Do you have a morning routine?
Hitting snooze 5 times before mainlining coffee doesn’t count!
If you don’t have a morning routine then, you should.
From personal experience, I can vouch for the fact that I am more energetic, efficient, focused, motivated, and productive when I follow my morning routine.
Yet, I don’t always get it done.
In this short post, I’ll outline the major benefits of a morning routine, what a good morning routine shouldcomprise, what it achieves, and explain why despite all that I sometimes don’t get mine done. Oh, and I’ll finish up with a cool tip which has helped me to make my morning routine stick, even at times when I would normally have let it slide.
Why You NEED a Morning Routine:
A morning routine sets the tone for the day. A good routine allows you to achieve some small wins. It creates momentum for the day. It also helps you get your head in the game and focus on what matters.
If you tend to feel disorganised and overwhelmed then it is likely because you are letting things/stuff/life dictate to you. By establishing a routine, you can begin the day on your terms. You dictate the schedule and avoid distractions this way.
Another benefit of having a routine is that in time it becomes a habit. You don’t have to think about doing it. You can almost do it on autopilot. It isn’t a decision. It is just something you do. You know, like brushing your teeth. When you reach this stage, the routine helps you to avoid mental fatigue.
Think about it. Most days you wake up, you probably immediately check your smart phone. You are inundated with emails, social media notifications, text messages, and breaking news stories. You are on the back foot and you have decisions to make. Which should you reply to first? What is most important? Are you free next Thursday to go for lunch with John? Can you make beers on Friday with the guys? How should you word the reply to your boss’s email? Who won the game last night? Etc., etc., etc.
And that is all before you decide what to eat for breakfast and what to wear to work.
You only have so much will power and decision-making capacity. Don’t use it up on stuff that is unimportant, could be made routine, automated, or simply avoided. Use a morni g routine to avoid decision fatigue.
You have a million and one inputs, all of which require a decision. They need you to prioritise them and deal with them urgently. Yet none of them is urgent. They can certainly wait 10-30 mins (that’s all you’ll need for a kick-ass morning routine).
Do yourself a favour and get the benefits of a morning routine.
By doing so you will:
- Avoid decision fatigue
- Have more willpower
- Run the day rather than it is running you
- Have more energy
- Be more productive
- Have more clarity and focus
- Be able to prioritise properly
- Get shit done
My Journey to Developing a Morning Routine
A few years ago, while on holiday, I read a book by Leo Babauta called The Power of Less (great book – I’ll do a write up on it another time). Anyway, in the book Leo mentioned the benefits of a morning routine. Specifically, he mentioned the amazing benefits of Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning routine. Leo went on to explain that there was an “express” version of this which takes only 6 minutes.
This got my attention.
Like you, I had previously thought adding a morning routine to my schedule would be time consuming. I was unsure it would provide sufficient benefit. Essentially, I doubted the ROI.
But, 6 minutes?
That’s not much.
I can give it 6 minutes, I thought to myself while I relaxed lying by the pool (anything is possible while you’re on holiday!). So, I resolved to implement the MM upon my return from our trip.
For the past 3 years I have continued to use a morning routine. I have tweaked it and adapted it to fit my needs. It only takes 15 minutes. Occasionally, I have drifted away from it only to realise I am a less efficient person. What is more, my mood is generally better when I follow the routine. So, inevitably I return to utilising the routine and analyse why I didn’t stick to it last time. As such, each iteration of the routine is a little better. More specific to me and my needs.
My current routine was born out of the enthusiasm of yet another fantastic holiday. I always find holidays are a good time to analyse and reflect on what you’ve been doing. I also seem to be more creative on holiday. This time round I spent a lot of time trying to refine my morning routine to maximise my day. Over the past year (since our last holiday) I have been pretty productive, but I knew there was more I could achieve. I felt that getting my morning routine right was fundamental to the process. It literally sets the scene for each day.
I believe that, if I can win the morning, I can win the day. That leads to weeks, months, and years. This all adds up (hopefully, to winning at life – whatever that means to you).
Anyway, enough of my story and thought processes. On to the nitty gritty – my perfect morning routine…
[bctt tweet=”15 minutes is all you need for a morning routine to kick-start your day” username=”@tom_flat_free”]
My Perfect Morning Routine
Step 1 – Make Your Bed
Sounds simple, right? It is. And that is its beauty.
I was persuaded to make this the first thing I do by Admiral William McRaven’s 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas.
Watch the vid. It is worth it!
Long-story short, making your bed allows you to achieve something immediately. A small (tiny, in fact) win to start your day. This creates a momentum of winning. Once momentum gets going it is like a snowball running down a mountain. It gathers speed. It gets bigger. As a result, the chances of you continuing on to have a great day are improved. And even if you don’t, you have a nicely made bed to come home to and crawl into. Safe in the knowledge that tomorrow can always be better.
Drink water. I actually tend to drink either a greens powder, a protein shake, or some lime water. I add some fibre to all of these too.
Hydration is good. Most of us a dehydrated. Especially, after an 8-hour sleep. Your brain is 75% water, so it is obvious that immediately hydrating it will help with its functioning.
The reason I add fibre and one of the powders or some lime juice to the water is efficiency. If I’m doing one thing why not do two if it doesn’t take more time or effort?
All of these options taste good. So, it makes the process more pleasurable. All of them have nutritional benefits too. Two birds, one stone. Both of these are good for my health. This is a second (and third) win for the day. This feeds into the mind-set of success and momentum I am wanting to create with my morning routine.
Within a couple of minutes of waking up, I have made my bed, hydrated myself, and got my first influx of nutrients and fibre.
Step 3 – The Express Miracle Morning
I’ll let you into a secret…
…I haven’t read the Miracle Morning. Leo summarised it and sold it very well in his book. I didn’t need to be re-sold. I just thought I would incorporate it into my life and see for myself if there was benefit. The proof would be in the pudding and three years later it is still the cornerstone of my routine.
I googled the express version of it on my return from that holiday years back to quickly check I had understood what was involved. I had. I put it to use immediately. More recently, I have realised there are apps to help you follow the routine. I suggest you download one of these to help guide you through the process at first.
I have one simply titled TMM (The Miracle Morning).
The 6 steps of TMM are:
The beauty of the express version is you just assign 60 seconds to each (the TMM app allows you to customise the time for each so you can spend more on one and less on another if you want to experiment and focus more on some than others).
For the silence, the TMM also has the option of having some calming sounds in the background. I choose the waves option as I always find the sound of waves on the ocean incredible relaxing. Anyway, this 60 seconds of silence is essentially rapid meditation. I don’t deliberately think about anything. Just whatever comes into my head. I relax and use it as a chance for some quiet and to let my thoughts gather themselves.
Then, step 2. Affirmations. This was weird at first. I think as a Brit I am not really built for boldly stating all sorts of over the top positive stuff personal cheerleading. But, in time I have got used to it and come up with my own version which puts me in a positive headspace and reiterates what I am trying to achieve. If you are struggling then, why not try saying something simple like, “Today can be better than yesterday and I choose to make it so” (I think I stole that from the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari). Or you could simply, state what your goals for today are and why you are pursuing them. Something like, “I will work to educate, inspire, and motivate my staff, so that they love their work, provide value to our customers and enjoy their day.” Make it personal to you and what you want to achieve.
Then to step 3…
Visualisations. Simply sit still, close your eyes and try to picture all the tasks you have to do today. See yourself doing them quickly, confidently, and successfully. As the old saying goes, “If your mind can conceive it, you can achieve it.” I suggest, you picture the actual processes, but if you have a big outcome you are hoping to achieve (e.g., affording a new car or home, a luxury holiday etc.) then, picture that too, to help you focus on why you are doing all the little things.
Exercise is step 4. Now this is just 60 seconds. You aren’t gonna get a killer workout in. And at this time in the morning you shouldn’t try to anyway. Instead use it as a time to get your body moving and help yourself to feel alive and vital. You could do push-ups. Or do some mobility drills. Perhaps some Pilates type exercises or yoga poses. I do a hybrid of mobility and yoga poses. I simply flow through 4 moves for a few reps in my 60 seconds. This helps get my hips and upper back “looser”, gives my calves and hip flexors a gentle stretch and counts as another win (all before I’ve been up 10 mins).
Step 5 is reading. This could be anything. Something thought provoking is my suggestion. Your brain should be in a great place for creativity and insight at this point so, take advantage of it by getting someone else’s thoughts or complicated in there. Then it can percolate and you’ll come up with your own interpretation, twist, or solution on the issue far more easily than if you hadn’t done the routine. Currently, I am reading the Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. It is perfect as it has 365 short lessons or “mediations” form the philosophical school of Stoicism. These are taken from great philosophers from Ancient Greece and Rome and Ryan adds his own modern-day interpretation. Each takes a max of two minutes to read. I then flow straight into step 6…
Scribing (writing or journaling). Personally, I simply think on the lesson I have just read and try to write out my own understanding/thoughts on it in a few sentences. You don’t have to that. You can write anything. Some examples:
- Write your to do list for the day
- Write down three things you are grateful for
- Write down what was good about yesterday and what you can do to be better today
- Write down one thing you have learned in the past 24 hours
- Write down one random act of kindness you performed or received
That is the Miracle Morning Section out of the way. We are about 10 mins in and I have about 5 mins to go on my routine.
Step 4 – A quick pep talk
Next up is a Peptalk. Peptalk is an app I have just downloaded and each morning it provides you with a motivational quote, a short (one or two paragraphs) motivational/inspirational story, and an audio peptalk (these last 2-5mins). It uses world famous motivational speakers and I have found it really good so far. Some of the talks might seem cheesy to you. That’s fine maybe it isn’t for you, but I like them. They serve as a quick reminder why I am doing what I’m doing and help get me fired up to GSD.
Step 5 – Good tunes, gratitude and clean teeth
After my Peptalk is done I stick my headphones in and go to a playlist on Spotify of feel good songs. I simply titled this playlist Good Morning and the tracks are all upbeat and ones which put me in a good mood. Turns out lots of 60s (especially motown) seems to put me in a good mood. While listening to these songs I brush my teeth and think of three things I am grateful for.
One song later and my routine is complete.
I can then get showered, dressed and grab a coffee (at last!).
All in all, I have got a few simple tasks done. Given myself time to wake up and get my body and mind up to speed. I have hydrated and nourished my body. I have done some gentle exercise. Used my brain to think deeply (well, as deep as mind ever thinks). Created momentum, motivation, a good mood and a sense of purpose for the day.
Not bad for the first 15 minutes of my day.
It sure beats stressing about emails from clients or your boss!
So, I urge you to take this template. Do what Bruce Lee would do. Take what is useful, discard what is not, and add your own unique twist. If you do you WILL thank me for it!
If It Is So Great Why Have I Lapsed on My Morning Routine Occasionally
1 – I have two kids under the age of 5. They aren’t on-board with this whole GSD strategy. They just want to get up when they feel like it (often faaaaar too early), eat a bowl of cereal, have the TV on and run around causing havoc. When this happens then, it is pretty tricky to get the routine done without having one of them jump on my head. In fairness to them, they now tend to wake up obscenely early less frequently. As a result, this means I can get the routine done before they wake up more often than not. As long as I am up by 6.15am I can probably do it 90% of the time.
Excuse number two…
2 – Winter. Living in London means that for half the year it is pitch black half the time. Daylight doesn’t arrive til 8am for several months. I have to admit that getting up in the dark is hard. Giving last winter the kids were routinely up at 6-6.30am the knowledge that I need to be out of bed by 5.45am to be confident of getting the routine done wasn’t appealing. Especially, when I wouldn’t be seeing sunlight for several hours. In summer waking up at 5.30-6am isn’t such a chore. In fact, last summer that is exactly what I did to ensure the routine took place.
A Simple Tip to Keep Your Routine, Part of Your Routine
My solution to this winter darkness obstacle is a Lumie. This alarm clock wakes you up with an artificial sunrise. I used to use it when seeing clients early in the winter as it really does help you deal with getting up in pitch darkness. It is just as effective as helping you to wake up in a rested state and crack on with your morning routine. If you find that the winter and the dark mornings are holding you back then, I recommend you invest in a Lumie.
That’s it folks. Morning routines are awesome if done right. Use them to get an edge and kick-start your day.
If you have your own routine or any other strategies you think I would benefit from adding to my routine then, comment below, on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear them.