By far, the most popular question I seem to get asked when it comes to the stuff I write about and teach is what my morning routine looks like.
In fact, I commented on Facebook recently that it’s kinda like the pick-up line of personal development…
“So, what’s your morning routine look like?”
Ah yes, the hallowed morning routine.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m one of the biggest supporters of doing the small daily things which put us in the best position to win.
But recently, I decided to switch things up and experiment a bit by moving my morning routine a little later in my day, choosing instead to focus on my #1 most important task first.
I got this idea while at a conference in San Diego in which Craig Ballantyne joked about people who have a morning routine the length of their arm, that by the time they finish it (if they even get that far), they have no more morning left to work on their biggest goals.
Now, my morning routine wasn’t even so bad at the time, but I had started to notice that even with just a few things, it allowed for the possibility for distractions to creep in. Plus, if I overslept for whatever reason and still wanted to do my morning routine, it meant I had to say goodbye to any major focused work for the morning (which is my most creative, productive time of day).
And so I made the change.
(Side note: if something is not working for you, PLEASE experiment with finding what does.)
Initially, I simply moved my first deep work time block for the day (about 90 minutes) right to the front, before anything else, and then used my morning routine as a reward for getting my most important task done.
This was a cool idea in theory, but I soon realized that it wasn’t quite working for me, for two reasons:
- My mind wasn’t as sharp as it could be as I was still in the process of waking up. Apparently, it takes us about 20-30 minutes from when we wake up until we’re at peak focus.
- If my work took longer than expected, I’d end up skipping my morning routine altogether, which I didn’t want to do. These things were still important to me (journaling, meditation, movement, reading, etc.) but I just didn’t want them to replace my actual focused work time.
So I began tweaking things by slowly re-introducing elements of my morning routine one at a time until I found a sweet balance between the two options.
I began by starting the morning off with a big bottle of water before sitting down to work, but this still didn’t solve #2 above.
I then added my morning journaling, which consists mainly of gratitude, an affirmation and a general braindump of anything on my mind. This was a good step, as it cleared my mind before diving into work. But I still noticed how it became too easy to skip my meditation if I left it ’til later in the day, which I know is something that produces crazy benefits.
And so finally, I added 5 minutes of deep, slow breathing before opening my laptop (I’d ideally make this longer, but that’s what’s working for me right now).
Here’s what my morning routine looks like now (I thought you’d never ask!):
- Wake up, use the bathroom, drink a big bottle of water (750ml or 25 ounces)
- Meditate for 5 minutes using the Breathe app on my Apple Watch
- Write in my journal using the same format every day
Once that’s done (usually 20 minutes max), I get to work on my #1 MIT (most important task) for approximately 90 minutes (at the moment, that’s writing).
Then, and only then, do I get to the other stuff:
- I get up, fill up my water bottle again, and greet the fam
- I read for an hour (which helps a ton when you’re trying to read a book per week!)
- I do another 90-minute deep work time block
- I go do my main workout for the day
By essentially splitting my morning routine in two, I’ve been able to stick to my habits and work toward my goals, while still doing the small things every day to look after myself.
Yes, self-care is important, but if you’re sacrificing the things that are actually going to move you forward, you’re doing something wrong.
Do as little as you need to wake up and get into a focused state, crush your MIT for the day, and then reward yourself for hitting your goals by enjoying the other stuff.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do 😉
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