Discover the power of a morning routine.
Is it really possible to set the tone for a day? To follow a pattern that leads to better outcomes more often than not?
The short answer is: yes. The long answer is: yes, absolutely.
It's abundantly clear that "successful" individuals in fields spanning from the spiritual to sales have some form of morning routine.
However, it takes honesty, reflection and action to implement. Perhaps the biggest tension we face is the underlying suspicion that routine eradicates spontaneity and no spontaneity means no fun.
To answer that assumption we need only turn to Tim Ferriss, the modern day polymath behind the best-selling book The 4-hour Work Week:
"Your morning should have a predictable and scripted boot-up sequence... an algorithm that produces an optimal day....Conserve your cognitive calories for the important stuff."
So it follows that a morning routine that runs on auto-pilot i.e. as few necessary choices having to be made as possible, actually frees up time for the dreaming, the reflecting, the planning, the savouring of moments. This is thought to be part of the reason why Steve Jobs, the controversial yet fascinating founder of Apple had a fixed wardrobe philosophy: a black turtleneck, jeans, and New Balance sneakers. Every day.
What does a morning routine look like?
There's no "one size fits all" approach but extensive reading, conversations and encounters have revealed several common themes:
1) Make your bed - the quick win.
Naval Admiral William McRaven gave a viral commencement speech in 2014 at the University of Texas at Austin. As McRaven said, "If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another."
2) Meditation - the new age one
Whether in the form of daily prayers or in addition to them, meditation practice is a bedrock of many morning routines. The underlying philosophy revolves around helping us move away from responding to the world around us reflexively and instead to engage more mindfully. It can take on many forms from simple breathing exercises to more structured guided sessions. There is a real wealth of apps that have paved the way for integrating meditation into our busy lives including Headspace, Calm and 10% Happier.
3) Physiological priming - the scary one
Priming is a means of creating a physical and mental state that is "primed" or ready for the day ahead. As humans we are exquisitely susceptible to cues in our environment. Seeing that it's raining may subconsciously translate in our minds into a lower quality day than if sunlight is streaming through our windows. Our thoughts, feelings and emotions can be primed by factors we’re not even aware of, which greatly impacts our performance in other aspects of our lives.
A simple yet shocking way to reset some of these tendencies is the cold shower. Turning the tap all the way to blue at the end of your showering experience for 15 seconds results in a Ctrl-Alt-Del like no other!
4) Workout - the one we all know we’re meant to do
The physical and mental benefits of working out are undisputed. The feeling of smugness that arises from completing your workout - a run or some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - is priceless.
5) Journaling - the surprising one
It may surprise you to know just how many journalers there are out there. The benefits of journaling are clear: amongst other things it helps you clarify objectives and build gratitude into your day thereby reducing anxiety.
Take your pick from some or all of the above and craft your own routine. Be prepared to revisit it, revise it, evolve it continuously so that it does what it's meant to do: prepare you for the day and prime your mind, body and soul.
“O God, make the early morning hours blessed for my nation.”