Run Your Day Like a CEO

As soon as you get up, the dog is already begging to be let outside. The kids don’t want to get ready for school, so you have to practically drag them out of bed. Your partner is wondering where the hell this or that is while you’re trying to get ready yourself for the day. And you’re still just barely awake in all this and haven’t had your coffee yet!

Are your mornings crazy like this? Let’s do something about that! High performance CEOs know how to manage their day and conserve their energy to get the results they want in life and business. So in this last installment of the “Run Your Business Like a CEO” series, I talk about three surprisingly key things to running your day like a CEO, based on my own experience.


On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:

7:54 – A great day truly starts the night before. I used to never be a great sleeper (and even failed at it, according to my FitBit), so here’s how I fixed that.

15:48 – Morning routines can be so different from person to person. As an introvert who likes the quiet, here’s what I do and don’t do.

20:00 – What else can you consider to keep your days running smoothly? Pay attention to these things.

23:00 – I reveal what I do to simplify decision-making regarding my wardrobe, self-care, and home essentials.

26:45 – What’s sucking away your time? I discuss the happy accident that helped me truly relax.

28:27 – I used to feel resistant to morning and nighttime routines. Are you in the same boat?

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Are your mornings just the craziest time of the day? We are getting up trying to deal with getting the dog outside, starting the coffee, and taking care of your kids, trying to get yourself ready and focused so that you can get into work but just ultimately feeling frazzled by the time you sit down at your desk? Or maybe the end of your day, you're just collapsing into bed just flat-out exhausted?

Well, high-performance CEOs and leaders know that they need to manage their day well. They need to conserve their brain space and energy for what really matters so that they can get the results they're looking for in their life, in their health, in their relationships, and yes, in their business. So in today's episode, we're going to talk about how you can run your day like a high-performance CEO.

Are you ready to grow from stressed-out solopreneur to competent CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook, and I've spent more than 15 years helping women entrepreneurs sustainably scale their businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

Hey there, CEO. Welcome back to the final episode, the final installment in this Run Your Business like a CEO series. So far in this series, we have talked about running your quarter like a CEO, thinking strategically about how you're going to tackle your next 90 days, making those 90-day goals check-offable action steps, and actually planning out what you're going to be focused on.

Then we follow that up with running your month like a CEO, talked about how we use our monthly CEO Date to press pause and to reflect on our progress so far in our 90-day plan, really giving us the opportunity to be proactively adapting and adjusting the plan before anything becomes an emergency, giving ourselves the opportunity to make changes that we need to change, giving ourselves the opportunity to ask for extra help or move things around so that we have the time we need in order to achieve our goals.

Then we talked last week about running your week like a CEO. If you've been around me for a while, you know that I have a lot to say about how we can structure and run our weeks, how we can manage our time more effectively. That is so crucially important for anyone who is running a business at this level. But today, I want to talk about running your day like a CEO. This is going to be a little bit of a different conversation. The other conversations were more focused on strategy, planning, time management, and bigger-picture thinking types of things.

Today, we need to dig into the day-to-day, the day-to-day of running a business at this level because if you are feeling frazzled before you even sit down at your desk or if you're getting to bed and just feeling exhausted and anxious about that ongoing to-do list, then we've got some work to do, friends. We've got to make sure that we are putting the systems and the structure in place to help us perform at a high level.

Performing at a high level is completely different than being a high achiever. In fact, I talked to so many women who are regularly like, “I'm such a high achiever. In fact, I would call myself an overachiever. I'm focused on doing all the things,” and they're exhausted all the time. It's because they're so focused on what they can check off their list that they forget that it's not about doing all the things all the time, it's about being high performance where you're getting the results that you actually want.

Making that shift from being an overachiever to a high performer means starting to look not just at what you can get done getting out of that hustle mentality, but it's really about how can you manage your energy and your mindset so that you can do your highest and best value work, the things that only you can do that make the biggest impact in your business, for your clients, for your families.

Something that you might have heard is that Barack Obama only wore gray or blue suits. He didn't ever want to wake up, have to stand in his closet, and figure out what he was going to wear. He made it so simple. He only wore a gray or a blue suit. Steve Jobs only wore black turtleneck and jeans. He had a uniform. He wore the same thing again and again.

Many prolific creatives, many artists, musicians, and writers, people who really have to be able to get into that zone and produce, they have these systems that they put in place in their lives, whether it is a specific thing they're wearing every day, they give themselves a uniform, they eat the same thing over and over again, they have the same morning routine, or they have the same workout that they do. They eliminate decisions so that when they sit down to do their work, they can perform at the highest level.

There's such a strong correlation between decision fatigue and the ability to sit down and actually do your highest-level work. If your brain is constantly exhausted, then you can't do that work.

We want to talk about how we can start to become higher performers, how we can navigate our energy and our mindset so that we're more powerful at work, more present at home, more purposeful each and every day. I want to walk you through three key things that for me have become the key to running my day like a CEO. These things might surprise you because I don't really feel like I talk about these as much as I talk about the more planning and time management stuff but these are truly the things that give me the capacity I need to show up for myself, for my health, for my family, for my business in the way that I want to show up.

A great day truly starts the night before. This has become more and more important for me to pay attention to. I am not a great sleeper. I've never been a great sleeper. I'm not asking for advice, I'm about to tell you how I have fixed a lot of that but I am naturally somebody who is a very light sleeper. I wake up often through the night.

I remember a few years ago my husband and I got each other for Christmas the Fitbit that was the first time it had this sleep tracking available. This was probably a longer time ago than I'm remembering. But I remember it was the first time I had something that could show me how I was sleeping. My husband's tracker was basically telling him he was getting like an A plus at sleep every night. Meanwhile, I would log into my Fitbit app and realize that I am getting terrible sleep. I was like at a C or a D every night.

No wonder I was tired. It was showing how often I was waking up. I was not waking up feeling rested. If you don't feel rested when you wake up, if you're not waking up with that energy and ready to go after the day, it's so hard to counteract that with anything else. So for me, a great day starts with the night before.

I want to walk you through some of the things that have really helped me to tackle this. The first thing I realized is I needed more wind-down time. This has become a huge part of my evening routine is making sure I have wind-down time and making sure I'm doing some things that really trigger my body, trigger my brain to realize, “Oh, it's time to put away the tasks of the day. It is time to start shutting it down so you can rest.” Our brains need some sort of trigger to get into that mode.

This is why if you have young children, the nighttime routine can be so important for them, otherwise, it's really hard to get them in bed. But if you're going through the same steps with your kids every night where it's like we have dinner, we clean up after dinner, then we go have bath time, we go put on jammies, we brush our teeth, we read a story, and then we have a hug, kiss, and prayer time, it helps indicate to them and helps them prepare for it's time to go to sleep.

It's this whole process and the hour or two hours before you're getting ready to go to sleep, you have to think about “What do I need to help prepare me to have a great night of sleep?” My kids go to bed pretty early still. I am a huge fan of kids having an early bedtime. It's totally selfish but I think it's good for them. They usually are in bed and we allow them at this stage, they're 10 and 7, they're allowed to be in bed as long as they're in bed by 7:30, they can read a book but then lights out by 8:30. That is the beginning, for me, of my own personal wind-down time.

Once the kids are taken care of and they're in bed, then I give myself a little bit of time to spend with my husband where we might watch a show, we might hang out together. But a few things that I start to do that really, really helps me and maybe it'll help you as well, the first thing is I sit down and do some journaling.

Now I am not a huge journaler. I have never been someone who writes pages and pages in my journal. I tend to be a list maker. But what has helped me more than anything at the end of the day is to just brain dump all the things that are still lingering in my head, still floating around, still nagging at me and I just throw them down on a list. Sometimes it's what I need to get done tomorrow. Whatever it is, it could be a shopping list for the week ahead. I just want to get it out of my head and onto paper. Somehow that helps me go to sleep without having that anxiety, that anxious thought in the back of my head that I'm going to forget something.

I always sit down with my notebook and I put anything that's hanging over my head in there, get it out on paper, get it so that I can not be worried about it. Then I go through my own getting ready-for-bed routine. This past year when the pandemic started and I realized, “Man, we're going to be home a lot,” I decided I wanted to invest in some really great pajamas.

I am not somebody who's ever worried too much about that. I was like a tank top and shorts type of gal but I decided that I was going to invest in some really, really soft luxurious feeling pajamas, basically an upgraded version of my tank top, like really, really great fabric, something that would make me indicate to myself like, “Okay, it's time for bed. I only wear this at bed. I'm not wearing it to lounge around. I'm not wearing it anywhere else. This is what I'm sleeping in.”

It really helps me to have this ritual. I put on these really luxurious pajamas. I take time with my skincare at night. If I'm able to, I'll take a bath. I don't always have the time to do that but I do take time with my skincare and it's become quite a routine. I love my skincare routine. It's several steps. I take time removing all my makeup and cleansing my skin, putting different serums on my skin, really taking time moisturizing my skin. I have some beautiful rose quartz gouache that I will do to remove puffiness in my face. I have an ice roller that I'll use on my skin.

Sometimes I'll use a sheet mask on my skin to seal in everything that I just did before I sleep. This to me is one of my favorite personal self-care things. But because it's become such a part of my evening routine, it really gets me ready for going to bed. My body knows that if we're doing all the facial massage and all the things, it's time, we're getting there.

Then I make sure that I get into my bed and I do some breathing exercises or meditation from bed. This is what works for me. It might not be the same for you but I love this app called Calm. What I love about this app is it's got some really simple breathing exercises. As somebody who struggles with anxiety, I need to really work on managing my nervous system. These breathing exercises, if I do 5 or 10 minutes of breathing before I go to sleep, it helps my body relax so much.

I'll do 5 or 10 minutes of breathing exercises on Calm. What I also love is that it tracks if you're doing them multiple days in a row so you want to get on a streak of doing this every night, it feeds that part of your brain that likes to achieve things. But I'll do my Calm breathing exercises, I will get my weighted blanket, which I also sleep with to help me calm my nervous system and get into better sleep, and then I will read fiction.

I have had to make this shift. I am a voracious reader. I love reading I am constantly picking up new books about marketing, psychology, mindset, business, or leadership but I found that when I read those at night, I cannot sleep so I will pick up a fiction book, something that I can just read a couple of pages of maybe read for half an hour and it's okay if I pause in the middle of it.

Those are all the things that I do in order to go to sleep. In addition to all of those things to work on my sleep, you heard me talk about I sleep with my weighted blanket, I do the Calm app to slow down my heart rate and get my nervous system managed a little bit better, I also wear ear plugs when I sleep. I use a sleeping mask when I sleep. My house is set at about 68 degrees, 67 degrees when I sleep and I find that helps a lot.

In the winter months, I make sure we have a humidifier in my room so that it's easier for me to breathe with the breathing problems I have. All of these things help me to sleep. I have blackout curtains in my room. I really, really had to work on this in order to make sure I could have solid sleep. Now I wake up and I actually wake up with energy, which is amazing. I used to be that way naturally. Now, after all these kids and all the things, I have to make some intentional effort in order to wake up with energy.

That was my nighttime routine. It might sound like a lot and maybe it's too much for you but these are the things that if we get in these little routines, we give ourselves the space to decompress and put those anxious thoughts somewhere so we're not thinking about them all night long, getting rid of the screens at night and instead doing some journaling or reading, these are the things that are a game changer, especially if you're somebody like me who struggles with sleeping.

Next up morning routine. There is so much talk right now about morning routines and some people have very elaborate morning routines. It's all a personal preference. You have to know yourself and I think you have to experiment a little bit with what feels great to you. I'm a highly sensitive introvert. I like quiet. I love waking up before anyone else in my house. Favorite time of day is when I wake up, my husband's still in bed, the kids are still asleep, and even the dog's not awake.

I love being able to go downstairs in my robe and my slippers. The coffee pot, I set the night before on a timer so that it's ready when I get downstairs, but I pour myself my cup of coffee. I curl up in my big chair. I grab a little blanket and I sit there quietly and drink my cup of coffee. It is so quiet. I love it. I love it so very much. This is when I sometimes might sit there and I might journal, I might plan out my day, I might write down things that I'm grateful for in my journal, all of those practices are great, they're very helpful.

I tend to like to read a little bit in the morning. I am a news person. I do like to read the news in the morning so I have my subscriptions on my iPad of the newspapers that I follow. I probably have three or four newspaper subscriptions that I follow. I'll check out what's going on in the world a little bit in the morning and then I will shift over into my movement time. I'll go back upstairs, get ready to go on a little walk, or I'll do yoga in the morning. I have a couple of different people I love following for that.

I'll spend 20 minutes moving my body a little bit. I'll spend a little bit of time stretching. I really like a slow start to the morning. If I can do those things before my kids get up and I have to think about like “What do you guys want to eat?” It just makes me such a nicer human. If you are like me, if you're a highly sensitive introvert, a slower quieter start to the day might be really, really helpful.

One thing I do not do is jump up and answer my emails. I also don't jump up and start doing a million chores or get right onto my laptop. This is my time for me to wake myself up, to take care of myself, to nourish my mind, nourish my body, get some movement in. That's what I like. That's what works for me. I actually don't start work at all, checking emails, or any of that jazz until I get to my desk.

I do really enjoy the time though, I have to say this year more than any other time has helped me see how much I love what I call my commute time. Now even when I was working from home all the time five days a week, I would create my own morning commute time. This was a time where I was transitioning from being at home me, mom me, wife me to, “Oh, I'm getting ready for work now.”

I love getting ready for work. It doesn't mean that I have to put on a three-piece suit and high heels, it could just be that I have specific clothes that I wear to work, and I really do, I have a capsule wardrobe I've built over the years. If you see me posting pictures of me at work, I'm usually in a sweater blazer and that's my uniform is like jeans, a t-shirt, a comfortable soft t-shirt, and a sweater blazer, maybe some earrings. I love getting ready for work in that way and having my little work outfits versus my at-home outfits, which are honestly going to be yoga pants.

I don't work in the yoga pants. But I do take my time to get ready in the morning. I make sure that I've taken care of my skin. I'll often blow dry my hair, put on some mascara and some lipstick. That is getting ready for me in the morning. It's a really simple morning routine. There are not a ton of steps here. It is highly personalized to whatever you need. But because it's the same thing, it gives me what I need, which is my quiet, my self-reflective time, my movement, and it gives me a clear container for what's going to happen to start my day versus jumping into work.

Now there are some other things that I do that really help me keep my days running smoothly. I would be paying attention for you to anything that causes frustration or is annoying in your day. Things that used to be really annoying in my day are things I've built systems for now. Let's talk about things that used to be really annoying in my day. As a mom of three, things that used to be really annoying to me were meal planning.

Oh, my gosh, my kids will eat non-stop. It's an ongoing battle just to keep all the food in the house and all the meals ready to go. We got in a really bad habit for years where because of grocery stores two blocks away, we would not really plan but then every night and be like, “What's for dinner?” and someone would have to run to the grocery store because we didn't have a plan and we didn't have what people wanted. So we decided like, “How can we simplify this as much as possible, especially during the week when the kids are doing homeschool and I am working, how can we simplify this? Simplify decision-making, simplify the prep, make life a little easier for us.”

We have themed dinner nights. This makes everything so much easier. Mondays are soup and sandwiches. Tuesdays are taco Tuesdays, no surprise there. My kids came up with their own day. They call it Wacky Wednesday. This is the kids’ day to take on meals and they actually mix it up. We used to do breakfast for dinner night and then my kids were like, “Well, what if we mix up all of the meals?”

So sometimes they'll do dinner for breakfast and breakfast for lunch and then lunch for dinner so it might mean that we wake up and have grilled cheese sandwiches for breakfast and then at lunch we're going to have cereal with fruit and then at dinner we're going to have a salad or something. They like to play with that. It's fun for them. They get to plan it, they get to tell us what they want to have, and they make most of it which is really fun for us.

Then we have a leftover night and Fridays are pizza nights. Weekends are when we do bigger meals. This is when my husband and I will do things like we'll roast some vegetables for the week. We'll prep in advance some rice for the week. We'll prep in advance things that we might need like chicken to have it all ready so that through the week, we can easily add vegetables to any dinner, we already have protein ready, we can quickly throw it all together so we're not starting from scratch.

That has become so helpful. This has helped make our meal planning a lot easier. It's made shopping a lot easier because now that we do delivery groceries, we just every Sunday go in there and upload everything the same list to the cart. It gets delivered a few hours later. It makes our life so much easier and it works for everybody. We have found this to be something that really reduces that decision fatigue and all the time and energy that goes into feeding a pretty big family.

Something else that I do to simplify my decision-making through the day is my capsule wardrobe. I mentioned earlier that getting ready for work in the morning, I actually take the time to pull out my jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweater blazer or a sweater. I keep it pretty simple. I have a pretty clear vision of the types of things I like to wear to work that make me feel my feelings for my capsule wardrobe when I created it with Nicole Otchy who I have done an interview with, where I wanted to feel polished and professional but also comfortable. Those were really high priorities for me.

I have all of those things ready and it's pretty mix and match. It's all in a very complimentary color palette so I can really just grab anything and put it together. It makes me feel really pulled together without sacrificing the comfort that I like. That's something that I've done that just streamlines my day. I don't have days where I'm looking at my closet crying because nothing fits, nothing goes together, or I don't have enough of something.

I make sure I have all of those things. It takes planning and shopping, which is not my favorite, but it did make getting ready to go in the morning so much easier. I took a page out of Barack Obama's book, keep it simple, have the same type of uniform or style that you like, and don't really deviate beyond that a whole lot unless it's a special occasion.

Another thing I do to simplify my decision-making is I manage to schedule all my self-care in advance. This is something that, because I have some chronic health conditions, if I don't proactively schedule these things, then I'll find myself putting up with things with pain in my body, with not feeling well, or with my anxiety being particularly bad and I will wait until it gets really bad before I'll schedule the appointments.

Probably about once a month, I will sit down and I will schedule out a whole month's worth of self-care appointments. That could look like I'm going to schedule out all my chiropractic visits. I'm going to schedule out all of my floats. I love going to get a float. It is one of the best things for my pain and for my anxiety I've ever found. I will schedule out all my massages. I will schedule out the days that I'm going to try to go get a manicure and pedicure once a month. I will schedule out when I'm going to get my hair cut.

I go ahead and try to schedule all of those things out in advance, all of my doctor's appointments, my dentist appointments, and that way it's already built in and I don't ever find myself so out of sorts that I end up having really bad days. Scheduling in advance helps me have more good days over bad days.

I also put on auto-ship or auto-deliver a lot of things for my home and for my health that make life so much easier. There are a lot of supplements that I'm taking right now. Thanks to my functional medicine doctor. If you go through a lot of supplements, you know that it's like you've always got to order them and keep them in stock. If you forget for a couple of days, then suddenly you don't feel so well. I just put it all on auto-ship. It ships to me automatically.

This is true for my supplements. This is true for my deodorant, my skincare, my self-care. I put it all on auto-ship. I know what I like. I just have the same things coming to me all the time. I also have this for my husband's things, for my kids' things. We do this for a lot of the products we use around the house like cleaning products, we have them all on auto-ship. They're just getting delivered to us through something like Grove Collaborative. I really like that tool because I never have to worry about running out of toilet paper, soap, or whatever it might be. We schedule a lot of things and automate a lot of things so that we're not stressed about it.

Finally, I make sure I'm managing my screen time. This could be replaced with whatever your current time suck is. For me, it's my screen time. I definitely go through periods where I will be not paying attention to how much time I'm spending on my phone or on social media. Actually, I had a happy accident happen a couple of weeks ago. I left my phone on my desk in my office and I was already home or almost home. It's about a 20-minute drive from my house to the office that I have downtown in Richmond, Virginia and I was almost home and I realized, “Oh, no, I left my phone on the desk. What should I do? Should I go back and get it?”

I decided, “You know what, no, I'm not going to go back and get it.” That was the best weekend for me because it helped me truly relax. I wasn't checking in on social media. I wasn't constantly pushing to update the news. I have apps on my phone that I don't have on my iPad so I realized, “Oh, I need to actually do this more often. I need to force myself to take some social media breaks.” That tends to be my time suck. Not even because I'm engaging but because I'm aimlessly scrolling.

I do that as well. I track my time on my phone and when I see that it's getting out of control for me, then I will delete the apps. I will take it off my phone. I will put my phone away so that it's not causing me to just check out and just create some mental fuzziness that I don't really need.

I hope this episode was helpful, interesting maybe, for how you can run your day like a CEO. I have to say this is the type of stuff that I was really resistant to for some reason, the nighttime and morning routines, I think because I'm such a go-go-go mindset type of person. When I was in that hustle mindset feeling like I should be working all the time, I should be doing something all the time, or I don't have time to wake up and sip my coffee in peace every day, I realize that is so ridiculous.

If I don't make time for the things that I actually want, need, or enjoy, then what is the point of all of this? Hopefully, this will get you thinking a little bit differently. I do have to say that this has been, as I'm recording this right now, a tough year. The last 12 months have been really challenging. In fact for me, the 12 months before that were pretty challenging. I realized that the biggest thing that would make the difference for me and my business wasn't the strategy, the planning, or how I was showing up and doing things in the business because that stuff was all in lockstep, it was working.

Team was running smoothly, business was growing, all of that was good and I realized, “You know what, the only thing that is making this not work is my energy, my mindset, and how fatigued I was feeling because I wasn't really protecting myself there.” I would find myself at the end of the week or the month just feeling like, “Ugh, I am tired.” My boundaries had become fuzzy and I wasn't truly protecting myself, my time, my energy.

These are the things that help me recover from that. There was a point where I had to bring on a coach who really was there to talk to me over and over and over again about how important my self-care was and how the only way for me to expand my capacity as a leader and my ability to take on the size business I really wanted, to take on leading the team that I want to lead, to take on the level of visibility that I wanted to take on, the only way I could manage that is if I learned to manage my capacity, if I learned to manage my energy and my mindset.

Man, did I struggle with that. I thought that was not important for me. It turns out, it was probably the most important thing I could do for myself. I'd love to hear from you. Please let me know. Take a screenshot of this episode, share it with me on Instagram Stories, the one social media platform I still keep on my phone, and let me know what your big aha or insight was.

Of course, if you loved this series on How to Run Your Business like a CEO, then I want to hear from you. I want you to go over to Apple Podcasts and leave a rating and review. If you leave that rating in review by January 31st, 2023, we will be pulling a special winner to receive four CEO Planners. That's right, a full year's worth of the CEO Planners. We will send that out to our special winner just for this little giveaway. All you have to do to enter is head over to Apple Podcasts, leave your rating and review, and we will announce the winner the first week of February. Thanks so much for listening.