Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Becoming the person, you want to be is a journey! One that is filled with excitement, joy, and fulfillment. That is not to say there will not be times of struggle and hardship. Becoming your best version takes patients, a strong will, planning, clarity, and most of all action! One thing you can do right now is to make it easier on yourself by creating an easy way to get going every morning that will also keep that momentum moving forward and in a productive way. In the book the Atomic Habits we learn that from the smallest minute actions to the biggest choices, everything is based on or is an immediate habit that we have built up over a lifetime. Whether you realize it or not, the bagel you had this morning or the car you bought that same evening was chosen and influenced by reoccurring habits. To execute this correctly you need to commit. Seriously! Pay attention, because if you just try, or give up after a few months, weeks, days, or even hours, you have no one to blame but yourself. These things take time. In fact, it takes an average of 66 days to build a habit to the point of automation. Realize you need to get on the Nike train and just do it! There will be plenty of times where you will not want to, where predeveloped habits almost take over and you must ask yourself, does this go against my commitment? You will be emotional which always makes the decision even harder to make, or tired or just plain lazy. Do not cave! Rep it out and if you do cave, restart because one failure is okay it’s part of the process, but consecutive failures are negative habits about to form. Be diligent not to repeat consecutive failures. The book Chop Wood Carry water illustrates this exact concept perfectly. Put in the work and you will get results.
How to build a morning routine and where to start. The best thing you can start with is the waking time. There is a widely known concept amongst all successful people, and that is your first hour of waking time is your golden hour. This is when you feel the most productive, the most awake, focused, and motivated. Kobe Bryant woke up at 4 am to start practicing because he knew that his competition was waking up at 5 am. He wanted a competitive edge. Starting early is key. There is something about getting shit done before the rest of the country has even had its first cup of coffee! It is motivating! I personally start at 3 am. At 3 am people have gone home after all the bars are closed and nobody is awake. It is nice to know that while everyone else is deep in sleep or just getting to sleep, I have already slept my 7 hours and am ready to go on a very hilly 6-mile run. Just the thought of 3 am is probably making you cringe and you are probably thinking who the heck wants to torture themselves like that? Well, that is the price I am willing to pay to start my day off right. To create a keystone habit that will drive me to success. If this is too early for you, I recommend at least waking up at 5 am. There are many 5 am groups on social and even a book written by Robin Sherma, called the 5 am club. You may be asking. “How do I even will my brain to turn on that early?” The trick is to make it a habit and to allow your body to change your circadian rhythm to your new routine. The way you do this is by setting an alarm at max volume or increasing in volume in another room. This will literally force you to get up and walk to the alarm, or if you have a roommate or thin walls in your apartment sprint to it. Physically waking you in the process. But it doesn’t stop there because we all know you can easily just turn it off and walk back to your comfortable bed and be in dreamland within a few minutes. You need to make it easy at this point. Following the KISS method, you place an action item next to your alarm. For example, I have my jogging shorts, socks, and shoes right there next to the alarm. The alarm is my cue to put on my running gear. After that, there’s no point of return. I am fully committed. It may be different for you but the concept is there. Use it to your advantage to make it easy by either putting your coffee there or laptop or whatever gets you focused on the task or action right in front of you.
How should you fill the newly available space-time? If you want to get the most out of your morning start with some exercise it can be light or intense but 15 or more minutes of exercise will not only fully wake you from your grogginess it also has many health benefits as you have probably already been inundated with by your doctor, gym, commercials, or exercise equipment commercials like that peloton stationary bike. We all know it’s very beneficial to do some sort of exercise every day. Why not make it easier on yourself and eat the frog first by doing it as soon as you wake. This becomes a keystone habit as well because it solidifies you staying awake, which keeps the habit chain going, you start to become healthy, it clears your mind for other tasks, and you feel good right away! While you exercise you can even listen to an audiobook or podcast that furthers your knowledge in a specified current passion, killing two birds with one stone. Of course, I only recommend anything with denser material after the habit is set because the first few times your brain will need to concentrate on doing the exercise correctly and in good form. Only once it has been committed to psychological and muscle memory can you transition your mind to learning material while you exercise.
After you have exercised, whether you shower or not you can again make it easy by placing some tea or coffee at the end location of that routine. At the very least, you should have some water to drink.
Our bodies are comprised of roughly 65% water and our brain is made up of 73%. We need to stay hydrated if we want to feel good, stay healthy, and perform at our peak levels both mental and physical. That is why I always drink at least 8 ounces of water every morning and every night before bed. Studies show that tea and coffee can also be very beneficial towards your cognitive ability and as long as you take it early enough in your day and abstain from having anymore throughout the day it will not have an effect on your sleeping pattern. Caffeine, if you were wondering acts like a damn to a river in that it blocks the neuro links that absorb the chemical melatonin which tells your brain and body that it is tired and needs sleep. By blocking these chemicals, it creates a build-up of melatonin. This build-up, once the caffeine has finally run its cycle through your body in roughly 12 to 16 hours will come crashing into your transmitters like a flood causing you to crash. Repeating this for a long period of time can have adverse effects on all areas of your life such as depression, mood, irritability, sleep quality, diet, and much more, but wait it doesn’t stop there because those symptoms then cause other negative symptoms and it becomes a vicious cycle until you crack and you explode whether that’s emotionally, physically, or even your health. For more on this, you can read the Bulletproof diet which also gives you some great products to counter that vicious cycle.
So, what do you do after you drink your water and tea or coffee? You choose your biggest frog to swallow for the day. Choose the hardest or most dreaded task that you can do at that moment in time roughly half past 5 am. Getting this task completed will leave you feeling accomplished, lighter, and will build confidence! Yes, you will become more confident. This is because you start taking pride in getting the hard things done early which spirals into better decisions later throughout the day. In addition, consider all the momentum you have after that first task is completed! You won’t want to stop the feeling, so it will trickle down into the smaller details of the rest of your day and build subtle confidence. If you keep this up for an extended period of time you will notice more energy, better mood, better productivity, better diet, and the list goes on! Who doesn’t feel good after completing a hard, or scary task! It’s a weight off your shoulders. Phew! Studies show that setting a timeline for each task also incentivizes urgency which makes you even more productive. It is recommended to work on a task for 45 minutes to an hour and then take a light and active break. This means for 45min to an hour you are only focused on one very specific task. Seriously, guys, multi-tasking is a huge and crippling myth! We perceive successful people working on multiple things at once and crushing it. But what we are not realizing are the finer details of how they are doing it. Just like the mind only focusing on one complex task at a time but in short bursts, so do the successful people. They work on tasks for a relatively short period of time let’s say an hour or two but then they take a short break, clear their mind, meditate to refocus, and start the next task! Over time they get done with each project quickly, efficiently, and with great quality. They focus adamantly on one thing at a time but also pivot to keep their attention strong because they switch up tasks. It may be hard to grasp but let me put it this way. In the car industry mechanics have to disassemble and reassemble a vast array of parts on large jobs like a transmission overhaul or Engine overhaul. How do you think they do it all and still keep all the parts straight and know exactly where they go? The answer is they compartmentalize the work. They work on one section that needs to be disassembled at a time to get to the major component that has failed. Mechanics don’t just start taking apart components at random. There is a sequence. Especially on a job, they don’t do often. They are hyper-focused on one area at a time. Once the particular part is out of the way they move on to the next area. Compartmentalize your work and give your full attention to each portion.
Taking regular breaks after a completed task helps retain momentum and allows your mind to reset in a way for the next task so that you can again give it your full focus. These breaks should include something active like walking or squats to allow for good circulation of air and blood throughout your system. Your brain consumes 50% of the oxygen that is taken into your body so regulating your breathing through mild exercise allows you to stay attentive and focused. This leads into a short meditation too, you guessed by regulating your breathing. It also helps your mind to switch to the next task.
Lastly but just as important your breakfast! Now, some people say they do not believe in breakfast and some are religious about it. However, if you think about it everyone has breakfast! The word itself breaks down into two literal translations of breaking fasting. That’s right all the restaurants that have breakfast 24/7 got it right! In addition, if you love breakfast food as much as I do you will be happy to know you’re not crazy for loving breakfast food at any hour of the day! The key point here is you are providing nutrients to your body after at least 8 hours of fasting! Keep in mind what you are putting into your body from the start because it will have an effect on how the rest of your day goes. Eating high caloric, fatty, sugary foods as the first nutrition you put in your body will negatively affect the way your body breaks down those nutrients, and the chemical reactions that happen in the brain and your muscles throughout the day. If you want to have an energetic, focused day make sure the first meal you have is healthy, energy, and focus sustaining. I include protein, amino acids, and omega fats. This consists of eggs, oats, nuts like almonds and walnuts, blueberries, and avocado.
In conclusion, a well scheduled morning routine will help you be more energetic, productive, and happier throughout the day. This is a keystone habit that will spill into other aspects of your life and really transform your life. Most of these steps can be aligned or shifted to fit your time frame and needs but are very important to starting off your day with great momentum so that it can continue throughout the day. Personally, I also include things like a gratefulness exercise, playing with my dog on one of my short breaks, meditation, and making my bed. All of these things have been proven to supplement the routine and help me get through the rest of the day feeling great and confident. So go out and start a great morning routine so that you can compound your success!