If you win the morning, you win the day.
Fixed schedules support self-discipline because they are easy to follow, and thus cause less decision fatigue. Good morning and evening routines help you develop self-discipline for everything else. You will feel more in control of your time, your moods, and your life.
I recommend being flexible with the middle of the day and inflexibly focusing each morning and evening on your aspirations and other priorities. For building an effective morning and night routines, follow the five elements laid out here.
Fixed Start Time
Morning routines thrive on consistent beginnings. To start on time, you need to wake up on time—never pressing the snooze button. Every time you press it, you snooze your aspirations, postpone your goals, weaken your willpower, and abandon your self-discipline. Don’t do it.
If that sounds easier said than done, leave your alarm several steps away from your bed, with the volume loud. When you get out of bed in the morning to turn the alarm off, there is only one rule to remember: “Go to the bathroom, not back to bed.”
For waking up always at the same time, you will also need to go to sleep always at the same time. Otherwise, if you’re sleep-deprived, your morning may feel like a drag; and your day, unproductive. So, in a way, the most important thing about your morning routine is your night routine.
If you try these two tips for a month and still struggle, consider making your first activity something enjoyable, like reading a favorite book or enjoying a favorite tea. Commit that you can only do that activity at that time of the day; so if you snooze, you lose!
Ideally, budget at least 30 minutes for your morning routine, to invest in activities that push your aspirations forward. Accommodate factors such as when you need to start work (or take care of your kids), and how early you are willing to wake up.
The first five hours of my day always include a cold shower, yoga, meditation, affirmations, and a long session of writing or research. It’s my favorite part of the day, and I wouldn’t miss it! It’s how I wrote this book.
I didn’t start out like this, and you don’t need to be that ambitious or extreme. But if you can get the first hour or two of your mornings to always be fixed and focused on your key habits, you will live more aligned with your values, and will make consistent progress with your goals.
You can book this time in your calendar, to prevent over-scheduling and to have a daily reminder.
A routine needs structure—otherwise it’s just a wish list. Divide your available time into blocks, and assign one to each activity. You then stack your activities back-to-back so that each one naturally follows the previous one.
Your morning routine needs to include the most important habits related to the two or three most important areas of your life. Treat your morning routine as your daily checklist of the things you need to tick every day to make sure that you are moving forward in what matters most to you.
For example, if your goals are career growth, health, and wellbeing, and your morning routine is from 6:00 am to 7:30 am, the structure could be:
- 6:00 —> Wake up and go to bathroom
- 6:10 —> Meditate (20 minutes)
- 6:30 —> Career-related reading (30 minutes)
- 7:00 —> Exercise (10 minutes)
- 7:10 —> Shower and breakfast
- 7:30 —> Finish
This routine guarantees that you follow three simple disciplines (meditation, reading, and exercise) every day, and thus advance your goals. The structure, activities, and timing will be unique for every person.
Setting an alarm for each time block will help you respect the structure and move forward as planned. Some people also post copies of the routine around their home to help it become a habit.
Focus means creating a distraction-free environment and approaching each activity wholeheartedly. Why? To get the most out of every moment.
minimize eliminate interruptions. Sleep with your phone on airplane mode, and stay offline until you have finished your morning routine. Believe me, this little shift can change your life!
Second, focus wholeheartedly on each activity, as if it’s the most important thing in the world. At that time, it is. When you are running, just run—there is nothing else for you to do or think about. When you meditate, just meditate. When you eat, just eat.
Keep your routine sacred, and you will get a lot from it.
It’s better to have an “okay” plan that you can actually follow than a “perfect” one that you can’t. So make your routine achievable by starting small. If you aspire to forty minutes of exercise, start with twenty. If you want seven activities each morning, start with three. If you hope for a three-hour routine, start with one or two. Make it easy—they grow gradually.
For the same reason, you may want to follow your morning routine five or six days a week, instead of seven. This is another way of making it more achievable, especially in the beginning.
With these five elements for a powerful morning routine, you can make sure that every day starts with a focus on your aspirations and deeper values.