The Morning Routine That Really Improved My Work And Health
Find your rhythm and win back the morning! ☀️
Your morning sets the tone for the whole day. It’s often said that if you “win the morning, you win the day”. It’s both true and often confronting to me personally as a recovering night owl.
Late nights became common in my university years and has since continued to influence my schedule. Fast forward to 2018 and I’m now twenty-five-years-old, married, working professionally and growing a business.
Preface; The sooner we grow, the better. There’s no time to slumber or waste away. What we set in our 20’s, the friends we make, the habits we create - we’ll reap in our 30’s and beyond.
Steve Jobs wrote on his 30th birthday invitation: “In the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits; for the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you.” // I love this.
Creating healthy habits puts us in a position of strength. More so, if you put together a number of habits over time, that creates a routine. We’ve all got routines, both good and bad. To win the morning, we’ll need a bloody good one. Let’s wake up… ☕️
Why the early hours' matter
Psychologist Ron Friedman says the first three hours of your day are your most precious for setting your productivity rate for the day.
“Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well,” — Friedman source
Friedman was on the money. As our day progresses, our focus becomes fragmented by the demands of the day. Our brain works like a muscle, so it needs daily recovery and rest to function. In the early hours’, we’re in the ‘prime time’ to create good mindsets, behaviours and decisions for the day ahead.
The early riser has a lot going for them. In fact, research shows morning people, in general, tend to:
- Be more productive
- Make more money
- Live longer and healthier lives
- & are more happy and satisfied in their lives
Up at 5:45am
⏰ My alarm begins softly at 5:45am and I’m out of bed by 6:05. For the last few years I’ve used an alarm app called Sleep Cycle. The app tracks your sleep health and has wakeup tones that you won’t cringe to — I highly recommend. (Note: I am getting up earlier, progressively. My goal is to create a sleep cycle of approx 10:10pm — 5:10am)
Warm water with lemon
🍋 Lemon water is credited among health experts for weight loss, anti-aging properties, treating kidney stones, digestion, and improvements in blood pressure, among other things. Push aside the benefits, the lemon in my glass simply reminds me that drinking water is important.
Reading and journaling — 20 minutes
📖 Every morning I take a few minutes to read. I don’t read the media news first up, for obvious reasons. Instead, I’ll read a blog post, a book or scripture.
Journaling also helps prioritise and clarify thinking. When something happens to us, we assign meaning to that thing. The process of journalling helps our brain assign the proper value to each thought, feeling or experience. Writing reflectively has also been shown to improve decision-making and critical thinking.
Mandarin study (and Chinese tea)
🇨🇳 On most mornings I take 15–20 minutes to study. For me, this is a long-term goal of learning to read, write and speak Chinese. I’m self-aware enough to know my weakness (as a millennial) is to chase overnight success. Working on patience and consistency for something that’s (bloody difficult) hard — forces me to grow and play the long-game.
You can replace Mandarin with “_______” whatever long-term thing you’re keen to tackle and improve upon.
Stretches and short exercise
🏃🏼 A light stretch is enough to shake off most morning grogginess. A physiotherapist once said that stretching increases brain activity, decreasing body aches and pains, and increases your energy level throughout the day. That’s a lot of benefits for a short-n-sweet stretch.
I’m not a runner, nor a gym junkie, but I try to do what works for me. Some days that’s a morning walk, and others it’s pushups using the 22 App. Find what works for you. 15 minutes of consistent exercise does a lot of good.
Breakfast should be filled with food that are high in fiber and protein, that supply your mind and body with energy to be productive throughout the day.
Breakfast, personally to me is a hassle. I prefer to jump into my work, but I know it’s important to ‘take 10’, stop, and fuel up. So I keep it simple and small in serving: eggs, toast, served with avocado or sometimes bacon.
Coffee and day planning
☕ ️Michael Hyatt says “What get planned, gets done” — It’s really true. If we don’t plan for success, we’ll default to doing simply anything or everything.
A focused mind will help your create a productive and fulfilling day. Take a few minutes early on to plan your priorities and events for the day ahead. For me; it looks like walking to my corner cafe (by 8:30am) to grab a coffee, think and plan. Find a routine that works for you.
Tackle the 1st of the BIG 3
🥇 What are the top three things you need to do (or become) today? Better yet, what’s that one thing you could do, that would significantly move the needle in your business, your work or relationships? By focusing on what really matters, we can take giant leaps forward.
“Don’t mistake movement for achievement. It’s easy to get faked out by being busy. The question is: Busy doing what?” — Jim Rohn
I love the BIG 3 concept. If you’re like me, you’ve worked off a giant to-do list every day. But at the end, you’re left feeling that you’ve yet to accomplished anything truly important.
Setting a daily BIG 3 helps me narrow down my to-do list to your 3 most essential tasks of the day. In the morning, my focus is to attack the first of the three. This gives me the feeling of accomplishing something, and builds momentum to tackle the next.
We’re all given the same 24 hours each day…But it’s what we do with these hours that defines our quality of life. We can’t rewind the clock, so carefully consider the weight in how we craft our morning thoughts, decisions and habits.
Lastly, remember that productivity is about doing what matters. That means you need to find what matters to you most. For me, what matters most are my relationships (not material things, fame or titles).
So let your time be used for great things — but never get too busy making a living that you forget to make a life.
⚡️ HACKS TO STAY FOCUSED:
- Remove excess decision making. Eliminate as many non-essential decisions you need to make each morning. This means allocating more mental willpower to the key goals that matter. This is why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same thing each morning.
- Manage your phone, so it doesn’t manage you. Turn off every notification alert, so you’re not distracted by emails or messages that have flooded in overnight. I keep my phone on Do-Not-Disturb mode until 9am.
- Create an evening routine. With an evening routine, your morning routine is more likely to succeed. Get to bed early, avoid blue light and offload thoughts onto paper to help your brain finish today’s worries.
- Reduce sugar. This is a simple habit that will help everyone, in every stage of life. Sugar, especially before bed, is a huge deterrent to your energy levels, your health and clarity of mind. Read more
- Commit for 21 days (minimum). Research says it takes on average over three weeks to formulate a new rhythm/habit (and even longer to strengthen it). Focus on committing to your new routine no matter what you feel like, then reevaluate after 21 days if you need to make adjustments.