I’ve always wanted to be one of those successful people who jump out of bed excited and motivated in the morning, who are able to be productive, and carry that positive momentum into the rest of their lives. The thing is, I’m just not a morning person. And I’ve always found it quite difficult to discipline myself.
As entrepreneurs, we have much more control over our schedule than typical employees. There’s awesome freedom in that, but the extra responsibility to manage our time and find a way to get the important work done makes it a double-edged sword. Hence the importance of setting your own energising and empowering morning routine.
A morning routine helps limit your wasted days. Do you ever have those days where you never get off the ground? You just sit around until 11am or noon “tidying up”, then you answer some emails, and before you know it, half the day is gone. Now you can’t get anything done because you’re too busy being angry at yourself for wasting the first half of your day.
A morning routine will help you to overcome procrastination, be a more positive, healthier person, and set you up for success each day. Research has shown that by creating and following a morning routine, your stress, depression, and anxiety levels will start to plummet and your life satisfaction levels will begin to soar. You’ll notice that you feel more motivated and your to-do list will seem less daunting.
Morning rituals help you start your day with structure. They give you direction. They also allow you some lack of structure towards the end of your day without feeling guilty about it since you’ve already accomplished everything you’ve set out to do in the earlier hours of the morning.
Most importantly, a morning routine generates momentum. And momentum is a fundamental part of human psychology. If you’ve already started the day by moving your life forward, you have established positive momentum, and are more likely to keep doing positive things.
So, let’s take a look at some of the simple steps we can all take to begin creating your perfect morning routine:
- Start the night before
A good night sleep is the first step to wake up feeling well and ready for the challenges of the day ahead. If you don’t charge your battery enough overnight, you will automatically start the day off with less to use throughout the day. In scientific terms, sleep deprivation leads to what’s called “mild prefrontal dysfunction”. This is a state where your brain is unable to regulate your emotions or attention as easily.
Now, despite the common myth that you need 8 full hours of sleep, there is no set number of hours that works for all people. Some need 10, some need 6, and everywhere in between. So find the right amount for you, and give yourself a fully charged battery to start the day.
If your mind is getting in the way of you getting a good night’s sleep, you can start to change that by taking actions that will help calm it:
- Writing things that stress you out in a journal;
- Engaging in mindful breathing to clear the past or future and keep you in the present;
- Quieting your inner voice, releasing it of its worries;
- Taking time to acknowledge the blessings you experienced in your day, helping your mind to recognize all that is right in your world while also letting go of life’s little hiccups.
The things you do during your evening routine are also going to impact strongly on what you’re capable of achieving in the morning. Take time to declutter your work space, set to-do lists for the following day and lay your clothes out the night before to make sure that they’re ready to pick up and throw on in the morning.
- Look for stress points
If you haven’t come up with a morning routine yet, then you might well find that your mornings are somewhat stressed and rushed affairs. In this case, you can work backward by looking at what currently needs work and then fixing those elements. Try to pinpoint good and bad habits and change them one at the time.
- Introduce gradual change
You might have big plans to spring out of bed at six every morning, exercise, and launch into a productive day. That’s great! However, for most people the problem lies in the execution. They decide to make big changes to their morning all at once, jumping from no routine at all straight into a strict one. They try hard, but most of them end up frustrated and overwhelmed.
Working yourself up to your ideal routine gradually increases the your chances of being able to stick with it for the long haul. If your morning is a mess right now, start with a small and manageable change. For the rest of this week, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal. Move it ahead another 15 minutes next week, and the one after that until you’re waking up at your ideal time. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the new habit, you can move on to the next thing you want to tweak: grooming, breakfast, exercise, and so on.
Instead of demolishing your old ways and trying to change everything at once, you can replace bad habits one at a time. This helps you build your willpower like going to the gym and gradually adding weight. Before you know it, your mornings are two or three times more productive than before. And you’ll be used to it so it won’t feel like work.
- Be practical
We all have ideals of what our perfect morning would look like, but it’s important to be practical. If you know that you’re not going to be able to make it to the gym for 5am, then there’s simply no point in writing it down. Likewise, you need to think about factors such as the people you share your home with. What time does your partner go through the bathroom? It might be that there are other factors too that force your hand – for example the time that you need to leave work and the time that the news comes on. You can use these things as a ‘scaffolding’ to build your routine around. Your morning routine should be as concrete as possible. That means that ideally you even want to set specific times for each thing to happen. I.e. wake time 5.30, showered by 6.00, news and breakfast from 6.00 to 6.30 etc.
- Feed your body and your soul
Making breakfast and having time to actually sit down and eat it is probably not something many of us get to do often. Making a good breakfast takes a bit of prep because you need to make sure you have the right ingredients in the fridge the night before, but it’s so worth it. Even something as basic as avocado on toast is a great start to the day.
The morning is the best time to have a crack at meditation and set yourself up for an anxiety free day. This is something I’m quite passionate about and I am keen on keep practicing. Onwards and upwards!
- Master the art of ‘stacking habits’
Once you’ve got your morning routine set the way you want it, the next obstacle is making it stick. This is the part where a lot of people struggle. Essentially, you want to think of all of your morning routine activities as building blocks and start stacking them one on top of the other until you get exactly where you want to be. While it may take a bit longer to go slow and tackle them one at a time, you are setting yourself up for success and creating a stronger foundation to build upon.
Stacking habits can also mean taking other small actions that bring about huge results when you start adding them together. Some of these small but powerful actions include waking up 5 minutes earlier, drinking a full glass of water, take your vitamins, visualizing your goals, and saying “I love you” to your family members. Quite simple, isn’t it?
Make good use of your mornings by creating a wide variety of small habits that only take a couple of minutes each. This might mean tending to little issues before they get too big or reviewing your goals. It could mean opening blinds to let sunlight in, popping a mint in your mouth to increase your alertness, reading or listening to a podcast, or sharing positive messages with family and friends. Anything works as long as it is positive and keeps you moving toward your overall goal!
- Break the rules every once in a while
A morning routine can transform your life, leaving you healthier, happier, and more successful. With all that said, we’re still human. Every once in a while it’s time to free ourselves from a rigid structure. If you’ve followed a routine for three weeks in a row, don’t beat yourself up if you decide to take the occasional weekend day off. Sleep in. Get yourself a proper English breakfast. Try something new. This flexibility is one of the coolest things about running your own business. You can use it to live life to the fullest. Occasional interruptions of the morning routine are healthy. And they can help you appreciate the structure you’ve created in a whole new way.
It’s important to remember that there isn’t an ideal morning routine for everyone, but there is an ideal one for you. The best morning routine is the one that energises you and empowers you to take on the day. What works best for you might not work for your partner, friend, or co-worker. And that’s okay. Keep experimenting and trying different habits until you find the perfect fit.
To quote Bruce Lee: “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”