A morning routine sets up our days in some really beneficial ways. Think about it: you can choose to start your day feeling stressed and overwhelmed and this will most likely flow into at least the first half of your day (if not the whole day). Or, alternatively, you could start your day on a positive note and approach the rest of the day with a calmness and sense of clarity.
When people think about morning routines, they think about very elaborate practices that take a bunch of time – but it doesn’t have to be like that at all. Even just focussing on developing a routine for the first ten minutes of your day can have a really positive impact on your state of mind as you get ready to tackle the day ahead.
What to Avoid
A good morning routine these days is as much about what NOT to do, as it is about what to include. Sadly, most people wake up and reach for their smart phones right away and this becomes a sources of stress. Here are some things to avoid:
Avoid these things immediately upon waking:
- Thinking about how bad your day is going to be
- Social media
- Group chats from the night before (unless absolutely necessary to organise that morning workout)
- Rushing to do anything and feeling like you’re on a deadline
All of these things fire up our emotional brain and have a good chance of increasing our stress chemicals first up.
What to Include
So think about it like this: this is a good time to work on those aspects of your work and life that don’t get enough attention. That are important but not urgent and therefore – once you get in the office or start your day proper – get buried beneath the important but urgent work (or sometimes the unimportant but urgent work, too!)
Include these things:
- Some form of physical, mental or emotional wellness
- Paying attention to those you love
- Brainstorming or just ‘thinking time’
- Creative thinking (this can be work related, but certainly not ‘busy work’)
So, you might do some meditation or a short yoga session. You might opt to just think through some long-term plans, or your morning routine might include some uninterrupted time with the family.
Small Things are Big Wins
Your morning routine doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to involve an hour of meditation and then a 10km run. It can be small. It can last ten minutes (wake up, make a cup of tea, do some journalling), or it can last 5 minutes (breathing exercises). If your morning routine includes you rushing out the door to meet your cycling group or get to the gym, I would also include 5 minutes of something else involving reflection or slowing down. This could even be stretching and breathing to get ready for the workout.
My own morning routine is really just 5-10 minutes: I have a glass of water with some greens powder mixed in and then write in my journal for a few minutes to get clear about the purpose of my day or to write about a problem I am trying to solve. From there my morning goes in different directions – maybe a workout, maybe some breathing and/or yoga poses. But that first 5-10 minutes never change.
Make the Routine EASY
Make this routine as easy as possible. Get out everything you need the night before and line it all up so you can easily access it and get into your routine. If it’s hard to do, you won’t do it. It’s also good to use this method to create a new habit you’re trying to start – there is not time like the morning when nothing else can get in the way.
** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert focussed on helping leaders build the environment for high performance. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and combines the two for a different perspective. He is also the author of Jack and the Team that Couldn't See and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.