For years my father swore up and down that he was not a morning person. He is a physician and owns his own practice, and felt that through all his hard work and years of service he had earned the right to set his own hours. True, no one can deny that, but with age it become more difficult for him to keep up with such an odd schedule. Despite sleeping a decent amount he felt tired and groggy during the afternoons, he was irritable and began to resent his work.
After an overseas vacation, he came home jet-lagged and found himself getting up at 5:00am. Since he had nothing to do that early in the morning, he started to utilize that time and turn it into something productive. So every morning he would walk to the gym and exercise for one hour. After he got back, he had a light breakfast and some coffee and completed the days paperwork. Suddenly he found the bulk of his work was done before his day even started, and all he had to do was go to the office and see a few patients.
I noticed a significant decrease in his tension and he became much happier and more cheerful, much more easy-going. One day he came to me and said “now I know why you exercise in the morning. I feel so much stronger and younger even just after a couple of weeks. I feel like I’ve been reborn.” That level of enthusiasm was astounding to me, especially since I had grown accustomed to seeing him in a rather miserable state.
Why did it take him so long to discover the negative effects of his previous routine? Why in fact do so many of us start our days unproductively, anxiously and in a hurry. “I never knew a man come to greatness or eminence” said Jonathan Swift, the Irish author and satirist “who lay abed late in the morning.” Most people do not intentionally sabotage their own success by sleeping in or misusing their time, but they have not learned through experience the importance of habit-forming.
When I ask those closest to me how they start their mornings, I get the typical responses of snoozing, hurriedly showering and rushing out the door to work. When asked why they don’t have a morning ritual it’s usually due – in their minds – to a lack of time or energy. Many people have told me that they prefer late nights to early mornings, which reminded me of my old excuses.
I did not always maintain a morning ritual, in fact I am guilty of previously being one of the biggest time wasters I know. It was my belief that I was just a night owl and that my best work was done at night. This clearly wasn’t true and when I came to the realization that I had never even really given mornings a chance, I decided I would switch things up as an experiment.
Studying the morning rituals of some of the most successful people in the world, it appeared the 5:00am hour was the most common wake up time. I decided I would set only one alarm for 5:00am and begin my day with some form of exercise, it didn’t matter much whether it was running, bicycling, lifting weights or just taking a brisk walk. I then would eat a light but protein-packed breakfast and have a cup (or two) of coffee.
For the first week or so it did take some willpower to get up and get moving, but the benefits were so clear after the first day that I forced myself to keep doing it. Soon, the ritual of getting up to exercise and have breakfast was as much a part of me as getting out of bed in the morning. This was my time in the morning to focus on my tasks, my goals, and to educate myself. I found that since I had this time already set aside, and I never was big on music during exercise, I began to listen to audiobooks during my morning routine.
The results I received were incredible. Everything was infinitely more achievable, things that seemed dreadful and difficult became a breeze, and every evening I had free time to relax. I went to bed each night feeling fulfilled and accomplished, and became eager to start the following day.
What I discovered was that by sacrificing a little bit of time and energy early in the day, that time and energy came back tenfold in the long run.
So, does a morning ritual sound like something you would be interested in incorporating into your daily life? If so, I think you’re making a brilliant decision. Here are some tips to get you started:
Begin by drafting a short list of things you would like to accomplish early in the day.
Decide how much time you believe it will take to complete those things.
Set your alarm to an appropriate wake up time that would give you the ability to finish those tasks without rushing or feeling anxious about them.
Make sure to stay hydrated and do something physical each morning.
Make slight adjustments to optimize your productivity as you find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
If you are willing to put forth a small amount of effort into developing an enjoyable morning ritual, you’re productivity, energy and general outlook on life will improve immensely.
We would love to hear from you regarding any tips you have concerning forming beneficial morning rituals. What do you do with your mornings? How did you get started?
Wishing you all the best on your journey!