I used to hate waking up early in the mornings. Now, I find that when I wake a few hours before starting work, I can focus my self-improvement and high-level weekly focus tasks.
I also find when I have a successful morning, I’ll have a successful rest of my day.
The first part is the toughest – waking up an hour earlier. Once you get past it, waking up early becomes a habit, and the rest of the routine is far easier to accomplish.
So what’s my morning routine?
1. Wake Up
The toughest part is waking up early. But there are a few ways you can help yourself towards making this happen easier.
- Set your intentions before going to bed. Make sure you know that you will be waking up full of energy and excited to take on the day.
- Sometimes you’ll need to go to bed earlier so you are less tired when waking up.
- Move your alarm clock to the other side of your bedroom or in a different room altogether.
- Tell yourself that you can go back to bed after you brush your teeth. Often, I find that after I brush my teeth, I no longer have the urge to hunker back to the sheets.
- Drink a full glass of water.
- Get changed into your workout clothes or into your day clothing.
- Take a quick shower.
Usually, I’ll jump into my morning jog but you could do after lunch too. But it’s important that you do it at least once or twice per day. For me, it does not just provide health benefits. I usually use the morning jog to review my progress towards my goals (see bullet point #3). It also motivates me and gets the blood flowing for the next portion of my day. Often, these morning exercises stimulate many of the creative juices that lead to unique ideas and answers to my current questions.
3. Goal Review
I often will combine this with the daily exercise because it’ll get me away from all my electronic devices to focus on free thought. However, at least once per week I try to pull open my personal project management dashboard to do a deeper dive on my goals and make sure I am making time for them during my week in my personal calendar.
After I come in from my morning jog, I’ll sit down (outside of the bedroom) to do several minutes of sitting in silence. I take this time to focus on my breath and relax my mind. There are plenty of research data out there to support the claim that meditation really does help improve your mind and your performance. I often take this time to watch the birds in the morning and sit and stare at nature for several minutes. You can use a timer but I often don’t. Typically, once I get tired of the experience I’ll move onto the next part of the morning routine.
5. Prepare a Breakfast
Next up on the morning routine is preparing breakfast and coffee (sometimes I switch this out for green tea). I prefer grinding whole dark roasted coffee beans in a grinder and using a french press or pour over method for the brewing. While boiling the water, I’ll prep either hard boiled eggs with toast and fruit.
I love reading in the morning and find it a great way to start the day especially if I get off to an early start. Recently though, I find I enjoy reading after lunch but if it’s a nice morning outside, nothing beats reading a good book while watching the sun rise. Typically, I have a collection of books I prefer to read as an actual book as oppose to an audiobook so I prioritize those first.
7. Weekly Focus Task
After reading a chapter or two, I typically will switch over to my weekly focus block. This 1-hour block of time is continuously pre-blocked into my personal calendar. It consists of completing critical tasks that I identified during my weekly goal review meetings. This way I am constantly moving forward on my most strategic goals.
8. Day Planning
This is where I transition from my self-improving morning focuses into the priorities of the day. I’ll start with a notepad and my personal calendar. I’ll first write down the top several tasks that I am committed to completing that day.
Once you finish all of this you’ll find that you are far more primed to start off your day. I usually will continue to kick butt throughout the mid-morning into lunch and will continue pretty much for the rest of the day. You’ll notice that once you miss a successful morning routine, and sleep in, the productivity you have that day sharply declines.
Tip: Avoid checking your email or phone entirely during the morning routine until you get to step 8. This is critical! Checking any of these distractions is a surefire way to derail your morning completely.
Bill Womeldorf is an energy efficiency consultant and real estate entrepreneur in Boston, MA. He’s typically the one with the reusable water bottle in business meetings. When we all work together, he believes, it’s possible to solve the climate crisis. You can follow Bill on twitter @BillWomeldorf and read more about self-improvement and sustainability on his blog.