Truth be told, not always I am feeling fresh and awake in the morning. Some people say I am more of a morning person, but I feel like I am an evening person. Whatever the case, early bird or night owl, let me share with you my morning rituals that set me up for success.
So the truth is I am not much of a morning person, but my colleagues and friends do think I am more of an early bird. So how is that possible?
Over the years I have learned and experienced what makes my mornings most productive. In this way, I have created the perfect productivity habit that sets me up for success.
Whether you are a morning person or an evening person, with these morning rituals you can become more effective during the morning. It’s not so much that all of these rituals and habits help you directly. They can also help you indirectly. For me, these rituals help me set myself up for success. I have a more clear head and sharp focus due to the rituals.
Every person is different and some rituals might not work for you. Despite possible differences I have worked on this guide so that it can be used universally. Let’s start with the step for step guide, my morning rituals. And then follow some tips on how to tweak this ritual setup for your own personal preferences. This articles closes with a discussion about the most important “ building blocks” of morning rituals. So if you want to personalize the rituals to fit your style, these building blocks should stay and be implemented.
This step by step guide shows my morning rituals, from the time I wake up until I go to lunch. So it’s quite broad, and doesn’t just cover waking up and getting ready to work. I have also detailed what I do first at work and how that helps me maintain my focus.
It’s not really a morning ritual, but I always do this and I am sure this is part of what makes my rituals a success. Every night I pick out my clothes and lay them in the bath room. In this way, when I have showered in the morning I don’t have to worry about what I am going to wear, as I have already made that choose. I also prep my meals for the next day. I check if there is enough food left and if not (and it’s too late to go the grocery store), I decide what my alternative is going to be (an extra piece of fruit? Some leftovers?). The night before I have chosen what to wear and what to eat. That’s two less choices to make.
Bleep bleep. The alarm goes. Instead of snoozing for a couple more minutes I get out of bed straight away. I always do this. I have noticed that snoozing has a reverse effect. Instead of feeling more refreshed I feel more sleepy. If I stay in bed I am sure to fall asleep very soon, then the alarm would go off again and I would wake from a near REM sleep. So as soon as the alarm goes, I am out of bed.
Bonus tip: I you are a person who uses power naps I would advice taking naps of 20 minutes maximum. If you exceed 20 minutes your body will go into REM sleep, which is the part in which you dream and process the activities of this day. If you wake during REM sleep you are sure to feel more exhausted then when you would have not slept at all.
I go to the bathroom first. I have these contact lenses which you use during the night, so you can see during the day (See Orthokeratology for more information about this type of lenses). I remove these contact lenses and get into the shower.
I use a timer for my shower session, as I would otherwise just remain in the shower and daydream for about 15-20 minutes. After about 10 minutes I get out of the shower, my skin is warm from the shower which makes shaving a breeze. I dry my body and shave my face. I dress up and get ready to eat.
I cook some water to make tea, I drink mostly plain green tea or English tea for breakfast. About a year ago I stopped drinking coffee early in the morning. I noticed that drinking coffee at this time just quickens the caffeine dip. So with some green tea I start my breakfast, mostly 1 slice of bread, with some kind of meat on it and a piece of fruit. Eating too much fruit in the morning causes a sugar crash early on, due to the dextrose.
I would advice too eat at good, nutritious breakfast. For me that is a slice of bread and a piece of fruit, because I eat another sandwich at 10 AM. But if you do not have a “second breakfast” I would suggest to eat at least 2 sandwiches in the morning. A good breakfast is the key to a successful day.
While I eat my breakfast I usually browse the Web. I think about content to write for this blog, what I am about to do this day and so forth. Also, I keep a small journal in which I write accomplishments and things I liked from the previous day. This is a sort of backlog, but it’s not for keeping track of progression. It helps appreciate the small, meaningful things in live. It helps me focus on the small, important things that I can influence and work on. So much of our time is spent on working on big plans. Big dreams. Big goals. But once the goal or dream is achieved, then what? It’s a race you’ll never win. Therefore I have stopped thinking that way. It’s no good chasing wild dreams. Sure, it’s okay to work towards a goal. But it should not be your main driver for happiness. Focus on the small things that made your day special. The more small, meaningful things you notice, the more happy you’ll become. And the more happy you’ll become, the more beautiful things you’ll notice. It’s an upward spiral.
After an hour I get ready for work. I head of to the office.
Once there I grab a cup of tea and fire up my laptop. I do start Outlook, but it opens my Outlook Calendar. If I would look at my mail first thing in the morning, my priorities would become scrambled. As most other people, I am prone to email as this feels urgent, it feels important. Someone might need my help. Someone asks me for my advice. Email is a temptation that you need to resist. Most of the time, email is pointless and time-consuming. It is easy, and therefore we love email. We’d rather do something easy then force ourselves to work on that hard project. Try limiting time in your inbox and definitely try not to look at your inbox until at least 11 AM.
So I have now checked my calendar and I am ready to start working on my first task. Always choose to start with your hardest task for the day. In this way you can assure yourself that you have completed your most important priority of that day. Besides, if you start with hard things, the rest of the day will be a breeze.
By now I should have completed at least one, and perhaps two, of my most important tasks. Most of the time we fear what needs to be done. We fear these tasks because there is a chance that we might fail. Luckily, more often than not, this fear is untrue and we succeed. This makes me feel good. I have some momentum now, those hard tasks are completed. I look at my to-do list, there’s still a lot that needs doing. By now I take my first cup of coffee.
I keep working on tasks in order of priority. Important tasks first and then more easy, less important tasks. Usually I can clear my most important to-do’s from my to-do list before lunch. Then right before lunch I prioritize once again.
Have I added any new to-do’s to my to-do list? Are there any urgent matters that need addressing? Do I need to make calls or check-up on people? Is my list of priorities still correct, are the most important things still at the top, or have things changed?
By prioritizing two or three times per day you can force yourself to be proactive. If you do not prioritize you will become reactive. Running from fire to fire, from emergency to emergency. In the end, you will feel exhausted and you won’t have accomplished a thing. Take control of your day and set priorities.
The rest of the day looks something like this: I have completed the to-do’s that really needed doing. This frees up my afternoon for less important tasks, that might be urgent in one way or another (like requests from others). But after 3 PM or so, I like to focus on self improvement. This means I either focus on a big project and delve into the bottle necks I encountered. Or I might do some reading online to improve my knowledge on a specific subject. Around 16:30 PM or 17:00 PM I create a list of priorities for the next day. Which helps my achieve success for that day.
So by the time I have lunch my most important to-do’s are completed. I feel good. I have eaten well, but still I am hungry. I eat a nutritious lunch, which is sure to give me a hell of an after dinner dip. Which is fine, as my most important tasks are already completed. Isn’t that great?
Suddenly I feel great, I have so much more time and space for other things I’d like to work on. Sometimes my afternoons are filled with creative or strategic thinking. One idea comes after the other. Parts of my job I had neglected become interesting and challenging again. I think of new ways to improve and help grow the business.
Life is good. As long as you set yourself up for success.
There are some parts of this whole ritual that can’t be ignored. A lot of what I do might not work for you, a lot might also work for you. It’s al based on preferences.
These are the essentials. The “Building Blocks” which transform a mediocre day into a great day.
These are the building blocks that pave the road to success. Prepare in advance, eat well and start the day working on your priorities. If you win the morning, you win the day.
I am curious to hear from you. What are your morning rituals? And how do you prepare yourself for succes? Feel free to post your answer in the comments section below.