The morning routine.
Some people just seem to nail it.
They skip out of bed, sit-down to breakfast with their family, run 17 miles barefooted through the snow to the gym, do a spin class whilst learning Latin, meditate for an hour, rescue a cat from a tree and still arrive at work before everyone else (with home-baked organic flap-jacks to share).
Unfortunately, for most people our days often go more like this:
Snooze for half an hour. Peel eyelid off eyeball. Bask in glare from smart phone. Notice time. Remember looming deadlines. Panic.
According to award winning psychologist Ron Friedman, the first three hours of your day are the most important for maximized productivity.
Claie Diaz Ortiz, author of Design your Day agrees. How you start your day anchors you and focuses you on what is important. If you win the morning, you win the day.
Win the morning, win the day
The importance of crafting a great morning routine is echoed across top performers in all disciplines: sports personalities, productivity experts, celebrities, entrepreneurs, CEOs and self-made millionaires. Most have nailed their morning routine down to a set number of tasks that they do every morning, that they know, if they do it, will ensure a successful day.
But what is the perfect morning routine? How can you apply it to your life? And importantly… how can you make it stick?
In this blog I delve into the deep dark and dirty world of habit, and show you three simple steps to craft the right morning habits for success.
the THREE STEPS TO CREATING A WINNING MORNING ROUTINE
1. GAIN INSPIRATION FROM THE GREATEST
A great place to start in forming a new routine is to look at what super successful people are already doing, and model your behaviour on that.
In his book Tools for Titans, Tim Ferris surveyed hundreds of the most successful people of today and summarised 5 morning habits of top performers, which he now practices on a daily basis:
The top 5 habits:
- Make bed: Start with a simple task that gives you pride. However crap your day, you can always do this.
- Meditate: 80 percent of all top performers interviewed have a daily mindfulness practice of some type (Zack Sexton, Tony Robbins, Oprah)
- Journal: High achievers plan & focus the mind on the day ahead through writing in a journal or planner (Josh Waitzkin, Greg McKeown, Benjamin Franklin)
(Check out the Top Performer Journal: A focused daily planner designed to help you create the strategy, mindset and habits of a Top Performer in sales)
- Hydrate: Drink water: Cold, Hot, with lemon, with tea…. It doesn’t matter how, as long as you are getting your H20 fix first thing (Barack Obama, Zack Sexton, Jeff Saunders)
- Exercise / reps: Get the heart pumping in the morning and it will (hopefully) pump for you all day (Gary Vee, Kevin O’leary, Howard Schulz, Mark Cuban, Barack Obama)
Other habits that came up again and again in my research were as follows:
- Read/ listen: Read or listen to books/ podcasts that develop the mind (Mark Cuban, Barack Obama)
- Eat Protein: Shakes, plates or snack bars. Make sure you eat and make sure it has protein (Oprah, Tim Ferris, Mark Cuban)
- Be grateful: Write, think or tell. Be grateful for everything you have and you will boost your happiness for the entire day.
- Plan/ journal the night before: Eliminate decision making in the morning and conserve your will power. Plan, decide and structure your day the night before. (Kenneth Chenault, Tim Ferris, Ron Friedman)
2. DEFINE YOUR GOAL AND KEY BEHAVIOURS
Looking at the above list may make you enthused and raring to go… but may also hit you with a bit of a reality check. How is it possible for me to become a lean, focused, learned, hydrated monk every morning, when sometimes I struggle to remember to feed the dog?
The thing with developing morning routine is that (want as much as you like) you can’t become a super-human overnight. These top performers have spent years creating their routines, reflecting and embedding them into their daily lives until they are habits. Although we like to imagine ourselves effortlessly checking off the 17 habits of a Navy seal before breakfast, the key to long term success is to start with just one.
So, the first step to creating a winning morning routine is to understand your goal. What are you trying to achieve? What problem are you trying to solve?
Then, choose a new behaviour that helps you move towards your goal.
If your goal is to improve your energy levels, your new behaviour could be exercise or drinking water.
If you want more control and success, your new behaviour could be journaling or mediation.
The key point is to choose one achievable goal, and one achievable behaviour that will help you move towards it
3. EMBED IT IN YOUR CURRENT ROUTINE
Anyone who has ever vowed to start jogging ‘every single morning’ will also almost certainly have experienced what it feels like to fail. Two weeks in and you are sat on the sofa, Doritos in hand, laughing about how ridiculous you were to even try.
If you have spent your entire life embedding a habit (getting up at 8am every day) then there’s no point trying to make a drastic shift (get up at 7am to go jogging)
The shift is too big and the willpower is too small.
So, before we beat ourselves up for hitting snooze for the 12th time, we need to understand a bit more about willpower.
Willpower is what gets you started, habit it what keeps you going
So it turns out that willpower is a finite resource. If you just rely on willpower it will motivate you for a few days but soon you’ll lose interest and revert back to your past habits.
Luckily, however, willpower is like a muscle and can be grown and strengthened.
Think about the celebs, millionaires and personal development junkies we mentioned above. Do you think they dislike their morning routines? Of course not! They weren’t born meditating, jogging or downing kale shakes for breakfast. But they spent many years crafting their routines that make them the successes they are today.
Through repetition, they strengthened their willpower muscle and normalised their habits. Just like bad habits are hard to give up… so are good ones. A 4am start (to you) may seem unfathomable, but it feels great to someone who has normalised it into their routine. They love it, they live for it, they thrive off it.
So how do we strengthen our willpower and embed habits into our daily routine?
Well the holy grail of habit forming is integrating a new behaviour into your life so it is easy, enjoyable and gets you results. This is how it's done:
1. Prepare the night before
Preparing the night before has been shown to help the growth of new habits. Do whatever it takes to make it as EASY as possible for you to complete your new task the night before.
E.g. Lay out your journal and a pen on your desk. Sleep in your gym clothes.
2. Set up a trigger
Habits are normally triggered by something. Once triggered, your body has an automatic way of responding. This is why you normally do your morning routine on autopilot without thinking. So, to create a new habit pick something you do every day to use as your trigger.
E.g. Journaling: my trigger is sitting down at my desk
E.g. Exercising: my trigger is putting the kettle on
3. Add a new SMALL behaviour
Secondly, add a small new behaviour. Remember that willpower is a muscle and if you stretch it too much it will give in. Start small, make it achievable, and focus on creating a repeated habit. Just commit 5 minutes of stretching, or 3 minutes of meditation. You won’t change the world overnight, but over time, you will.
E.g. When I sit down at my desk, I open my journal and write for 2 minutes
E.g. When I put the kettle on, I do 10 push ups/squats
4. Give yourself a reward
Reward is what will keep you going. For a lot of people reward is the satisfaction you get from completing the task. Celebrate your successes and enjoy the feeling of your willpower muscle growing!
E.g. Once I have written in my journal I feel focused and motivated
E.g. Once I have done 10 reps, I feel like I have the energy to do more
5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Repeat until the behaviour becomes automatic. This normally takes around 66 days. Yes, 66 days! So keep going, and make sure you enjoy doing it. Once your habit is embedded it will become a part of you, so much so that you will look forward to doing it. Your willpower will be strengthened and you will benefit from all the great things associated with your new habit.
Then… you can add another challenge to your morning routine, and keep crafting it until you have all the great habits you desire.
“Good habits are as addictive as bad habits… and a lot more rewarding" - Harvey MacKay
In summary, the habits you choose for your morning routine will define the energy, enthusiasm and motivation that you bring to the day.
How you choose and craft your morning routine will depend on your goals, environment and triggers. You can't create new habits through just wanting to change. You create new habits through changing the environment and routines surrounding your new behaviour. It is through repetition of task that new routines are formed. Be kind on yourself. Start small and watch your new habits grow.
Have a great week!
Like this? You’ll love our Top Performer Journal! Download Chapter 1 here!