I recently picked up a book called “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey. A fascinating account of the daily rituals of famous creative people.
My morning routine is something that I hold dearly and when I was younger, was a discipline that I didn’t always achieve. It was obvious to me that both the quality and enjoyment of my work were affected greatly by whether I had performed my morning routine or not.
This morning routine has now become habit, not unlike cleaning my teeth first thing in the morning, and I rarely deviate from it. It no longer requires any discipline, in fact I suspect it would take more effort to stray from my morning routine.
It’s an evolving process, as I learn new things and as time changes me. It’s certainly not a recipe for anyone else, but I’m sure there are people that could benefit from applying some of the processes I go through to start my day.
Morning Routine Starts With the birds
I wake up between 5 and 6am. If I get up before 5 I feel too tired come mid morning and after 6, I feel I miss my most productive time of the day.
First, I clean my teeth and sometimes check my phone for emails. Some people are against checking your phone first thing, but for me it only mentally prepares me for the work I will do that day. I don’t actually read any of the emails, just who they are from and the subject line.
I then get my ice-cold water out of the fridge I placed there the night before. I started with ice-cold water because I read in the Four Hour Body that it burns more calories, but now I just like the taste better.
Stretches and Meditation
I sit on my rug and do a few simple leg stretches until I feel a bit less stiff than when I started. A few days a week, I will also do some stomach crunches and pushups to keep my core strength up and protect my lower back.
I then put a cushion under my bum, lean against my couch cross-legged (lazy man’s meditation pose) and meditate for around 20 minutes. I used to time it, but now I sort of feel when I am done. I don’t follow any particular meditation discipline; I just focus on my breath and say a few prayers in my mind. To be honest, I spend a lot of that 20 minutes thinking, but somehow the thoughts feel different to my usual thoughts and regardless of how terrible a meditator I am, this one discipline has given me peace of mind throughout the rest of my day greater than anything else I have ever done.
Coffee and TV
Once my meditation is over, I make coffee and watch 20 minutes of TV with the kids. This combination of coffee and trashy fiction clears my mind and I forget about any responsibilities I have for the day. Once my coffee is finished, I am in a pretty good mood and feel a twinge of inspiration to start my work day.
I then listen to a business related podcast as I wash my dishes, take my vitamins, get dressed, and anything else I need to do before I head into the office next door.
In the Office
Once in the office, the first thing I do is play an mp3 of the sounds of ocean waves and listen to that for about 90 seconds while I stand against the wall and do my neck exercises that will offset my work at the computer all day. The ocean waves mp3 help to clear my mind and is like a mini meditation before starting my work day.
I then open a word document called business-diary.docx and enter the day’s date and a paragraph or 2 about my thoughts. Sometimes I will be having a conversation in my head earlier that is good to document and write a letter to the person I have been thinking I need to communicate with. Other times I may have had a feeling in meditation that I want to write about or an inspiration for a new business idea, product, or blog post. I generally try and keep this short and not break into a full content session, although that sometimes happens.
In a perfect world my next step would be to check my calendar, but I must admit, I forget this step more often than not.
Then Evernote, which I check religiously. I read “Getting Things Done” by David Allen a few years ago and that has been a complete game changer to my life. Now, everything I need to remember gets added to Evernote in a notebook called “inbox” and the following morning, I catalogue those into where they need to go, usually other Evernote notebooks. This gives me a good idea of what I need to do for my day.
And finally email. I have 7 email accounts I need to check and use Mozilla Thunderbird, which is not perfect, but does handle a lot of imap email accounts well. I am an inbox zero man and like to clear all unread email every morning. To begin with, I scroll through and mark as read anything I can tell by the subject line I can ignore. The ones I do need to reply to, I leave as un-read and the ones I need to act on, I create a note in Evernote.
In practice, I can get stuck reading a few of these emails either chasing shiny objects or worrying about things I should be worrying about later in the day (or even tomorrow). Usually I get back on track pretty quick and then I prioritize in Evernote what has to be done that day and have a break.
I have restricted the amount of time I spend on this process, starting when I listen to my ocean waves mp3, to one hour and it makes me feel in more control of my day. By 8am I have a pretty good idea what will be doing for the day and usually have a clear enough head to focus on what I have deemed the most important tasks for that day.
What is your morning routine?
What disciplines do you struggle with being consistent in your morning routine?