I never used to have any “routine” because the mere idea of doing the same thing the same way every single day sounded very rigid to me. But it all changed after I started looking into how habit works and what other successful people do in life.
Turns out that there are many benefits to having routines. If you set up your morning routines right, for example, it will help you form great habits, save you a lot of time and energy, prevent you from decision fatigue, start your day with a great sense of control, and many more. After all, if all successful people have some kind of routine, why should I not at least give it a try?
This formula from the book The Compound Effect perfectly summarizes the magical power of having routines:
Small Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference
I have it written down on a sticky note and put it on my desk right in front of my eyes. Every day I sit down at my desk, I will see this note and repeat it in my head like a mantra.
Now I have my morning routine, my evening routine, and many more. Here is an update on how I am doing since I started adopting daily routines. To kick-start the series, today I am going to talk about my morning routine.
1. Rise early.
I get up really early in the morning, usually 3:30 am (blame my husband). You can read about how I changed From a Night Owl to a Morning Bird in a previous blog post. Even though sleep early and getting up early has become my lifestyle, it can still get very difficult sometimes. When that happens, I use Mel Robbins’ The 5 Second Rule – I count down from 5 to 1 and sit up immediately, all while imagining that I am a rocket taking off the ground.
2. Make my bed.
This one I am guilty of because I was consistently doing it for a few months until I stopped after things got crazy and the morning became hectic. I do want to go back into forming this habit again. The point of doing this is not just to have a nicely made bed so it looks pleasing to the eyes. It is all about reinforcing the brain to collect small wins and starting my day with the success mindset. Plus, at the end of the day, when I go back into a nice and clean bed, it also gives me a feeling of having completed a full circle.
3. Consume positive, proactive, and motivational information only.
I then right away start playing videos of motivational or educational content while preparing breakfast and getting ready. I set my day in a positive mode by not checking the news in the morning, knowing most likely there will be negative news. I start my day with a proactive mode by not doing anything reactive like replying to messages or answering emails. The “brain coach” Jim Kwik puts it well. He says “You sell your sovereignty if you start your day by checking your phone because you are reacting and firefighting to everybody else’s demand.” I also make sure that I get my daily dose of inspiration by consuming information related to only personal growth, skill learning, time management, productivity, business success, and motivation.
4. Gym and audiobooks.
Under the influence of my husband, I try to stay fit and work out 5 to 6 days a week. As you can imagine, this habit itself takes a huge amount of willpower. On top of that, I carry on the strategy of consuming positive, proactive and motivational information even when I am working out in the gym. While others usually get pumped up by listening to the music in the gym, I get pumped up by listening to audiobooks. This is how I am able to read at least one book every two weeks even with a busy schedule.
Besides, there are many benefits to going to the gym in the morning instead of other times of the day. A good sweat and a nice shower really wakes me up; we can expect way fewer people in the gym in the morning which means less time wasted shuffling among people and waiting for the equipment; in general, there is just much less distraction, which also means fewer intimidating bodybuilders; when your will-power is running low after a tough day, you are more likely to convince yourself to skip the gym or any exercise altogether.
5. Morning pages.
After taking care of my physical health, it is time to take care of my mental health. I spend 20 to 30 minutes on morning pages. You can read more about how I do it here Morning Pages – A Tool to Increase Your Clarity and Self-Awareness. There is really no wrong way to do it. I can use this practice to sharpen my self-awareness, tune in to my inner voice, do my brain dump of the day, let go of all my negative self-talk, or lock my demons. I also practice gratitude by writing down 3 very specific things that I feel grateful for every single day. I’ve been practicing writing morning pages for a long time now and it has transformed my life.
What can I say? I was skeptical at the beginning but I am now totally converted. I am not religious, nor spiritual. I do not practice meditation to stay connected to God or any higher power. I practice meditation to stay connected to myself, to others around me, and to the world. This is another practice that has changed my life. I won’t have learned how to be as mindful, focused, and relaxed if not for meditation. I know that I still have a long way to go, but I am convinced that this is worth all the deliberate effort.
According to Charles Duhhig, the author of The Power of Habit, there are three things in a habit loop – cue, routine, and reward. I make sure that I give myself a reward at the end of my morning routine so that I keep myself motivated and keep building all the good habits.
Usually, I pour myself a cup of tea, if I haven’t already done so when writing my morning pages. Holding the mug while feeling the warmth running through my body and soul, I go on to check my to-do list for the day that I have written down the night before, visualize how I am going to spend the day, and imagine myself accomplishing the most important tasks by the end of the day.
I see my morning as a very crucial time of the day. I am really happy to have, through trial and error, finally found a routine that works great for me. Of course, it will be different for everyone, but I encourage you, my dear friend, to set your skepticism aside and build your own morning routine. You will find your life refreshed and under control, if not completely changed.