How A Morning Routine Changed My Life
2016 has been great for me so far. I got married, committed to creating something everyday, decided to focus more on traveling and photography, and am in the initial stages of starting a side business with my wife. My days are a lot more productive, my outlook is better, and most of the time I feel like a million bucks. So what changed from last year? I started a strict morning routine.
Regardless of when you wake up, I think what you do when you get out of bed plays a big role in how your day will go, ultimately. If you’re hurried and have no time to center yourself, things will probably be hectic when you get to work. But if you spend some time with yourself before heading out the door, you’ll probably approach what the day brings you in an entirely different way.
I learned this about ten months ago when I began implementing a morning routine. I was looking for ways to become more creative and to live a more proactive life when this video from Chase Jarvis showed up on my social media feed. I admire the life Chase seems to have created for himself, so if he’s offering up tips, I’m listening.
I started out simply doing the things he did in the video, and pretty quickly tailored the routine to something that fit me more specifically. (That’s the key: start with the inspiration and then make it your own.) As time passed and I was vigilant with my morning routine, I noticed my days starting to change. I was more optimistic, more focused, more creative, and, ultimately, more successful. It’s hard to believe I wasn’t doing this before! It’s not super demanding, and takes about an hour. I wake up at 6 to make sure I have that much time, but that’s just me. If you decide to adopt a routine, you can find however much time you need for yourself.
So what do I do?
OK, here’s the breakdown. These few simple things, done each day, have changed my life for the better:
- I’ll have a single glass of water (with a pinch of salt in it) to get things going. I’ve read somewhat conflicting information about exactly how much water you’re supposed to have in a day. Some say 64 ounces, and some say half your body weight in ounces. For me that’s not excessively more than 64 ounces, but it’s maybe an additional glass or two. Having one first thing gets the process going. I used to start the day with more, but I have a long train ride into Manhattan every morning and let’s just say I’m dancing by the time the train pulls into Penn Station if I have more than one glass.
- Eat protein. I try to have at least 30 grams of protein right out of the gate. Your body burns fat at night, and when you wake up and put carbs into it right away, that’s where it’s calorie-burning attention goes and the fat stays fat. Eating protein not only gives you a brain boost for the day, but it also helps to continue the fat-burning process started while you were sleeping. For me the menu is very rigid: 15.5 ounces of black beans with cumin, cayenne, cilantro, and an avocado. I have this at least five days per week because it’s simple and I don’t have to spend the energy thinking about it. I know it’s not standard breakfast fare, but I’ve never liked that meal anyway.
- This one is key for me. My goal is to spend twenty minutes each morning (and in the evenings) doing Transcendental Meditation. I don’t always make it all the way, but I do make sure I at least sit down with the intention and always get something out of it, no matter how long I’m there for. There are a lot of different kinds of meditation, so if TM isn’t your thing you can shop around until you find what’s right for you. There are also some great apps to use that can guide you—Headspace and Calm seem to be the most popular. I use one called Insight Timer, which is exactly what it sounds like: a timer. That’s pretty much all I need, and it has some lovely bells to start and stop your session.
- Gratitude and Visualization. Giving thanks for what you have is such an important thing, and it’s easy to forget to do that when you’re living a busy life. That’s why I find carving out time for it each morning so helpful. When I spend three minutes thinking about how grateful I am for the things in my life, it becomes a lot easier to remember that during the day, even if something goes wrong. Maybe a project went sideways at work and there’s a lot of frustration—I can stop in that moment to realize it’s not the end of the world and that I’m very thankful to even be in that office working on that thing. Gratitude is incredibly powerful. And I’ll admit that I need to better hone my visualization skills, because even though I’m doing it everyday, I don’t think I’ve completely harnessed its full power yet. So if anybody has read a book or watched a video or anything on this, let me know and I’ll check it out. I do it now, and I feel it’s helping. But I think learning the proper way to do it would make it a lot more effective.
- Cat time! This isn’t something I do every single day, but when my cat isn’t hiding under the bed in the morning, I make it happen. If you’ve seen said cat’s Instagram account you’ll know that I’m a big fan of felines. I’ve found that having a cat around brings a lot of calm into my life at home—especially with my cat being a chill as she is. So whenever I can, after feeding her in the mornings I try to spend ten minutes playing with her. This not only helps me to start my day off on a high note, but it also gives her some necessary attention before she’s home alone all day with NPR playing on my computer as her entertainment. I’m sure this would work with a dog, too, or anything that brings joy into your life on a regular basis. You know how all those cute animal videos bring you such joy when you watch them? Spending a little time with the real thing in the morning can do the same thing, but it’s even better.
- Whether you have a morning routine or not, this one is good to do. I squeeze in a little bit of movement by adding a few blocks to my walk to and from the train. It’s not much, but those extra steps help. And in the evening and on weekends I try to do more by running and/or weight training. But just that small amount of movement in the morning makes a difference.
And that’s it, my routine is pretty simple. It takes about an hour in total. If this seems like a lot, maybe start slow by implementing one thing for a week, and then add another and another. At first it seemed a little daunting to me to get up earlier than I already was. But after a week or so I adjusted well. I also went to bed slightly earlier, too. Now, after almost a full year of this, it’s old hat and I can’t imagine not getting up to do it.
A lot of successful people have spoken about their morning routines recently, and how having that “me time” before facing the day can make a world of difference. If it worked for them it can work for you, too. So give it a shot and make your days more creative, more productive, and all around better.