Mornings determine how you spend your day. How you spend your day determines how you spend your life. So mornings are important.
In Tools of Titans, author Tim Ferriss interviews some of the world’s best, across a diverse range of fields. One commonality? Almost all of them follow a very strict daily routine, mostly applied to their mornings.
I won’t delve into what those habits are & how to incorporate them into your own lives. Other authors have already done a much better job than I could ever do.
Rather, I want to highlight how following – or not following – a morning routine can create a string of successful, or unsuccessful, days that can compound to lead your life in two very different directions.
One, the path of success & constant improvement. The other, a state of reactive survival mode, characterised by frustration & a lack of progress.
Follow a strict morning routine & you set yourself up for inevitable success in life.
“But I’m not a morning person”
What does this even mean?
We say it in such a matter-of-fact way that we rarely even stop to question it.
Does it mean you’ve had a bad morning? That you are in some way “bad” at mornings? That you tend to get up late? That you’re unproductive in the mornings?
There is some evidence to suggest genetics may play a role, affecting determining our natural circadian rhythm. However, for the vast majority, not being a “morning person” stems from bad habits.
The usual suspects:
1. Not sleeping enough: drinking a lot of alcohol before bed, staring at bright screens before bed, having your phone on loud by your bed, going to bed too late, worrying about your schedule the following day, etc.
2. Waking up late: Lack of sleep tends to mean you wake up later & you wake up tired
3. Rushing: You rush around, because you got up late, forgetting your keys, wolfing breakfast down & forgetting that report you need for work on the way out the door
4. Failure to plan & prioritise: You start work or whatever you’re meant to be doing that morning with no planning, no thought into it & a slightly muddled, bumbling approach to execution
5. Being reactive: You don’t look for tasks to do, but rather wait for tasks to be sent your way or for (apparent) crises to pop-up to immediately deal with. You put out fires rather than pro-actively building something yourself
To put this in perspective: Do you think somebody that has slept 5 hours, wakes up 10 minutes before they need to leave, rushes out the door to the metro, runs to work & arrives flustered & exhausted is going to be able to execute & prioritise effectively in the first hour or two of their morning? Are they going to describe themselves as a “morning person”?
Mornings are habits
A successful morning is one formed of a collection of habits. Our cognitive abilities wear out throughout the day, so many highly successful people try to put as much as possible on auto-pilot (I.E. convert an action into a habit).
By doing so, they are then able to spend their finite cognitive abilities on whatever is most important to them, whether that be prioritising for the day or creating unique content.
Rather than worrying about what they are going to have for breakfast today, for example, they just always eat the same thing. It’s just a decision they don’t need to – or want to – be making.
I’ve experimented with morning routines for a few years now. It tends to change a little every few months, but generally I try to stick to the following when in a full-time job:
- 6am wake-up
- Cold shower to really wake yourself up & get an endorphin hit
- Meditation for 10 minutes using Headspace
- No breakfast (I follow intermittent fasting), but always a coffee
- Quick 5-10 minute journal (free-flow writing & priorities for the day)
- Write one article to publish on Medium
- Short break (maybe read an article or go for a quick walk)
- 90-minute immersive block focused on my main priority for the day
Now that I’m self-employed, I tend to get up a little later & I will add another 90-minute block in the late morning on my priority tasks.
Routines like this may seem intimidating if you’re mornings are currently a mess. But it shouldn’t be. These are habits I’ve integrated over a few years. They are now automatic. I don’t even need to think about them. The only thing I need to think about is what I’m creating for my article & what my priorities for the day are. All the trivialities of my day are taken care of.
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit your exact routine every day. Just aim for every day. I tend to hit mine 70% of the time.
Mornings are the Cornerstone to Success
I cannot stress this point enough: Follow a strict morning routine & you set yourself up
for inevitable success in life.
Society tends to promulgate the belief that success can be achieved overnight. People that are successful seem to get lucky, or suddenly just discover all of the skills & talents to make them successful. There’s no hard work involved.
This is a myth. There is always hard work involved. It just doesn’t make for exciting reading to talk about the thousands of hours put in, getting up early & sacrificing your social life to pursue your ambitions.
When, therefore, you have a goal for yourself, such as starting a business or changing career, it’s not just going to happen overnight. It’s not just suddenly going to happen in a year or two years when you snap your fingers & finally commit to that goal.
Success is built up over years.
It starts today by building robust systems into your day. By integrating & maintaining habits that will make the attainment of that goal inevitable.
Want to start a business? Setting aside an hour every morning to write about it will get you there at some point. It’s just a question of when.
Even if you’re only able to get 30 minutes of deep, focused work done before heading off to your 9-5 job, then that is already a successful day, regardless of what happens after.
It means that every morning you are building momentum towards whatever you want to achieve.
Because mornings determine how you spend your day. How you spend your day determines how you spend your life.