Ask any high-performing individual and they will all tell you they have a morning routine.
Just check these guys out for some (early morning) inspiration:
Richard Branson wakes up at 5am to kite, surf, swim or play tennis and claims to get an extra 4 hours of productivity a day from regular exercise. Amazing.
Mark Zuckerberg wears the same style of T-shirt, pants, and hoody every day to minimize day-to-day choices by making as few decisions as possible. Definitely works.
Tony Robbins does a daily morning ritual he refers to as ‘priming’: First a set of energizing Kapalbhati Pranayama breaths, then he finds three things he’s grateful for, and finally he sends strength and well wishes to friends, family and business associates. Incredible.
Routines are important, and highly beneficial too, because they negate the need for you to regularly schedule your days ahead of time. You already know what you’re going to do every morning, which saves choice and thought time. In addition, a regular plan and structure adds momentum and direction to your life.
You want to get where you’re going as quickly as possible, don’t you?
It’s no secret that our daily habits make us who we are. Habits become part of our instinctive nature and develop our characters. They also determine our results and outcomes. So, in a way, we are what we repeat.
Benjamin Franklin once said: “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones”.
In my case, I quite simply didn’t realize just how much time I was wasting, or how ineffective I was, until I came across the idea of a morning routine.
Here’s the old me before I had a morning routine
Quite some years back now, my morning looked like this: I would wake to my phone’s alarm at around 8 am. Typically, I’d snooze it a few times too. Then, before even getting out of bed, it was straight to Facebook on my phone. I’d check out what was happening in other people’s lives, which made me lose focus on my own tasks for the day. After fiddling on Facebook for a while, I’d get out of bed, drag myself to the shower, have breakfast and go to the office. Does this sound familiar? Looking back, it was terrible, and I wanted a change.
My morning routine for the last three years
When I realized how much time, opportunity and potential I was wasting, I completely transformed my old morning habits. Although I’ve adapted my routine slightly along the way, I’ve committed to a solid and productive morning routine since then. A morning routine is important to me because it enables me to stick to my important goals that are not urgent. No one distracts me in my morning hours anymore. My mind is clear after a good night’s rest, and I feel productive, energized and inspired.
Having a morning routine has changed my life for the better in so many ways. I’m sharing mine with you because I’d love to encourage and inspire you to have one too.
Here’s what the first two hours of my day look like now
My routine before I go to sleep
I read a book for 30 minutes
I make my bed
I enjoy a healthy breakfast
I run for 30 minutes while listening to a podcast
1. My routine before I go to sleep
It may sound strange, but my morning routine already starts the previous evening. Before I go to sleep, I first schedule my To-Do list for the next day in my Google Calendar. I prioritize my most important tasks as first items for the next day (after my morning routine, of course!). Then I set my old-fashioned analog clock to wake me up. I deliberately don’t use the phone as my alarm clock. I charge my phone on my desk. The desk is too far to reach from the bed, so there is no temptation to touch the phone when I wake up.
I’m not strict about what time I set my alarm for, but I am strict about getting 8 hours of sleep every night. I typically wake up between 7 am and 8 am, depending on when I go to sleep. Finally, I close the curtains to make the room pitch dark, and I doze off.
2. I read a book for 30 minutes
Some years ago I used to read only in planes or on trains. However, I discovered I wasn’t reading nearly as much as I wanted to. Things changed when I made reading a daily habit. Every morning when I wake up, I read for 30 minutes while still in bed. I feel I’m learning something new every day, which I can reflect on during the day with people I meet. Thanks to this habit, I automatically read 3.5 hours every week (minimum!) over and above the reading I do on my travels. I’m learning so much more than before. If anything, I wish I’d started this excellent habit much earlier.
3. I make my bed
After I’ve finished reading, I get up and make my bed. Yes, the bed looks neat and clean after it’s made, but the real benefit is psychological. As you make your bed, you’re mentally starting your day. And once you’ve made your bed, it’s not so easy to get back into it again after brushing your teeth. The best part of this routine for me is when I get home in the evening. I will see my bed, neatly made. Which I made. I then give myself a mental pat on the back. This dose of gratification I experience every day is thanks to a simple 20 second investment in the morning.
4. I enjoy a healthy breakfast
I like to get the day started quickly, and with good energy. I replace time-consuming cooking (which is good fun when on vacation with friends) with a quick and healthy alternative. Besides convenience, a great fast breakfast also needs to be healthy to prepare you for the day. I enjoy 50-80 grams of Ambronite mixed in a shaker. I get everything my body needs: Protein, fats, carbs, and greens in a balanced manner, and it only takes two minutes. I usually top this of with a bit of extra protein.
The critical benefit is that I always know I’m going to feel great afterwards. A smoothie-type of breakfast also works well before my morning run. It won’t slop around my stomach as solid food would. Breakfast is the only meal of the day which I have total control over, so I choose it wisely.
5. I run for 30 minutes while listening to a podcast
When I finally head out of the door for my morning run, I know that the day is going to be a breeze. Exercise wakes me up mentally, and I’ll be fully energized for my activities of the day once the endorphins I get from running kick in. I run the same route every day next to the sea, mostly in a park, and the serene views of Katajanokka make me feel at ease. Besides running, I also do some push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. Once a week, instead of a morning run, I go to the gym to do some strength training.
I also listen to a podcast while I’m running. This way, I combine learning, exercise and the outdoors into the same activity. I typically listen to Chinese Pod, as I’m learning Mandarin as my hobby. Sometimes I also listen to this upbeat running music that makes me speed up and get energized. Few times a week I also complete Brendan Meyers’ 5 min Abs Workout.
After my morning routine, I do proactive work for an hour
Once I’ve finished the five activities above, my morning routine is complete. I feel I’ve accomplished plenty for the day already, while it’s still morning. I have mental focus and clarity, and boundless energy to tackle whatever I have scheduled for the day. As Mark Twain said, I try to “eat a live frog first thing”, which means I focus on completing the hardest task first thing after my Morning Routine. Whatever this task is, I get it done first.
Once this is done, I check my emails, messages or social media for the first time. This is the first time I move from proactive mode to reactive mode.
So, do I stick to this routine every morning?
In short, no I don’t. It’s not carved in stone but it is a habit I stick to as best as I can. For example, during regular weeks, I follow my routine religiously. However, if I have an early appointment, I only go for a quick morning run. When I’m traveling for business, I stick to my routine.
On the other hand, when I’m on vacation I deliberately don’t follow most of the routines, because it feels good to just go with the flow, improvise and be present with the people you are traveling with.
We all have different routines that work for us, and I hope to have helped inspire you to craft a morning routine that works wonders for you.
For your interest, here ( https://mymorningroutine.com/ ) are some incredible, neatly categorized stories of morning routines of high performing individuals (e.g. entrepreneurs, writers, yoga and meditation, frequent travelers, etc.).