Damn it, I need to get to work A, S, A, P!
… is what I usually thought immediately after waking up in the morning.
And it’s not that I used to wake up at some ungodly late hour or anything. No, it was just my mindset. The mindset of having to proceed straight from bed > to work > to lunch > to work > to bed. What an awesome day, isn’t it?
I mean, there’s always so much stuff to be done every single day, right? You have your tasks, your responsibilities, your boss, your clients, your deadlines. And besides, the quicker you get to work, the more productive day you’ll have.
Am I making sense? Is this where you stand too?
If the answer’s “yes” then you need help.
Bit harsh, I know, but hear me out.
Having your eye on the prize, so to speak, is all good. Heck, we should all have clear goals regarding our projects and our careers in general. And we should start every day with a plan on how to bring ourselves closer to those goals.
However, trying to be in game mode right after you wake up isn’t something that can be stretched for longer periods of time, like months or years.
We’re not machines!
Well, okay, you can kick yourself into overdrive for short bursts if you have an important project at work/school. But if what you’re really after is long term growth and long term bettering yourself, then you need a more thought through day schedule than “wake up, go to work, go to bed.”
This is where morning routines / rituals come into the picture.
“But won’t a morning routine take time to go through, hence reducing the time I have for other things?”
I hear ya. Yep, it will. But that’s only half true. Here’s what I mean:
- A morning routine obviously takes time, it will take anything from 10 minutes to 1 hour a day.
- But at the same time, it has incredible effects on our overall productivity and the amount of productive output we can produce throughout the day.
In other words, even though you have to spend time going through your ritual, you’ll earn that time back by making the rest of your day more productive than it would otherwise be.
Think of it this way: You need to spend money to earn money.
Replace “money” with “time.”
That’s the power of morning routines.
Plus, many successful people have their morning routines. Coincidence?
How to do a morning routine?
Granted, this is all personal. So what I’m going to present you here is my idea and my take on the perfect morning routine. There’s going to be links to data, science research and so on. However, at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide how much of it you want to adapt for yourself.
You don’t have to do everything. Remember, doing something is always better than finding an excuse not to do anything. So, even if your ritual is just one activity, I repeat, one activity that takes 5 minutes, it’s still 100% better than having no ritual at all.
Here’re the possibilities:
1. Wake up early(-ier)
Some people are early risers. Others are night owls.
I’ve always been the latter.
Waking up at 5 a.m. is beyond my reach. I mean, sure, I can do it occasionally … in order to catch a flight or something. But I’ve never been able to withstand that lifestyle for more than, say, 4-5 days in a row.
So if that’s you, I’m not going to tell you to wake up at dawn.
That being said, you should set your alarm clock to go off just a bit earlier. Something like 30 minutes will do the trick. It will give you some extra time and will also improve your productivity throughout the day. Here’s why:
- Waking up earlier has been a trick known by many greats of this world. “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin said that (by the way, his morning routine was also kind of cool).
- Our willpower is highest in the morning. What this basically means is that the earlier we start doing something, the more likely we are to succeed at it. As the day progresses, we’re forced to deal with ego depletion, growing perceived difficulty of our tasks, subjective fatigue and even rising blood glucose levels.
- Starting your day earlier is healthy for you. Science says that early risers are generally healthier and more satisfied with their lives. Also, night owls seem to be more prone to “social jet lag.” It’s when your biological clock is out of sync with the social activities.
- Don’t go drastic on yourself. Start by setting your alarm clock to go off 30 minutes earlier than usual. Go to bed earlier too, so you can get a full night’s worth of sleep.
2. Exercise your body
Okay okay. I know. You’re probably beaten over the head with “you need to exercise” advice at every step. So I take it that you know the value of exercising in the morning, and that the only reason you’re not doing it is because you think that you don’t have the time.
But picture this. Barack Obama – THIS Barack Obama – starts his day by exercising and only then goes to the office at around 8:30 – 9 a.m.
As shared by CBS News:
“[Exercising] it’s the first thing he [Barack Obama] does in the morning. He doesn’t hope to squeeze in a workout if he has time, he ensures he has time by doing it first thing.”
So let me just put it in layman’s terms. The president of the United States has time to exercise in the morning and make it part of his routine. Why do you think your daily schedule is more jam-packed than his?
No time to exercise? Barack Obama says your argument is invalid.
Setting the president aside, there are multiple health benefits to exercising in the morning. But instead of listing them all here, let me just share one particularly interesting research finding. Scratch that. It’s not “interesting” … it actually blew my mind.
Apparently, exercising is one of the few ways science knows of that generate new neurons. No joke. The equation is simple: exercise = get more brains.
- Your morning workout (or rather “warmup”) only needs to take 5-10 minutes.
- Go here for instructions – an uber-popular post at Bodybuilding.com.
3. Take a cold shower
Cold showers are like pull-ups. At least for me. I love them, and hate them both at the same time.
I mean, I love doing pull-ups for the benefits they have on me and my fitness level. But at the same time, I hate them because I do them until failure. And when my final pull-up fails, it hurts. Like, literally.
Same with cold showers. Taking a cold shower is nothing nice the second you step into the water stream. But two minutes later, when you walk out, you feel like you could take over the world!
Need more reasons? Science reasons, maybe? Cold showers:
- increase alertness,
- refine hair and skin,
- improve immunity and circulation,
- stimulate weight loss,
- speed up muscle recovery,
- ease stress,
- relieve depression.
- Just take the cold shower already, would you? There’s no how-to here.
4. Exercise your brain
With exercising your body covered, now let’s talk how to exercise your brain!
Why do it as part of your morning routine … and what’s this all about?
- Remember the “willpower highest in the morning” -thing? Still valid. You’re likely to get the best results when you do creative things in the morning vs doing them later.
- The “creative” part of your brain (the prefrontal cortex) is the most active right after you wake up. Take advantage of it by doing something creative.
So … what’s our “something creative” then?
Writing! You’re going to write.
“Jeez! I’m no writer. I might as well attempt to play the trombone in the morning.” – says you.
No sweat. You don’t actually have to go all Stephen King here. Do a “write hack” instead. Do what James Altucher advises, which is … just write down 10 ideas. Random ideas. Ideas about whatever.
Those can be work-related, hobby-related, politics-related, family-related, Star-Wars-related, whatever. There’s just one rule: start writing and don’t stop until you have 10 ideas on a piece of paper.
Oh, and did I mention do it on paper? So yes, forget computers. Buy a Moleskine and write things down like your grandpa would.
- Write down 10 random ideas on paper. Should take you 2-10 minutes.
You knew this one was coming, didn’t you?
Just like we mentioned in another post of ours, meditation has multiple huge benefits both on our bodies and our minds. And it just so happens that it’s going to be the easiest to make meditation your long-term habit if you do it in the morning.
Habits, in general, only stick if you manage to create something called the “habit loop” (according to the “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg). One of the elements of that loop is “the routine,” defined as performing the habit itself and doing so repeatedly over a given period of time.
Now, the use of the word “routine” isn’t accidental. Doing something routinely is how you make that thing a habit. This makes your morning routine the perfect way to learn meditation and stick with it.
- Spend 5-10 minutes going through your morning meditation session. Here’s how to meditate.
Not hard, isn’t it?
So there you have it. The entire routine I described here takes only around 30 minutes total. Most of the time, you can do all that during that exact 30 minute window you’re gaining by waking up earlier.
Wake up like a champion and dominate! There’s no excuse not to…
Hey, I’m curious to know; maybe you have an interesting element of your morning routine that you’d like to share? Speak up in the comments.
Haven’t started a morning routine yet? Again, what are you waiting for, really?!