What is the hype on morning routines that there are so much written about it? The Internet is full of ideas and variations of what constitute good routines. Many great entrepreneurs and leaders cite their morning routine as a large contributor to their success. There are even books written solely on this subject.
The way I see it is that everyone has already established some form of morning routine. On a daily basis we carry out activities in a certain order without much thinking – washing up, making coffee, checking our phones, reading the newspaper, making breakfast, et cetera. The question then is what can be considered as good routines, which hopefully could contribute positively to what you want to become or achieve.
For years I go through my mornings without giving much thought to it. Hit that snooze button, drag my body to the sink, wash-up, down the coffee, yada-yada. After many years of waking up and doing life, we sort of follow a certain flow of things automatically. Lately though, maybe because of age or realization of mortality, I had had a sudden urge to scrutinize my mornings to see if I could somewhat squeeze out more life from the day.
First of, I define the morning routine as things I do in the small window of time when I am alone, for myself from the moment I am awake. Meaning my boys, wife and the little squirrels up the tree are still asleep. To ensure that I get this precious real estate of time and space without interruptions, it does mean that I should have the discipline to wake up earlier than most of the rest of the world. Ambitious to some, child-play for the morning elites, I set my alarm clock at 5am.
After some soul-searching (read copying ideas from others) and experimenting what works for me personally, I am striving (because it does require effort) to get the following four things right before I start my day. Well, technically it is only three because the first one is actually done the night before.
Get enough sleep
Any good morning routine must start with a good night sleep. That is at least 7 hours of quality rest for us adults – non-negotiable. There are no cheats here. Insufficient quality sleep means I will feel very much less than 100% to tackle the challenges of the day.
Getting up at the same time daily is apparently important too. We often hear that people who wake up earlier are more productive. This does not mean that night owls can’t have a productive morning that leads to a productive day. Their mornings may start a little later, but it can be also productive nonetheless.
What time you wake up is not as important as getting up at the same time each day. Waking up at the same time each day will help you get in tune with your body’s clock. Our bodies follow a circadian rhythm which is often referred to as the internal clock. This internal clock helps regulate the level of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24 hour period. Try to go to bed and wake up consistently daily so that the circadian rhythm is stable, which will then lead to optimum hormone levels, body temperature, metabolism, and immune system.
Get in touch
Once I am up, the first thing I would like to do is to get in tune with my inner being. I used the auxiliary verb ‘would’ because this is still a work in progress for me as I would usually just get up, brush my teeth and proceed to coffee without much thinking in between.
But I do think that it is important to wake up and get in touch with your inner self. I like to thank God for his blessings on my life and recall things that I can be grateful for. Sometimes I journal and write about my aspirations. I note down ideas on how I can achieve them. Other days I read the Bible or a passage that encourages my soul. I stay flexible on this. The idea is to get in touch with yourself and what is important to you.
Christians can use this session to have devotion – a quiet time with God, praying and meditating on God’s word. If you are a Buddhist, you can take the time to centre yourself with good posture, steady breathing and mindfulness. Learn some basic mantras. Pray for happiness and well-being for your family and friends. Whichever religion you are in, get your spiritual being to be aligned with your maker.
Get some movement
The next thing I work on is my physical fitness. This is the biggest chunk of my morning routine since I am after all training for a 100km trail ultra. I have pretty much developed the habit of going out for a run every morning, except for a rest day after the long run each week.
Running is my thing but it is just one of the many movements you can do. What you want to achieve is to work on some mobility and elevate your heart rate. The volume and intensity of your workout will depend on your level of fitness. You don’t have to exercise till it sucks, but aim for a good effort.
Start easy if you have not been active. Get out of the house for cool fresh air. Try brisk walking and work it up to running. If you would rather stay indoors, invest in a treadmill or elliptical trainer. Any form of cardio workout is good.
Personally I love a good morning workout because it improves my physical energy and enhances my focus throughout the day. It increases my metabolism and self-esteem at the same time. I walk around feeling a sense of accomplishment, knowing that I have completed an important daily task. I no longer need to press for time trying to fit a workout in the evening.
Waking up early to exercise will also in turn help you sleep better at night. Your body will enjoy a healthy sense of fatigue at the end of the day and you will be ready to sleep, well. And the positive cycle continues.
Get the fuel
Don’t skip breakfast, unless you are deliberately fasting. Skipping breakfast can set you up for overeating later in the day. A healthy breakfast on the other hand gives you energy and set the stage for a great day.
I now make it a point to allocate time in the morning to prepare and eat a healthy breakfast. During weekends I love the opportunity to prepare breakfast for my boys and then have it with them. It is good bonding time. Perfect way to start the day with my family.
Since I am now training almost every morning, I need a healthy breakfast that combines good carbs and fibre with sufficient protein to aid recovery. Soft-boiled eggs, low sugar cereal or oatmeal with milk, peanut butter on wholemeal bread, tuna chunk wraps are simple pleasures I rotate around the week. A protein-packed breakfast helps satisfy my appetite and help me snack less throughout the day.
Following any decent morning routine will not be easy in the beginning. No one is the same. Everyone should have a morning routine that works best to individual’s needs. Things change, life happens. Stay flexible and always be ready for change when the need arises.
Once you have decided on your desired morning routine, work on it until it becomes automatic. You may not see drastic improvements but don’t give up and slack off too early. If you consistently practise a productive morning routine, I believe you will slowly but surely experience improvements in your life the way you desire it to be.
I have found that a productive morning routine generates positive momentum for my day ahead. This momentum is an important part of human psychology. When I start my day right, I am more likely to keep accomplishing things the rest of the day. Simply put, a good morning routine will sets me the right tone for a productive day ahead.