The Power of Morning Rituals
Mornings are the most important time of your day. How you start your day sets you up for success for the rest of your day. How you consistently start your days sets you up for a great life. The easiest way to ensure consistency in your mornings is to follow a ritual.
The morning is a precious time that can, and should, be free of distractions so that you can focus on getting myself in the best state for the day both mentally and physically, and to set the foundation for your day. It is tempting to wake up and jump straight into checking email, reviewing your to-do list, listening to the news or checking social media. Doing so, however, immediately distracts your attention with other people's priorities, reacting to negative news, etc. and takes your focus away from the important things that you can do to set yourself up for success. There is plenty of time during the rest of the day for email, news and social media.
I can share my current morning ritual as just one example. It has evolved over the past few years and the activities are specific to my priorities and goals. There are many other great activities that you can incorporate into a morning routine customized to your own priorities, goals, and schedule. Beginning a routine may seem hard, but the trick is to start small and build over time.
My Morning Ritual
At a high level, my early mornings can be divided into several parts. They are meditation, reading, exercise, planning, and learning.
Meditation: I begin my days at 5 am with 20-30 minutes of meditation. Over the past couple of years, I have tried a variety of techniques, beginning with guided meditations, then trying different breathing techniques and using a mantra. I have also used several meditation apps, and occasionally still do for variety. The most effective way to meditate will vary by individual, and my advice is to try a few different meditation techniques, each for a while, and then settle on what works best for you. Also, don't begin by trying to meditate for long periods. You will only get frustrated. Start small and gradually build up over time. Even 2-5 minutes a day, done with consistency is a great start. You can build up from there. These days, I meditate in silence with a timer set to chime at the end of my planned session. I start each session with focused breathing, gradually shifting to a variant of a mantra. Now 30 minutes of meditation for me seems to pass by like only a couple of minutes did years ago. When I'm done, I feel focused and centered with that feeling carrying through the rest of my day.
Reading: Following my meditation, I have breakfast and devote time to reading. This typically is for 30-40 minutes. I always have several topics that I am interested in learning about, and I structure my daily reading around those. By reading early in the morning, I can do so uninterrupted and without distractions before the turmoil of the day takes hold. I also find that I absorb the material I read better in the early morning. I do try to read later in the day, but, by reading in the morning, I ensure that I am learning something every day.
Exercise: Next up is physical activity. This consists of two parts. The first part each day is either weights or circuit training. The second part is a workout on the treadmill. I alternate between weights and circuit training on weekdays. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I do weights with exercises for large and small muscles group each day. Monday is chest and biceps. Wednesday is back and triceps, and Friday is legs and shoulders day. On Tuesday and Thursday, I do 3 repetitions of the 7-minute workout, which is a form of high-intensity circuit training, followed by some stretching. Each day, after weight or circuit training, I walk or run on the treadmill doing at least 4 miles. I run a minimum of twice a week. On the weekends I will go for outdoor walks, run, or cycle. I try to have a good mix of exercise activities covering all areas. This also keeps things from getting monotonous.
Planning: The time I am on the treadmill is the time that I spend planning and prioritizing activities for the rest of the day. I feel very focused when doing my daily planning while walking or running. It may sound a bit unusual, but for me, it works.
Learning: The last part of my morning ritual takes place during my daily commute which lasts about an hour. During that commute, I listen to a variety of podcasts on personal and professional development, business, science and technology, and other topics. I also use apps like Blinkist which condense non-fiction books into summaries that can be read in 15 minutes or listened to while driving. That gives me access to the core message of several hundred books per year. If I want to take a deeper dive into the content, I can decide to read a book in its entirety.
By the time I begin my day at work, I do so with a sense of accomplishment. I know that I have set myself up physically and mentally for an unbreakable day and that I'm ready for anything that comes my way.
Your Own Morning Ritual
I wouldn't recommend jumping straight into a morning ritual like mine tomorrow. My own journey began with just a few things like weight training and circuit training. I then habit-stacked, gradually adding meditation and the other elements. Most recently, I made the decision to shift my treadmill walks and runs to the morning as well because I found that I wasn't always consistent in doing them later in the day. This also meant getting up earlier to fit everything in. So, now I'm a member of the 5 am club. I've been following my current morning ritual for a few months and at this point, it has become a habit.
I've described my morning routine which has evolved over the last few years to its current form. It's what works for me, but I know that my particular morning ritual isn't for everyone. What can work for anyone, however, is consistently following a morning routine that sets them up for success for the rest of the day. There are many outstanding activities you can incorporate into your own mornings. Think about the daily activities that you can establish to start each morning to set yourself up for a great day and a great life. Start small and build upon that foundation. Have fun with it. If you don't enjoy what you are doing, you won't stick with it. Don't be afraid of making adjustments. See what is working for you and what isn't and make changes. Over time you will see the positive results in your life resulting from consistently following your morning routine.
To live a great life, you need to get your mornings right. Build a strong foundation early in the morning for an unbreakable day. Start each day with power and intention, and you will live your life with strength and direction. Develop a routine that works for you. This is your day. Own your morning so you can own your day. Schedule that time. It's more important than anything. Give that to yourself!
Helpful tip: I make my mornings easier by preparing the night before; deciding what to wear the next day, packing my lunch, etc. By doing so, the next morning I can just breeze through those activities and focus instead on the important elements of my morning routine.
Originally published in LinkedIn Pulse.