In his book Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss collects interviews he conducted with some of the most successful entrepreneurs, athletes and film stars on the web. His objective was to look for similarities and connections in their habits, strategies and philosophies in order to see if he could find useful common ground; the idea being that if we emulate some of those habits, we might get to share in a little of that success.
While there are plenty of common strategies that you can take from these overachievers, one of the most consistent things you’ll find across all of them is that they each have a morning routine. They each have a series of actions that they take every morning without fail and which allows them to ensure they are able to perform at their very best during the day ahead.
Why Morning Routines Are Great
If that isn’t enough testimony for you, then what other reasons are there to consider a morning routine?
For one, the morning is a time when we are highly productive. Even if you aren’t a ‘morning person’, being productive at the start of the day has the advantage of letting you operate on a clear mind. You aren’t tired from walking around all day and you aren’t bogged down with little stresses. You have time to act before you start reacting.
If you are able to get up a little before everyone else, then the morning also gives you a time of day that is free from distractions. It’s dark outside, no-one is likely to phone and the streets are empty.
On top of all that, the morning is of course a time of day that is likely to dictate how the rest of your day goes. If you can get your morning off to a positive start, then that will hopefully put you in the right frame of mind for a positive afternoon, positive evening and positive night.
If you are currently rushing out of bed first thing in the morning, rushing to get things ready and then storming out the door while pulling on your other shoe, chances are that you aren’t going to begin the day with the right mindset!
How to Adopt a Morning Routine
If you plan on creating a useful morning, then you probably will need to wake up a little earlier than you currently are. The objective here is to give yourself the time and space to actually do something with your morning and not rush. If you’re a parent, then try to wake up before the kids’ alarms go off. If you are a young professional, then try to wake up a good hour at least before you need to leave for work.
This is the part that a lot of us struggle with. If you’re tired in the morning and you struggle to get going, then knowing you have a morning routine isn’t going to magically give you the energy to leap out of bed.
What can help a great deal though, is to make sure you go to bed at the right time and to consider using a daylight lamp. This is an alarm that will wake you up by gradually getting brighter in the morning to simulate the effect of a sunrise. This is great because it will gently stir you out of sleep rather than jolting you awake. What’s more, is that it will encourage the production of cortisol and nitric oxide as the wavelength is similar enough to that of the sun to trick our biological clock.
Another tip is to make the first part of your routine something that you can do in bed. The mistake a lot of people make is to try and leap out of bed in the morning in order to get their day started. This takes a tremendous amount of willpower and that’s a problem seeing as most of us have lower willpower first thing in the morning.
But if all you need to do is sit up in the morning and read the morning newspaper, then you should find that this is a much smaller step that is easier to take. This way you can take more incremental steps toward waking up and thereby edge yourself into ‘awake mode’. After you’ve been sat up for 10 minutes, getting out of bed becomes much easier!
Typical Things to Include in Your Routine
It’s up to you what you want to put in your morning routine, but if you hope to emulate the greats, here are some good options:
Meditation: Many people choose to start their day with meditation and practicing meditation at some point during the day is perhaps the second most common trait among entrepreneurs and highly effective individuals.
Meditation is nothing mystical, it simply means that you are training the brain to be more focused. For many people, that means trying to keep the mind clear of wandering thoughts and to keep it ‘still’. You can do this, or you can follow a guided meditation using an app like Headspace.
Either way, meditating helps you to better handle stress during the day ahead and it has been shown in countless studies to increase grey matter and boost IQ scores (study).
Exercise: We all know how beneficial exercise is for both the body and mind, so why not adopt it into your routine and make sure you don’t forget by training first thing in the morning? This can mean a gym workout, a home workout, a run or just a bit of light yoga. Either way, you’ll benefit from having more energy during the day ahead as you wake up your circulation and get everything going.
One note though: try not to start exercising within the first 10 minutes of waking up. At this point your spine is softer and you might risk injury.
Reading the News: Reading the news or watching it on TV is a useful way to stay up-to-date with current events, which in turn is an important way to ensure you are fully informed with what’s going on in the world. Many people like to add this as part of their routine for that reason.
Reading Books: Reading books is a relaxing pastime and also one that develops the brain. This can be fiction or non-fiction but either way, if you struggle to fit reading into your day then the morning might be the perfect time.
Walk: If you’re not up for a full workout, then going for a morning work can give you a chance to think, to get some vitamin D and to get some basic exercise as well that will burn calories and improve your resting heart rate.
Cold Shower: If you are made of tough stuff, then a cold shower will improve your circulation, boost testosterone production and wake you right up!
Journaling: You can journal about things you did the day before to keep a record of your life, or you can write other things down. Many people recommend practicing gratitude, which essentially means writing things down that you are grateful for in your life.
While we all want to be more successful and there’s nothing wrong with shooting for your goals, if all you are doing is focusing on the things you have yet to achieve, then you can risk becoming dissatisfied and missing all of the amazing things you’ve already down and all of the amazing opportunities already available to you.
Practicing gratitude simply means remembering to be appreciative for those things, which can make you much happier and more content.
To-Do List: Making a to-do list is another great thing to do at the start of the day. Use this as an opportunity to take a step back and to look at everything you have to accomplish and how you intend on doing that. A good tip is to organize your to-dos into things that take absolute priority and things that can wait a little or are less important.
Don’t worry if this doesn’t all come naturally to you right away, or if you find you struggle to stick to your new morning routine. This is something that will come with time as you tweak and alter the regime to suit your current responsibilities. Once you find the right rhythm though, this will be a great way to get every day off to the best possible start.