When a topic surfaces repeatedly during a short period of time within coaching sessions and workshops, I start to pay attention. Recently, that’s been happening with the topic of “how we spend the first hours of our day.” One dynamic I started to notice was that our clients who displayed intentionality with their mornings were getting more out of their life and work than those who were less "morning intentional.” That led me to start researching what kind of studies there might be to support what I was hearing from my clients. And for the last few months I have become a student of morning rituals, lack thereof, and possible connections between how we spend our mornings and our effectiveness at work and life.
And it turns out there is a major connection, like MAJOR! (ALL CAPS “MAJOR” PEOPLE!) With the remainder of this article, I’d like to share what I found from my own research, speaking with our clients, and paying attention to my own morning routines.
Here’s the bottom line up front. I’m going to call it the “Law of Morning Habits”:
Morning habits largely determine how the rest of our day goes.
Like many laws, there are a few exceptions, but we’ll address those separately in the comments section. In order to stack the deck in your favor for the day, both personally and professionally, you’ll want to employ The Law of Morning Habits for yourself. My research on why the law works more often than not led me to an excellent book by Hal Elrod called The Miracle Morning that I highly recommend, as well as this great video of the commencement speech given by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven to the 2014 University of Texas graduating class. Additionally, many of the thought and practical leaders of our day including John Maxwell, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Dale Carnegie, and James Clear agree that how we spend our initial waking hours determines the trajectory of our day.
Here are a few ways to get you started employing The Law of Morning Habits for an improved day:
1. It does not start with the alarm clock in the morning, but rather the night before.
First of all, no screens in bed. We have written on this subject before and the whys around the “no screens in bed” rule. As you are going through your bedtime routine (you do have a bedtime routine, right?), start telling yourself what time you will be rising and why (to employ The Law of Morning Habits like other successful people do). This helps you solidify your intentions to yourself, and your brain will help these intentions become a reality when the alarm clock rings the next morning.
2. Start the day out with small wins.
In the morning (and this is a subtle yet important step), when the alarm clock rings get yourself up out of bed right then and there. No snooze button! When you hit the snooze button, you are telling your brain that it’s ok to start the procrastination process for the day. And that is not ok if you wish to be intentional and successful throughout your day. Instead of the snooze, get your tail out of bed and move your body either towards the bathroom to take care of bodily functions or towards a full glass of water to rehydrate yourself from the night’s sleep. Others I’ve spoken with take this opportunity to splash water on their face to help wake themselves up a bit more.
Next, make your bed. You can see the details around this in the McRaven video above, but making your bed first things takes just a minute or two and gets a win under your belt to start the day. It is a little thing, but it points your brain in the “we’re getting things done today” direction for the day. If your spouse is not up yet, that’s cool — just make the bed when he/she gets up a little later in the morning.
3. Strategies for building momentum for the rest of the day.
What you do next is up to you, but the following are some suggestions from my research. Use these suggestions as you would a menu at a restaurant. Take what sounds good, make it your own and leave the rest.
Move your body. Getting oxygen to your brain and the other parts of your body happens best when you are moving your body and it also reinforces to yourself that you are on the move that day. Part of the reason for putting this at the start of the day is that you are more apt to move your body intentionally in the morning than towards the end of the day after a curve ball or two have been thrown your way and sapped your energy.
When I was a boy, my father had a morning routine that included a light jog, push ups, sit ups, and stretching. He just turned 93 yesterday and he still has his workout routine. To my knowledge he has not missed his morning workout routine even to this day… EVER. Did I mention that he is 93 years old?!
I don’t know what moving your body means to you. Maybe it’s walking, running, biking, hiking, stretching, yoga, lifting, whatever. You choose the movement, but please choose to move during your morning time. There is just too much evidence that it helps in a gazillion different ways to not do it.
Journal. We’ve written about the benefits of getting your thoughts down on paper here and here. Those articles are definitely worth a read, but the short version is that you’re in a different headspace and your mind is thinking about priorities differently when you first wake up. So, this is a great time to capture that dynamic thinking by journaling.
Meditate. Edie Raphael is our resident mindfulness and meditation expert here at Rewire and has written on the benefits and mechanics of meditation. Our coaching clients who work meditation into their morning routine have seen some amazing and surprising benefits. I mean things like lower blood pressure, less aches and pains, enhanced sleep and sex, improved relationships personally and at work, and a sense of calm and optimism that they did not experience prior.
Eat a light/healthy breakfast. The “w” in Rewire stands for wellness and we take health and nutrition seriously around here for ourselves and our clients. No heavy meats or white carbs in the morning. Instead, fill your morning meal with plenty of what my health coach wife calls “green light foods”: fruits, vegetables, smoothies containing protein, for instance. If you are to get things done during the day, you cannot be weighed down with heavy saturated fatty foods.
I’m sure there are other things that you could think of to make your mornings miraculous, but these are the ones that I have observed working for our most optimized clients, and ones that I have put into place myself with some amazing results.
What do your mornings look like? We’d love to hear what you do with your morning and what effects it has on the rest of you day.