How to Have a Morning Routine

By 25 February, 2015Tips
Early Morning Sunrise

Having a solid morning routine can help you super-charge your productivity and finally complete your daily to-do list. Morning people are known to get more done, and some research suggests they are friendlier people.  I have been experimenting with how to finally reclaim my mornings and starting my days earlier in order to add precious (and productive) hours to my week – and as that post was quite successful, I thought I would share how to create your own early morning routine. After all, it cannot be a coincidence that highly successful CEO’s (Disney, Twitter, Coca Cola, Nike) all have early mornings in common.

Here are the tips of what has worked for me:

First of all, I think its important to start your morning experiments by being prepared to fail. Knowing that at first it might be a little tough to get into a new routine, shifting your sleeping patterns and getting up at a new time is a good start. If you don’t manage to get up at your target time (say, 5:30am), it’s OK! You can try again tomorrow. Being prepared to have a few ‘fails’ means that you won’t give up that easily and you won’t become discouraged once you hit the first couple of setbacks.

Now that you’re prepared to get started, the first step is to break the day in different stages:

[heading2 title=”Waking Up” pitch_text=”The first steps to having a great day.”]

 

1. The Night Before

Possibly the most overlooked component of waking up early. Personally, I think this is the most important part.
Get Enough Sleep. This might seem obvious, but people trying to wake up early often just think its a matter of setting the alarm for an early hour and the rest will follow. If you know what time you want to wake up (5:30am in my example), you need to know how much sleep you need to be fresh in the morning. Then, you can start backwards. If you want to wake up at 5:30am, and you need about 7 hours of sleep, you should aim to be in bed by 10~10:30pm.
Plan Ahead. Prep your lunch if you take it with you, sort out your plans for it otherwise. Set out your clothes and get your gym bag ready.

Avoid electronic devices. I used to think this was a bit of a myth at best, and at worst, a big exaggeration. It turns out, it’s done wonders for me. Avoid screens (laptop, TV and even phones) for at least an hour before bed. Try to read a book (a novel works best), even if its just a single chapter to disconnect from your day. Alternatively, a long walk before day will clear your mind, helping you to fall asleep faster.

2. Waking Up

The actual challenge. Know that the first week or so, it will not be that easy. It’s OK to struggle a little, but try your hardest not to hit the snooze button or else it will quickly become a habit. The key here is to create a simple routine for the very first part of your day so you don’t have to think too much.

Have a Mini Routine. Having a step-by-step routine helps your auto-pilot take over and get your day going. I recommend an alarm app like “Morning Routine” (how fitting). I have set it up like this:
  • Alarm goes off, and will not stop until I scan a barcode (bottle of water in my fridge, forcing me to get out of bed).
  • Then an another app opens automatically (Headspace, for a quick 15-min meditation) a minute after.
  • About 18 minutes after the previous alarm (so I can finish the Headspace session) another alarm goes off, and I need to scan the barcode on the coffee maker to stop it.
  • This last steps opens Spotify, so I can automatically play some music to start the day, go do some exercise, or whatever is planned for that particular day.

Avoid Hitting Snooze. Researchers say that you are likely to re-start your sleep cycle if you enter a snooze loop, and you will feel groggy longer. Also, if you hit snooze a couple of days in a row, you will automatically start hitting it every day, without even realising. A tip? Keep your alarm/phone a little far from your bed so you have to get up to turn it off.

– (Optional) Use a Sleep Tracker. Using a sleep tracker like a Jawbone UP or similar helps to set a smart alarm that wakes you up during an optimal window. It’s done wonders for me!

Having a simple routine, where you start your day the same way each day helps to cue your brain to move towards the next easy and achievable goal. After a few days/a week of repetition, your mornings will become incredibly smooth!

3. Exercise

Early Workouts. Try to go for at least a quick workout. Yes, even if you haven’t eaten (you can take advantage of the benefits of Intermittent Fasting – more on this soon), it’s good to have a quick workout, or at least a decent stretch session. This gets your blood flowing, activates your brain, and you are more likely to be alert in the early hours, when your decision making is at its best. I try to switch up between a run (if in a rush or if feeling a little lazier) or a gym workout.

Don’t skip your workout, regardless of how tired you are. It’s better to have a shorter exercise session than none at all. Once you get outside for your run, or get to the gym, you will be very pleased with yourself and your day will seem to glide very smoothly. I recommend exercising in the morning, as towards the evening your will-power will be close to depleted and skipping your exercise session becomes incredibly easy.

[heading2 title=”After ‘Waking Up'” pitch_text=”Having a productive morning.”]

I am a fan of small steps and little victories, so I try to break down my mornings into slots, just like my waking up process. Here is what has worked for me:

The First 15 Minute Slot

  • Avoid going through your email immediately. This can spiral your morning off course as you get distracted with tangents. Remember, if it was an emergency, you would have received a call; hardly anyone emails about a crisis.
  • Your To-Do List. Prioritise the items on it – have a two minute mind-sweep, and plan your day when you are still fresh and concentrated on your priorities will help you have a consistently productive day. Even if towards the afternoon you veer off topic, you are more likely to have accomplished more by then, and getting back on track is much easier.
If you don’t keep a to do list, try to answer the following questions (try even if you do!):
  • How can I add value today?
  • What can I make better?
  • What am I grateful for today?

I have taken this a step further, and I use The Five Minute Journal, and I cannot recommend it enough!

The Second 15 Minute Slot

Studies show that top leaders schedule their most important items in their to-do lists as early as possible, so they can fully focus with no distractions, and really get a lot done on the most pressing issues.

Tackle your most important issues. Look at your to-do list and focus on the two most important items only, even if they seem slightly more overwhelming. This way, even if you have a tough day, you can look back and you will feel like you accomplished enough.

The Third 15 Minute Slot

Work on your passion project or your ‘idea on the side’. You do have a side project, right? If not, start one right now! Having a creative side – and this doesn’t only mean art, it can mean something that makes you step outside of your comfort zone – helps you stay engaged and relaxed throughout the day and will help you perform better at work.

[heading2 title=”Take Control of Your Day” pitch_text=”Follow through your great morning and have an amazing day”]

I am a fan of early mornings. They set the tone for the rest of the day and help me accomplish a lot more. In the morning you can accomplish bigger tasks and important decisions before you run out of ‘credits’.

Try it out for a month, you might surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish!

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