Think back to when you woke up this morning.
What was the first thing you did? How did you spend the first 30 minutes after waking up? Is it always the same and have you already have established some routine? Do you feel energized and ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead?
A common thing many people do directly after waking up is checking their smartphone.
All the notifications, messages and news from social media crave for our attention. They suck us in. And they keep us in the position of a reactive consumer, whose emotional state is dependent on external news and events.
Do you feel powerful, ready to pursue your goals and take on the world after starting the day like this?
Most likely you feel sluggish, in-your-head, with a million thoughts battling for your attention, making an intense focus on what lies ahead sheerly impossible.
What is the alternative?
A conscious decision and commitment to change.
Decide to change your role from a consumer to a producer, to start your day actively by pursuing your desired habits first thing in the morning, because you know they would otherwise get lost and never happen throughout your busy day.
Then intelligently design your environment to make it easier to stick to your desired habits
The Power of Routines
This is where routines come into play. They are one of the most powerful tools for productivity. A routine basically is a sum of small habits. Most people already have some form of routine in the morning, just think of how you routinely go for your morning coffee, brush your teeth or take a shower.
However, the great thing about routines is that you can consciously design and shape them by batching habits that you want to be included, choosing their order and run them on auto-pilot as one seamless process.
In the case of a morning routine, it may consist of smaller habits like cold showers, meditation, journaling, visualization, reading, exercise, but also basic things as having your cup of coffee or talking a short walk.
When choosing the habits that will be part of your routine, try to keep some basic principles in mind:
1. Less input, more output:
This holds especially true for any form of news, be it the newspaper, social media, messages, TV, etc. You can inform yourself later throughout the day if you wish, but don’t start the day with what most of the time is just irrelevant noise. An exception can be uplifting content from books that make you think and increase your creativity. What you should do is try to actively produce something. You can do that by writing some lines about your thoughts in a journal or just prime yourself on the day and tasks ahead and produce uplifting thoughts.
2. “Eat that frog”
Willpower is at its peak in the morning, so do things that you otherwise would most likely neglect. Cold showers are a great example. Depending on your schedule you can also put the most difficult and important task at the end of your routine, which is the frog you need to eat. The routine then provides a smooth transition from waking up to working on your true priorities.
3. Keep it simple
It is tempting to try to cram all of our desired habits into one morning routine and try to effortlessly make you do anything. The truth is especially when introducing new habits and a new morning routine in general, you need to start small and focus on one keystone habit. This is a habit that, once fully established, can have positive side effects on many other areas of your life. Choose one or a few habits, do them consistently and as soon as it is second nature you can step-by-step include new habits.
4. Quality over quantity
Carve out enough time in the morning, so you don’t have to rush through your routine. Focus on the few things that matter most to you right now and do them deliberately and with mental clarity.
In order to stick to your morning routine, make sure to write down the steps you wish to complete after waking up. It is important to put them somewhere where you can easily see them after waking up, so there is a smooth transition from waking up to starting the day with your routine.
Sample morning routine
With some minor alterations depending on location and season, my routine generally consists of the following steps:
- Open window, make bed
- Myofascial release and short mobility exercise
- Go on balcony to get sunlight
- Have coffee with protein
- Read uplifting content about philosophy
- Journaling, goal review, priming+perspective
- Write a bit
- Cold shower + getting ready
- Transition to work/most important task of the day
Remember that the selection of habits and its order is entirely up to you. Find out what works best for you.
Once you create a routine for the first time, as described, rather include less activities but be more detailed and ensure smooth transitions. Choose a few habits and their order, then try to stick to them for a while and see if you need to play around with the structure, which helps you with adherence.
Only once you feel your routine just “happens” on auto-pilot, you should consider adding new activities. The parts of an established morning routine will serve as anchor habits and thus allow to add new habits more easily by incorporating them into this automatic system.
By having a clearly-defined morning routine, you make use of the high levels of willpower at this time of the day and the power of habits. It makes sure that you complete your most important activities and work on your most important goals. You start your day in a productive instead of a reactive state. You will have already got more done by the time others are only starting to wake up.
Call to Action
Right now, choose one habit that you always wanted to make happen. Write it down on a sheet of paper and put it somewhere you can see it immediately after waking up. Do it first thing in the morning. Only focus on this activity, do it consistently and maintain the streak. Over time a routine will develop, which you can then cultivate further.
Have you implemented a morning routine? What do you struggle with most right now? Let me know in the comments below!
For further inspiration about why you should have a morning routine, what to include and why, check out the following:
1. Benjamin P. Hardy’s article about the “8 Things Every Person Should Do Before 8 A.M.”
2. Srinivas Rao’s article about how “The First 3 Hours of Your Day Can Dictate How Your Life Turns Out”
3. Hal Elrod’s book “The Miracle Morning”.