Something most people do not talk about far too often is the self-development rabbit hole. The one even the most cautious self-development and productivity aficionados may get lost in as they start looking into hacking their way to success.
One of the aforementioned rabbit hole (and potentially a whole circle in hell) is the one about morning routines. Amazon reminds me there are over 2,000 results for the keyword morning routine — and this may just be at first glance.
Should you wake up at 5 am every morning, whilst the world still slumbers? Should you start your days with Tai Chi? Or maybe walking on hot coal?
From very out there routines to questionable practices, I have read, implemented, tried and experimented with dozens of “foolproof” ways to start my morning.
Yet, dear reader, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to this.
You could argue, we all make our best of our mornings in our very own way. Yet again, I wanted to look at some of the best-selling books written on the topic and give you fixe practical things you can try for yourself.
These little tweaks are based on cross-overs of key elements you can find in pretty much any book about effective morning practices, including meditation, movement, etc.
Hal Elrod — The Miracle Morning
The book by Hal Elrod is among the most successful morning routine books out there. The author actually died for six minutes following a car accident. After spending several days in a coma, he awoke to doctors telling him that he had permanent brain damage and might not be able to walk again. Yet, he was able to recover, and the whole experience gave him a new perceptive on life.
The book comprises of six steps — which would probably not work for me, since I would often mix and match my morning routine based on the day ahead. However, there are some interesting nuggets in there.
Be careful of what you tell yourself
Affirmations are a big part of Elrod’s Miracle Morning formula, and they also appear when arguing the importance of waking up early (something that may not work for everyone, yet most morning routine books obviously encourage).
The power of what we say to ourselves is presented when we go to sleep the night prior to our miraculous mornings.
Have you ever woken up completely drained on a special day? Probably not. If it’s your birthday, wedding day or Christmas morning, then no matter if you got only a few short hours of sleep, you likely woke up full of energy and anticipation for the day ahead.
Elrod argues that when you go to sleep thinking “this is way too little sleep, I will feel exhausted tomorrow,” and you are already preparing yourself to wake up feeling overwhelmed, tired and deflated.
Practical tip: before heading to bed, affirm to yourself that you’ll rise the next morning feeling refreshed. If you can get yourself to look forward to the next day somehow, waking up will be a lot less of a chore for you.
The power of success rituals
When asked in an interview what the number one key to success was, self-made multimillionaire entrepreneur Eben Pagan replied: “Start every morning off with a personal success ritual.”
He emphasised the value of morning exercise as part of this ritual, explaining how this gets his heart rate up, his blood pumping and his lungs filled with oxygen.
For a lot of writers, reading may be part of this. A good reading target to aim for is a minimum of ten pages per day. This averages 10 to 20 minutes of reading per day, depending on how quickly you read — to put it in perceptive, this amounts to 3,650 pages a year, which means you’ll be reading around 18 books a year.
This also encourages a very powerful habit, note-taking.
For example, Elrod noticed that he was far happier and felt more gratitude for his life because his writing allowed him to focus on the things he had already achieved, as well as on the goals he wanted to reach in the future.
Pro tip: take an example from the author and make time to journal every morning, by breaking the page into two columns entitled Lessons Learned and New Commitments.
Robin Sharma- The 5AM Club
The 5 am crew may get out to get me, but I am going to be bold and say it. You do not need to wake up at 5 am every morning to have a great morning routine.
Still, it’s no secret that The 5AM Club has become a worldwide sensation.
If you do feel like the 5 am club is a club you’d like to sign up to, I can tell you that, according to the concept of transient hypofrontality, at 5 a.m., you are well placed to achieve a state of flow in your thinking.
This does not necessarily mean that waking up at 5 am every day is easy, or in any way something everyone can pull off. Yet, the book contains some incredible nuggets for people looking to craft their very own routine.
Create a formula
Sharma talks a lot about day-stacking. That means that small things done daily are way more important than big things done once in a while. All of us have limited mental capacity or cognitive bandwidth. And throughout the day, our attention is given to more and more things: work, the news, interaction with others, and social media.
Our bandwidth gets used up by all of these so, by lunchtime, we can’t really concentrate on anything at all.
Consider enhancing one ability or skill by just one percent every day. It’s a small change, but over a year it amounts to a 365 percent improvement. In the book, he introduces the 20/20/20 formula.
What will is the 20/20/20 formula that says you use 20 minutes to move, 20 minutes to reflect and 20 minutes to grow — just like Elrod was giving you the 6 Principles for his routine.
The common lesson here is that formulas do work because they allow us to get on with our routine without having to use too much guesswork.
Pro tip: create your own unique formula to shape up a morning routine that works uniquely for you.
Find your hero-hour
I am a massive advocate of finding your prime time. Maybe Mozart loved waking up at 5 am, but that may not necessarily be the right time for you to tap into your productivity.
Something I still believe though, is that the first hours of the day are where heroes are made. If you want to master your life, start by owning the mornings.
Freedom from distraction during that first hour of your day will allow you to build your creativity, maximise your wellbeing and protect your serenity in an age of complexity.
Pro tip: avoid distractions during the first hour of your day. Regardless of how you’ll be filling the time, make sure you enrich this special hour with what will serve you best.
Sometimes you just need to go with the flow
You see, I talked a lot about things you can do to become more efficient in your mornings. However, growth happens not just in the performance phase, but also in the recovery phase and the time you spend just being, rather than doing.
Think about a farmer, for example. There is always an intense period of tilling soil, planting crops and serious work, but after that, it is the fallow season. The fallow season might look like a period of rest. It looks like nothing’s happening. But really, it’s the fallow season, in which the soil is resting and replenishing its nutrients, that predicts how well crops are really going to blossom.
By focusing too much on what we should do each morning, we may forget the simple benefits of just, well, being.
I hope this piece helped you realising that, after all, there is no such thing as the perfect morning routine.
Nevertheless, by following the guidance from these best-selling books you’ll be able to craft the unique routine that serves you best.
Looking for ways to reset and take breaks during the day? Learn about 5 things you can doing to supercharge your lunchtime break.