A lot has been written about the morning routines of business leaders and entrepreneurs and many bloggers and health gurus rate the idea of a morning routine very highly. Barack Obama, David Karp (founder of Tumblr), Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs, Michelle Gass (Starbucks CEO) and many others have all talked about the importance of morning routines – which are some pretty good testimonials!
But despite this, many people still haven’t taken the time to think about their morning routine or how it could potentially be better. Many of us feel rushed in the morning and as though we don’t have the luxury to come up with a routine, others don’t see the value in fixing their waking up process.
If this applies to you then read on and let’s take a look at why your morning routine is so important and how you can start getting more out of it.
What Is a Morning Routine and Why Does it Matter?
Your morning routine consists of all the things you regularly do each morning to start off your day. For many of us, this will mean checking our phones, making breakfast and running around late.
What a morning routine could be though, is an opportunity to start the day with your best foot forward – to improve your mood, your energy levels and your productivity before you’ve even left the house. By automating the process with a set routine, you can remove the need to think about what you’re going to do each morning and instead simply carry out an optimized set of steps to ensure your day has the best chance of going well. This ensures that the most important things get done as well and it also helps you to remove ‘decision fatigue’.
Having a set plan each morning can even help you to wake up a little more efficiently without hitting snooze – now you know you need to be up at a certain time to finish everything you need to finish and you should find it’s habit forming.
If you’re going to do more with your time, then you need to optimize the way you use it. And if you’re going to optimize your day, why not start with the morning?
How to Create Your Morning Routine
Let’s take a look at some of the simple steps you can take to begin creating your perfect morning routine:
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.
So if you’re jolting out of bed in the morning and then sprinting out the door with one sock on, we can safely assume that you need more time and a more relaxed start to your day. In that case then, getting up an extra half an hour early can make a big difference. Or maybe you just need to stop hitting snooze. What could you do that would make it a bit easier to get up? Go to bed half an hour earlier? Or set a coffee machine to wake you with a hot brew?
In general, removing stress from your morning is a good aim.
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.
Make it Concrete
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.
Prioritize Your Goals
It’s important to know what your goals are in life at all times as this will help you to prioritize the most important tasks. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, you might decide this is a good time to get in some quick exercise. Or maybe if your goal is to spend more time with your family, you can put in a good 30 minutes of quality time over breakfast.
Once you do this, you now know for certain that the day isn’t a waste. No matter what happens from this point on, you’ve achieved that one thing that has put you in a positive mindset.
Consider Your Evening Routine
A morning routine is only one half of your equation. Also important is your ‘evening routine’ and it’s by taking care of both that you can ‘bookend’ your day and thus come up with the perfect strategy.
The things you do during your evening routine are also going to impact strongly on what you’re capable of achieving in the morning. So for instance, you might decide to lay your clothes out the night before to make sure that they’re ready to pick up and throw on in the morning.
Things to Add to Your Morning Routine
So now you know the basic formula for coming up with your morning routine, the next step is deciding what you’re going to populate it with. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular choices that can hopefully provide you with a little inspiration…
Reading/Watching the News
Staying up-to-date with world events is generally considered good practice and can help you recognize the state of the world and to make informed decisions when it comes to investments and voting. It also provides perspective and context.
Working out in the morning takes a lot of willpower but is a very productive way to start your day. Not only will you now be beginning your day with more energy (exercising provides energy) but you’ll also be burning calories and you’ll know that whatever else happens during the day, you will have done at least something to improve your health and fitness.
If you can’t fit in a full workout then note that there’s nothing wrong with just getting in a brief 10 minutes of training.
And also note that exercising in the morning has another big time-saving advantage, that being that you’ll be showering anyway and won’t have to have another additional, time consuming shower in the morning!
Writing a To-Do List
A to-do list can be a very useful tool for helping you work through important tasks and jobs for the day. With a to-do list in hand, you’ll now have a ‘game plan’ which you can use in order to ensure you don’t miss anything important and that you stay on track with everything you need to complete.
Spending Time With Family
If you live with your family, then this is an excellent time to get in some quality time and to ensure that you all start your days well. You can enjoy a long breakfast together, or perhaps just play with your baby a bit before going to work.
Eating a Good Breakfast
We all know the importance of a good breakfast but it’s easy to forget this when you’re in a rush to run to work. Making your breakfast part of your routine means that it will be set in stone and will definitely get done, which of course is very useful for improving your health and ensuring you have nutrition and energy to power you through the day.
Meditation is something that more and more people are taking up now and can be useful for calming your mind before a busy day. There are many long term benefits of meditation in terms of how it improves your mood, ability to focus and stress levels, so it’s well worth taking up!
Taking a Shower… or a COLD Shower
Obviously you need to get ready for work/life in the morning and for most of us this will involve taking a shower at some point. But if you are made of stern stuff and you want a shower that will really kick your ass into gear, consider stepping under some cold water! This will not only help you to burn calories (you burn a lot of calories shivering!) but it also helps you to produce more testosterone and it certainly wakes you up!
Things to Add to Your Evening Routine
To help you get more out of your morning routine and to stick to it better, consider adding these things to the end of your day…
Write a Journal
Reflecting on your day and on what went well and what didn’t is an excellent way to get some perspective and to identify areas for improvement. Writing a journal has a great many benefits in fact and is also a good way to enjoy some quiet time.
Reading for 15 or 30 minutes before bed is very useful for calming your brain down and removing chatter – it’s almost meditative in fact. This is also a great way to prevent yourself from looking at your screens and can lead to a much better night’s sleep.
Set Out Clothes
Setting out your clothes for the next day the night before, is a good system to help you speed up in the morning. This can remove that ‘decision fatigue’ that comes from making lots of inane decisions throughout the day and it can save time that might otherwise be spent rummaging through wardrobes and getting increasingly frustrated.
This is particularly useful if you intend on going to the gym – set out some clothes for the gym and you can throw them on as soon as you get up!
A Note of Realism
All this is very good advice. Having a morning routine can help you save time, start your day well and optimize your lifestyle.
But at the same time, you shouldn’t let it be a burden and you should recognize that there are times when your days won’t stay like this.
Sometimes it’s fun to have a lie in and sometimes you’ll want to take a sick day and spend the morning playing Call of Duty. That’s fine too. Optimization and efficiency are great in the right circumstances but do be careful not to organize your life so finely that you end up with no spontaneity left!