6 months ago, I started a new job. I was basking in the glow of no commitments, no deadlines and no responsibilities, having recently graduated and moved back home. My idea of a good morning was not missing my bus, regardless of the fact that I had slept late the night before, skipped breakfast, didn’t have a quiet time of reflection. 1 month into my new job, this hasty decisions were starting to have an impact on my workload, my health and my mindset. I was always tired, snappy and lived on caffeine. My morning thoughts were usually:
“Can I call in sick today” or “I’m going to be late”
A few months down the line, I fell ill and I knew it was time to re-evaluate my processes. Any sane person knows that building bad habits, is akin to building the foundations of a house with clay. Yet today’s society seems to be stuck in a vicious cycle that results in poor health, zero productivity and a clouded mindset.
A morning routine is a quick and effective way to provide quick wins that positively affect your health and productivity. If you find yourself succeeding at the little habits, it will provide the confidence when you tackle your larger goals and projects. Fantasising about developing a new habit does no good, nor does rushing headlong into without clearly defining your goals for having one.
Here are some building blocks I used that will help you create your own morning ritual:
An early start
I have always loved sleep and need 8 hours of sleep to function. Like, Thomas Frank, I would sleep until I had to wake up. Thomas Frank, founder of College Info Geek, created a way that included public shame and monetary loss with Buffer, to ensure that he would wake up early. So far, it has had a 100% success rate. My methods however, are more simple. I have set myself a strict bedtime and multiple alarms that ensure I’m up an hour before I need to be. I have one alarm that also informs me I have 15 minutes left to sleep. By doing so, I have conditioned my brain to be stimulated earlier so I’m up before my alarms and actually look forward to waking away. Start slowly by rising early in 15 minute increments.
If you are a night owl, sleeping early and waking early provides the same peace and solitude. And nothing beats watching the sun rise.
You will have gone 6-8 hours without hydration so it’s important to drink a glass of water as soon as you wake. Not only does it fire up your metabolism but it helps to flush out toxins and reduce body fat.
My meditation exercise consists of praying and reading my bible. A great alternative could be listening to or reading an inspirational or motivational podcast or book. Choose wisely, the songs or words are likely to be stuck in your head all day. An app I would recommend for beginners to meditation is Headspace.
I have found that incorporating an exercise routine has had the most impact on my alertness and energy levels throughout the day. It has also helped to replace my caffeine addiction. My routine comprises of a 5-minute stretch routine from FitnessBlender, some planks (which are great for strengthening your core muscles), warming up, 10 minutes of a HIIT workout and a 5 minute cool down. If I’m feeling particularly adventurous, I may go for a run. Yoga is a great alternative.
You’ve heard it many times that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Big breakfasts on a work day lead to sluggish mornings. Unless you have an intensely active morning, stick to a light breakfast. It’s also good to experiment with ingredients that boost your energy levels.
Eliminating ohforgetit moments by replacing them it ifthens
Not planning ahead can sabotage and derail your new fragile routine. Reduce the chances of “oh, forget it” moments by:
- Sleeping early
- Stocking your fridge the night before for breakfast
- Prepping quick breakfast options (e.g. boiling eggs the night before or cutting up fruits previously or dry-blending ingredients and adding liquid in the morning or stocking up on breakfast biscuits if you miss breakfast)
- Having a full bottle of water next to your bed to drink in the morning
Minor setbacks and frustration are the greatest habit killers. Self-blame is also counter-productive. It’s vital that you do not allow your mind to rationalise not developing this new habit with 20 minutes of extra sleep. You can also track your progress with quality apps like HabitBull.
Experiment with these factors and I hope you find that a routine more conducive to your body’s natural circadian rhythm will make you happier and healthier. It will include some trial and error but remember, it is proven that your actions when you wake impact the quality of your day and thus, the quality of your life.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love”
– Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emporer
This post was written by Joy.