Actually, I have two secrets to share with you about my morning routine.
My mornings weren’t always as magical as they are now. Even as a self-described morning person, mornings can be tough even for me.
For years I was proud of not using an alarm to wake up. It was a symbol of my freedom of living and working on my own terms.
I got up whenever my body naturally wanted to get up. Sometimes I slept for 8 hours and sometimes as long as 10 hours (generally in the dead of winter when it’s dark longer).
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been sleeping a bit longer. I was averaging between 9 and 11 hours a night. It was a symptom of my depression and my unhappiness with my work. When your work makes you feel miserable it provides little motivation for getting out of bed. The comforts of a warm, cozy bed are so much more satisfying.
I recently reversed course. Now I’m overjoyed about getting out of bed. I’ve even decided to set an alarm again! (I’m using Sleep Cycle, so the alarm doesn’t go off when I’m sleeping deeply.) I’m getting up two hours earlier now and I’m very happy about it!
Why? What changed?
Secret #1: Clarity of Purpose
Since I was laid off 16 years ago I have been fascinated with alternative ways of working. It’s been an obsession of mine. I’ve conducted countless lifestyle experiments, interviewed hundreds of people and read just as many books.
My previous self-employment experiences never gave me the joy I felt when I was tinkering around with a new way of working. My calling, my purpose and my “why” were staring me in the face, but I ignored them, until last year.
I realized my path in life was to help people work on their terms. I wanted to teach people like you how to do it. After all, I have been researching and experimenting with it for years. I have a lot of knowledge to share. It was time.
In the fall I committed to closing down my remaining sales training projects to work full time on my “why”. I finally had the clarity of purpose I had been seeking from my work for so long. It gave me a burst of energy like I’ve never felt before.
It is that clarity of purpose that makes me climb out of bed with ease each day at 6am. Many days, I wake up just before my alarm goes off. I wake up as excited as a kid on Christmas morning every day (I know that sounds over the top, but it’s true!)
Nothing will transform your mornings to feel more energized than having clarity of purpose in your work.
Secret #2: Eliminate Decisions
My purpose made me very excited to get out of bed each day, but I noticed I was still experiencing some early morning “brain fog”. It was particularly evident every time I had to make a decision about the next thing I had to do to get my day doing.
I thought to myself, “Is it possible to eliminate all the choices and decisions facing me during the first hour of my day?” Sounded like a worthy lifestyle experiment, so I tried it and it worked!
First, I realized it was important to prepare as much as possible the night before, so I:
- Lay out my clothes in my home office, so I won’t disturb my wife when I get dressed in the morning.
- Pack up my breakfast of a hard boiled egg, half an avocado, orange, vitamins and a piece of lox, as well as my mid-morning snack of nuts and seeds, so I could easily grab it all in the morning on my way out.
- Shower at night, instead of the morning, so I have one less thing to do.
- Prepare my home office for my morning stretches by moving the chair against the wall, so I have plenty of room to roll out my yoga mat. During this time I also mediate and recite my daily mantra.
- Pack up my bag with my laptop and related gear.
All these shortcuts were an enormous help, but over time I was surprised by how many other decisions I could still eliminate. Here are some of the adjustments I made after the first couple of weeks:
- Put all my vitamins for the week in a small container and put it in my bag, so I didn’t have to pack them every night.
- Cooked all my hard boiled eggs for the week every Sunday.
- Cut my hair shorter than I’ve ever had it in my life, so I don’t have to do anything to it.
- Permanently leave my water bottle in my bag.
- Put 5 shirts on a separate shelf in my closet for the week, so I spend less time time thinking about what I’ll wear.
- Have a specific arrangement for my glass of water, eyeglasses and phone on my nightstand, so I don’t have to fumble around for them in the dark when I wake up.
I know that looks like some crazy obsessive-compulsive behaviors, but it makes the first hour of my day immensely more enjoyable because I don’t have to think about anything. It’s all been done for me.
It’s an automatic routine. I am able to conserve my energy and thought power for my most important work when I get to me co-working space an hour after I get up.
My Morning Routine
So here’s what my morning routine ends up looking like.
First 10 Minutes
- Shut off alarm. Put on glasses. Pick up phone and glass of water. Leave bedroom.
- Go to bathroom. Wash face. Put on face lotion with SPF. Wash glasses. Brush teeth.
- Go to office to stretch and meditate.
Stretch and Meditate for 30 Minutes
- Roll out my yoga mat. Perform a series of stretches for 20 minutes.
- Then meditate for 10 minutes and recite my daily mantra.
Leave the House
- Get dressed. Pick up bag. Leave home office.
- Get breakfast in fridge and put in bag.
- Put on coat and shoes in back hallway.
- Leave and take 15-minute walk to co-working space.
My Peak Performance Period
My peak performance period for my best work and personal productivity is between 7am and 12pm. I arrive at my co-working space around 7am.
- I eat my breakfast by 7:30am.
- I write from 7:30am to approximately 11am. I don’t look at emails, social media or anything else. I focus on my most important work: writing. I average 2,000 words per day.
- I generally schedule phone calls from 11am to 12pm. If I don’t have any, I continue to write.
- I leave the co-working space at 12pm and head to the gym, followed by lunch.
Going With the Flow
Life happens. My morning routine obviously gets disturbed by any number of curve balls life throws my way.
Sometimes my wife asks me to switch our dog walks, so I have to walk our dog in the morning. I tend to schedule doctor appointments as early as possible in the day to get them over with. I travel frequently, so my morning routine isn’t as regimented when I’m on the road.
The goal of my routine is to conserve my energy and to reduce as many decisions I know I’ll need to make. It provides me with a familiar routine for a calmer start to my day.
When unforeseen problems or demands popup, I can deal with them more effectively because I’ve taken steps to reduce common decisions in the morning. I’ll be able to get back into my groove more easily by minimizing my energy loss.
Your morning routine sets the tone and pace for the rest of your day.
The more chaotic your morning feels, the greater potential for that chaos to seep into the rest of your day. Taming that first hour of your day provides you with greater willpower to maintain a calmer flow for the remainder of your day.