It hit me pretty late in life how important the first 60 minutes of my day are. Apart from showering, reading email, and maybe eating something, what do you do in the morning?
I had always kind of felt that the morning was special. That’s when I am most productive, so that's worth exploring. Also the theme of starting the day well seems to be the focus of a lot of top performers.
The second thing that makes this interesting to me is the incorporation of habits. I have a lot of respect for habit: it's an incredibly powerful thing, even though the blade has two sharp edges.
Bad habit example: Smoking. When I was younger I started puffing on those little angels of death, like most frenchies. That one took me 12 YEARS to beat, with multiple attempts. Bad.
Good habit example: Breathing. This one has really worked for me, keeps me alive. Good.
A few of my theories about habits:
After having tweaked it quite a bit, here is my morning routine. I tried a bunch of different things, comparing routines of many eclectic, world-class people (the Tim Ferriss podcast helps with this, and google is always a friend
This came out of reading about dreaming and the power your unconscious self has to solve problems for you. Basically, when you open your eyes, I bet you anything that the first thing you want to do is to look at your phone. This is actually really bad:
Instead of getting up straight away, I turn the lights on, lay in bed with my eyes open, and do some conscious breathing. This I picked up from meditation’s emphasis on the importance of breath as well as the absolutely incredible Wim Hoff Method (Wim Hoff is the guy that climbs Everest in boxer shorts and performs marathons in the desert without drinking). If you’re not familiar, you should definitely check it out.
Calm down. This only means: spread covers more or less neatly and adjust pillows. It takes me 37 seconds but means that the first thing I do every day is a win.
Sometimes this gets delayed by my lovely but pillow-loving girlfriend, who isn’t as enthusiastic about morning rituals as I am. Hers is a rigorous methodology based around maximising sleep like there's no tomorrow.
I take a regular shower, but at the end of it, I turn the temperature all the way down to the coldest possible, while concentrating on my breath, for about 1 to 3 minutes. Breathing strongly makes this exercise ridiculously easy, and it though it sounds uncomfortable, it actually feels awesome. Incidentally it makes me feel like a badass.
Doing this improves lymphatic circulation, cardiovasular circulation, reduces muscle inflammation, encourages weight loss, and as a bonus, boosts your happiness levels. Try it for a week; I swear it's an awesome trick!
Still without having looked at my phone, I do a 20 minute guided meditation. For this I use the app headspace. I highly recommend it: it has increased my happiness as well as, and most importantly, my focus and patience at work and in my relationships. It also helps with stress, pressure, anxiety, and more…
My favorite thing about it though is that it's a healthy and longlasting habit.
I googled a few morning stretch routines, picked a combination of things that I liked, and started trying it out. My body thanks me every day now. This doesn’t have to be long, 1 to 5 mins is really enough here. If you’re badass you do this multiple times a day. I haven’t summoned the courage to do cat cows at the office yet.
At ths point, I authorize myself to look at my phone, but the good news is I don't really want to anymore. At first this was very hard. It turns out my phone in the morning gave me the same urge as those cigarettes! Bad.
When I look at my phone after this morning ballet, I am much more prepared to turn off the noisy notifications and engage in the things that matter (catching up with friends out of my time zone, or picking the one thing I want to accomplish today).
This routine has had a very noticeable impact on my happiness, performance, patience, focus, soreness, and empathy. It costs me hardly any effort anymore, on the contrary. Simply leveraging that power of habit.
Next on my list is writing for about 10 to 15 minutes… But I only add one thing at a time, to make sure I can make the habit stick. Try one of these, and if you like it, try another! Building habits should be a slow, methodical and disciplined exercise.
What's your morning routine? Let me know, I'm actually interested.