Optimize Your Morning Routine, Part 1
The morning walk.
How do successful people optimize their personal lives and productivity, their businesses and passions? The simplest answer is that they lower pressure and noise in their lives.
I’ve spent more than 20 years working with entrepreneurs from startups to the Fortune 500, and found this is one of the most widespread issues they face in attempting to realize their visions and build companies. But I also know the definition of entrepreneur encompasses much more than “business owner.”
The entrepreneur is found within our innovators, artists, writers, salespeople, doctors, pilots and just about any other profession you can think of. They’re also stay-at-home moms and dads … and our children. They’re the people among us seeking to change and improve the world, who are not satisfied with the status quo, and who feel an unrelenting desire to move their ideas forward.
I believe these people make up the Entrepreneurial Personality Type (EPT).
When it comes to pressure and noise, EPTs have to find ways to decrease it on a daily basis, so that we can put our full attention and maximum effort into the activities, initiatives and relationships that matter.
When coaching my clients on this, I get them to focus on the little things first — the daily routines and habits that ensure they’re locked in and ready to give the day their best effort. And I’ve found that there is no time more pivotal to creating the day’s momentum than in the morning.
The Morning Routine
The morning routine has been an important staple of successful entrepreneurs’ lives for as long as there have been entrepreneurs. Just look back through the biographies of Jefferson, Franklin, Edison or Carnegie and you’ll see the pattern. All of them were especially intentional in the early part of the day. My morning routine has evolved over the years and, for me, I’ve gotten it down to an exact science. I’ll explain more about this in later parts of this series, but here is one of the most vital aspects of it: the morning walk.
Every single day I wake up early, hyperhydrate and then walk outside for 20 minutes. Now this isn’t a groundbreaking or shocking practice by any means. For years, science has shown that walking can have long-term effects on serotonin levels and mood throughout the day. But I’d be willing to bet that the majority of people still don’t realize the full benefits this habit can provide.
Here are a few elements I’ve added to my 20-minute walks that really amplify these benefits.
Wear proper footwear
I wear Vibram FiveFingers® on my morning walks because they allow my feet to respond naturally to the ground (I try to walk on natural surfaces instead of pavement). People underestimate the constraint and physical damage that closed-toe, heavily padded shoes can have on the body. And when I wear Vibrams, I can feel the muscles open up in my feet, legs and back so that I can start the day loose and relaxed. The feet have one of the highest concentrations of nerve sensitivity in the body and you’ll be amazed by how walking on natural, uneven surfaces with minimalist shoes can improve your posture, alignment and natural movement over time.
Lower artificial stimulation
This one’s a little weird, but I wear blue-blocking glasses before stepping outside so that natural light is the first thing my eyes are exposed to in the morning. According to the Vision Council, 65% of American adults experience eye strain due to extended periods of screen gazing. This can have a negative effect on your eyes, back, neck, circadian rhythm and serotonin levels. The glasses I wear are specifically designed to block out the harmful, high frequency blue light emitted by our screens. And though it may seem a little “out-there,” I promise you’ll be able to feel a decrease in eye strain that occurs over the course of the day.
Focus on your breathing
During my morning walk, I inhale for 7 seconds and exhale 7 seconds through my nose. Not only does this type of intentional breathing put the optimal amount of oxygen into the bloodstream, it’ll calm your heart rate and quiet your mind.
I also like to leave my phone at home during this time so that I can focus on being as present as possible.
The intention this ritual has provided in my life has been absolutely instrumental to my success. If you’re not walking for 20 minutes every morning, I challenge you to try it — just once — and see how much better you can feel throughout the day.
To see a full morning routine overview, checklist and details, check out my morning routine.
Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/AlexCharfen
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on August 29, 2016.