOS and Android), which is both a recorder and transcriber. It’s fantastic for when I have an idea for a blog post or want to share a thought with a team member.
But, even with all of these amazing apps helping me manage my daily routine, it can still be overwhelming. Thankfully I’ve learned to adopt the just-in-time learning method, an approach to task efficiency that teaches you to focus on one task at a time, rather than get ahead of myself thinking about all of the other tasks I have to accomplish. When I do this, I often get nothing done, or I spread my efforts too thin to be effective. With just-in-time, I focus on what I need to do, and block out the rest. You can learn more about just-in-time learning in chapter 3, but the basic tools I use are Evernote and Evernote Web Clipper (a browser extension). It’s a powerful way to approach your daily routine.
What about when it’s time to actually consume the content I’ve saved for later? Well, that’s where speed reading comes in really handy. You can read more about speed reading and how it’s helped me improve my productivity a ton in chapter 3.
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Phase 5: Family Dinner and Bedtime
At the end of the day, we always eat together as a family. Sometimes we go out to dinner and sometimes we cook at home. After work, I usually bring home something to make for dinner that I can cook within 45 minutes to an hour. I usually find the kids with April reading or doing some fun activity. It’s always a nice way to come home.
Around 8 p.m., we start to get the kids ready for bed. Once they are in bed, I head into the office and spend a few minutes sifting through emails and then crank on anything that I need to crank on. At around 10:30 p.m., I head to bed, where it’s time to write in my Five-Minute Journal again. The Five-Minute Journal has transformed my daily routine. Journaling has changed me as both an entrepreneur and a person, and it’s a habit I love returning to each day.
Then it’s sleep, wake up, rinse, and repeat!
Some More Mindset Tools
I have a few more resources to share with you before I reveal my number one recommended mindset resource for entrepreneurs.
The first is Meetup.com, a great site where you can connect with others who share areas of interest with you. I especially like Meetup as a place to find potential members of a mastermind group, which I identified in chapter 6 as a crucial strategy for you to grow as an entrepreneur. If you’re sold on the value of a mastermind and excited to get started with one, I recommend checking out Meetup.com to find an existing mastermind or start one of your own.
The second is my own conference experience for entrepreneurs, FlynnCon. This annual event is a one-of-a-kind conference for entrepreneurs and their families that happens in July. FlynnCon will help you build relationships, network, get ideas, be inspired, and get practical advice and encouragement to help launch or grow your business and to realize your potential in your work and life.
Full disclosure: Some of the following links are Amazon affiliate links. We receive compensation, at no additional cost to you, if you purchase through these links.
I’ve also mentioned several books in this chapter that have been super valuable in helping me go about each day with the right mindset, including The Miracle Morning, Sleep Smarter, and my Five-Minute Journal. [Amazon links] There are a few more I want to highlight, some of which I’ve also mentioned at other points in this epic guide.
Atomic Habits: Proven ways to build great habits and get rid of bad ones, beat procrastination, and get back in the groove if you break a habit streak—something I’ve personally struggled with. [Amazon link]
The One Thing: Mandatory reading for anyone trying to achieve anything, it gives you the low-down on exactly why it’s important to focus on one thing at a time, how to do that, and the consequences if you don’t. [Amazon link]
Ego Is the Enemy: Ego, that thing inside us that sometimes comes out, is the enemy of anything great and one of the biggest obstacles to your success. This book helps you understand how to get out of your own way. [Amazon link]
Indistractable: Is technology to blame for our distraction—or is it something deeper? Nir Eyal’s book helps you address the root of the problem of why you’re not working on the things you say you want to work on. [Amazon link]
Let Go: Expanded Edition: This is an update of my original book, Let Go, with eight new chapters, that delve deep into the act and art of “letting go” as the essential part of growth we need as humans and business owners. [Amazon link]
Will It Fly?: Your business “flight manual,” Will It Fly? will challenge you to think critically, act deliberately, and dare greatly. It’ll give you honest and straightforward advice as you begin to test your idea and build a business that takes off and soars. [Amazon link]
Superfans: One of the best pieces of mindset advice I can give you if you’re trying to create a successful business is this: It’s not about you. This book is all about how to build a truly successful business from the ground up by focusing on serving and delighting the people who will stick with you through thick and thin: your superfans. [Amazon link]
One More Tool: My #1 Recommended Mindset Resource
I have one more tool to share with you in the final chapter of this guide—and it happens to be my favorite resource for entrepreneurs who want to approach each day with the right mindset. Click through to chapter 11 to learn about my top recommended mindset resource for entrepreneurs!