You wake up as a blank slate every morning. Each morning you have a new opportunity live a happy, healthy, productive and successful day.
So how are you using your mornings?
If you’re like me, not very well. One of the big lessons I learnt from studying Benjamin Franklin is the importance of a morning routine. Morning routines have a large impact our health, our happiness and our productivity. It turns out the success of your day rests on a well designed morning routine. How you start your day set’s it up for success or failure.
Have you ever found yourself stuck? Disconnected from your purpose and passion? Or perhaps you’re lacking inspiration and energy? I have at times found myself in the same position. Lacking energy, uninspired and without passion. I’ve found that redesigning my morning routine has helped me get unstuck, to reignite my passion, improve my creativity and increase my energy. My morning routine, whilst a work in progress, is a foundation habit that helps me do my best work.
Whilst there is no one ideal way to start the day for everyone. We’ll explore a number of ideas and practices to inspire and encourage you to think about what your morning routine. And what is should look like.
Why Your Morning Routine Matters
I know that not everyone is a morning person, I am one of them. If not, you may be asking yourself, “what makes mornings so special?”. Let me explain.
As you’ll learn, mornings matter because our willpower is strongest in the morning.
Research has shown that willpower is a perishable resource, it runs out as we use it. In the book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, psychology professor Roy Baumeister of Florida State University and New York Times journalist John Tierney write that willpower is like a muscle, it gets fatigued from overuse. As you progress through the day, making decisions, resisting temptation and controlling emotions our willpower gets used up. As our willpower gets depleted our self-control is eroded. The result is we’re more likely to make poor decisions, give in to temptation and have other self-control failures as the day progresses. They found that our supply of willpower is strongest in the mornings.
This research on willpower leads one to conclude that mornings are best suited to specific kinds of work. Mornings matter as they provide an opportunity for us to do our best work on a regular basis. This is why successful leaders take control of their mornings.
Let’s look more closely at some of the secrets to a productive morning routine.
How to Design a Productive Morning Routine
Given the important of morning, they need to be protected. Don’t fill your mornings with junk. Junk is things like email, social media, TV, meetings, news and aimless web browsing. Instead design your mornings to help you achieve your goals and aspirations.
Design your mornings as the sacred place where you do your best work.
A well designed morning routine helps achieve the following three goals:
- A well designed morning routine generates the physical and emotional energy required to keep you productive throughout the day.
- A well designed morning routine improves your focus by keeping you connected to your purpose and focused on your most important tasks.
- A well designed morning routine helps you get control of your time by structuring the day for maximum productivity.
Let’s explore some habits that you can include as part of your morning routine to help you achieve each of these goals.
Habits that Improve Your Energy
To achieve the first goal you need to include habits in your morning routine that help boost your physical and emotional energy. The following habits help generate the energy you need to keep you productive throughout the day.
Exercise for Energy
Exercise in the morning before it falls off your to-do list. Run, go to gym or lift weights. Whatever you do, get some exercise in the morning. A morning work-out boosts your energy and improves your mood. It’s also a good time to reflect on the day ahead. A great way to start the day.
Eat a Healthy Breakfast
Eating a healthy breakfast helps to prepare your body for the day ahead. It get’s your metabolism going and boosts your energy. You don’t want to interrupt working on a creative task later to find something to eat.
Habits that Sharpen Your Focus
To achieve the second goal you need to include morning habits that sharpens your focus. The following habits help connect you to your purpose and clarify the most important tasks for the day.
Reflect and Connect to Your Purpose
We live in a world of connectivity, we’re constantly checking our social media, email and voicemail, all of which leaves us little time to think. But these are amongst the worst ways to start your day. These activities leave us in a passive and reactive state of mind, where the priorities of others take centre stage.
You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning. – Billy Wilder
Successful leaders begin their mornings by taking a brief step back to consider the big picture. They take stock of their purpose and larger goals, before thinking about the tasks of the day. They use their mornings to connect with what they want from their life, career and organisation. They take time to reflect and look into the future.
The late founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs gave a graduating class at Stanford a glimpse into his morning routine.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Steve Jobs then went on to say the following.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Taking time every morning to step back to ask ourselves “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” seems like a healthy habit.
Begin your day by taking time for thinking. Reflect on your life, get connected to your purpose, vision and aspirations.
Get Clarity on Your Most Important Tasks
You have 24 hours every day, but you also have an infinite number of things you could work on. The challenge is to ensure that each day you’re working on the most important tasks.
Benjamin Franklin develop routine for how he started each morning. Between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. he took time to plan his day, asking himself, “what good shall I do today?”. This is the question Franklin used to gain clarity and prioritize his most important tasks for the day.
You and I need a similar method to prioritize and decide our most important tasks each. The method I suggest is to choose three big rocks to tackle each day. These are those important tasks, those tasks that will move your business forward. Taking time to get clarity on your three most important tasks each day will dramatically improve your productivity.
You goal should be to include tasks that are important, but not urgent, to be done in the mornings. These are tasks such as long-term planning, strategic thinking, difficult and complex decisions. Tasks that are important and challenging. Tasks that require deep thinking, discipline and internal motivation to get done. Mornings – whilst our willpower is strongest – is the time to make progress on these critical tasks.
You cannot focus your day on what’s important, if you don’t have clarity on what’s important.
Habits to Help You Get Control of Your Time
“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” — Jim Rohn
You need to include habits in your morning routine that help you gain control of your time. Habits to help you make best use of every hour of every day.
Start Your Day Early
Leaders know that time is their most precious resource. They also know that the uninterrupted, early morning hours are some of the most productive times of the day. Starting the day early helps leaders make best use of this most expensive resource.
Rising early keeps leaders one step ahead of the pack.
Why not start your day by waking up an hour earlier?
Review Your “To-Do” List and Calendar
Take a few minutes to briefly review your to-do list and calendar. This refreshes your memory as to what needs to get done and what’s planned for the day ahead. Make any adjustments and update your schedule.
Some people also briefly check their emails in the morning. However, I would recommend that you put off checking your email until at least 10 a.m. The reason is you want to start you day of in a positive and proactive way. Reading email put’s you into a reactive mindset. Instead use your mornings for strategic thinking and creative tasks. If you must check your email the best approach is to quickly glance over your messages, respond to those that require an immediate response, but be careful not to get bogged down with stuff that can wait for later.
Eat That Frog!
Get your big work done early.
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. – Mark Twain
Brian Tracy wrote a bestselling book “Eat that Frog!” based Mark Twain’s idea. Eating a live frog, first thing in the morning is about getting your biggest tasks done early. Your frog is that big, challenging task. You know, the one you procrastinate on and find intimidating. We all have them. Get in the habit of completing your toughest tasks in the mornings.
There is good reason for us to focus on tackling our toughest tasks in the morning. It’s the time of the day when our self-control is strongest. Leave your frogs for later in the day and the chances are they never get done. Once you have completed your toughest task the rest of the day is pretty easy by comparison.
So how do you use your mornings? What would a great morning look like for you?
Why not take the next few minute to write down your ideal morning routine. Then slowly begin to live it.
To wrap up, here are some suggestions to kickstart your morning routine.
- Start Small and Build Slowly Don’t fall into the trap of trying to change too many habits at once. Instead start small. Pick one new habit to establish as part of your morning routine. Do that until it becomes routine before adding another. Adding one habit at a time. Building a morning routine slowly, over time works best.
- Adjust as You Go. The best thing about having a morning routine is you can easily adjust it as you go. It provides a great platform from which you can experiment and learn what makes a day productive for you. Experiment. Add and remove habits until you find a routine that works for you.
For those of you who read this post just to find out what my morning routine looks like here it is. I am aspiring to the following morning routine:
- Wake at 5:00 a.m.
- Drink water.
- Reflect and Pray.
- Set 3 Most Important Things for the day.
- Eat breakfast.
- Exercise – run around the block (busy building up to 5 KM).
- Writing / Reading / Learning.
- Off to Work.