It’s happened a million times. You ignore the alarm clock, hit the snooze button for what seems like an eternity and finally (reluctantly) roll out of bed. Without a plan, you move aimlessly from one room to the next trying your best to remember what needs addressed before leaving the house.
The fog of morning drowsiness won’t let go as you haphazardly begin your day. In this scenario, you are lucky to find any semblance of balance or motivation to assist in starting the tasks that await you.
Rather, this inconsistent, erratic and unreliable beginning has ensured nothing more than continued stress and anxiety as you
now consider those familial and professional responsibilities that will require your complete attention.
If this picture sounds familiar, you are not alone.
Every day, millions of people experience this same reality. Research continues to affirm that an irregular, messy morning leads to more of the same throughout the day. When we are careless in the planning of our first few hours, we risk sabotaging the countless hours that follow.
Now imagine the opposite.
Springing out of bed at the sound of your alarm (if you even need it), moving throughout the house with purpose, attacking each item that has been diligently and thoughtfully predetermined and proverbially “checking” all the boxes on your list. In this state, you have primed your brain for success and accomplishment. And just think: all of this success and your day hasn’t even “officially” begun.
When probed for advice, some of the most successful leaders of our time quickly reference the establishment of (and reliance on) a morning routine as a major contributing factor to their personal and professional success. The psychology is undeniable. When we navigate life with vision and goals at the forefront, we accomplish more and are simply happier as we do it.
The following is just a small sampling of the endless possibilities you can consider crafting as part of your new morning routine.
The psychological and physical benefits of meditation are well-documented.
Specifically, meditation has been linked to decreased levels of anxiety, lower blood pressure, lessening of fatigue and increased ability to focus.
I have found early morning as the optimal time to utilize meditation, as the chances of outside distraction are greatly reduced. The practice itself requires minimal resources and can be as complex or simplistic as you desire. Total time spent in a meditative state can also vary depending on your individual goals and time limitations.
For those seeking easy reference, a quick trip to your local library or bookstore will yield an abundance of material to get you started. If you prefer a more guided experience, look to local meditation centers, yoga studios or even your local YMCA and fitness centers.
Additionally, there are several digital applications (my favorite is Headspace) and YouTube videos that offer a meditative experience in both guided and unguided formats. My experience (and that of others in my family and social networks) report almost immediate positive benefit from just ten minutes of daily meditation practice.
Reading & Writing
Unfortunately, daily reading and writing quickly become an afterthought for many with busy schedules. We grow accustomed to simply staring at the books sitting on our shelves without any plan to actually read them. Similarly, and usually for the same reasons, we fail to hone and engage the creative and beneficial practice of writing.
Here again, the research connecting these two components to your morning routine is astounding. Science is now quick to affirm that daily inclusion of reading and writing (especially during the morning hours) leads to:
increased brain plasticity (the brain’s ability to change at any age)
boosting “feel good” hormones like dopamine and serotonin
reducing harmful stress hormones like cortisol, and
improving our ability to recall information.
Just like practicing meditation, the early morning hours are optimal for reading and writing without fear of interruption.
For reading, I have found success with setting a time limit or total page goal for each day. For example, your goal might be to read 15 pages during your allotted morning time. Or, if you prefer a more specified timeframe, your goal could be to read for 15 minutes. Targets for writing can be created using a parallel format.
The practice of reading and/or writing in a quiet house during the early morning hours elicits immediate feelings of accomplishment and triumph. It is almost as if our brain is thanking us for engaging in rigorous activity to prepare for the day ahead.
Physical Activity & Nutrition
Those who have come to expect morning chaos find it hard to fathom the idea of factoring scheduled exercise and meal planning into the pre-dawn hours.
This is to be expected, as exercise and healthy diet choices, regardless of timing throughout the day, are difficult to make routine. Perhaps more than any other aspect of our lives, we fear the accompanying pain and sacrifice that diet and exercise bring.
However, we must move past this initial shock and focus on the dividends down the road. Early morning exercise has been shown to enhance metabolism, aids in the development of a higher quality sleep cycle, increases mental clarity and promotes discipline and consistency in other areas of our lives.
The benefits of planning our dietary choices are also numerous. Studies show that people who have planned and reflected on their daily menu eat healthier food than those who don’t. Pre-planners also save money on food, exhibit greater control over food type and portion, experience greater self-control with food choices, and tend to lose weight quicker than those who leave their diet to chance.
As experience and understanding of diet and exercise vary greatly from person to person, it is advisable that you discuss these factors with trained professionals. The investment in sound advice at the onset of your journey will save you time down the road. Don’t overly concern yourself with fad diets or exercise routines.
In this sense, consistency in application (no matter what specific program you chose to follow) will far outweigh the residual benefit(s) of pre-packaged or commercial plans. While the first days of your new routine will most certainly prove difficult, the ensuing momentum and positive life changes will become intoxicating.
At first glance, the creation of a morning routine seems like monumental task. Considering most have gone years (if not decades) creating disorganized morning clutter, small steps can prove radically beneficial. As such, I encourage you to make an honest attempt to add one scheduled morning activity every few weeks, or even every month. Gradually, add time to your activities until you are comfortable with the new routine you have created. Success can be measured in a multitude of ways including positive changes in overall health, enhanced energy levels, greater feelings of happiness and contentment, and increases in productivity. Remember, you are always in control and, most certainly, have the ability to change your routines and, ultimately, raise your standards.
I love hearing positive news and feedback! Please share your stories of success after implementing the ideas discussed in this post.