Author’s note: This is the fourth in my series of blog posts dealing with post-production burnout. If you enjoy this article, click here to download your FREE 33 page E-book How to Overcome (And Avoid) Burnout.”
”If you win the morning, then you can win the day.”
– Tim Ferriss
I’m going to confidently make a blanket generalization: Editors are not morning people.
I personally spent the first 35 years of my life as an unconscious zombie before 10am. Productivity experts often talk about “eating your frog,” i.e. knocking out your most important task of the day before 10am. I was lucky if I had strung together a complete sentence before 10am (and I planned my day as such). Little did I know that I was ultimately sabotaging my productivity by trying to get as much sleep as possible before I dragged myself to work barely conscious. I never thought I could be “that person” who actually accomplished something meaningful during the day rather than barely doing enough to get my job done, then wondering how I would even keep up with doing laundry and paying bills after I got home.
Then I discovered morning routines and everything changed.
Have you ever missed your morning alarm and shot out of bed with 10 minutes before you had to leave? You scramble around collecting everything you need for the day, you rush to get dressed, you most likely skip breakfast, and then you hurriedly drive to work (most likely cutting a few people off along the way). How did the rest of that day go? I’m going to guess that it didn’t go well. And furthermore, I’m guessing for many people reading this, this is the rule, not the exception. The energy and mindset you wake up with carries you throughout the rest of your day. Your morning is a force multiplier.
You may think that hitting the snooze button ten times and getting that extra 60 minutes of sleep will allow you to rest more and thus be more productive throughout the day, but it’s actually having the opposite effect.
The less time you provide in the morning to collect your thoughts, adequately nourish yourself, and take time to plan your tasks, the more time you will spend the rest of the day simply being reactive rather than taking specifics actions that lead you closer to your desired goals. This is what leads many in our industry to require fire extinguishers at their workstations…all we end up doing all day long is putting out fires.
Developing a morning routine is the most life-changing shift I’ve ever made throughout my decade-long quest for personal growth. Unlike the first 3 1/2 decades of my life, I now generally wake up between 5:30 and 6am every day (even on weekends), and I do it with little to no effort. Much of the reason I am able to wake up this early is because of the evening routine that I laid out in detail in my previous post about getting better sleep. One routine does not exist without the other – My morning routine is only possible because of my evening routine, and vice versa.
MY MORNING ROUTINE
Here is a breakdown of every step of my 2 hour morning routine. If all of these steps sound overwhelming, simply start with one, practice it daily until it becomes a habit, then add another single step. This routine took me over a month to develop and I still tweak it every single day. Don’t get caught up in the details.
• Upon waking between 5:30 and 6am, I “do my business,” I put on my exercise clothes that have already been set out the night before, and then I drink 16 oz of cold water that also includes 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and one packet of my favorite multivitamin Nutreínce. I also love using Athletic Greens as my nutritional insurance for the day. The multivitamin ensures I’m getting all of my necessary micronutrients (Click here to learn why micronutrients are so important), and the apple cider vinegar reduces the acidity my system built up over a night of fasting.
• If it’s a weekday morning, I give my son a hug before he leaves for school and tell him I love him (as noted in my sleep post, this is my ‘why’ for going to bed early). On a weekend, my kids (usually) sleep in until 7 or 7:30.
• I measure my heart rate variability while doing 15 minutes of seated Headspace meditation. I will admit, this was a really tough habit to begin at first. As soon as I woke up I was ready to start checking e-mail, Facebook, and get some “real” work done. But to steal another saying from Tim Ferriss, “If you can’t meditate for 15 minutes, then you need to do it for 2 hours.” I have found that if there are days when I skip this step of my morning routine, I am scatterbrained, anxious, and I often lose track of what I need to accomplish for the day. On the days when I do my morning meditation practice I am calm, non-reactive, I have less anxiety, and the day essentially feels effortless.
• I exercise for 30 minutes. The specific exercise I do varies wildly based on my heart rate variability (I avoid HIIT training when my HRV drops below 70), my schedule for the day, and the way I feel when I wake up. But in general I will do 30 minutes of either high intensity training (my current favorite program is P90X3) or yoga (using Yogis Anonymous). On days when I have less time or energy, I’ll just do some very low intensity stretching or foam rolling.
• After working out I take 15 minutes to drink my morning recovery smoothie while cooling off. My “cooling off” routine includes:
- Writing my morning journal entry which includes a gratitude practice, clearly stating my goals, as well as organizing my tasks for the day into my 3 MIT’s (most important tasks) as well as things I “should do” if I have the time.
- Checking my calendar to make sure I’m aware of any appointments I need to be present for, whether in person or via phone or Skype.
- Checking e-mail and social media (Note: this is the first time since waking that I have connected with the outside world). I generally won’t reply to anything unless it’s urgent, I just get a sense of what demands have been placed upon me for the day.
• I then take an ice-cold shower for 5 minutes or jump into our pool for 5 minutes (which in the winter is about 60 degrees). I expose myself to extremely cold water for three reasons:
- First, after an intense workout my body becomes inflamed, and exposure to cold will reduce the inflammation throughout my body and thus reduce soreness and pain.
- Secondly, exposure to cold water increases blood flow throughout my body, thus increasing alertness (plus it feels REALLY refreshing).
- Third, cold exposure activates brown adipose tissue, the “good” fat in your body that helps generate body heat, and thus burn more calories.
My full morning routine is 2 hours, so if I wake at 5:30, my daughter will generally be awake by 7:30, and at this point I take care of her. Every step of this routine is written down in Trello so I don’t have to remember any of it. I simply have the checklist in front of me when I wake up and I knock off one task at a time until the list is complete. This eliminates conscious decisions from my morning and frees up more decision-making energy for the long day ahead.
Try starting with one item at a time for a few days.
Once you have made that item habitual, add another item. Rinse, Lather, Repeat.
If you aspire to begin a morning routine similar to mine and you currently wake up at 8:30 am (which means you definitely don’t have kids), then simply wake up 15 minutes earlier than usual, avoid using your phone (i.e. no e-mail or social media), and drink 16 oz of cold water while reading a book or newspaper or making your morning cup of coffee. Do this for a few days until it becomes effortless, then wake up 15 minutes earlier and implement another step of your morning routine. Do this for as long as it takes to establish new habits and rituals.
The same can be done for your evening routine. Give yourself a 15 minute window of time before bed to start implementing one step and build upon your routine as each new step becomes habitual. The coolest thing about working one step at a time is that you’ll start to feel weird if you don’t do these routines. At night I literally can’t go to bed until I’ve implemented my entire nightly routine, it has become rote memory.
When people ask me how I accomplish the amount I do in the course of a day and ask me how I do it, I tell them it’s because of my morning routine. And the immediate universal response is “I could NEVER wake up that early.” I would’ve responded the same way before this year, but now that I’m able to prioritize my day beforehand, I can weather much longer and more stressful days without being reactive, stressed out, and most importantly, fatigued. There is nothing worse than arriving home after a long day of work and not having the energy to give your kids or your spouse a smile.
Now that I have prioritized sleep and doubled down with a solid morning routine, I have the energy to be more focused and present for my family, and knowing that makes getting up at 5:30 every morning a piece of cake. But I still sleep in once in a while.
If you enjoyed this article, click here to download your FREE 33 page E-book “How to Overcome (And Avoid) Burnout.“