In my last post, I talked about how I eventually started getting up at 5 am (most mornings). But it’s not enough to get up earlier even when you have a great reason to – you need structure so that you don’t end up squandering your precious awake time. Hence the importance of having a solid morning routine to keep you on track.
“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”
When I first started establishing my morning routine, I was so excited that I tried adding all of the above elements into my routine. However within a few days I found that I was rushing around trying to check each item off my list before heading to work. It was becoming too stressful for me, which is the opposite of what a morning routine should be – focused and energizing.
So I started again from square one. I begin by aiming to get up at 5 AM, then only focusing on learning and reading, since those were most important to me at the time and the main reason I had wanted to get up earlier. Once that routine became habit, I started integrating meditation (first 10 minutes, now I’m up to 15 minutes) and affirmations. Then eventually I added in journaling (just one short paragraph on what would make my day great).
This spring, once the weather warms up a bit, I plan to add exercising to the mix – either a brisk walk or a run. But I’m not in a rush with this, since I know that I won’t stick to exercising when it’s still so cold and dark at 5 or 6 am. I want to give myself the best chances of succeeding.
Learning to take tiny baby steps with this process has been so important to building my routine and daily habits. I tend to be a high achiever who wants to do/fix everything at once, and when I fail I’m terribly unforgiving with myself. Be kind. Show compassion toward yourself.
Some of the benefits I’ve noticed since establishing my morning routine are:
Do you have a morning routine? What does it look like?
About 2 1/2 years ago, I switched from working on my personal development mostly in the evenings to early mornings. I had been struggling with staying committed to my goals, in large part due to decision fatigue (which you can read more about in my last post here). As I’ve said before, creating this new morning habit was one of the best things I’ve ever done to improve my life.
For most of my life, being a night owl was such an important part of my identity that I couldn’t even imagine a big enough reason for ever wanting to get up early.
Thankfully, age and experience have changed my outlook. Each day I get older, I have an ever-growing list of things I want to accomplish and a deeper sense of urgency to get them done in my short lifetime.
When I first started rising earlier, I went from waking at 7 am to 6 am. As I settled into this new routine, I enjoyed my new levels of learning and productivity so much that I wondered if I might be able to start waking even earlier. So I tried getting up at 5:45 am, then 5:30 am…and now I rise at 5 am most weekdays. 5 AM PEOPLE!!!
If you had told me even just a few years ago that I’d one day become a crazy early riser, I would have fallen off my chair laughing hysterically. Really. But I am telling you – if I was able to do it, anyone can.
You just need an amazing reason to get out of bed in the morning. Find that one project or goal that lights you on fire – whether it’s writing a book, starting your own business or getting healthier – and make a commitment to work on it as soon as you get up.
“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”
The key to waking earlier is to be gentle and forgiving with yourself (something I really struggle with). If you’re too rigid and unforgiving, you’re much more likely to give up the first time you miss your target waking time. It’s not going to be easy (especially for night owls), so you have to be persistent and just keep at it. I went from waking from 6 am to eventually 5 am over a period of about one year. And I will admit – it’s been damn hard getting up at 5 am during the dark, cold winter months. I’ve hit the snooze button way too many times, but most days I’m out of bed by 5:45 am.
A few tips that may help you as you transition to becoming an early riser:
A few resources that can help you on your path to becoming an early riser:
Are you currently making or have you made the transition from night owl to early riser? Has it improved your life? Do you have tips to share? I’ve love to hear your story!
I love learning. I’ve always loved learning. And so I was frustrated with myself when time and time again, I would sign up for various online classes (paid or free), watch one or two video lectures, then give up on the classes because I never had the time or energy to complete them.
I couldn’t understand why I was never able to stick to my personal learning goals, whereas I was super disciplined at work and a productive, high-achieving employee.
It was all a mystery to me, until I read about willpower and how it works. It turns out that we only have a finite store of willpower each day. We start out in the morning, (hopefully) refreshed from a good night’s sleep. But every decision we make, no matter how big or small, contributes to depleting our mental energy throughout the day, so that by the end of the day we are often completely drained and suffer from “decision fatigue“.
This decision fatigue makes us much more likely to make bad decisions – such as skipping our workout at the gym or eating junk food for dinner – because our mental capacity is simply too depleted to make any more important decisions. We just go with what’s fastest and easiest.
This knowledge completely transformed my learning process. I finally understood that I needed focus on my most important work early in the day, when my willpower and energy were at their strongest.
This was a huge issue for me because I am not a morning person. At all. And I really, really dreaded the thought of having to wake up earlier.
But when upon further reflection, I dreaded the thought of not following through on my learning goals even more. I truly wanted to be a life-long learner.
So I made the decision to start waking up an hour earlier each morning (I went from 7 am to 6 am). I’d take a shower and quickly get ready, then head downtown to a coffee shop where I could focus on my personal development for an hour before heading to my pesky day job each day.
I have to say, implementing this new habit has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made toward improving my life. Since making the switch from evenings to mornings, I’ve been able to complete numerous classes on subjects as diverse as sketching, social psychology, happiness, behavioural economics, the French Revolution, emotional intelligence, business, and more. If I have to skip a day, I honestly feel a bit lost – that’s when you know you’ve built a strong habit!
When most individuals or most companies are talking about trying to create healthy habits, the key is to identify which habit or habits seem most important.
If you’re struggling with implementing a goal, try focusing on your goal earlier in the day (ideally in the morning) and see if it helps. I’d love to hear your stories (good and bad) on this topic!
In my next post, I’ll talk about my path to becoming an early riser.
Playing around with PicMonkey on a lovely Sunday afternoon.
My favourite Bowie collaboration:
As a special THANK YOU for your support in 2015 (and beyond), I’ve created these printable planner pages to help you get a head start on a super organized 2016!
If you own one of my Papermuse Designs refillable LP notebooks (5.5″ X 8.5″ format), these pages will fit once you’ve trimmed and hole-punched them.
I’ve created two designs: A pink-themed page and a grey-themed one. The two designs contain the same sections: “Today’s Top 3 Goals” and “To Do”. Feel free to use one or both of these pages!
To download, print and prepare your planner pages:
I hope you enjoy using these and find them useful. Over the next months, I am planning to create other printables to fit my LP refillable notebooks, so if there is something in particular that you’d like to see, please let me know!
Click to download the Pink-Theme Daily Planner Page.
Click to download the Grey-Theme Daily Planner Page.