Morning routines are great. But changing sleep habits is tough. Really tough. It takes a lot discipline to establish a consistent routine.
Starting and maintaining a positive morning routine is an investment of a life time. It gives you structure, build life-changing habits, and creates momentum for the rest of your day.
According to research, when you create and follow a morning routine, your stress, and anxiety levels will start to plummet and your life satisfaction levels will begin to soar.
In the words of Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning:
“How you wake up each day and your morning routine (or lack thereof) dramatically affects your levels of success in every single area of your life. 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.”
If you want to make your morning routine stick, focus on making it a habit. A healthy morning routine instills a sense of purpose, peace and productive ritual to your day. But it’s difficult to even get started. It’s hard to start your day exactly how you want it.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, says maintaining a good morning routine is no different than having a positive outlook.
“Over my 50 years in business I have learned that if I rise early I can achieve so much more in a day, and therefore in life. No matter where I am in the world, I try to routinely wake up at around 5am. By rising early, I’m able to do some exercise and spend time with my family, which puts me in a great mind frame before getting down to business.”
Here’s my morning routine: I wake at 6:30 a.m, drink water, meditate, exercise, shower, read, eat breakfast, check email, write. And then work on other 3 Most Important Things (MITs) before midday. There will be more that I do during the day, but my focus will be to finish at least three MITs. At the moment my morning routine is still subject to tweaking. I am experimenting with different routines.
I want to transition to a 5:30 a.m. wake-up time. I am used to staying up late. But I am gradually changing that to wake up early. I love the idea of having a solid morning routine to ease me into a clear-minded, active, and productive day.
If your morning routine just isn’t working, some of these ideas can help you make gradual, consistent and beneficial change.
Create a pre-sleep ritual
Your evening ritual determines the success of your morning routine. Everything you do just before you go to bed has a lot to do with the time you will be able to wake up without stuggle. The time before you go to bed is an ideal time to prepare yourself for the morning.
Find a relaxing activity just before bed. Reading helps. Puzzles can also calm you. Whatever the activity, try to avoid a TV or phone screen too close to bedtime. They emit a blue light, which suppresses melatonin (a hormone made by small gland in the brain). Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles.
Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours.
Your body has its own internal clock that controls your natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours. Don’t suppress it. Help yourself to sleep better.
Vivian Giang, author of “Hack Your Day: Morning to Nighttime Habits of Highly Successful People”, suggests that you declare your bedroom a “device-free zone” and leave all tablets, smartphones, and other computer-related devices elsewhere.
Don’t eat late. If you’re body is still digesting food when you’re trying to get to sleep, you’ll have a tougher time falling asleep and wake up feeling worse off than if you just stayed hungry.
Once you get your evening routine down and get used to going to bed at a certain time, you should be able to get up earlier as a result.
Keep things simple in the beginning
Don’t try to fit in too much in the morning when you are trying to change your morning routine. Experiment with a few things and stick to the ones that work best for you. If it’s too rigid or too packed you will feel like it’s being rushed. You don’t want that.
Early mornings are your sacred time to start your day right—don’t fill it with just news, email, social media, apps or notifications.
Instead, put meaningful things in this sacred space, things that you probably won’t have time for. And don’t wake up at the last minute: half an hour before you have to leave for work, or right before you hop on your laptop and start typing. It’s a stressful way to start your day.
You probably won’t be able to fit in or implement all your ideas at once, but try one or two out and see if your mornings improve.
A productive morning is created consciously. You have to work at it. It’s difficult to maintain consistency but to make it work, it takes insane discipline and commitment.
Don’t make drastic changes
It might sound easy to establish a simple routine, but it’s just as easy to fall out of them. I still struggle but I intend to make them a habit that will stick over time.
Keep your routine as your most important goal for at least one month, focusing on nothing else but those habits.
Start slowly, by waking just 15–30 minutes earlier than usual. Get used to this for a few days. Then cut back another 15 minutes. Do this gradually until you get to your goal time.
Trying to do too many things at once spreads your focus too thin, and makes success less likely.
Kristin Wong of Lifehacker offers other ideas to help you do more in the morning:
It may also help to track your morning routine for a week or so. Find the areas in which you’re spending the most time and then cut back on the areas you don’t care about so you can focus on the rituals that matter more to you. The bottom line: you want to be realistic about how much you can fit into your morning and then come up with a few impactful activities.
According to Zdravko Cvijetic, the gradual method works best:
The most efficient method for changing the time you wake up is to do it gradually — 10–15 minutes earlier for 1–3 days until you feel used to it, and then lower it down. If you get up at 8 a.m. generally, don’t suddenly change it to 6 a.m. Try 7:45 a.m. first. Maintain for a couple of days, and then go to 7:30.
This will take some time, but the effects on your energy will be minimal, plus it’s the most enjoyable and it has a lower chance of failure.
Have a great reason
It’s hard enough to leave the comfort of bed every morning, but it’s nearly impossible if you don’t have a good reason to do it every day.
A morning routine helps you overcome procrastination, be a more positive, healthier person, and set you up for success each day.
Set something to do early in the morning that’s important. This reason will motivate you to get up. The time before you go to work is golden, as it exists every single day, and it’s usually completely yours to schedule.
What do you want to do with this time? Read? Write? Exercise? Work on your passion project?
Using that time to pursue something meaningful to you will immensely improve not only your total well being, but sense of self worth.
Benjamin Franklin’s meticulous “scheme” consisted of waking up at 5 a.m. and asking himself, “What good shall I do this day? And at the end of the night, Franklin asked himself, “What good have I done today?”
What works best for you in the morning?
One more thing:
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Thomas Oppong is the founding editor at Alltopstartups (where he shares resources for startups and entrepreneurs) and the curator at Postanly (a free weekly newsletter that delivers the most insightful long-form posts from top publishers).