Leadership with heart, mind, and soul

Routine Examination #004: Adrian Reif

Added on by Sam Davidson.

I met Adrian Reif nearly a decade ago when he was trying to get a car-sharing service off the ground. Since then, I've seen his passion become alive and manifest itself via his journey as a CEO and now, an author. Adrian is someone I admire for his dedication, determination, and commitment to making himself, his network, and his world better than it was yesterday. 

He also makes a mean almond sour cream that enhances any taco you'll find. 

What type of routine (frequency-wise) do you look to set (daily, weekly, etc.)?

I’m terrible with routine. Fortunately, thanks to good habits I tend to do everything I want to do over the course of a week: eat good food, reflect and be still, exercise, read and write, get work done on big projects.

This allows me to flow. My days are loosely structured depending on what’s happening. Am I finishing a big project? Then I get started early and block off 5-6 hours of uninterrupted time. Do I have a few calls? Then I take a look at my GTD (Getting Things Done) Priority Matrix and start attacking quadrants 1 and 2 if I have time (or 3 and 4 if I have limited time). Do I have the time and energy to meditate? Then I do.

If I’m trying to add something new, I aim for daily for 2 months. That means, if I want to set a new habit, I attempt it daily with a horizon of 2 months to see if it helps or sticks.

What time do you wake up each morning?

Whenever my body is ready. After intense periods, this could be after 9 hours of being in bed (less if I’m rested). Wakeup tends to be around 7:15 these days, but I’m slowly shifting my body back to 6:15am where I was 6 months ago.

I’ve found that when I sleep until my body wakes up, I’m far more focused, energized, and creative. If I do have to set an alarm and it wakes me up in the middle of a sleep cycle, it takes hours to get out of the grog.

What is the first thing you think about each morning (before you even get out of bed perhaps)?

I try and smile and be grateful. I’ve tried to repeat Marcus Aurelius’s musing (from the book Meditations): “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive -- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” (It’s also my voicemail message.)

In addition, smiling has actual physiological and psychological repercussions. It boosts neurotransmitters and changes the brain. It’s extra important since I’m naturally not a morning person.

After all that, I usually lay in bed for 15-30 minutes and let my mind wander. It’s still in a magical state that is unencumbered by the throes of daily life. Creativity and problem-solving abound. I’ve come up with so many solutions to problems while lying lucid in bed.

What thing do you have to do in your personal life every day?

Smiling is the act and practice that alters my life. So, I try and do it on a daily basis. Smiling into the mirror while brushing my teeth. Smiling before jumping on a call. Smiling while falling asleep. Smiling doesn’t come naturally to me, so I really enjoy this practice.

Another technique that has quickly become a daily must is the Wim Hof Method. For the past 3 months, I’ve been practicing the techniques of the “Iceman”, Wim Hof. He teaches a breathing method that oxygenates the body and blood, actually increasing blood pH, boosting norepinephrine in the brain, and heightening physical and emotional states. The Wim Hof Method’s second practice is cold water therapy. I started 3 months ago with 30 seconds of cold water at the beginning and end of my hot (and I mean hot) shower. After slowly adapting, I now shower in cold water for 5-10 minutes (and the water here in Colorado is cold) every day. Two or three days per week, I walk down to the Arkansas River (about 40–44 degrees F) and immerse myself / swim for 2-5 minutes each time. I’ve literally never felt more energized. If you’re interested in cold therapy, Dr. Rhonda Byrne (FoundMyFitness podcast) has gathered all of the research on the benefits of cold on the body. It ranges from reducing inflammation and treating rheumatoid arthritis to boosting muscle strength and relieving pain. It’s the cutting edge of health.

What is the last thing you do before “quitting” or “leaving” work for the day?

Close the computer and attempt to turn my brain “off” - that is, switch to non-work stuff like being present with my partner. However, like many entrepreneurs I am working 24/7. I’m analyzing the world, churning ideas, making to-do lists. I rarely get to “leave.” However, I do my best to shift my focus.

What do you read on a regular basis?

The only thing I’ve probably read consistently (or listened to) is the blog of Tim Ferriss and the Tim Ferriss Show on iTunes. Tim brings on world-class performers and I feel like I get to step into the minds of people I would never get the chance to hang out with. The guests’ insights into life continue to prove that anything is possible.

Who do you speak to on a regular basis?

My parents. My partner Laura. The barista at Cafe Dawn.

What do you wish were a part of your routine?

I’ve tried to develop a daily meditation practice for about 6 years. It comes and goes. Some months its 80%, some 20%. I’ll continue working on this as it has radically changed my perspective on life since starting in 2009.

What part of your routine do you hope to stop one day?

One of my biggest challenges is wanting to accomplish so much every single day. Most days I don’t and I might feel disappointed. Gym. Yoga. Meditation. Breathing. A hike or bike. Time reading. Writing a poem. A nap. 10 things on the To-Do list. Make dinner. Phew! 

It’s exhausting trying to make it all happen. So, oddly, I hope to be OK with being a Low-Achiever someday.

My takeaway: Don't focus on your routine; focus on your flow.

View all past Routine Examination interviews here.

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