One of my most striking revelations in recent years has been the importance of morning rituals.
If you’re tired of chaotic days and abandoned goals, this is how to regain control.
Let’s dive in. But first, a familiar scenario.
You wake up without an alarm and laze in bed, idly scrolling through the socials.
Switching to the news, you get blasted in the face with negativity for half an hour.
Slowly, you drag yourself out of bed and search forlornly for your running gear.
Hungry, you decide to eat breakfast instead.
Now you wonder whether you should go for coffee or start that side project.
Unsure what you’re in the mood for, you get sucked into a YouTube spiral, watching hilarious cat videos.
By this time, it’s late morning and your most productive hours are behind you.
This sequence of events constitutes a morning ritual, just an unproductive and largely unrewarding one.
It’s also one I’ve repeated often.
Sure, self-indulgence is great at the time, but afterwards you feel like a wastrel.
This type of morning ritual is structureless, resulting in confusion and inaction.
We waste inordinate time thinking about what to do next instead of acting with intention.
Eventually, the afternoon rolls around and we have little to show for our day.
Our most important aims remain undone, with compounding frustration and self-castigation soon after.
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.” Seneca
The importance of morning rituals
It was only when I became more intentional about my morning rituals that I experienced significant life shifts.
- I became a regular writer after multiple failed attempts
- I became a habitual meditator after frequent false starts
- I engaged in daily exercise after numerous abandoned attempts
The quality of our mornings affects the quality of our days.
In his book, The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod expounds the benefits of high-performance habits after recovering from a near-fatal car crash and crippling debt and depression,
“Focused, productive, successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days—which inevitably create a successful life—in the same way that unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre mornings generate unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre days, and ultimately a mediocre quality of life. By simply changing the way you wake up in the morning, you can transform any area of your life, faster than you ever thought possible.”
Humans operate like a flywheel.
It takes energy to engage in rewarding activities, but once we’re in motion, our momentum is easily maintained.
This flywheel is easier to crank first thing after waking when we have the energy to push our most important tasks forwards.
Once progress is underway, it becomes like a snowball effect, our productivity flywheel obliterating our other daily to do’s.
By creating our morning ritual with intention, we flow from one activity to the next like a zen monk, completely focused and present.
Time becomes our ally as we glide seamlessly from one task to the next, devoid of indecision.
It’s a glorious feeling.
Reaching late morning, rather than being infused with regret of missed opportunity, we feel we’ve pushed our most important projects along and seized the day, a sensation analogous to the runner’s high.
Creating a morning routine
It all starts the night before, setting your intentions for the next day.
Deciding in advance your exact actions the next morning avoids analysis paralysis and relapse into old habits.
A good wind-down routine in addition to going to sleep earlier will help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go.
Next, it’s great to have set a daily start time.
Morning rituals are not wholly dependent on alarms, but getting up at the same time each day has a huge psychological impact, making life much easier.
If you want to create a nourishing morning routine, but don’t have the time before work, you know the deal. Wake up earlier.
As for the schedule itself, I’ve found that it’s best to follow Brian Tracey’s Eat That Frog method,
“If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. This is another way of saying that if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first.”
This is where you tackle your essential activities first with complete focus and attention.
Another option is to perform your most high leverage activity first thing after waking.
For me, this is writing. Like exercise, I don’t necessarily look forward to putting pen to paper or fingers to keys, but when I’m in the zone and eventually complete an article, I experience a huge sense of satisfaction.
Reflecting on my day, I’m always happy to have shared my thoughts and potentially reached more readers.
What’s an activity that you can do first thing that will give the greatest emotional ROI? Start there.
Equally, follow it up with other activities that help you make progress on your goals.
In addition to starting with your hardest or essential tasks first, I’ve discovered the benefits of balance in any morning ritual.
In other words, it’s not all work.
Adding an exercise component in the form of a daily(ish) morning run, before starting meditation as a spiritual practice were huge.
This variety means that by mid-morning, I feel I’ve advanced my mind, body and career.
I’ve written more about my morning routine here, so check that out it tickles your fancy.
If you routinely give up on your goals and succumb to self-loathing, try changing how you wake up.
Moving your must-do tasks forward can provide the motivation needed to make real progress.
Investing in your morning routine ensures productive days full of passion and purpose.