Do you realize how much your morning routine affects the rest of the day?
If you’re anything like me, you probably feel like most days, you’re reactive instead of proactive. You feel like you’re just fumbling around without focus, handling things as they come at you at 900 miles per hour. You probably plop down on your couch each evening, wondering if you got anything accomplished.
Trust me – I feel your pain. My life was exactly as I just described up until about a year and a half ago.
I stumbled across a powerful trick around that time that I used to increase my focus and energy. As such I reduced the general stress and grumpiness that I was feeling.
And I’m going to share it with you, but be warned: it isn’t pretty.
You have to get out of bed earlier.
I know, I know. If you ask most people to get up earlier than they already are, they will usually respond with eye rolls or moans of despair. If you’re really unlucky, physical violence. Most people struggle to get up with just enough time to get ready for work or school – never mind earlier. I am about to show you how you can improve your odds of getting going in the morning. These are habits that are currently working for me, my wife Angela, and hundreds of others.
A Typical Morning Routine
Before I go through my new morning routine, let me describe what my days used to look like. I’m willing to bet you’ll relate to some, if not all, of it.
First, my alarm would go off. I’d groggily look at the time, decide I had a few more minutes before I needed to be up, and hit the snooze button. I’d repeat this cycle until I barely had enough time to get myself ready and off to work.
I would reluctantly sit up in bed at that point, immediately thinking about work and dragging myself into the office that day. If I was lucky, I would barely be able to get that thought out before my two kids (ages 6 and 4 at the time) would come running into our bedroom.
Now the whole family is up and running around like crazy, trying to not be late for work and school. I was truly awake less than 2 minutes before being in “hurry up” mode – I would be stressed out, anxious and disorganized.
The disorganization and stress I felt would stay with me throughout the day. Then, by the time the evening rolled around Angela and I were too exhausted to be productive at all. After the kids went to bed would be the only time I could work on passion projects or hobbies. Most nights though we would just plop down on the couch and watch TV.
Sound familiar? The fact is that most people I talk to start their days very similarly. Disorganization, stress and a lack of focus tend to be the norm first thing in the morning.
I knew that I had to make a change.
Transformation Starts in the Morning
In his book, “The Miracle Morning,” Hal Elrod says about waking up, “Resistance to this inevitable daily act is a defiant statement to the universe that they would rather lie in bed, unconscious, than to create and live the life they desire.” After I read this it stuck with me, because up until then I had always thought that I worked hard toward my dreams. In reality by resisting waking up every morning I was prioritizing them below lying unconscious.
To change the way you approach your day, you need to first change the way you approach your morning routine.
The first time I decided to try getting up earlier, I set my alarm for 5 am. I would then, in theory, have about an hour to myself before the rest of the house was up. I thought for sure though that when that alarm went off, I would hit snooze and roll back over.
The stand-up comedian Demetrius Martin once said, “If you really think about it, hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock doesn’t even make sense. It’s like saying, ‘I hate getting up in the morning —so I do it over and over and over again.’ ”
Well, I knew that wasn’t me. I had already decided that I have too little time on this earth as it is, and I certainly didn’t want to spend it unconscious!
I got up at 5 am, and, in a quiet house, got to work on following my new morning routine, not realizing how much it would change my life.
Actually, It Starts the Night Before
I’m going to get real for a minute.
If you stay up late every night, eat a bunch of sugar right before bed (eliminating those late-night bowls of ice cream was tough for me – the struggle is real), or fall asleep binge-watching “Game of Thrones”, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. No amount of structure in the morning routine is going to defeat poor sleeping habits.
I’m not saying that every night you should be in bed by 8 pm. My regular time to settle down in bed with a book is 9:30, but life happens. Sometimes there is a movie Angela and I want to catch or a holiday party or our kids have a sleepover (forget falling asleep before midnight, in that case).
The point: you need to be responsible but flexible. Set yourself up for success by getting a good night’s sleep 90 percent of the time, and you’ll bounce back easier from those nights when you splurge and stay up late.
My Early Morning Routine
You need to form a few crucial habits to become an early riser. The important thing to remember is not everything works to the same degree for everybody. As you work through this list, make mental notes of what will work best for you – but then make sure to implement them!
1. Don’t hit snooze.
There are a lot of articles that explain how using the snooze feature of your alarm is not only ineffective but also detrimental to your sleep quality and sleep patterns. On top of that, it goes against everything our morning routine should be about – productivity, positive thinking and approaching the day with enthusiasm. The best way to beat the snooze cycle? Move the clock out of reach, so you have to get up and walk across the room to turn it off. Angela and I have actually removed traditional alarm clocks from our bedroom, though we did replace them with sleep-cycle alarms.
2. Drink a glass of water.
When you wake up, your body has probably just gone 6-8 hours or more with no liquid intake. If you aren’t a big water drinker (I wasn’t for most of my life), then you already hit the sack the night before being in a slightly dehydrated state. Now, waking up, your body is even more so. Nothing will make you feel sluggish like being dehydrated.
I keep a big glass next to my bathroom sink. As soon as I get up in the morning, I’m able to start rehydrating my body almost immediately. I also add some Beachbody Energize to it to give me a slight boost of energy. It’s a pre-workout supplement that gets me ready for my exercise routine.
3. Wash your face, brush your teeth and get dressed.
Okay, I get it. This isn’t exactly earth-shattering advice here – but hear me out. The mundane activities you do to get ready to face the day are a part of the subconscious of your mind. Have you ever stayed in pajamas late on a weekend, only to later on say something like, “Okay, time for me to get dressed and actually face the day”? What does one have to do with the other? Nothing – except that your mind makes a connection between the two. If you’re getting dressed, it must be time to start the day.
This is the same with anything else that you do at the start of the day. If you regularly brush your hair before leaving the house for work, then add that to this list. It all sends signals to your brain that you’ve it’s time to get going and start your day.
On top of that, washing your face has the added benefit of giving you that cool splash of water to shock your system into a more awakened state.
For all of you who say you don’t have time to exercise – this is it. If you’ve made the commitment to get up earlier and add some extra time to your schedule, then exercising should top the list of activities to add to your routine. Aside from the obvious health benefits, it’s the perfect way to wake up your body. Exercising starts your day with productivity and a positive attitude.
I won’t go too in depth here as I think the health benefits are pretty self-explanatory, but exercising also gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing. This is probably the no. 1 way to tell your body it’s time to wake up.
I put off exercising for most of my life with the excuse that I never had time to fit it in. The reality is that I just wasn’t making it a priority.
Now that exercise is the first part of my morning routine, I don’t know how I lived without it. I wake up groggy and barely able to do the other things I’ve already mentioned in my routine – then I push through it and hit play on my workout program. Within 10 minutes I am sweating, breathing hard and ready to conquer the day. That energy carries me through well into the afternoon or sometimes later.
More importantly, I just feel great.
If you’re like I was and don’t work out regularly, then start small. Hit the treadmill for 15 minutes, or even just do some jumping jacks or push-ups. Angela has been doing 30 minutes of yoga and is absolutely loving it.
5. Practice gratitude.
Don’t underestimate the power of this ritual. Regularly practicing gratitude has been proven to have a multitude of positive effects on people, most of which will lead to an increase in motivation.
Even if you are generally a thankful person, you could probably benefit from making a regular habit of highlighting the things you’re grateful for before you start your day. I have a journal that I use after working out. In this journal, I write down three things that I am grateful for every morning. I try to repeat these as little as possible and look for new things every day to be thankful for.
It’s really a fairly simple practice and doesn’t take much time out of my morning routine. Also, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Just remember that nothing in your life is too small to be thankful for. Right now I am thankful for Microsoft Word and how it keeps catching my typos!
Angela and I have noticed such a positive change since we started practicing gratitude regularly that we decided to integrate it into our family dinners. We now go around the table with our kids, listing things that we are grateful for each evening. We can see our children becoming more optimistic and positive human beings because of it.
6. Set goals.
I could write an entire post just on goal setting (or an entire blog even). Instead, I’m going to break it down into what I think are the bare essentials to work into your regular morning routine.
Write down one big-picture goal you’re trying to achieve. By “big picture” I mean something that is most likely at least a few months away. Maybe it’s going on that family vacation, buying a house or starting a business. Whatever your goal is, write it down. This will be the same thing you write every morning until you’ve accomplished it. Once that happens, simply find a new goal.
Write down 2-3 “targets” for the day. These should be specific things you want to work on for that day that get you closer to your big-picture goal. If you have a goal to buy a new car and lack of money you have saved is the only thing keeping you from doing it right now, then perhaps your targets for the day are:
- Bring a lunch to work instead of getting take-out
- Invoice freelance client for work completed
- Join carpool group to save on gas expenses
Again, there are a lot of different ways to set goals and this is a very simplified process, but it gets the job done. Don’t worry about over-analyzing either — just make sure that every day you work toward those big-picture goals. Eventually, those small daily steps will add up to measurable progress.
The Benefits of an Improved Morning Routine
What can you expect for results from changing your morning routine? From the exercise I fit into my mornings, I am now healthier than I have been in about two decades. Angela and I increased our income 150 percent through advancements at work and career changes from the improved motivation and focus. We’re better parents due to lowering our stress levels, and we’re enjoying life more than we ever have.
Can we directly attribute all of these accomplishments to getting up early? Probably not, but achieving them certainly would have been harder and taken longer if not for the energy, focus, and motivation that our new morning routine provides.
I urge you to try your own early morning routine. If you stick with it, it may just change your life.
What does your routine look like? Share how you motivate yourself to face the day in the comments below.