Life is too short,” she panicked, “I want more.” He nodded slowly, “Wake up earlier.”
~ Dr. SunWolf
Getting up early is hard.
Getting up early in winter – in the darkness of a bleak English morning – is harder still.
Not only that, but when you have spent the majority of your nighttimes either lying awake trying to will yourself to sleep or sat zombified in front of the computer/TV watching movies, YouTube, browsing the web, writing (as was often the case for me), playing videos games and so on, because the tiredness has yet to strike, the thought of getting up early every day is a far-flung concept.
I was forever hammering the snooze button when I entered a full-time job that required me to be in the office at 9am from Monday to Friday, making every precious minute count towards more sleep.
Until very recently – deciding to take up the life of ‘being self-employed’ – I discovered the importance of daily routines and habits.
I found that I had arrived at this point in my life where the fear of failure and uncertainty was paramount and so I began to take the practice of rising early as often as possible very seriously.
Let’s be clear for a moment; I have yet to nail these habits to everymorning and I am working on the discipline that is necessary to fulfil what I’m about to list each day – since being off colour or recovering from a busy week can certainly keep you pinned to the mattress as though all of gravity is pressing down upon you – yet I have noticed some positive changes, not only in my productivity, but my mental health too. The proactive mindset that is set-up for the rest of the day is a launch pad that gives you the momentum you need, before you know it, you’re crossing so much off the ‘to-do list’ and you’re feeling pretty damn good about yourself as you go.
So, after gathering my findings via the study of some successful individuals that are out there, through podcasts, articles, interviews etc. Here is my daily routine list that I try to stick to (3 out of 5 working days is a win for me):
I’ll break these down one-by-one, but before I do, I would like to give one vital instruction that has done well by me so far, which is:
FROM 9.30pm TO 9.30am – PUT YOUR PHONE ON FLIGHT MODE
Honestly, this has relieved me of my stress and anxiety in a huge way. It’s a common thing to hear from many that our smart phones have completely taken over our lives and we all admit as much, almost to a point that confessing our own addictions absolves us of excess usage whilst we waste countless hours watching stupid videos on Facebook.
But like anything else we use to excess, it becomes increasingly unhealthy.
It isn’t just social media we find ourselves hooked on, as many as of us refresh our emails, news pages, messages from friends and family along with anything else that would provide us with ‘the latest’ – be it news, information, gossip or any update that puts our mind to rest. It’s impossible to ‘switch off’ when you’re constantly checking your phone, to a point that you’re dabbling with the damn thing just simply because it’s ‘there’, the same way we would keep snacking if the food was consistently in front of us.
When I decided to put my phone on flight mode, I found that gnawing sensation of needing to check my messages quickly lifted and even realised that I was reluctant to switch my data/Wi-Fi back on in the morning – not out of fear of any built-up backlog waiting to flood in – but because I was enjoying the peace and quiet.
That all said, let’s get back to the list:
Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room – set it for 6am.
I advise to keep your phone in a separate room – but if you must – then keep it on flight mode and place it on the other side of the room. That way, once the alarm goes off, you’re forced to step out of bed and silence it.
This is where I usually fail my routine altogether – the make or break moment – when the fatigue is so overwhelming, I walk back to bed and go straight back to sleep. Even justifying it to myself by adding another half an hour or so to the alarm clock, knowing deep down that I’ll likely ignore that one too and end up sleeping until the last possible moment.
Stay standing and leave the bedroom completely, put yourself in a position where you have no choice but to stay awake, eventually the tiredness will ebb away and the proactive headspace starts to develop.
But before you leave the bedroom…
Make the bed.
I would drive my girlfriend crazy during the first two years of our relationship, as I was bit of a pig when it came to tidying my own bed. Now I know better.
If anyone has seen the video by Admiral William McRaven, (link to video here) you will understand the philosophy behind making your bed.
It’s the first task of the day, and by doing so you have achieved one thing already and you’re set on the path to achieving other things by allowing that first step to move you forwards.
Plus, it’s easier on the eyes and thus on the mind to see a tidy bed, and it also gives you something to look forward to at the end of a busy and difficult day – getting into a fresh and tidy bed is a great feeling when you’re about ready to zonk out.
This is extremely useful for anyone coping with severe depression, as the most trivial acts and errands become the most difficult and taxing. Making your bed is simple enough and it’s that one extra detail that can help turn your perspective around, which will hopefully guide you towards the next positive thing.
(Side note: I still drive my girlfriend crazy. My ‘sweep it under the rug’ method doesn’t gel with her furniture showroom efficiency and thoroughness – but either way, the bed is made and that’s the main thing.)
Drink two pints of water.
The number of people I know who drink so little water astounds me.
Throughout my life I have always consumed plenty of water every day, so I count myself quite fortunate to have a well-established habit in my life that contributes to my health.
We all know the benefits of drinking water – since 50-60% of our body is made of the stuff – it flushes out the nasty stuff in your body, good for your skin, hair, nails, teeth, makes you feel more awake and helps your concentration. I won’t play a doctor here, instead head over to this page to learn about the benefits of drinking water.
One of my most worthwhile purchases was both a BRITA water filter, which gets rid of that noticeable metallic taste that tap water often has, whilst reducing plastic waste from bottled water. I keep the jug topped up and refrigerated so I can immediately pour a couple of full glasses first thing in the morning. They’re easy enough to find at most supermarkets and shopping centres, but here’s the official BRITA website if you wish to buy online.
For work and the gym, I’ve purchased a water canteen – which, I top up with the filtered water – that in itself saves me money and plastic by having 1 litre of water with me all day-long. You can buy one of those here.
Whenever I can, I go to the gym at least four times a week. Although my favourite times to go are in the early afternoon (quieter times when you have more to yourself), I try to go in the mornings around 7am and spend about an hour there, fitting in 6-8 exercises focusing on a specific part of my body.
If I don’t go to the gym, I use the kettle bell that we have at home (you can buy one for around £20) and do some standard exercises – 10 reps of each, which often consists of a kettle bell swing, one-arm shoulder presses, underarm rows, squats and then perhaps do some push-ups and sit-ups.
The exercising doesn’t necessarily have to be anything too arduous – simply stretching may do the trick, as long as it gets some blood pumping and wakes up the muscles, bringing the body to life.
In the process, you release endorphins, which serves as a natural painkiller for the body – which, has been said to be incredibly useful when coping with depression and anxiety – and you feel good about yourself physically and mentally. You feel like you’re kicking ass already as you feel the blood flow through your veins and your heart starts beating harder.
At this point, you feel high on your own strength and the tiredness has been swept aside.
Meditate for ten minutes.
When it came to meditation, I would roll my eyes at the word.
Like me, you may think of hipsters sat in front of their homemade make-shift temple, cross-legged and humming to themselves as incense burns and fills the room with its scented fumes.
Meditation is what you make of it and you can believe the hype, it is like a mental reset button.
For someone as fidgety as I am, getting into the habit and discipline of meditating was very difficult but the trick is to sit with your eyes closed, nice steady breaths and be completely in tune with the sounds and sense around you.
When your mind wanders, you let it do so and then slowly reign it in back to the moment and let it dissolve as you focus on a certain sound or smell or sensation.
The more you do it, the more trained you become.
For beginners, I recommend Headspace – which, you can download as an app on your phone – you can enjoy a free 30 day trial and pay for it if you feel convinced that it’s done you well. Or, do what I did, take on board its lessons and instructions, then apply them to yourself by memory each day and make it your own as you go.
Don’t feel embarrassed or believe that you have jumped on some trendy bandwagon. Mediation has been practiced for centuries and for good reason, you don’t have to brag about it to everyone you know – because that’s what pisses people off – just do it and don’t make a big thing out of it.
I promise you that you will feel the difference within the first week.
Make some “Crazy Tea”.
Over the last year or so, I have discovered Tim Ferriss – I asked myself why I had never come across this guy sooner. If you haven’t heard of him or listened to his podcasts nor read his books, open up your podcast-listening app and look him up, you’ll love what he has to share with the world.
Anyway, I mention Ferriss because this “Crazy Tea” thing came from him (as well as a few of these morning routines), in which he mixes green tea, black tea with ginger, turmeric, coconut oil and grass-fed butter each morning.
Following on from this, I have tried different combinations of hot drinks in the morning.
One of which was soy milk or almond milk warmed up with cinnamon and coffee, something I enjoy but since it requires me to warm my milk on the stove, my impatience gets the better of me.
So, more often than not I follow Ferriss’ recipe, which starts by taking a small mug, drop in a teaspoon of coconut oil and grass-fed butter then add a splash of hot water to melt them together. Meanwhile, I take a separate measuring jug and pour hot water over a bag of green tea, allow that do its thing and add it to the mug. Likewise, I do the same with some Chai tea – I say go ahead and pick whichever tea is your preference but I think Chai gives it that extra something that my taste buds crave.
I will warn you however, drinking this for the first time may feel like sipping on vaseline, as the coconut oil and butter form a head like a Guinness and it takes some getting used to.
But much like trying coffee for the first time, you’re not too convinced but after a few more drinks, you grow to enjoy it for what it is.
Plus, I rarely get the ‘caffeine crash’ after drinking this ‘Crazy Tea’ and hardly find myself needing another caffeinated drink for the rest of the day, like I would after drinking standard coffee or tea in the morning.
Now and again, I mix it with coffee and the butter makes a good alternative to milk so the two make a decent combination.
Give it a go and see what you think.
Do some “journaling.”
This has been a huge help for my own daily point-of-view.
It doesn’t take too long and it helps you appreciate the finer details and sets you on a mission to achieve great things in your day.
Here’s how you lay it out:
Three things that I am grateful for:
Three things that would make today amazing:
Daily affirmations, today I am:
For the ‘gratitude’ section, I strongly recommend that you avoid the obvious ‘I am grateful for my cat’ or ‘a family that loves me’ as they can become quite repetitive.
Think of subtle details, like ‘the warmth in my home’ or ‘the sunshine’ or ‘this comfy cushion that I’m sitting on.’
As for the three things that would make your day amazing, don’t pressure yourself so much with this but if at all possible, utilise it like a ‘to-do list,’ which could be something like ‘calling my mother’ or ‘go for a walk on my lunch break’. Try to steer away from things that are beyond your control, like ‘winning the lottery’ or ‘getting that job I applied for,’ those things aren’t up to you – so remain in control of what you choose to list.
This part of my morning ritual clears my mind and helps to gear me up for a proactive day.
So there you have it!
Like I said, I’m still trying to get better at achieving these things each morning, and I don’t force myself to try and tick off each and every one of them. Only what I can fit in with reasonable feasibility and I don’t exert myself in doing so, if I get at least three in then that’s a good start to my day.
As always, things continue to evolve, change and adjust – so those of you reading, if you have any morning rituals that you feel help you ‘win the day,’ then share them below, I’d be fascinated to hear what your own practises are.
Until next time.
Have an amazing day!