“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.” – Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book
What does your morning routine say about you?
Better yet, what is your morning routine doing for you? If you’ve never given these questions any thought, don’t worry, you are not alone. For many people, the “morning routine” has become a kind of chore, something that brings them nothing but stress, anxiety, and frustration. Each and every night, all around the globe, people are lying in their beds, angry with themselves for staying up too late on a work night, staring at their alarm clocks and doing ridiculous math equations in their heads. It might look something like this, “Oh no! my Netflix binge kept me up until 2 am! I have to leave for work by 8 am! Ok… If I fall asleep right now, and set my alarm for 7:30, that means I can get at least 5 hours of sleep!” They set the alarm, and all is well. Or is it?
As a reference point, I want you to try a short visualization. Picture your busiest morning, or maybe just your average morning. You wake up at the usual time, crawl out of bed, maybe hop in the shower, perhaps you grab a bagel out of the pantry and throw on a pair of “work clothes.” Then it’s time to get in the car and start your morning commute. That might include waiting in a never-ending line of cars at Dunkin Donuts, or Starbucks to get a quick caffeine pick-me-up, while your radio plays a series of advertisements and audio clips about today’s biggest news stories. You might hit some traffic, crammed in amongst the other commuters, feeling as if every obstacle you face is trying to prevent you from getting your day started.This poor imaginary soul has left just 30 minutes to complete their entire morning routine! Let alone the fact that some of that time has been reserved for their morning commute. If you stop and think about it, they’ve neglected the idea of a morning routine altogether. It just doesn’t seem that important to most people. Well, as it turns out, those people may be sabotaging their entire day before it even begins…
Now, I want you to visualize an entirely different scenario. What if by the time you hit that traffic, you were already a few hours into your day? Not only that, but you were driving to work with a sense of accomplishment and happiness, knowing that even if nothing else of importance happened for the rest of the day, you would still feel like the day had been a productive one?
That, my friends, is the gift of the morning routine.
A quick Google search of “successful morning routines” will produce nearly 500,000 results, most from extremely well-known sources such as Forbes, The Huffington Post, Men’s Health, Entrepreneur Magazine, etc., etc. Some of the most popular habits among the highly successful are:
- Waking Up Early
To be clear, what you do, is not always the most important aspect of a successful morning routine. The routine itself needs to be tailored to each unique individual. The most important aspect of the morning routine is simply having the time to complete it. Maybe you need 2 hours, or 3, or just 1. Whatever that amount of time may be, make it a priority!
In my opinion, the master of the morning routine is none other than Tony Robbins. He recently spoke at length about his own morning ritual in a Podcast Episode of “The Tim Ferriss Show.” (download here)
Tony talks about something called “priming.” Essentially, priming can be any combination of acts within your morning routine that help prime your body for a high-performance day.
“If you want to have a prime life, you’ve got to be in a prime state.” – Tony Robbins
If you’ve read this far and are rolling your eyes, convinced that a relaxing morning routine is reserved for the elite few with the time and resources to do so, it’s time to take a step back and think about two critical things:
- Time Management
The number one reason people don’t adopt a healthy morning routine is they think they don’t have time. So let me ask you this, how amazing was the latest episode of The Walking Dead? It was incredible, right?! I know!! … See what I did there? You always have time. I’m sure there are plenty of you out there working 80 hours a week in high-stress jobs, but let’s be honest, most of you just aren’t. In today’s modern world, we are bombarded with more information and entertainment than ever before in history. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re going to miss something. If it’s 11 pm and you know you should be in bed, I promise you, refreshing your Facebook newsfeed one last time will do you no good. Just put the electronics down and get some sleep. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.
I get it, crawling out of your nice warm bed can be just about the hardest thing on earth to do. But have you ever stopped to wonder why that is? Why is it so difficult to just get up? Why do we think that extra 5, 10 or 15 more minutes will make all the difference? I’ll tell you why: because we dread the morning routine. Our morning rituals have been neglected for so long that we have ingrained terrible habits within ourselves. Our subconscious has suffered through years of crappy morning rituals. One more swat at the snooze button, one more glance at the Facebook news feed when we know we’re already running late, one more sugar spiked cream filled caffeine concoction in hopes that things will get better… When you stop and think about it, it’s no wonder why our bodies fight to stay in bed once the alarm calls.
The good news is, bad habits can be broken, and new habits can be created. I’m going to give you my top recommendations for improving the quality of your morning routine, thus enhancing the quality of your everyday life, by priming your body from the moment you wake up. Every single recommendation on this list is optional. You can incorporate one, or all of them into your own routine. Mix and match as you choose.
1. Get at least Six Hours of Sleep
My first instinct was to write eight hours, the same recommendation you would get from every other person ever. I’m just trying to be realistic. This may mean fewer episodes of House Of Cards, but Kevin Spacey isn’t going anywhere, there’s always tomorrow. You know what time you have to wake up in the morning. Whatever time that may be, make sure you are asleep 6 hours before that time, at the very least.
2. Wake Up at least One Hour Before You Have To Leave The House
That’s right, not one hour before you have to be at work or whatever other obligations you may have. One hour before you have to leave the house. Commute time is not to be included in this equation. Based on the number of recommendations from this list you choose to implement, you may want to wake up 2 or even 3 hours before you have to leave the house. You’ll get there. For now, one hour is the bare minimum. Baby steps.
3. Ditch the Snooze Button
If I’m honest, this will most likely be the most difficult recommendation I make in this article. The snooze button has been around for decades, and it has us all trained like obedient dogs. It’s all about gratification. Waking to the sound of the morning alarm clock is, of course, an extremely unpleasant experience. A necessary evil that all men and women must endure. The bane of our existence! CURSE YOU, DEVIL CLOCKS! Sorry, I got carried away there for a moment…The invention of the snooze button has allowed us a form of “instant gratification.” We have trained our bodies and learned that hitting the snooze button plummets us back into a relaxing place of peace and quiet, and before we know it we have drifted off to blissful sleep… Then, BOOM! That little bastard slaps us in the face again with its spine-tingling zaps of terror-inducing frequencies, whaling with laughter as we’re catapulted from the dream world into our own personal torture chamber of cold air and adult responsibilities!
Ok, I’m being dramatic, but I’m really just trying to prove a point… Think about what you are doing to your body! Why does the human body wake up abruptly when it hears loud noises? It’s your fight or flight response kicking in! A safety mechanism to ensure that we’re not murdered while lying in our most vulnerable state. When your fight or flight response is triggered, it is a stress on your body. It may be a small stress, but it is a stress nonetheless. Now picture your average morning. How many times do you hit the snooze button? Once, twice, four times, 10 times…It may feel good to hit the snooze button, but every time that alarm starts blaring again, you are stacking stress after stress on your body and mind, and you haven’t even gotten out of bed yet!
For one morning, just one morning, try this: The moment your alarm goes off, pull the sheets off of yourself, and just stand up! Don’t touch your phone or alarm clock until you are standing. If it helps, walk straight to the bathroom and splash some cold water on your face. Just do whatever it takes to get up and out of bed the first time your alarm goes off. Do not hit the snooze button! Once you are up, do not lay back down. Just get on with your day already! If the rest of your day doesn’t feel better than most, you don’t ever have to try it again. You can go right back to your old snooze button ways. All I ask is that you are honest with yourself. If you feel better, try to make it a daily habit. Aim for small goals. 7 days with no snooze. 14 days with no snooze. One month. Before you know it, you will have created a new habit that saves your body and mind from acute stress each and every morning.
4. Make Your Bed
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” – U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McCraven. It may seem simple and silly, but this seemingly mundane task can have some serious benefits when it comes to eliminating stress. Admiral McCraven gave this sound advice to graduates during a commencement speech at the University of Texas.
Make your bed as soon as you get out of it in the morning. You’ve now completed your first task of the day, which can create a snowball effect as the day goes on. “If you make your bed every morning,” Admiral McCraven continued, “you will have accomplished your 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.” It’s all about priming your body for success!
5. Don’t Check Text/ E-mail/ Social Media
If the first thing you do when you wake up is grabbing your phone, the whole idea of the morning routine goes out the window. We’re on a mission to minimize stress and find positivity before we have to face our daily obligations. Checking your phone for updates will do nothing but bombard you with unnecessary information and stress before you even roll out of bed. If you see one social media post, text or e-mail that you don’t like, you’re already stressed out or in a bad mood and the rest of your day has no chance!
Make it a point to complete at least one of the remaining recommendations before you check your phone or computer in the morning.