8 Useful Blocks to Design Your Perfect Morning Ritual
What Is the Best Way to Clear Your Mind Every Morning and Start a Productive Day?
The best way is your way. I always repeat that.
“Don’t be follower, be a student.” — Jim Rohn
I created my own morning routine by studying the routines of successful people, but it’s not like any of the routines I studied.
If you want a truly personalized and effective routine, you must design your own and test it by trial and error.
Here is how my morning routine looks and what it does for me.
1. Personal Mission Statement.
I open my eyes and start repeating my personal mission statement. I do it simultaneously with reaching for my mobile to silence the alarm clock.
However, the trigger for it is opening my eyes. Sometimes on weekends I don’t set an alarm to wake up. So my true trigger for this habit is opening my eyes, not the alarm.
I say there is no better way to start your day, every day, but to begin with your why. If your motives are right, no obstacles matter. Whether your mind is clear or you are groggy, whether you feel like doing anything or not, your deep reason will ignite you into action. If your energy is high, you will do much better with your big ‘why’ supporting your actions, than without it.
Repeating my personal mission statement in my mind reminds me why I live. The habit is flexible and easy. In the morning, there is always a lot of mundane stuff to take care of — you put your pajamas off, put your clothes on, prepare a breakfast, pack for work, and so on. While doing all those manual activities, I repeat my personal mission statement.
While repeating my mission statement, I take my stuff from the bedroom and go downstairs. I visit the toilet and pee.
As common as it is, it’s very important. Waking up and peeing is my lifelong habit, and probably the most reliable habit of 90% of this planet’s population. Weave it into your morning ritual and you will create a powerful anchor for your whole morning ritual. Let’s go back to my routine.
I still repeat my mission statement when going out of the toilet and to the furnace room. Every morning, I do a consecutive series of pullups, chin-ups or pushups to failure. Most of the time, I do pullups. The pull-up bar is installed in the furnace room.
While doing my series, I say the initial verses of Psalm 63 (“God, you are my God, I pine for you…”). For long years, I had troubles with the consistency of my morning prayer. The troubles disappeared when I based it on the reliable trigger — my morning exercise. Consistency of my exercises increased as well when I coupled it with prayer. I could forget about one or another, but I couldn’t forget both.
Needles to say, I pause repeating my personal mission statement when I pray.
I go from the furnace room to my home office, and I pray for five minutes in silence. It’s no formal prayer, it’s the speech of my heart to Jesus. I tell Him about my upcoming day, thank Him for His blessings and ask for grace and strength to face this day. Only this day. There is only now.
This habit is my most effective tool for clearing my head. I don’t journal about my days or emotions. Well, only if they are a springboard for my morning ruminations or add something to them.
Each day, I write the headline, which 95% of the time is a question to myself: about my plans, hopes, fears, accomplishments, relationships, projects, frustrations and so on. Sometimes, I used my journal sessions to dump all the to-do tasks onto paper or to generate questions for further sessions.
Journaling clears my mind like nothing else. Dumping your thoughts on paper forces you to clarify them. It cannot be incoherent blabber as it often is inside of your head. You need to formulate your thoughts before capturing them.
It immensely helps me with training my focus. This is not an optional activity. I journal 6 days a week. I need to fill the page to the bottom. I don’t stand up before I do that. It trains me to get things done.
The personal matter of questions makes me know myself better and also teaches me to be ruthlessly honest with myself. I journal most efficiently, quickly, and reach useful conclusions when I cut through all the excuses, straight to the essence of the issue.
5. Mindset and Vision.
One and another go hand in hand. After journaling, I turn on my laptop and look at my vision board. It’s a 12-slide PowerPoint presentation based on my personal mission statement. I flip through the slides a few times.
The human mind operates with pictures first, then come words. I have huge troubles exercising my imagination; it’s an effort for me. My mind images are monochromatic, static and fuzzy. It costs me a lot to focus my mind and steer the images inside it. So looking at my vision board is practically the only visual-based exercise I do during the whole day.
When I finish with my vision board, I open a text document where I put about a hundred quotes, mostly from the Bible and my church’s documents, but also a few quotes I found on the Internet or in books. For example, I have there the 5 common regrets of dying people.
All those quotes shaped my personal philosophy to some degree. I skim through them, reading maybe 10% at the time, each day a slightly different bunch.
If you don’t do such a mental fitness, if you don’t maintain your personal philosophy, it will shift toward concepts from external sources — people you interact with, stuff you read, watch or listen to.
After going through the quotes, I take my Kindle out and read a paragraph, or a few, from three books that shaped my philosophy as well. They are:
The Science of Getting Rich
Manuscript on Purgatory
Revelations of Divine Love
6. Set Priorities.
This point I neglect all too often. Well, not exactly neglect, but it is not an ironclad point of my morning ritual yet, and I do it somewhat ‘later.’ All too often, it is right before I start my work, which doesn’t give my subconscious time to mull over my priority task in the background.
My setting priorities exercise is nothing elaborate. I take my notepad and jot down several tasks to do (I try to limit them to three, but I rarely succeed). The point is that, to my best knowledge, they are doable today. If I want to do something in a week, I put it in my calendar. My daily priorities are the tasks that I will start my workday from and knock them out first, before tackling anything else.
I cheat just a bit, because every single day I have one priority item that takes precedence before anything else, and I don’t register it among my priorities. It’s my writing, which I try to do before anything else.
7. More Prayers and Vision.
Now it’s time to start the day. On weekdays, I prepare for work.
On weekends, I do other things. On Saturdays, I start my day from a call with my accountability partners. On Sundays, I try to dive into my daily habits before anyone else wakes up.
But whenever I have some purely manual tasks, I pray or repeat my personal mission statement — when I put my clothes on, when I brush my teeth or drive to a train station.
Never enough prayer and cultivating vision, in my book.
I arrive to a train station a few minutes before the train. While waiting for it, I close my eyes, breathe deeply and meditate. Rarely this practice takes me more than a few minutes. Sometimes it’s longer when a train gets late.
The benefit lies not in the length of the activity, but in the activity itself. Meditation forces me to do something I don’t do at any other moment of my day: to think nothing.
I rarely succeed, but it’s not the point either. When you try not to think, you become painfully aware about what’s going through your mind. Busy Westerners are totally deprived of this kind of awareness.
My journaling gives me a similar state of mind, but meditation has this advantage that it can be done at any place and any time. I need no tools, not even pen and paper to do it.
That’s my ritual. Examine it, examine rituals of others, and come up with the one optimized for you.
Originally published at www.quora.com.