For the majority of my child and adult life up until the age 26 I never considered myself a morning person. I was a night owl, just like my dad... or so I thought.
During my architecture school career I worked late through the night and slept in the mornings. When I left university and entered the real world of work I of course needed to conform to getting up at 7am, so I did… but I didn’t enjoy it. In fact I would get up as late as possible, skip breakfast, rush to work, and then feel like I was trying to catch up the rest of the day... then I'd do it again the next day. I spent the weekends staying up late and sleeping in half the day. That was my life for several years.
This type of routine will take its toll on your physical and mental well-being and majorly impact your productivity and mental wellbeing.
Cut to five years later and I work from home, and I happily wake up between 5:30 - 6:30 am each day. Even on weekends, I’m usually up by 7 am latest. It could be that I’m enjoying the work I’m doing so much and am accountable to only myself; however, I think it has more to do with the fact that I’ve learned so much about how creating good habits are critical for lifetime success. Good habits start with creating rituals, like being more intentional with your time than I had been in the past.
A morning routine sets the tone for the whole day, and if you do each day right, you’ll do life right.
One of my most popular posts was The 22 Books to read before you quit your job where I shared the book reading list I created that needed to be completed before I quit my job, one of those books was The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. I knew that not having a good morning routine and feeling overwhelmed like I was constantly behind was connected.
I needed to work smarter, not harder, and the first step was to create good habits. The first thing I needed to do was quit the belief that I was a “night owl.” It turns out that those nights I had stayed up working probably would have been better spent sleeping early and getting up refreshed and energized for the day.
Over the past several months I have been working on “habit stacking” to craft myself a good morning routine that works for me. Habit Stacking is a way to build a new habit into your life by stacking it on top of something you’re currently doing.
For example, before I brush my teeth in the morning (current habit) I will meditate (new habit) for 3 minutes. I’ve discovered the personal ritual I have set up for myself has helped put me in the right mindset and offset any morning procrastination.
Another great reason to create a morning ritual it is to avoid mental fatigue. We only have a certain amount of energy and willpower when we wake up each morning, and it slowly gets drained away with decisions. I shared in my Sunday Success System how you can better manage your energy so that you're making the most of your morning energy for your hardest tasks.
This is especially true if you’re making hundreds of small decisions in the morning that mean nothing yet will affect how you make decisions for the remainder of the day. Try to have the first hour of your day vary as little as possible with a routine.
Avoiding mental fatigue is why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same thing everyday.
Knowing exactly how the first 90 minutes of my day looks like is powerful, as it helps me feel in control and non-reactive, which in turn reduces anxiety and ensures I’m more productive throughout the day.
The First 60 Minutes of my day
1. Wake up and drink a big (16oz) glass of water
After 6–10 hours without any liquid, you need to rehydrate and wake yourself up. Drinking water is a great way to kickstart your metabolism, I often put a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in also.
2.Take a cold shower (3 mins)
When I first heard friends talk about taking cold showers (listen to my friend Joel talk about it on TedX) in the morning, I thought they were nuts. Then one random day in mid-February I decided to try it. I’m not going to lie: it sucked. However, I felt energized and completely awake after it so I’ve been doing it almost every day since. If you’re considering it, be prepared for discomfort at first, but also look forward to feeling more refreshed than you have before. Also, it has numerous health benefits if that makes you feel better.
You can also turn it to hot after a few minutes which will still invigorate you.
3. Brush teeth and get dressed
4. Stretching or light movement (15 mins inc dog walking)
A little light stretching in the morning is all it takes to shake off grogginess and limber up for the day ahead. It only takes a few minutes but by doing basic stretches, here's the ones I do or some kettlebell squats and press-ups. I'll also take the dogs out for a quick 10-minute walk to get some fresh air so I'm getting out of the house.
5. Meditate (with Muse, 7 - 12 mins)
Perhaps the most important part of my routine is clearing my mind so that I can gain focus for the day. I’m very new to meditation. I only added it to my daily life within the past 6 months. I personally use the Muse headband because, as a beginner, I had trouble learning how to meditate and understand when my mind was drifting. The Muse detects my brain signals to let me know when my brain is calm and focused and when it is not. While it's not essential for meditation, it helped me learn how to get back to calm if my mind drifted.
6. Make coffee (+ sometimes do dishes
In another life I think I was a barista as I love the art of making coffee in the morning on my Breville Espresso Maker which since I've bought has saved me $$$'s on buying coffee out of the house. I think I did the math on it and between my fianceé and I it would be paid off within 60 days from saved money.
7. Reading (20 mins)
I read non-fiction in the morning, which means business, personal development etc to get my creative juices flowing. If you're wondering what I've read you can see here.
8. Morning pages (15 - 20 mins)
Morning pages comes from the book The Artist's Way It’s an activity of writing 750 words, around 3 pages, each morning. It’s not blogging or anything that I will ever release to the world. It’s a stream of consciousness of whatever is on my mind, essentially a brain dump on ideas for business, life, and other decisions. Whatever I want to clear my mind of, you'd be surprised the things that come out that you didn't even realize were taking up brainspace.
9. Daily goals (5 mins)
Each morning I write down my goals. First, I write down a long-term goal that I’m working towards to keep me mindful of my direction so that I don’t go off track. Then, I write down the day’s targets, which are what 3 things I need to accomplish to move me further toward my long-term goal - I use the Self Journal to break down these goals and to ensure I'm staying on track with my goal.
10. Plan my Day (3 mins)
I break down my day in 30 minute increments using the Self Journal, enter any calls or appointments I have, and then schedule out my tasks for the day. I be sure to always put the most important (coincidentally usually the least enjoyable) first so that I ensure it gets done. I try to never book any meetings or appointments until late in the after lunch as my mornings are when I get most of my work done.
Then I begin working.
I don’t look at my phone, email, facebook, or twitter until after I’ve completed that first big task of my day. Prioritize your goals and tasks first before looking at email so you don’t go into reactive mode as opposed to proactive mode.
My morning routine takes just over an hour. I can’t stress enough to you the importance of a great morning routine, as it will set you up for a successful day - and life. With that said, what I do isn’t for everyone. I experimented with a few different things and figured out what worked for me, yours could be longer or shorter depending on what works so just test out until you find a good fit.
It also can change over time so don't be too rigid with it.