You can't read books or blogs about self-improvement or productivity for very long without coming across a piece of advice about your morning routine. According to each of these resources, it seems like all successful people will make their bed, get in a 5 mile run, eat a well-balanced breakfast, trade stocks, and meditate before the sun rises.
Personally, there are days that I feel lucky to get out of bed in time to shower and put on pants before work. When I hear about these routines of the successful and the lifestyle bloggers who have amassed 40k followers on Instagram for their photos of sunsets with pseudo-inspiring quotes and insincere brand partnerships, I don't find myself particularly convinced. The more I've read of posts like that, the more I've realized that there are two truths morning routines that we should be taking into consideration:
- First, morning routines actually are important.
- Second, there's no miracle morning of the rich and famous that you must emulate if you want to be happier or more successful.
Here's what I mean.
My Experience with Morning Routines
In the past, I've tried out a variety of morning routines. For a few months it was getting up and journaling. For a few days it was getting up and meditating. For a few weeks it was getting up and exercising.
Each time, my desired morning routine was initiated because I felt like that's what I was supposed to be doing and I was able to conveniently fit it into my daily schedule– at least for a little while– without having to move too much stuff around.
Fittingly, each time I also fell off the wagon as soon as there were any abnormalities in my schedule or if I just felt tired. Even with something like journaling or exercising where I had immediate short term benefits of feeling good, I still wasn't feeling the long-term payoff that I needed to choose my morning activities over sleeping in after my alarm went off. With a minor inconvenience, change in schedule, or unexpected late night, my morning routine went out the door and I didn't feel inclined to get back on track with it.
To be completely honest, it was just easier on a daily basis to roll over, turn off my alarm, and then scroll through social media until I had to get ready for work. Doing so was the only morning routine that I had that really lasted for any substantial period of time. Even if I didn't feel like exercising or journaling bright and early, I always felt like playing on my phone and wasting time before getting out of bed.
But, that was how I began to observe a trend and how I realized that morning routines were actually more important than I had supposed. There was a clear connection– if I started my day on Facebook, Instagram, and/or YouTube, I was more inclined to spend the rest of my day with Facebook, Instagram, and/or YouTube on in the background. As a result, I was less inclined to focus at work. Getting into a flow state was impossible, I felt like I was spread too thin, and I was significantly more stressed.
My first thought was to attribute this feeling to just being burnt out at work. After all, I had been in my position at work for a year and half, and I had been desiring a change of pace. While a part of my daily routine was definitely affected by burnout, it wasn't fair to attribute all of what I was feeling to that workplace phenomenon, especially since I was still feeling restless and unfocused after work and on my lunch break.
As much as I have planned for both BlakeWrites and the Expert Project that I'm working on as a side project, I knew that something had to change. I needed to make a shift in my daily routine so that I could get shit done and feel like I was accomplishing all that I needed to accomplish. So, I drew a bit of inspiration from two of the books I've read recently– Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave and Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans– and came up with a morning routine to prototype and test out.
My Current Morning Routine and Why I Think It Works
Looking at the tone that my morning routine set for the day and the distractions that I felt throughout the day, I knew that there was one particular variable that I had to address: my cell phone.
Working in tech and managing all of my blogs and hobbies from a computer means that I am constantly inundated with screen time. Having an iPhone is useful in many instances, but it also makes it incredibly easy to continue to be connected after work is over. I can't even count the number of times I've sat down after work with a glass of wine just to get on Slack and see what was going on with my coworkers rather than actually unwinding.
While I'm not prepared to chuck my smart phone out the window and replace it with a Nokia brick (though I do have Nokia stocks, so I encourage everybody to ditch all of their current tech and replace it with the Nokia equivalent), I did recognize that I needed to figure out ways to make my phone less convenient and to mitigate the time that I'd spend on it. In the past, I had tried the Pomodoro Technique, but it's incredibly easy to let your time buffers bleed over into each other, especially with a multi-purpose tool like an iPhone.
So, I made a hurdle for accessing my phone. I went to the store and bought a radio alarm clock– something I haven't had since my pre-smart phone school days. I set the clock and scheduled an alarm for 6:15 AM during the work week. Intentionally, I positioned the clock on my wardrobe as far away from the bed as I feasibly could in my bedroom.
Already, this was a big step forward. When the alarm went off, I didn't have a choice but to physically get out of the bed and turn it off.
But, then I took it one step further. I moved my phone charger from beside my bed to the living room. Now, I don't even sleep in the same room as my phone. When I'm going to bed, I can't just check Facebook for a little bit. When I'm waking up, I can't roll over and scroll through Instagram for "five minutes" that inevitably becomes ten, fifteen, twenty, forty-five minutes.
While it has taken a little time to get used to it, waking up and getting active at 6:15 is incredibly easy now. I don't even feel all that tired while I'm shuffling around and getting ready. The transformation has been absolutely liberating. Before the sun comes up, I'm able to get up, put on my workout clothes, drink a pre-workout shake, and hit the gym four or five days per week.
By taking my cell phone out of the equation and buying a "less-convenient" alarm clock, I have felt like my entire identity has evolved. Where I once swore that I would never be a morning person, I now loving waking early and breaking a sweat. Next thing you know, I'm going to be one of those Instagrammers who post pictures of his six pack and pairs it with the most generic, fortune cookie-style motivational quote I can find on Google for the sake of making people feel bad enough about themselves that they follow me! (In case it wasn't super clear, please re-read that last sentence with the understanding that it's dripping in sarcasm.)
Sarcasm aside, I have felt so much better about my mornings and my body as I've adopted this routine. My energy levels and focus throughout the day are significantly above what they once were, but, more importantly, I've felt liberated and excited about starting my day. From the time my eyes open, I'm honoring my body and celebrating who I am. It keeps me focused, motivated, and enthusiastic about pursuing what I want to work on.
If I'm sick or too sore to hit the gym, I keep my routine, but choose to brew my coffee and read instead of heading to the gym. Again, the return on investment for my time has easily been threefold. In 2018, I felt like I had no time to read and probably only read five or six books the entire year. I've surpassed that already in 2019 simply by keeping a book by my bed to open at nights when I feel the urge to check my phone, and by reading in the mornings when my body is telling me that it doesn't need to get in the gym.
Summary: Figuring Out Your Morning Routine
As I stated at the beginning of the post, morning routines are important but there's no miracle morning routine.
My method of using a radio alarm clock and heading to the gym has done absolute wonders for me. I adore it, and honestly miss the gym when I'm out of town.
If you try it out, you might find that it's absolute rubbish and bullshit.
That's perfectly fine, my dude.
You don't have to use or like my routine. But, I still think you should figure one out that motivates you, and it shouldn't involve a morning of scrolling through social media. If you want me to slam you with the statistics about what that does for your self-image, self-confidence, anxiety, or mood, just let me know and I can do it.
Instead, I want to be a stereotypical lifestyle blogger and slam you with a pretty little graphic of the beach and an inspirational quote.
In summary: Figure out your own fu**ing routine.
You'll thank yourself.