Time to Read (using avg wpm): 13 mins
*Press play for a read along*
The alarm goes off.
-option 1: I get up out of bed, throw clothes on, grab something to eat, put my backpack on and head up towards the bus stop. Time taken: 10 minutes.
-option 2: I hit snooze, wake up 5 minutes later and run through it all, usually either forgetting a step or messing up two or three. Time taken: 5 minutes.
That was my morning routine back when I went to school. Starting the day with high anxiety, rushing through to all the next things to do and not spending one moment to look at my life, either just for that day, or as a whole.
I couldn’t imagine going back to those days, I’m too addicted to having a calm and result designed morning routine. I need at least an hour to get all my morning stuff going or I just can’t function.
Morning routines are the way to start your day, both priming you for a healthy day and re-aligning you to your chosen direction.
- The Arguments Against
- The Routine Elements
- Final Words
The Arguments Against
Time Constraint- You’re busy. You couldn’t add anything else to your day because it’s already too full. If this doesn’t apply to you then don’t worry, go on to the next section — but if this does…
I’d like to come at this from two different directions and I don’t intend to impose this on you, this is just an opinion.
- There is a common theme peppered throughout books like The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Essentialism, by Greg Mckeown, and that is the principle of prioritizing. More specifically, saying no to things. I think that I can argue that a morning routine is one of if not the most important and essential thing that you can do to further yourself in life and if you are too busy, then it should take time away from something else rather than be sacrificed to oblivion by something less important.
- There is a saying in meditation, “If you’re too busy to meditate for 20 minutes, then you need two hours.” I interpret it as being about having a sense of perspective and seeing the wisdom in inner peace and silence as a balance for busy-ness and anxiety. The same thing would go for a morning routine because it has a focus in yourself, your development and your future, so it is founded in a healthy perspective and positive self-focus. So if you can’t put an hour towards focusing on yourself, then you may need a whole day.
Another argument against a morning routine goes like this:
Zombie Mode- I’ve noted this before in my 3 Things You Can Use review of The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod, but I feel like when people hear the word “routine,” they picture some guy doing the same boring things every day, going through the motions — expressionless and zombified.
As I said in that 3 Things review, exerpt:
“People are afraid of the idea of a routine. The monotony and the scenes of dead-eyed zombies going through the motions — but a daily routine isn’t just doing the same chores consecutively. It’s much bigger than that. It’s the time you are willing to spend every day on yourself. To push you and your physical and emotional and intellectual bounds and constraints out further. It’s about sustaining your visions and goals and improving yourself and preparing yourself for better opportunities. It’s a daily investment in your future.”
So right there is enough of an argument for that, but I will get into more as we go further and further into the innards and branches of a morning routine.
There are two ways to start and hold on to a morning routine — because it’s not easy. Just consider a retainer here, as an analogy.
If you have been “diagnosed” by an orthodontist before then you know what a retainer is. You wear it every night to help keep your teeth straight and keep them from moving back to where they were. The funny thing is, you can wear your retainer for 6 months, every day, but if you miss a week, your teeth slowly move back towards their crooked, shark-mouth, birth spots and it hurts to put your retainer back on.
The same thing goes for a routine — if you fall off the wagon, it gets harder to get back on. Consistency is essential and that is a hard feat to master. That is why there are just two ways to make sure that you don’t fall off the wagon by being taken in the moment by lethargy and thinking that your routine is not worth the effort.
1. The Catalyst
In chemistry, when you want to get a certain solution, you mix all your chemicals up and have them all sitting in your cauldron. When you want them to start mixing and reacting and heading towards your desired solution, you add a catalyst. A catalyst gets it all going and starts the state change.
Same thing with a routine. A morning routine is a big change — a change of state is required. A catalyst in life is something that happens to you or in your environment that changes your perspective completely. It’s called a catalyst if it facilitates the change that you make in your life, just like a catalyst in chemistry.
For example, if your uncle is told that he has lung cancer and you see that and you stop smoking, then your uncle’s cancer was the catalyst that made you change your behavior.
With a morning routine, that catalyst might be you going to a funeral of someone you knew well and realizing that they hadn’t done anything of importance in life and you don’t want to live that way. Or maybe you go to see your grandpa on his deathbed and he says that he has lots of regrets because he didn’t live his life as best as he could and so you decide to make the change to live better after that.
Catalysts usually happen TO you, but you can start the reaction yourself. Sometimes not on the same scale but as long as you start the change, with a plan for your end state, the in-between parts are easier.
There’s also another way, if waiting on catalysts isn’t your style:
Instead of swallowing one big pill, swallow 10 smaller pills.
The essence of the incremental strategy is just what you would think. Slowly add elements to your routine to make it easier to adjust to and to keep you from falling too far if you do falter.
One pitfall of the catalyst model is that when you make the change you do it all at once. — Say you include five elements in your morning routine. If you fall off of your routine because the catalyst wasn’t strong enough, then you lose all five elements. Theoretically, with the incremental model, if you falter you only lose one element at a time.
Ex. You have three elements already, that you’ve added over the course of three months. Month four you add another element but after a week you can’t keep it going and you quit it. You’ve already got a grip on the other three elements because you’ve incrementally adjusted, so, like I said, you theoretically would only lose the one element until you try it again later.
The best time lengths between adding elements is different for different people and some like to start with more than just one element. I can suggest starting with one or two elements and adding one element each month, until you are at your preferred element amount. But were about to get into all that after the intermission.
It’s time to take Luke on a Walk.
I know that he thinks I can’t talk.
But while we’re on our way,
I hear what he say.
If you heard it, it’d put you in shock.
Morning Walk, a Limerick by Doug
End of Intermission.
The Routine Elements
Just a little pre-element talk here, you are limited to which elements you can choose for your morning routine because of time. If you picked 64, 15 minute elements then you would get your eight hours of sleep, wake up and do your 16 hour morning routine and go back to bed and when you woke up you would start your routine again. That’s your whole day literally used up by your morning routine.
So there’s a balance that you have to find so you don’t spend too much of your day on your routine – it seems like you would think, duh, I wouldn’t spend that much time on a daily routine… but once you see all the cool daily self-improvement options you may get where I’m coming from.So each element is typically 15 minutes, 10 minutes for the element and five minutes for contingency and transition and assuming you have a 16 hour day, with eight hours to sleep I wouldn’t think that you would want to spend any more than 2 hours of your day for your daily routine.
So assuming that, with each element being 15 minutes, you wouldn’t want to have any more than eight elements and I would recommend to have between four and six, for the sort of sweet spot.
And just to mention here, you don’t always have to have it be so perfectly blocked out at 15 minutes per element. I take care of my baby Maddi throughout my morning routine so between diapers, bottles and feedings, my elements are almost always strewn about the place and never hit 15 minutes per element.
But anyway, what are the elements?
Just to name a few:
- Exercise – Do some early morning exercise for some stress reduction, an early boost in your metabolism, and some cardiovascular or strength training.
- Journaling – Write about your day yesterday or what you plan to do today. Include feelings and whatever notions you can because when you review your journal later you will appreciate the ability to look back into your past.
- Scheduling/Planning Day – Plan out your day to mitigate decision fatigue later on. Also good for priming your subconscious to what is in store for you later on.
- A Mindfulness Practice – Be mindful. There are many different ways to accomplish this, I prefer pranayama meditation. I have a post on meditation which you can find here if you would like to learn more.
- Priming – The art of easing yourself into an action or set of actions through a stimulus. This can vary greatly and is really up to you how you use it. A few examples would be using an author focused vision board that you look at to prime yourself to write, or looking at a medal you would like to win in a race every day before you go for a run.
- A Gratitude Practice – gratitude; one of the best things you can do for your psychology and your health. I’ve written a post on gratitude that you can find here if you are thinking of including this in your morning routine.
- Affirmations – From Napoleon Hill to Tony Robbins, affirmations are the way to go. Repeat your mantra or mission to yourself with a passion and desire every day in the mirror to maintain your convictions and to prime yourself for personal victory. I talk more about affirmations in my 3 Things Review of Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill.
- Reading – Read! Self-development books, non-fiction, fiction, whatever you appreciate the most in the morning. Reading is a great way to relax while learning or expanding your mind (or both).
Get creative too, I’ve listed all of the options that I’ve heard of but that list is far from a complete list of all of the self-development/improvement options to potentially include in your routine.
Something that I have included in my routine that is sort of out of left field is Tetris. I used to play a lot of Tetris growing up. Recently I’ve been introduced to the concept of being “in the zone.” If you are in the zone you are in a state of high performing presence. I’m in the zone more often when I’m playing Tetris than anything else, I believe, so I’ve included it in my routine as a way to sort of practice my in the zone state and maybe be able to develop the ability to be in the zone at will.
I also take a shower during my routine, right after I exercise, but I include it as part of my routine because of the “cold plunge.” There is research on how submerging into cold cold water is good for you, helping your mitochondria, it’s good for after a workout, and more. I don’t remember as much of the research as I should but I do a cold plunge substitute by showering in the cold water for the first 10-15 seconds of my shower.
Whatever you want to do, routinely, you can do. Hear a bit of research on clapping for stress relief? Add it!
Drink a whole glass of water like Hal Elrod recommends in The Miracle Morning. Walk your dog and contemplate your life and direction.
Don’t be limited, your morning routine is about you and it is for you, so you can pick whatever it is that you want to do that makes you feel better and is an investment in yourself.
I figured I’d include my routine as an example here.
I start my day with vitamins, a glass of water and coffee. Then I play online Tetris at tetrisfriends.com until I win a match. Then I turn on some music and do my jump-roping for 10-15 minutes. After that I’ll take my shower, with my cold plunge substitute. Then I like to do some planning, so I’ll plan out my day and go over some of my goals. Most of my planning and goals are for Average Optimized because that’s my main focus after Madeline.
After I’ve primed my subconscious with Average Optimized-ness I like to sit and meditate for 10 minutes – sometimes more. Then I’m all done and I start doing whatever I’ve got scheduled. The amount of time it takes varies because I’ve usually got different Maddi activities interspersed throughout like feeding and changing diapers, like I said, but it generally takes me between an hour and an hour and a half to finish my routine.
A morning routine.
Though it is pretty amazing big picture, you don’t always feel like doing it in the moment.
It can be hard sometimes to stay on track and stay focused. A routine never gets to the point where no effort is required. It just eventually gets easier and easier after your break through into habit territory.
It’s like that dialog in Holes, by Louis Sachar, “The first hole is the hardest … The second hole was the hardest … the third hole was the hardest. So was the fourth hole. And the fifth …”
Eventually the callouses build up and it gets easier.
If you have to cut back in order not to quit completely then do it. Even just one element is better than nothing. Not to say that you will falter.
Just know that you are doing this for you, and having a daily morning routine devoted to yourself is one the most focused and healthy things toward supporting your optimum life.
I hope this helps you on your way to that life!
Thank you for reading!
Share this post if you think your friends would benefit from a morning routine!
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