High performance people stick to a productive morning routine so they can start their day feeling motivated, energised and empowered. Here’s how to create one of your own.
“Individuals need life structure. A life lacking in comprehensible structure is an aimless wreck. The absence of structure breeds breakdown.” – Alvin Toffler
The second law of thermodynamics states that “the entropy of any isolated system always increases”. Basically, this means anything left on its own will slowly fall apart.
Everything needs maintenance. My back deck will start to decay if I don’t oil it to preserve its condition. Software needs to be upgraded to avoid it from unravelling. In the same way, we all need to continually upgrade our lives. When we do so, we can continue to thrive within the current rate of change in today’s modern world.
Humans also thrive on routine. Having a daily or weekly schedule gives us a sense of accomplishment and benefits our wellbeing.
Many people give the best part of their day to scrolling through their social media feed. When you get up in the morning, you want to fill your cup with enriching activities to help prepare you to meet the challenges coming your way.
One of the reasons we overreact to small irritations is because we have failed to make provision for the day. Many people think greatness will just come to them; it will just turn up at their door like a parcel from Amazon. But the truth is we don’t know what obstacles we are going to face tomorrow, next year, or in five years. We have to prepare ourselves for greatness so we can meet the challenge. To really operate at our best, we need to stop coasting through life and construct a framework that enables us to do so.
With this in mind, take a look at ten ideas to create a morning routine that sets you up to win the day.
1. Set your alarm for an early rise
To live a life of meaning and impact we need to organise our life in a way that leads to flourishing.
Despite the situation with quarantine and isolation, now is not the time to allow your day to morph into wearing pyjamas still at 11am, watching Netflix on the couch and eating cereal till noon.
Even if you don’t have a lot to do, try to get moving early. Studies have indicated that people who rise early tend to be more proactive and conscientious. Getting up early also means you can spend the first part of the day being productive without interruptions.
2. Drink water
Each morning, I reach for water, not a cup of coffee. When you wake, your body needs to rehydrate. Drinking water helps fight off infections, delivers nutrients to cells, invigorates your skin, flushes toxins and fires up your metabolism to name a few of the positive attributes.
Starting the day with exercises gives you energy, focus and fills your day with hope.
When you start exercising, the goal is to create a habit before you improve it. Once you get used to doing a couple of minutes of exercise, aim for 5, 10 and then 20 minutes.
Exercise doesn’t have to be overly strenuous. Another option is to begin the day with a brisk walk around the block. The fresh air will help shake off the cobwebs and leave you buzzing.
Don’t forget some light stretching at the end of your walk. You might want to enrol in an online yoga class or two throughout the week so you can focus on this.
4. Start with your strength
My number one-character strength is ‘love of learning’ so as part of my morning routine, I read a 15-minute book summary.
Operating in your strength early in the morning gets your day off on the right foot. Visit www.viacharacter.org for a free online survey to discover your top five character strengths and activate your morning with one of them.
Don’t be intimidated by journaling! You’re not required to write pages and pages about your feelings and ideas on life.
Updating your journal in the morning can be as simple as writing down your mantra for the day or even jotting down one word you want to focus on.
Every day, I try to answer the question ‘What would make today great?’. I have a diary I use to jot down my hopeful intentions for the day but you could also use something like an apple note.
6. Begin with a spiritual practise
Don’t get caught up on the word ‘spiritual’. You can call it your inner game if you want.
But we all need to up the ante on our spiritual life. Early in the morning focus, on developing a spiritual practise like, mediation, prayer, cultivating awe, focusing on a mantra or listening to high quality uplifting music.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
7. Listen to a podcast or a TED talk
Successful people regularly listen to podcasts as a way to broaden their perspective, get fresh ideas and be inspired.
Investigate the broadcasts which interest you most. Alternatively, each day you could randomly select a 12-minute TED talk to exercise your mind early in the morning.
Not everything is going to be brilliant and mind altering but you are trying to build a habit and small inputs can lead to massive increases in your bank of wisdom over time.
8. Eat a nutritious breakfast
For a productive morning routine, this should be a given.
We need to fuel our day. We wouldn’t expect a car to run proficiently if we didn’t fill it with fuel. How are you expected to run towards your goals and visions if you haven’t filled your body’s ‘tank’?
Make sure you include some protein, whole grains, berries/fruit and calcium. If you’re sluggish in the mornings, prepare this meal in advance.
I’ve seen people spend twenty minutes trying to decide what they want for breakfast! If every morning is spent paralysed by indecision, it’s no wonder your decision-making muscle is exhausted by 8am.
9. Stay unplugged
Now here’s the real challenge!
For a productive morning routine, try to spend the first hour of your day without looking at social media or news headlines.
One of the reasons many people check social media as soon as they wake is because a public social media account is like having your front door open all night. You have essentially given people permission to walk into your bedroom and graffiti on your bedroom wall. This obviously makes us feel vulnerable and unsafe because at any moment something bad could happen which requires our full attention.
As well as avoiding checking your phone first thing, unfollow and unfriend from toxic relationships or accounts and simply start again. Social media should be viewed as an addition to the real friendships you have created, not as a replacement.
If something is really urgent in the morning, someone will call you. There’s nothing else that can’t wait an hour after you get out of bed.
10. Finish strong
If you have a shower in the morning, try making the last 10 seconds cold water only. The reasoning behind this is to train your body every day to do something difficult.
The inner strength you build will help when it comes to handling day to day struggles. It will put more fight in you. Not only does having a 10 second cold blast increase your willpower, it also aids with alertness and improves your skin. It might also wake you up enough to skip your coffee!
A productive morning routine is essential during COVID-19 and afterwards. If you just let life happen, you will naturally gravitate to the lowest level of existence. To truly rise above your current situation, you are going to have to make some good choices and take some affirmative action. Start your mornings in a positive way and even if you end up on the couch watching Netflix by 4pm, you will have at least achieved something with your day that you can feel good about tomorrow.