I’m not a morning person. Now, some of you are and that’s great. In fact, statistically probably more than half of you are. And there are all kinds of reasons, scientific and otherwise as noted in this Business Insider article, that we tend to identify as either “morning larks” or “night owls”.
Regardless of which camp you fall in, the benefits of starting your day right help everyone. You might have been born a morning person, or learned from a parent or mentor. Remember in the movie Jerry McGuire, he had that great mentor, Dicky Fox? I wanted to be like that guy. He had this great attitude for starting a great day. But it seemed no matter what I tried, I’ve always struggled with getting up early and jumping out of bed with a ton of energy ready to take on the day. Sorry Dicky.
So, I’ve worked over the past 5 years to become a morning person, well, kind of. I’ve progressively worked on going to bed a little earlier, getting up a little earlier and trying new ways to start the day. But I fell into a trap – one you may be familiar with or at least should be aware of. All the tips, strategies and reasons for getting up early were about mental and physical health – meditate, read, workout, hydrate, journal, etc. Except, I wasn’t doing any of those things. The only thing getting up earlier was doing for me was making my already long days even longer. I was obsessed about being first in and last out (can you relate?).
I was using “my routine” to start faster, not smarter – ironically it only led to faster burnout.
I continued my quest to find a more balanced approach. Everything I read, watched and researched all pointed to the benefits of a morning routine, but most felt unrealistic. Frankly, I wasn’t interested in getting up at 4am to start my day with a long list of activities (yes, one suggested this), I was merely looking for a consistent way to start my day better.
So, I’m going to share 4 very simple things that I’ve found to be key for whatever you decide. And actually, that’s key too – whatever you decide. Everyone is different, in a different phase of life, cycle of business or working with different circumstances so make your routine exactly that – yours. Here’s four things I found most helpful as I continue to design my morning routine.
- Make the Time – Yep, you know this one but it’s first on the list because it’s the biggest determining factor in whether you actually get started. If you don’t have it on your calendar, committed to, blocked out, whatever – it won’t happen. If you are doing that exhausting mental negotiation every night (yes, I’ve been there) on whether you can or want to get up early – it will rarely happen.
And if you have struggled with the same pitfall I did (just starting work earlier) give yourself permission to start your day working on you, not your task list. Share your plan with your family and your team. Make it OK to start smart. Make the time, but start small – even just 15 minutes, but make the time – you’ll be glad you did.
- Make it Doable – OK, now I’m talking to the hustlers out there and you know exactly where I’m going with this one. We like to go from 0 to 100 on day 1. ‘Oh, I haven’t worked out in 4 years but starting tomorrow I’m going to crush this Olympian workout I found on YouTube!’ Not a good strategy. Resist the urge to make up for lost time and over achieve early on – you will have plenty of time to break world records later.
To start, just set a simple, realistic target. Something you have the time, resources, ability and energy to do. Then build on that. Think of it like a business plan for your body. There’s something powerful, mental and physical, about achievement – even when it’s small to start.
- Make it Portable – This is where I often got stuck. The past 5 years I’ve spent a lot of time traveling so inevitably any amount of consistency I had generated would vanish during a travel week. So I found myself in this 1 week on, 2 week off kind of routine that was brutal. For me, I had to design a routine that would travel well. That meant it had to require little to no equipment or space. Something I could do in a hotel room, my bedroom or a small exercise space.
There’s a ton of great ways to do this while training your mind and body. Meditation travels well, yoga can too but hard to bring dumbbells. Push ups are easy to pack, but my Peloton bike – well, not so much. Design a “core” routine that uses all the basics and can be replicated virtually anywhere. Then when you have access to more space or equipment, you can use those days to mix it up a bit.
- Make it Fun – This sounds pretty obvious, but I skipped this for a long time and didn’t realize the impact it had on maintaining a regular routine. I always saw morning routines as something I just had to grind out and get through – finishing was the only fun part. Design your routine to be something you actually enjoy. There’s a lot of options so expand your thinking here an- be open to some creative options. Now, don’t mistake “fun” for “easy”. Easy routines don’t challenge you, fun routines challenge and engage you.
Include things in your routine that you enjoy, want to get better at or at least make you want to come back for more. This doesn’t just have to be waking up and working out. Find ways to mix in your hobbies and interests as a way to make it more enjoyable – reading, journaling, meditation/prayer, etc. Use this time to train your body and your mind. Build a comfortable cadence. Remember, this is a routine to start your day, to energize yourself and get your mind right so let’s find a way to feel good while doing it.
So you might be wondering, well this is great, but what do I put in my routine? To which I’d reply – what do you want to put in it? There’s plenty more on that to come, but for now it’s really about using these 4 keys as your litmus test for the items you pick. For now, be flexible and try anything.
It’s less important initially about what you are doing and more important to start doing it.
There’s plenty of other tips that can help such as writing out your routine, planning your schedule, finding a coach, having an accountability partner, etc. but I’ve found these four keys as the biggest driver for finding and maintaining a realistic morning routine that actually gets results.
Oh and one really important to note, I miss days and so will you. You’ll drag yourself in on other days, and that’s OK too. Some days won’t be fun, don’t worry. Just keep showing up, tweaking and trying new things. Do what feels right and what works for you. Remember, this is not a contest or a KPI, it’s not even a goal. Hopefully this becomes part of a better, smarter way to start your day. Dare I say, a lifestyle? Treat it as such and you’ll soon see the benefits.
See you in the morning!