I’m sorry, there’s no such thing as the perfect morning routine but I have learned a few things while experimenting with my own. I have read about other morning routines and I have been able to try them for myself along the way. I hope what I have learned through trial and error can help make your mornings just that little bit better.
Wake up naturally -I always enjoyed waking up when the sun comes up, however, these days I usually rise a bit earlier. Whatever time you wake up, try to keep a consistent pattern to make it easier on yourself. If you’re a shift worker, I feel you but you’re going to have to skip this and move on to the next step.
Sit in the morning sun -some studies show exposure to sunlight helps fight depression by releasing serotonin, a natural anti-depressant, in the brain. I sit in the sun and enjoy my coffee as part of my morning routine whenever I get a chance because it makes me feel good.
Take some time to think -Give yourself some time to think before you start your work for the day. Creative and original ideas don’t come from overloading yourself with more information. Sometimes the best ideas come to us on a quiet morning walk, while sipping our tea or in our morning shower.
Write a journal -I don’t practice this everyday, however, I do write a journal when I find myself feeling lost. Some people swear by keeping a journal every morning though. You might start by writing down three things you’re grateful for or setting some goals.
Don’t check your notifications -I only check my phone first thing if there is a missed call or a text message because usually they are important for me (my friends and family know not to call too late unless it’s an emergency). I never check my email, social media or app notifications on my phone when I wake up. Avoid being side tracked by distracting alerts and sounds, which in my experience are never urgent and rarely important. Wait until later in the day to check you social media, when you have finished your most important work.
Take a cold shower -I need to add a disclaimer here: this was part of my morning routine for about 3 weeks in an Australian Summer. Cold showers really seemed to wake me up and make me alert for the day ahead. Many people have written about the benefits of taking a cold shower and there is some scientific evidence to back the benefits. One thing I did notice is that my best ideas were no longer coming to me in the shower.
Arrive early -I get up early most mornings to do work in my home office. I have always found I get more done first thing in the morning at home or at the office. Either way, I seem to get more work done between 6am and 8:30am than I do the rest of the day.
Don’t answer the phone -I know this is probably counter intuitive to what you’ve always been told. I look back on the phone calls I have answered and I think 75% of them would have just been a distraction from what I was working on. Important callers will usually leave a message, send an email or I would have a call scheduled with them anyway. If you’re a secretary, don’t follow this advice because it’s your job to answer the phone. If you work in any other role, limit your use of the phone if it’s likely to be a distraction.
Work on your most important task -Leo Babauta first introduced me to the very simple concept (and in hindsight quite obvious) of your most important task or MIT. Leo suggests you should work on your most important task and nothing else at the start of your work day. That’s what I do now and I have been significantly more productive than before. Focus on your MIT until it’s done.
No email before 10am -If you check your email first thing in the morning, then other people will be setting your agenda for the day. Never let other people set your priorities. Instead, you should start your day on your most important task or (if you can’t remember what that is) open your calendar or task list. Similarly, you should shut down your email and only check it during 3 or 4 (at most) scheduled times during the day.
One final thought. Don’t try and fit everything into your morning routine. Start by adding one of these elements and find out if that works for you. I didn’t write this article to overwhelm you or make you feel like there’s even more to fit in your day. It will be a great start if you can replace one or two of the things you’re doing that aren’t working for something that will.