For the past 6 months of so I have been refining my morning routine. By that, I really mean I have committed to actually HAVING one. So after six months how do I think the process is going? Well, it is still a work in progress, but I have to say I found developing a morning routine to be beneficial and a strong aid in making my daily life more productive and positive.
I don’t believe that any routine should be etched in stone. It should reflect what I am trying to accomplish but be flexible to accommodate outside occurrences (weather, travel, early morning meetings, etc.). What works for me may not necessarily work for you. There are things in our lives specific to us. For example, one thing I do every morning is journal. I started in the morning because I read Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” concept found in her great book The Artist’s Way. I loved the idea, but parts of it just won’t work for me. Julia feels you should get up and start writing FIRST THING while your mind is rested and free of pressures of our daily grind. However, my two dogs do not see it that way. They believe (and have let me know in no uncertain terms) that they should be taken out and fed FIRST. So while I try to adhere to the idea of Morning Pages as much as I can, my dogs take precedence in the order how I do things. The spirit of the routine is far more important than the letter. I have changed several things in the last six months to suit life’s variability. The important thing is to commit to establishing a morning routine, the particulars will come.
So with that in mind, I tried to create a list that is general in nature, understanding you have to modify it to suit your needs. In this list I am focusing on the “Dos” of a morning routine.
DO get up at a regular time (even on the weekends)
By committing to keeping to a regular schedule, you are greatly increasing your chances of having your morning routine work for you, ensuring you have the time to get the things you want to do done. I have read over and over again you should get up early because that is what all the rich, successful people do. Baloney. Get out of bed when you want, just allow the time you need to complete the items in your morning routine.
Personally, I’m not a “morning” person. Because of my rural upbringing (and my hatred of alarm clocks), I get up with the sun. So while the time may vary a bit depending on the season, it works for me. What I DID change is I now longer sleep late on the weekends. Life most of you, I liked a few extra minutes of sleep on the week. However I found that having two sets of times to get up over the course of a week was too disruptive. I get up at the same time now.
DO activate your MIND in a constructive manner
There have been lots of studies that show that getting your brain off to a good start in the morning will make you more productive, more positive, and generally happier. This can be different things to different people, but for me, it is the journaling that I mentioned earlier. Every morning (AFTER I take care of my dogs), I sit at my desk with a journal, cup of coffee and a pen, and I write 2-3 pages of whatever pops in my head. It doesn’t have to all deep and reflective. In fact, it is usually dribble, but there are exceptions. I have worked out a solution to a problem at work or dealing with a difficult personal situation.
Another thing I do is play solitaire on my iPad. I find it a great game for a morning routine. It requires just the right amount of brain activity where it is interesting, but not too in depth or too superficial. (I used to do a Sudoku puzzle, but if the puzzle was too hard, it became counterproductive because I HAVE to solve it!)
DO activate your BODY in a constructive manner
While I like morning exercise about as much as I like trips to the protologist, I do have to admit that some form of limited exercise is good to “wake” the body up. Personally, this is where my morning walk with my dogs comes into play. My dogs require a level of exercise for their good health, and so I get some too by proxy. Depending on your location, I think a morning walk is always good; but if you can run, lift weights, do cardio, then knock yourself out.
DO ignore emails/social media first thing in the morning
Like most of you, the first thing I did when I got up was check email and social media. I don’t know what I was thinking, everyone I know was asleep just like I was, so what I expected to discover I have no idea.
DO drink a big glass of water
Studies have shown that drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning is good for your digestion, weight and overall physical health. It jumpstarts your body’s metabolism, as well as rehydrates your body after a night’s sleep. Believe it or not, this was the step in my routine that took me a long time to establish. I simply forgot to do it every morning. However, once I finally got to make it a habit (requiring a dreaded alarm on my watch), now my body craves that water first thing.
DO have some form of Gratitude/Affirmation to set a positive frame of mind
By recognizing and expressing the positive aspects of your life, you are setting a positive tone of your day. Let’s face it, most people don’t know what their day is going to be when they get up in the morning. It is far better to count your blessings than gird your loins (whatever that means) for the day’s battles. But if you ARE going into battle, affirming that you can handle it is an important step to ultimate success.
DO practice some form of “Mindfulness” in the morning
This is the latest thing I have added to my morning routine repertoire. To be honest, I always thought this was a little hokey, so initially my meager attempts at meditation were complete and utter failures. I just thought it was stupid, so I wouldn’t really commit to it. However, as the months passed and my morning routine solidified, I felt that something was missing. Turns out this was it. I struggled with it because like many people, I wanted to meditate, I didn’t want to “practice” meditation. However, during a bad couple of weeks, I recognized that I needed SOMETHING to keep me focused and calm during my week. Practice makes perfect, and hokey or not, I have found 10 minutes of morning meditation to keep me far more grounded than anything else I do in the morning. Take my advice, commit to this; I am now a believer!
DO make your bed in the morning (EVERY morning)
OK, if I’m being honest here, my wife makes our bed 98% of the time, because typically she is still IN the bed when I get up. I typically get up long before her because I’m responsible for taking care of the dogs and getting the coffee made. However, if she is away or leaves early, I do make the bed. Making the bed is just a simple way to ensure that you will get at least ONE thing accomplished that day. An unmade bed is disorganized (and ergo stressful) to me, and if at the end of my day it has not gone well, at least I get to come home to a nicely made bed.
At the end of the day, your morning routine is yours and yours alone. There are factors in your life (kids, pets, life partner, type of work, etc.) that impact daily life, and thus will impact your morning routine. But your morning will often define the rest of your day, so it makes sense to make your mornings as positive and constructive as possible, setting the foundation for success and productivity.