There are two types of people in the world: those who wake up ready to take on the world, and the rest of us who would rather take on our alarm clocks. Do you wake up feeling energetic and excited about the day ahead, or do you wish you could just go back to sleep for the rest of the day? Mornings are difficult for many people, but handling them effectively can be crucial to getting your day started right. Good morning routines can create a bedrock of stability in your life, which is vital no matter who you are or what you are up against.
Some days I wake up tired and depressed. Some days end and I feel like I didn’t accomplish what I hoped to do. Some days end up being great, and some of them leave me feeling stuck, but either way, I always end the day feeling content, knowing that I followed my morning routine
When I started my first business, I would start my day with a sugary bowl of cereal, an hour of tv watching, and then it was off to work until I fell into bed (with some fast food for lunch and dinner thrown in). I would repeat this routine every day.
Unsurprisingly, I started to wake up tired, lacking the energy or will to work as hard as I wanted. Finding that I had become a workaholic and a victim of chronic burnout I was only able to will myself to work because I’d have no income otherwise.
Neglecting my mind, body and soul was having a long-term negative effect on my business and life as a whole. Since then I’ve come to understand the importance of setting a proper routine that prioritizes my own well-being over the short-term goals of the business.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the why and how of building a successful routine that will help you set the foundations to live a longer, happier and more successful life.
What is your Why?
One of the most important questions to consider when it comes to waking up is, “why do you wake up?” What is your reason, your underlying motivation to do everything you plan on doing for the day? Is it to put food on the table for your wife and kids, is it the future you hope to create for yourself or others?
Knowing the answer to this vital question in many ways can serve as that “higher power” that strengthens your resolve to wake up every day and face new challenges. Everyone has morning routine—certain things that you do every morning. Knowing why you do what you do can provide the motivation to transform a random collection of practices into a true routine that will set you up to succeed at what you really want.
In Simon Sinek's book, “Find Your Why" he explores the importance of being able to define the greatest motivating factor behind everything you believe in.
Watch his TED talk to get an idea on the basics. My why is “To empower innovation, technology and new ways of thinking, with the intent to have a positive and long-lasting effect on humanity.”
“Fulfillment is a right and not a privilege. Every single one of us is entitled to feel fulfilled by the work we do, to wake up feeling inspired to go to work, to feel safe when we’re there and to return home with a sense that we contributed to something larger than ourselves. Fulfillment is not a lottery. It is not a feeling reserved for a lucky few who get to say, “I love what I do.” For those who hold a leadership position, creating an environment in which the people in your charge feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves is your responsibility as a leader.” ― Simon Sinek
While no morning will ever be perfect, some days you just won’t be able to get as much sleep, or you’ll have anxiety about a presentation the night before, knowing what your WHY is will serve as that extra nudge to not hit the snooze button and start the day with a positive intention.
Becoming the best version of YOU
Admittedly not everybody is a morning person—in fact, I've accomplished some of my greatest work at night—but what the morning affords is the ability to do the little things every day that contribute to us being the best version of ourselves.
For example, if your goal is to exercise, it's much more likely that something will come up later in the day which will disrupt your goal of losing those last 15 pounds. By choosing to work-out first thing in the morning, you are choosing to prioritize your health over your career or business.
"Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day." —Jim Rohn
We’ll always have more things on our todo-list than we’ll seemingly ever have time for, but the truth is—if it’s important enough to you, you’ll make the time for it one way or another. In fact, many of the world’s most successful people have such chaotic and busy schedules that they choose to wake up early because that’s the time they feel most productive.
- Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45 am every morning to get a head start on email.
- Benjamin Franklin woke-up at 5 am to start his morning routine
- Richard Branson gets going at 5:45 am to exercise and have an early breakfast.
- Warren Buffett wakes up at 6:45 am and starts his day by reading the newspaper.
- Elon Musk rises at 7 am and begins his day by tackling critical emails, and then gets his kids off to school, showers, and heads to the office.
- Disney CEO Robert Iger wakes up at 4:30 am every morning to exercise, read the paper, do email and watch TV.
Just like yourself, every HSP (Highly Successful Person) wakes up at a different time and has a different routine. What’s important is that you do enough experimentation with your routine to find what works for you. Maybe that means you’re not an early bird, and that’s okay; as long as you’re setting a strong foundation at the start of each day.
“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is important to not just blindly follow habit, but to distinguish between positive and negative ones. For example, author Ryan Holiday found that he was more productive by accomplishing at least one task before opening up his inbox. Shane Parrish, Founder of the Farnam Street blog decided to stop checking his email in the morning because he didn’t like how it let others dictate how he’d spend his day.
I too was drawn to checking my iPhone first thing after waking up. Eventually, this email-checking habit spawned other ones, like scrolling endlessly on Facebook or Instagram and realizing I hadn’t left my bed 30 minutes after I woke up. Instead of mindlessly letting this habit continue, I purposely extended the Do Not Disturb mode on my iPhone till 9:00 AM. I found that simply by having the lock screen appear empty I was able to still use my phone to open up Spotify or Audible for my morning exercise routine without feeling like I’d get easily distracted by anything else.
No matter when you wake up, or how productive or distracted you find yourself in the morning, what’s important is that your daily routines, habits, and mindset are in-line with your core values. This means you should feel good about the things you do every day, and if you find yourself being angry at yourself or others more often than not, then you might consider experimenting with different ways to improve your situation.
The Perfect Morning Routine
There are many things that stand in the way of our goals, but some hurdles are not as big as others. An easy one to overcome is aimlessness. It can often be conquered by merely writing down your intentions and how you plan to accomplish them.
A 2008 study performed at Dominican University in California showed that those who took the time to simply write out their goals were significantly more likely to accomplish them than those who didn't.
The same concept can be easily applied to an approach to creating new and positive habits. By taking a few minutes to write down what a perfect morning routine would look like, you’re increasing your chances of successfully performing them on a more regular basis.
Here's what my Morning Routine looks like:
- 7:30 am - Wake up and ask Alexa to give me the news
- 7:45 am - Prepare for workout
- 8:00 am - Leave for a workout
- 9:00am - Come back
- 9:15 am - Take shower
- 9:50 am - Write in Gratitude Journal
- 10:00 am - Meditate
- 10:20 am - Read for 30 minutes or until 11 am
- 11:00 am - 1 Pomodoro Session of Course Learning (Coursera, Lynda, Udemy etc..)
- 11:30 am - 1 Pomodoro Writing Session
- 12 pm - Cup of Matcha Green Tea, Check Slack and Emails.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve been granted a lot of flexibility in what my personal routine looks like, but what’s in my routine doesn’t matter so much as if you know what your morning routine looks like.
Perhaps you wake-up, take a shower, have a coffee and get in the car to go to work. You might think this is all of your routine, but in reality, there is much more to it. You also look at your phone, put on some clothes and brush your teeth as well. Writing down your routine not only gives you a greater level of awareness, but also gives you the opportunity to optimize your routine in ways you might not of thought before. Maybe you try to read a page in a book before checking your phone first, or you do a quick bathroom cleanup while the shower is getting warm.
While I rarely have a day that looks as perfect as what I listed above, knowing what a perfect morning routine looks gives me the necessary insight and direction to stay on track.
Exercise: Set the Tone
“Loving or hating the life you are living is solely all in your repeated self-talk.” ― Edmond Mbiaka
We have all been told the benefits of exercise: warding off old age, defense against physical diseases and, improved mental decline.
While the physical benefits of exercise are obvious to many, rarely do we think of the mental and psychological benefits which are equally if not more important. If you're able to get out of bed, put on your workout clothes and go workout then you are saying to yourself that you can do anything. Exercise is often one of the hardest habits for people to adapt and by tackling it as one of the first things you do when you wake up, you’ll be more likely to have a more successful day where you find yourself happier and more content while being more productive and focused.
For many years I never really exercised much beyond the occasional bike ride. One summer, the desire to look and feel better physically drove me to commit to going to the gym every day in the morning just to burn 250 calories. Without even changing any of my eating habits, I found a few pounds dropped off by the end of the summer. That is when I first realized that exercise really could work, and a few years later found myself running 4-miles a day, 6 days a week.
Getting started with any new routine can feel daunting at first, but a way of combating this overwhelm is by starting small. Piers Steele, author of the book The Procrastination Equation uses the term “Success Spiral” to describe a way of creating habits by creating a series of on-going, yet achievable challenges. By starting with small challenges, you’ll slowly be able to build up your self-esteem which is vital to your continued efforts to accomplish your ultimate goal.
If you’re trying to get yourself to exercise, such a success spiral might look like this:
- Sleep in gym clothing or do 10 Pushups upon wakeup.
- Go to the gym just to do a 10-minute walk on the treadmill
- Do a light jog for 15-minutes
- Do a 2-mile jog/walk
- Do a 2-3 mile run
- Participate in a 5k run!
With each step, you’re only pushing yourself a little bit further than where you were before and every-day you perform a challenge you’ll be increasing the chances you’ll do the same if not a little bit more the next day.
Building new habits isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but by starting small and working your way up the ladder, you’ll be maximizing your chances of achieving your long-term goal, whatever that may be.
Meditation: Focus Your Mind
Once dismissed as a hippy fad, meditation has reemerged as one of the best ways to reduce stress, control anxiety, promote a greater sense of well-being, increase focus and much more.
Tim Ferris details in his book Tribe of Mentors the results of an eleven question survey he sent to 140 people at the top of their fields. He discovered that the vast majority of the respondents practiced some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice.
While meditation takes many shapes and forms, the easiest way to get started is by using a Meditation app like Calm or Headspace. I’m especially a fan of Headspace for the fun animations they created to explain meditation at a fundamental level.
Give yourself “me” time before jumping into your work
Up to this point, we've only discussed various ways to contribute to your overall level of productivity throughout the day, but it's equally important to create “me" time for yourself so that you can continue to look forward to each day as it arrives. Up till now, we’ve focused on various ways of increasing your productivity in the upcoming work day, but it is equally important to set aside “me” time where you focus on things that are important to you. This will help you look forward to each new day as it arrives.
This could be something small, like making an excellent cup of morning coffee or taking time to tell your children you love them before you leave for work. Most likely, you are doing these things already, so why do they need to be part of a formal morning routine? By “formalizing” it, it helps you remember that it is important to you so you can appreciate it even more—it is something special, and not just a given of every day. We often only find out how much we miss something once it’s gone, which makes it incredibly important to count your blessings and remain grateful for them no matter how small.
While it may sound petty, I greatly look forward to saying “Alexa, give me the news” and receiving in return a barrage of various news updates from Tech news Daily, NPR, HBR Business Tip of the Day, and more. It’s a small thing, but something I've come to appreciate only by having it be absent in the event of travel, or when I realize later I absentmindedly forgot to ask for the news.
Furthermore, I practice a daily gratitude exercise with the help of a gratitude journal. For each day I write down the three things I’m grateful for, three things that would make today a good day and a positive affirmation about myself. It’s been demonstrated in countless studies that simply writing down what you’re grateful for can have a profound impact on your mental health and well-being.
For a while, I found myself in a habit of waking up and opening up the YouTube app on my iPad. This is akin to opening up Facebook or any number of dopamine-rushing apps where I’d find myself delaying the act of getting out of bed by another 15-30 minutes. Luckily, all habits are malleable and after a two week trip that forced me to change my routine, I was able to replace that habit with news from my Alexa instead. This gives me a little bit of dopamine in not knowing what’s going to be on the news for the day while still allowing me to get started on the day.
Knowing what part of your morning routine is helping or hurting can help to give you the resolve to have more control over how you spend your day. Just as if you find yourself in a rush to get to work one day, it’s easy to find yourself feeling flustered for the entirety of the day, but taking time to carve out those small “me” activities can slow things down and provide a certain sense of calm for the day ahead.
The night before is just as important
Setting your morning routine up for success starts the night before
Having a solid morning routine isn’t just about what happens in the morning, it actually starts the night before. By carving out a bed time or evening routine, you’ll be more prepared to successfully handle the day that follows.
Of all the activities you can do in an evening routine, by far the most important is to ensure you have a good night's rest. We’re all familiar with the fatigue and tiredness experienced after too little or poor quality sleep, but did you know that such a low-quality sleep can have a noticeable level of cognitive impairment for up to 48 hours after poor sleep?
An overlooked but important way to improve a night’s sleep is to limit the number of bright lights that hit your eyes at night. This includes lights of all kinds, including from the TV and phone This problem has been touted for years but it’s not immediately intuitive. We all know not to touch a hot stove because the pain receptors in our fingers are instant, yet plenty of people are able to fall asleep in moments after viewing their laptop or phone.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by our body and the use of blue-light emitting devices can delay the onset of melatonin production by up to 3 hours, reduce peak melatonin levels by up to 50%, which can lead to reduced REM sleep, the most important type that allows us to feel fully rested in the morning.
Let’s explore some strategies on how to mitigate light’s effect on our sleep:
Strategy #1: Limit Your Screen Time at Night
One way to limit blue-light is by limiting the amount of time you spend using electronic devices in the first place. One way to do that would be to try blocking your access to certain websites or apps to restrict the amount you use your device after work hours.
Best-selling author and entrepreneur Nir Eyal installed a special router that cuts off his internet connection around 10 pm each night which ensures he’s in bed by 11 pm. For many, including myself this is on the rather more extreme end of the scale; fortunately there exist a cornucopia of other options.
One of my favorite is the tool, Freedom.to which works on any PC, Mac, IOS and Android phones. It can be set up on a schedule to block access to certain websites, software or apps on any or all of your devices.
Note: Freedom does cost about $30/year but I was able to get a lifetime account for only $60 after signing up for a trial.
Some other options include free chrome extensions like StayFocused and one I find to be hilariously effective, Go Fucking Work. Alternatively, SelfControl is free for Mac and Cold Turkey and Focus Booster both have a free plan for Windows.
Strategy #2: Limit your Exposure to Blue-light
It’s not just computer lights we need to be worried about. Any form of light can have negative impacts on your sleep, even the light from your refrigerator or alarm clock. Even with the advent of programs like Flux or Night Shift modes that come pre-installed on computers, blue light isn’t entirely eliminated from entering our eyes and affecting our sleep.
One way of getting around this is by wearing blue-light blocking glasses at night.
Another great fix is swapping out your light bulbs with some WI-FI connected ones from Philips Hue or LIFX. These allow you to set your lights to work on a schedule. Naturally, I have my lights turn blue around 7 pm and then set up an integration with Alexa that allows me to say “Alexa, turn on sleep mode” and subsequently have all my lights turn a dim red which kicks off my evening routine.
I’ve outlined a few other key factors or considerations in bullet-point below:
- Auto Dim Screens - Making sure your TV or device has auto-dimming enabled so the brightness is lowered at night-time.
- Add Light Around the Screen - To reduce eye strain even further, setup Bias lighting which effectively lights the area behind the screen so your eyes don’t fatigue so easily. This can help to reduce headaches and eye strain enormously. I use what’s called the LightPak to light-up the area behind my screen but something as simple as this $13 LED strip can work just as well.
- Make the Web Dark - Install the Dark Reader Extension. This allows you to invert any website to a dark background with white text. I set up a hotkey (Ctrl + shift + a) which will toggle the current website between light and dark. It has truly been a godsend as I’ve noticed just how much better my eyes feel after switching a website to a dark mode. At first, you might not like it, but I’ve found over time I now have entire sites like Facebook and Google in perpetual dark mode (I’m sure my eyes will thank me 30 years from now).
- Privacy Screen - While most sleep advice will always say not to have a screen in bed, I do indeed sometimes like to fall asleep to an interesting documentary that is just boring enough to still be able to fall asleep to like Myths & Monsters or Blue Ocean. One of the things I did was to install a privacy screen while angling the screen away from my eyes, which I’ve found to be the best way of effectively watching tv while trying to sleep. This solves the major problem of falling asleep to the TV, which is getting woken up by the bright lights or sounds from the TV itself. Last but not least, ensure that whatever you’re watching has an auto-off timer, or that the YouTube or Netflix apps have autoplay disabled.
Apart from limiting screen exposure, another important consideration is how you go to bed. Much like any morning routine, following a certain routine for bedtime can help prepare you for a restful nights sleep.
Here’s my ideal Evening Routine:
- “Alexa, turn on Night Mode” (Turns off smart devices and changes all my Philips Hue bulbs to Red)
- Turn on my Breville Tea Maker(My current favorites for night-time tea include Sleepytime and Yogi Bedtime)
- Put on Pajamas
- Turn on Aromatherapy Diffuser
- Turn on Heated Blanketand Chilipad to 86’
- Brush Teeth & Clean Face
- Put Eye Compress in the Microwave (great for tired/dry eyes)
- Open Habitica App and update the daily habits I performed that day.
- “Alexa, turn on Sleep Mode” (Turns all the lights off and turns on Ocean sounds with Sonos speakers)
- Have a 15-minute session in my Massage Chair
- Change Chilipad Temperature back down to 62’ for the rest of the night
Depending on your perspective, my evening routine might look incredibly interesting, crazy, or a little bit of both. I recognize the importance of the things we do every day, and I like to think that this routine helps me to alleviate stress and set me up to have a better day tomorrow.
Furthermore, having a routine can helps quiet my mind and ready it for bed. The use of lights, sounds, and smells can trigger memories and experiences that can set the mood, much in the way that candles and rose-petals can set the mood for a romantic evening. 😘
The Importance of Sleep Cannot be Stressed Enough
“Sleep is the greatest legal performance-enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting.” That according to sleep expert and Neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker. Less than 6 hours of sleep shortens the time it takes to become physically exhausted during exercise by as much as 30%. Having less than 7 hours of sleep can show measurable impairments in the brain, particularly with creativity and memory.
If you find yourself waking up groggy, then you are experiencing what is called sleep inertia. This is the interruption of sleep which is likely a direct result of errors in your sleep hygiene. Studies have shown that sleep inertia, which can last from a few minutes to up to a few hours, depending on the person and how deep of a sleep they were in, can include more disorientation and slow decision making than a whole day of not sleeping.
Most types of sleep inertia are caused by going to bed too early and waking up during a time when the body still wants to sleep. One of the main causes of this is consumption of sleeping pills, alcohol and other drugs which can cause one to become prematurely sleepy.
Apart from going to bed too early, our society has experienced an epidemic problem of waking up too early, brought to you by…the alarm clock. While needed by many, it has resulted in unforgivable levels of damage to memory, creativity, mood, relationships, and overall well-being.
Disturbing our natural sleep cycle with an alarm clock is one problem, but hitting the snooze button is a far greater one. Despite the alarm clock serving a vital function, as AsapScience explains in the video below, hitting snooze can often leave you feeling more tired than if you had just gotten out of bed to begin with. Dan Ariely, who researches this area, says that you’re confusing your body’s internal association of the sound from a "get out of bed" tone to "just a few minutes more" which is why it can eventually lead you to sleep through your alarm.
Our internal alarm clock, or chronotype, is driven by our circadian rhythm, and it is far better than anything on your phone. A person’s chronotype represents their body’s preferences for both sleeping time and duration. We undergo changes in our chronotype early on, settling on a preferred type in our late 20’s. Kids under 10 are generally energetic in the morning while teenagers tend to be better at night.
Despite having a chronotype that is genetically programmed, we don’t need to know our preferred chronotype prior to picking a profession as we naturally tend to gravitate towards activities and careers that match our natural sleeping habits. Still, it can be helpful to find out what your chronotype is (quick online survey) and optimize your day around it.
No matter whether you’re an early morning lark or a night-owl, waking up via an alarm clock is, more often than not, a detriment to your health. It’s best to use your alarm as a safety device and not a primary control. Try to reset your sleeping schedule so your body naturally wakes up before your alarm is set to go off.
The best form of sleep is what’s referred to as a Free-running sleep schedule which maximizes the efficiency of your sleep by removing all artificial sleep regulation such as alarm clocks, supplements or other substances. You go to sleep when you’re tired and wake up naturally. With this sleep schedule, you’ll find you need less sleep than any artificial schedule that forces you to catch up with any sleep debt you’ve accumulated.
While there still exists much debate in the scientific community as to whether a sleep debt can be recuperated, it’s best not to cut your sleep short regardless. The primary purpose of sleep is for the brain to repair itself and perform maintenance. Much like defragging the hard drive of a computer at 3 am when you’re not using it, our brain washes and replenishes the cellular makeup while we are asleep.
Imagine a scenario where you spent hours and hours cleaning your house on the weekend, even when it was clean, hoping that the time you put in now would pay off in the future when it was dirty. Obviously, this is ridiculous, but it is how many of us approach sleeping. Sleep is both reactive and rate limited, there’s no point in cleaning up when there is no mess and it takes a certain amount of time to complete the cycle.
Here are some final tips on ways to improve your sleep hygiene:
- *Have a Nappicuno* - Have a cup of coffee and then nap for no more than 20-30 minutes. Multiple studies have shown this to be the best way to increase your attention, alertness and energy during the mid-day slump.
- Avoid stimulants close to bedtime - Caffeine has a half-life of about 5-6 hours and can interrupt your sleeping patterns in unknown ways if consumed too close to bedtime. Consider limiting caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants no later than 2-4pm.
- Aerobic exercise - Doing as little as 10-minutes of exercise can have positive impacts on your nighttime sleep quality. Avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime, but light-forms of exercise are okay.
- Avoid eating 2-hours before bed - Rich foods heavy in Fat, Sugar, spices or citrus fruits can trigger indigestion that can and will disrupt sleep. Try to avoid eating preferably 2-hours before bed, or keep it to light-snacking only.
- Expose yourself to natural light - Use blackout curtains if you wake up after sunrise and/or use artificial lights such as SAD lights to help maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle.
- Establish a bedtime routine - Having a routine can help prepare your mind and body for bedtime. Anything from a warm shower, reading a book or light stretches can be helpful.
- Set the mood - Having a cool bedtime temperature between 60-67 degrees will help optimize your sleep. Cover up any source of lights from lamps, TV and phones in your bedroom. Consider the use of eye shades, earplugs or white noise machines to help make your bedroom more relaxing.
Having a Traveling Routine is just as Important
Establishing a morning routine you can be hard enough, maintaining that routine while traveling is a whole other ball-game. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, a lack of the familiar creature comforts and cues can make it difficult for even the most disciplined people to follow their routines.
While some trips will grant you more flexibility in your schedule than others, making an effort to try and maintain at least some level of normalcy in your trip by maintaining your normal routine can help make your trip more successful, whether your goal is to impress a client or simply to take time off to relax.
Even if you don’t have time for a full-on morning routine, you can use the free time you do have to make more favorable decisions such as reading a few pages in a book, or reading an article in Pocket while on your Uber ride to the hotel.
One way to increase your chances of following a routine is by creating intentions ahead of time. For example, I’ll often download a few audiobooks and podcasts to my phone before leaving to the airport. While boarding an airplane I like to listen to a podcast and then switch over to reading my Kindle or writing once in the air.
Note: An interesting part about travel is that it tends to loosen the synaptic connections between our neurons in relation to our daily routines. Just like how you can get rusty after not practicing a skill for a while, it can be easier to institute new and positive habits into your daily routine once you return from your trip. Next time you travel, try to challenge yourself to a new habit and you'll likely find it's much easier to stay on track.
At the end of the day, travel is and always will be stressful. Even the most successful entrepreneurs and seasoned travelers have problems maintaining a routine. It’s important to practice gratitude and not be too hard on yourself should you find yourself in a temporary rut.
Routines are Great, but Flexibility is a Must
We live in an unpredictable world, and that means there will always be days where we get blown off course. It can be particularly disheartening when you miss a day or two with a new habit.
What's important is that you don't let the absence of a routine one day turn into the habit itself. Woody Allen was once so jaded by all the people who always told him they wanted to write a play, a movie, or a novel, that he started telling them that 80% of life is just showing up.
If you find yourself unable to have time for your morning run, then do ten pushups instead. Can’t meditate for twenty minutes, just do a minute. It’s more important that you obtain the habit than the goal itself. While it would be nice to burn 400 calories on a run today, not doing anything would be worse. The act of simply doing a few pushups reserves the mental slot allocated towards that routine in your head.
Regardless, a willingness to be flexible with your routine can help strengthen the habits you’re trying to build. If something like an early morning call disrupted my morning routine , it used to throw my entire day off. To combat this I’ve built-up additional slots in the day that I can use to get to the habit if I didn’t do it earlier. One such slot is going to the gym at 4 pm if I skipped out on it when I first woke-up.
Finally and most importantly, not being able to follow your daily routine offers you the opportunity to offer yourself a little compassion, a great habit to form in itself. In a world where depression and anxiety are on the rise, a willingness to abstain from being your own worst critic can grant you greater levels of strength and resilience in the future.
All of this is mute though if you don't take the time to establish a morning routine in the first place. Everybody has their own needs, jobs, desires, and ambitions and therefore we’ll all have a routine that varies, and that's okay. Take the time to think about what you’d like to add which could help make your days happier and more productive.
“A man who dares to waste an hour of time has not discovered the value of his life.” — Charles Darwin
Routines + Discipline = Success
Many of the world’s most successful people all have some form of a morning routine that involves some level of exercise, deep work, meditation or learning. Regardless of what they do, it’s important to know your own values and goals to come up with something that suits you.
It’d be hard to complete this post without mentioning this Medium post which suggests that morning routines are BS advice. Despite everything I said above about forming a routine, of course, none of it is directly associated with making money. Rather, I only started these routines after I had already achieved a moderate level of success by repeatedly burning myself out and living an unhealthy lifestyle.
Of course, you can achieve success without any form of a morning routine, but it helps to provide you with more discipline to do the hard things and makes it clear that you are the #1 investment, not your business or job. There’s no point in working hard only to get heart disease and die young from eating unhealthy food or not exercising.
If you do decide that forming a morning routine is important to you, the best advice I can give is to follow your instincts and stick to what feels right. Getting up at 5am to run a mile sounds amazing to some, but for others it's a reason to pull the sheets over their heads and stay in bed. The key to crafting your morning routine is simply to experiment. Try out routines mentioned by other HSP’s by reading the book, Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris and even Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey to get an idea on how the most successful entrepreneurs and artists from their day.
In the early stages of my entrepreneurial journey, I often had to wake up and go handle a crisis no matter the time of day or night. Maybe I ended up not getting enough sleep, or I found myself being dragged into managerial duties for the entire day. I’d find myself being unnerved by the fact that I couldn’t follow my routine, that I didn’t do my exercise or meditation that morning.
Having a willingness to be flexible with your routine can help strengthen the habits you’re trying to build. Early on in my attempt to build out a productive morning routine, simple things like an early morning phone call would disrupt my routine and throw-off my entire day. However in time, I was able to create additional slots later in the day that I could utilize to perform some of the routines I had missed. For example, if I don’t exercise in the morning I’m generally able to find time around 4 pm which is when I start to feel a little tired from work.
Lastly and most importantly, not being able to follow your daily routine offers you the opportunity for you to offer yourself a little compassion. We’re far more critical of ourselves than others and in a world where anxiety and depression are on the rise, a willingness to tell yourself that it’s okay you didn’t have the most productive routine or day will grant you a greater level of strength and resilience to take on more difficult challenges and obstacles in the future.
Sometimes though, your routine can simply to get yourself out of bed. We all suffer from brief to mild symptoms of depression sometimes and for myself, it’s no different. Some days I wake up and just have no desire to do anything, also referred to as anhedonia. It's these days when I have to have to be the most compassionate towards myself.
All of this is mute though if you don't take the time to establish a morning routine in the first place. Everybody has their own needs, jobs, desires, and ambitions and therefore we’ll all have a routine that varies, and that's okay. Take the time to think about what you’d like to add which could help make your days happier and more productive.
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.” — Seneca