“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.” – Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book
What does your morning routine say about you? Better yet, what is your morning routine doing for you? If you’ve never given these questions any thought, don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone.
For many people, the “morning routine” is a chore, something that brings them nothing but stress, anxiety and frustration. Every night all around the globe there are people lying in their beds, angry with themselves for staying up too late on a work night, staring at their alarm clocks and doing ridiculous math equations in their heads. Their mental monologue might sound something like this: “Oh no! My Netflix binge kept me up until 2 am! I have to leave for work in less than six hours! Ok… If I fall asleep right now, and set my alarm for 7:30, that means I can get at least 5 hours of sleep!”
Morning routines just don’t seem that important to most people. They’ve given up and accepted that their mornings are hurried, stressful and downright unpleasant. As it turns out, those people may be sabotaging their entire day before it even begins.
It doesn’t have to be that way. What if by the time you hit that traffic you were already a few hours into your day? Not only that, but what if you were driving to work with a sense of accomplishment and happiness, knowing that even if nothing else of importance happened for the rest of the day, you would still feel like the day had been productive?
That, my friends, is the gift of the morning routine.
A quick Google search of “successful morning routines” will produce nearly 500,000 results, many from sources such as Forbes, The Huffington Post, Men’s Health, Entrepreneur Magazine etc. etc. Some of the most popular habits among the highly successful are:
• Waking Up Early
To be clear, what you do is not always the most important aspect of a successful morning routine. The routine itself needs to be tailored to each unique individual. The most important aspect of the morning routine is simply having the time to complete it.
The number one reason people don’t adopt a healthy morning routine? They think they don’t have time. So let me ask you this, how amazing was the latest episode of The Walking Dead? It was incredible, right?! I know!
See what I did there? You always have time. I’m sure there are plenty of you out there working 80 hours a week in high-stress jobs, but let’s be honest – most of you just aren’t. In today’s modern world, we are bombarded with more information and entertainment than ever before. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re going to miss something. If it’s 11 pm and you know you should be in bed, I promise you, refreshing your Facebook newsfeed one last time will do you no good. Just put the electronics down and get some sleep. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.
Crawling out of your nice warm bed can be just about the hardest thing on earth to do. But have you ever stopped to wonder why that is? Why is it so difficult to just get up? Why do we think that extra 5, 10 or 15 more minutes will make all the difference?
I’ll tell you why: because we dread the morning routine. Our morning rituals have been neglected for so long that we have ingrained terrible habits within ourselves. Our subconscious has suffered through years of crappy morning rituals. One more swat at the snooze button, one more glance at the Instagram feed when we know we’re already running late, one more sugar-spiked, cream-filled caffeine concoction in the hope that things will get better. It’s no wonder why our bodies fight to stay in bed once the alarm calls.
The good news is that bad habits can be broken and new habits can be created. I’m going to give you my top recommendations for improving the quality of your morning routine, thus improving the quality of your every day life by priming your body from the moment you wake up.
1. Get At Least Six Hours of Sleep
My first instinct was to write eight hours, the same recommendation you would get from every other person ever. But I’m just trying to be realistic. This may mean watching fewer episodes of House Of Cards, but Kevin Spacey isn’t going anywhere. You know what time you have to wake up in the morning. Whatever time that may be, make sure you are asleep 6 hours before that time, at the very least.
2. Wake Up At Least One Hour Before You Have To Leave The House
That’s right, not one hour before you have to be at work or whatever other obligations you may have. One hour before you have to leave the house in order to arrive at work on time.
3. Ditch the Snooze Button
This will most likely be the most difficult recommendation I make in this article. The snooze button has been around for decades and it has us all trained like obedient dogs. It’s all about gratification. Waking to the sound of the morning alarm clock is obviously an extremely unpleasant experience. A necessary evil that we all must endure. The bane of our existence!
It may feel good to hit the snooze button, but every time that alarm starts blaring again, you stack stress after stress on your body and mind, and you haven’t even gotten out of bed yet! You don’t need it. When your alarm goes off, wake up for the day.
4. Make Your Bed
During his commencement speech for the University of Texas, U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McCraven advised graduates: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” It may seem simple and silly, but this seemingly mundane task can have some serious benefits when it comes to eliminating stress. Make your bed as soon as you get out of it in the morning. You’ve now completed your first task of the day, which can create a snowball effect as the day goes on.
5. Don’t Check Text/ E-mail/ Social Media Right Away
If the first thing you do when you wake up is grab your phone, the whole idea of the morning routine kind of goes out the window. Checking your phone for updates will do nothing but bombard you with unnecessary information and stress before you even roll out of bed. Hold off until later in your routine.
6. Adopt a Mindfulness Practice
Before you call me a hippie, keep in mind, this does not necessarily mean meditation—although I strongly recommend it (guilty as charged). A mindfulness practice could be anything from meditation, to breathing exercises, to staring at a wall in silence or sitting outside with the sun on your face. Go for a walk. Lay in the grass. Just find a way to be alone with your thoughts, with no distractions, for 10-20 minutes when you first wake up. Just 10 minutes each morning can have a massive impact on how you react to situations throughout the rest of the day.
7. Coffee Or Tea
Believe it or not, caffeine has nothing to do with this suggestion. While I do believe the pick-me-up can be beneficial, my coffee or tea recommendation falls more in line with the mindfulness practice recommendation. Don’t just pop a k-cup in your Keurig. Now that you’ve given yourself some extra time in the morning, adopt a coffee or tea brewing ritual. It’s like added meditation.
8. Read For Pleasure!
No newspapers, no self-improvement books, no business books. When you first wake up, just read for pleasure. Grab your cup of coffee or tea and go sit outside, if you’d like. The idea is to relax and unwind before your daily responsibilities kick in. You don’t want to stress yourself out reading about the latest shooting, or have your flaws pointed out to you by a life coach first thing in the morning. This experience should be enjoyable. For that reason, I recommend works of fiction or philosophy. Read for 10 minutes, or an hour, there are no rules here, just recommendations. My two latest recommendations would be: The Martian by Andy Weir (fiction) or Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (philosophy).
9. Adopt A Movement Practice
Just like your mindfulness practice, this could consist of a number of things. Take the dog for a walk around the block, do some stretching, foam rolling, thai chi, the possibilities are endless. My personal recommendation would be 5-10 minutes of guided yoga. For convenience, I suggest, Dan’s Plan Daily Yoga.
Like most of these recommendations, journaling can take on many forms. Write down how you’re feeling that day. Write about your goals and fears for the day. Write down any dreams you remember from the night before. Maybe create a small checklist of 1-3 things you hope to accomplish throughout the day (no more than three!). Write down anything at all, really. All you need is 5 minutes or so and it will help get your mind right for the day ahead.
Even if you were to only incorporate one of these recommendations, you would probably notice a pretty substantial difference in the quality of your day. If you’re someone who is used to rushing out the door without a minute to spare, start small. Maybe just ditch the snooze button and do five minutes of yoga. Or just make your bed. This list is not meant to be overwhelming; it’s meant to improve your quality of life. There’s no need to have an “all or nothing” mentality and try to take on all of these new habits all at once. That approach will almost assuredly lead to failure and non-compliance. Pick up one at a time, or maybe add one each month, or every two weeks. Experiment with it. It’s your life, your world and your morning.