Nothing sets your day up like a routine that helps you get focussed and take care of some of the important things that you know keep you healthy and performing optimally. For me, my morning routine is a way to get the day off to the right start. I noticed years ago that if I did some really key things in the morning, it would set my day up to be great.
I am forever looking for ways to hone my routine. Whether that’s new things to try, or different things to add. But while I might make some tweaks, I never seem to stray far from this formula.
Ok - truth be told, I have two routines…. Depending on if I work out in the morning or afternoon. But below is my standard one, if I’m not working out first thing. I try to keep this routine whether I am working from home, going to the office, or travelling.
5am wake up and check self-quantification stats
I’m an early riser. I like nothing more than being up early - especially during spring. I live in Brisbane, Australia, so in Summer it’s blazing sunshine by 5am. But in Spring, I get to watch the sun rise. I keep this wake up time standard as much as possible. One of the greatest things we can do to look after our circadian rhythm and sleep hygiene is to get up at the same time every day.
I quickly check my resting heart rate and HRV, which are measures of stress and recovery. Since I travel a lot, exercise a lot and have all the general life-stressors that we all have, I like some numbers that tell me how my body’s doing. Over the years, I’ve worked out what numbers tell me that I am close to burning out or getting sick, and which numbers tell me I’m good to push the boundaries.
5.05am. Water with fresh lemon
I used to get up and make coffee pretty much straight away. I love coffee. But a while ago I decided that it’s probably best to put something else in my body first up. So I started with a glass of water.
Now, I have fresh lemon on hand all the time. I squeeze a quarter of a lemon in a glass, place the piece in as well and add some water. A lot of people say to use warm water, but I don’t mind either warm or room temperature, depending on the time of year. The lemon helps with extra hydration benefits and some vitamin C. It also seems to help maintain my gut health.
While I am drinking my lemon water, I put the kettle on for coffee.
5.10am. Yoga or Meditation
Another bad habit that I realised I had picked up was waking up and going straight to digital info. I would scan through emails, check twitter, Facebook and all the other quick dopamine hits that had popped up on my screen overnight. I would pick up my phone from my bedside table and have swiped and clicked before my feet hit the floor.
So the other thing I decided a few years ago was that I wasn’t going to do that. And instead I was going to start my day doing something more positive. I had been trying to do some form of breathing or meditation for a year or so - swearing that I’d do it as a break during the day, or last thing at night before I went to bed - but that wasn’t happening. It was getting neglected. Now that I am doing it first up in the morning, it’s become a habit.
I only do about 15 minutes of this. I started doing yoga years ago, attending one 60 minute class a week. But the problem was that I couldn’t always make the class, so I would sometimes go a week or two without doing it at all. What I discovered was that yoga was much more effective for me if I did it three or four times a week, for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, instead of once a week for an hour.
5.25am. Coffee and reading.
Yes! Finally, coffee!
I still try not to get tempted by social media or emails. I find if I do this, then I get lost in the digital world for twenty to thirty minutes and then my morning is off-track. Instead, I read an article or piece of research that I’ve been interested in. If this is on my iPad, then I need to be careful not to get hijacked by all the other potential digital time-sucks like clicking links and responding to those pop-up alerts.
5.35am. Planning my day.
This could be the most important five minutes of my day.
Using my progress journal, I plan out my day. This usually doesn’t take long, as I have planned out the critical things the day before, as the last thing on my afternoon routine. I use the Progress Journal, so I can keep track of what is most important today, then schedule it into my calendar. The Progress Journal also let’s me plan recharge breaks, time with my family and forces me to focus on gratitude.
5.40am. Work #1
At 5.40am-6.30am I do what I call Work #1. This represents a big ticket item that I need to get done for the day. It might be writing a proposal, or preparing for a workshop. But I think of it as the one critical thing that needs to happen. If the kids and my wife woke up sick and I couldn’t do anything else today, this is the thing that I’d be glad to have completed.
I know that working this early isn’t for everyone, I do it because it is when I am super-productive. I also do it because I generally like to finish work in time to see the kids after school if I can. I get to help with homework and generally spend time with the family. I would much rather get up early and then finish early - but this is also because I have a huge amount of flexibility.
6.30am. Family and breakfast.
By now everyone is usually up and it’s time to head upstairs and spend some time with the family. It’s another great way to start my day when I’m at home - having breakfast and catching up with what everyone has on during the day.
Most people who know me, know that exercise is a huge part of my life. This is my routine if I am going to work out in the afternoon or at lunchtime - depending on what I want to do.
The Only Change……
This routine changes if I decide to exercise early in the morning.
I am often out the door by 4.30 or 5.00am to exercise. If I am cycling with friends, we like to be off the road before the traffic. If I am doing something else it’s nice to be out and done before it heats up. I also like to be home by around 6.30am for breakfast and time with the family.
I still wake up, drink my lemon water, do 15 minutes of yoga and breathing - which is good as a warm up but also let’s me keep my routine - then I’m out the door.
On these days I just push everything else out to an 8am start time. This is great when the kids have sports or other activities in the afternoon, and I can work a bit later. Or, if they don’t, then I still see them after school, help with some homework and then get back to the desk at home for another hour.
I have found this routine the most successful for me. And that’s important - everyone should have their own routine that helps them check some boxes in the morning before the craziness of the day starts to kick in. Whatever your routine is, I hope this helps you to refine it.