Over the past couple of years I’ve experimented on how to be more productive and have dabbled in different routines, read books on habit creation, willpower, psychology, among others, and just basically tweaked my lifestyle to try and get it to its optimal state. I notice a recurring theme that keeps coming up is that of a morning routine or ritual.
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by saying that everyone needs an hour-long morning routine, because let’s get real here, who has the time for that? We might want a leisurely, routine filled with meditation, yoga, reading and juicing but in the real world filled with commitments, kids and work, no one has an hour (or more) to spare in the morning.
That said I’m still going to go ahead and tell you - you need a morning routine.
Counterintuitive to my previous paragraph? Yes. But hear me out.
Why you need a morning routine
Gives you a sense of control
Think of your morning routine as your anchor that keeps you grounded so that you may have a more proactive rather than reactive day. It helps you gain a sense of control that many of us feel is missing as we go through our day.
Trains our minds
It’s nice to believe that our minds work best when unrestrained. Alas, that is only partly true. Routines and rituals help create a rhythm, spark creativity and set the tone for our day. You are essentially training your mind that ‘this moment’ is the start your day - especially if you’re someone who works from home, a freelancer, a creative or a busy mum that needs a little ‘me time’ before you get into the thick of the day.
Great for starting a new habit
In his book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, psychologist Roy F. Baumeister suggests that our willpower is at its greatest in the mornings - before we’re bombarded by a day full of decision-making. For instance if you’ve been wanting to start a new habit but never seem to find the time later in the day, do it in the morning when your willpower is at its strongest. I’ve personally found that I’ve stuck to things like working out, yoga, juicing if I do it just as I wake up.
Next we’re going to talk about the components that make a great morning routine.
Keep it simple
The number one misstep people usually make when creating a morning routine is making it too complicated - something I am guilty of doing as well. When I first started my morning routine it was three hours long. It was, as I found out, unsustainable.
Now I spend no more than 30 minutes on my routine. There are two things that have to go into my morning routine, the first is that I make my bed and the second is making my cup of coffee because I like the ritualistic aspect of making coffee. Once that is done, I sit down to write.
I have other things that go into my morning routine if I have more time in the day, like journaling, meditation and juicing. But if it’s crunch time, then these are the two things that I do without fail - Make bed, make coffee. Both give me a sense of control and give me a moment to myself to mentally plan my day.
“I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my legwarmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.” - The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Task: What is the simplest routine you can create for yourself?
No one ritual will fit the very first time. Each person is different. You will need to experiment to figure out which routine combo is best for you. The one that makes you start the day positive and productive. When starting a new routine, pay attention to how it makes you feel. Does it add to your productivity? Or is it taking so much time that it actually takes away from being productive? Tweak your routine until it is something that fits you the best.
“Starts each day at 5:45 a.m. with an hour-long tennis match.”- Anna Wintour, Vogue Editor-in-chief.
Task: Start a routine diary and write down how you feel after doing your routine. When you tweak your routine you can compare notes.
Be aware of your time limit
Busy parents with kids might find it hard to have a more intense routine. While those who work from home, or those who have more flexible schedules might have more time to spend on a morning routine. There is no one right way.
For those with more time:
Try and fit in one thing that does something:
- For your physical health - workout, do yoga, take a walk, go for a run, stretch, juice etc.
- For the growth of your mind - read a book, learn something new, try the crossword, etc.
- For your spirit - meditate, journal, practice gratitude, take up a hobby, etc.
- For your future - do something off your goals list, plan your day, etc.
“Wakes up at 5:30am, meditates, and runs six miles.” - Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square.
For those with less time:
Keep the focus on one thing. Maybe it’s to meditate, maybe it’s having that one cup of coffee, maybe it’s journaling. Whatever it is, keep it short and sweet so that you can do it daily.
“Meditates for 30 minutes.” - Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post.
Task: Calculate how much time you have for your routine and block it out. No turning back
No Social Media
As much as I enjoy my Facebook time, I have to admit that social media is a huge time suck. Starting your day out with social media can derail all your efforts. So if at all possible, don’t touch your social media until after your routine.
I’m not saying that your morning routine will magically make everything go smoothly the rest of your day. But if you start your day with a sense of purpose and control, it does spill over to the rest of your day. Try it out and let me know how it goes. Good luck!