The Winning Morning

The ultimate guide to creating your morning routine.

Developing a morning routine is a great way to start the day on a good note. The quality of your morning set the tone for the rest of your day. Setting up a proper morning routine is advocated by most success coach and successful people alike.

Remember a morning when you woke up late and felt tiered. You had to rush in the morning not to be late, maybe skipping on what you wanted to do, not eating properly, only to show up to work already stress. What would you day look like from there?

The way we start things do matter as it’s hard to override a bad precedent or first impression.

Imagine now, that you wake up refresh, that during your morning you already have accomplished some of your priorities. Actions and decisions are easy and positives and you feel great about yourself. You have time to prepare for the day, and everything is in order. What would you day look like then?

Probably a lot different than in the first scenario.

Having a good morning routine is important because it is a keystone habit on which other habits and attitudes depends.
When you have a difficult morning everything else feels harder.
The morning is also a time where you can have personal space and control. If you have purpose in your morning, you will more likely be purposeful for the rest of your day.

To have an optminal morning, it is easier to prepare early.

Prepare in the evening for the next morning:
Preparing your next morning the previous evening will make it more likely to run smoothly. It is a good rule of thumb not to let things unfinished before you go to bed, as much as possible. This will ensure you’re not playing catch up with the previous day when you wake up.
Goods things to finish before going to bed are:

-cleaning up the house (waking up to a messy place does not set you up well)
-finish the dishes
-Finish important daily task, like an important email, phone call, etc. If it is not an ongoing task, it’s important ans urgent, make it a priority to achieve it before you go to sleep, or it might disrupt the quality of your sleep.

You can also prepare for the next morning:

-making lunch and packing bag if you commute
-Preparing cloths you are going to wear tomorrow
-Having quality sleep (see article)

The evening is also a perfect time to plan the next day:
By planing your day the night before, you are already setting priorities and setting yourself up for success. Keeping a schedule is the first thing you need to do in order to maximise your time. If you haven’t already, write your schedule down for the next day before going to sleep.
You can accompany this process by:

– Visualising what will happen the next day, make important action concrete in your mind. When you write down each activity or goal in your schedule, see yourself performing it and how it will happen. This make it more likely that you will follow through with it.

-Journaling and reviewing the current day: The evening is the perfect time to review your day. You can review, good thing that happened, what you’re grateful for, what you learn, the challenges and failures you had, where you need to improve, distracting thoughts and ideas.

Also, an healthy night routine is what will support your morning. Try to find you time in the evening without the need to shorten your night sleep. If you find that you have difficulty fitting everything in your evening, maybe it’s time to prioritize better.

Having time and direction in the morning: (planning and getting up early)

As stated, it’s good to have a list of things to do for the day, or a schedule. You can make up one in the evening or in the morning as part of your routine. Having a sense of direction can give you a reason to get out of bed as well as something to looked forward and strive for. It creates a sense of order in our life, something you understand. This healthy mental attitude can help on the day when you’re feeling down, like a lifeline, focusing on what needs to be done instead of negative thoughts or emotions.

Also, making time in the morning give you a sense of control over your schedule. When you go to bed late because you are running behind, you life feels like a rush. However, when you choose to wake up early to take care of yourself and your priorities, you feel in control.

As stated earlier, not leaving things unfinished from the previous day goes a long way toward having time in the morning. That way you can really start the day fresh, instead of constantly catching up with the past, being proactive instead of reactive.

In time, the early morning may become your most valuable and productive time.
If you are a “night person” and find getting up and mornings hard in general , try to accommodate that in your life. By developing better habits, you will not find your mornings so daunting.

Now that you prepared your morning and slept a good night sleep, the morning start with?

Waking up:

Waking up is the first thing you do in the day. The way you wake up already give a tonality to your day, waking up well makes it more likely for the rest of your morning routine to run as planned.

There are a few things you can do to wake up well more consistently:
-First get good quality sleep, if you sleep well, you are more likely to wake up easily.

-wake up at the same time everyday, soon your body will adapt and naturally start to wake at a certain hour.

-Plan and respect your sleep cycle. You can either time your sleep cycle or you can use aids such as sunrise simulator or movement detectors to wake you up at the end of a sleep cycle.

-Don’t hit the snooze button. You will only start a new sleeping cycle that will be interrupted and feel even more drowsy afterward, it is better to force yourself out of bed.

-Get rid of the alarm clock all together. If you wake up at a regular time every time, you will likely be able to wake up without an alarm, and be more energetic.

Infuse positivity by waking up happy:
Try to develop the habit of being happy first thing in the morning. When you first start being conscious, notice that you are ‘back online’ and take a moment for a smile, to feel grateful to be alive and say hello to yourself.
This really simple habit, if done consistently can make the act of waking up easier, even pleasant, and increase your overhaul happiness.
It might seam forced or unnatural at first but soon enough, you will be genuinely happy when you wake up.
You can couple it with a self reinforcing affirmation as well, such as:
“Everyday and in every way, I am better and better”

Now that you are up, what’s next?

Now that you are awake and out of bed, that is when the morning routine starts so to speak.

In the morning most people do the few basic same things:

-get ready for the day (wash, groom, dress, pack)
-have breakfast
-might have personal time (browsing, reading, email, etc)
-go to work

In order for your morning to be a set up for success, you not only need to perform those things optimally, you should also benefit from positive priming activities:

The first thing you do is important, it will be your morning cue:

In order to start the morning well, you have to find something automatic, that will make you either happy or energetic, ideally both. It needs to be something simple that you can do without thinking. It’s like turning on your computer, it needs a couple of minute before it is operational.

Here are a few Ideas for the very first thing:
-Have a drink of water first thing in the morning is a good idea since your body can be dehydrated from the previous night.

-Make a drink that you like, like a nice coffee or your favorite tea. You can eat a treat like some chocolate or biscuit, to start the day with something sweet if that work for you.

-If you have time, a nice way to start the day is to make a beverage then go back to read in bed for a bit, which is what I often do on the weekends.

-Exercice strait out of bed: some sets of push-ups, squats, or a Tabatha can be very energizing, but it might be harsh first thing, and some will want to push working out later in there morning routine. Up to you, if you need a kick start or a gentle one.

-Wake up your body with gentle exercice: you can have a more gentle form of exercise and combine it with breathing, such as stretching, yoga, or Taichi.

-Aim strait for the shower. If you have the courage and the ability, having a morning cold shower, can really wake you up. You can also do hot and cold, to get use to it, or in winter. You can learn more about this practice through The Wim Hof method. If you workout in the morning you might want to push a shower until later.

-Start with the radio or some music that you like to turn your brain on. The good thing about music is that because it up to personal taste, you can tailor the morning music to the mood that you like or need, being calm and relaxed, or pumped and excited.
You can also listen to an audio program to start learning first thing in the morning or tune in to your favorite radio.

-Tongue brushing and dry brushing. Your body detoxify during the night. If you wake up with a bad breath or bad taste in your mouth check if your tongue is white. If so, brushing your tongue or having a mouth wash is recommended. Dry brushing also activate your body, lymphatic and cardiovascular system as well as getting rid of dead skin, and it really wakes you up.

-Personally, I get out of bed, and go brush and rinse my teeth first thing, then have a glass of water or other beverage to rehydrate before moving on to something else.

Now that you have done the first important thing, You have to determine what you want to accomplish and in what order. I’ll devise it in 2 section, the essentials, and the positive actions that you can do.

It is great to make time in the morning to achieve something that you want. This way, if the rest of the day go badly, you have at least made some progress or enjoy something that you liked already and nothing can take that away:

Optimizing and enjoying your necessary morning activities:

It important to be able to get ready for the day stress free. Ideally your space should be a haven and a place for rest, especially your bedroom.
You want to make enough time to get ready without rushing. In order to do that, it is ideal if you are organized and optimise how you get ready.
Having an organise wardrobe, having outfits ready and easily accessible can help you dress faster and hassle free.
If you bring lunch with you it is easier if you have an organise fridge, and if you know what you are going to make. If you have leftover or prepare your lunch the night before, make it accessible, packed, to grab and go.
Make all you need to take with you accessible by keeping them at the same spot every time, such as keys, wallet and phone, that way you can get ready very quickly. Nothing makes you more stress than having to look for a lost item when you are running late.

Make these mundanes activity enjoyable by creating a ritual or by multitasking.
You can listen to music or audio-programme you like while you get ready. Or you can treat your movements as a meditation, paying attention to your body, mind and emotion throughout the morning, and try to enjoy yourself in the moment.

The good breakfast:

I personally don’t eat breakfast, as I do intermittent fasting. If you do eat, it is optimal if your breakfast is healthy, and in tune with the other meals of the day.

-By starting the day with an healthy breakfast, you set your self up for good energy during the day, as well as starting your daily nutrition well. If you have a unhealthy meal right in the morning, it sets a bad tune, making it more likely that you will be unhealthy and have low energy for the rest of the day.
-Balance you breakfast with other meals, for example:
If you have a big breakfast, you want to have and active day, and have lighter meals at lunch and for dinner. If you feel that you need energy, eat low GI food to prevents sugar high. You can also eat healthy snacks, but have small meals instead.

I dont have breakfast, and usually a late lunch, but I eat all my daily food in a short span of time, because I do not feel hungry in the morning. Hunger is a good indicator of when you should eat. A lot of people eat breakfast out of habit, while in fact they are not hungry.
If you breakfast is to heavy, it can actually make you more tired, increasing digestive load, and making you feel heavy and slug. Digestion also takes away from cognitive concentration. That is why e find it hard to focus and often tiered after meals. Same goes with big diner and the quality of sleep. You need to find when your body is tuned to optimal digestion through experimentation.

If a big breakfast works for you, either because, you work out in the morning, have a “morning” metabolism, or have a physically demanding job, great. Otherwise you can experiment and see if actually eating less or later in the morning will leave you more energetic. It definitely was the case for me.

Here are some example of healthy breakfast:

-overnight soaked porridge
-Greek yogurt with toping, if dairy is digested well
-fuit salad
-smoothie, or fruit soups
-salads, or veggies on healthy toast
-nuts butter on healthy toast
-omelet, poached, soft boiled eggs
-protein pancakes
-obviously the appropriate quantity is determinant, as well as quality of the ingredient.

Positive activities to add to the morning routine.

Once you accomplish the basic things that everybody does, it’s time to add some positive habits that will really quick start your day and your life.
Here are some example of morning activities:

-Making the bed: Making your bed is important because it ads order to your life. You start the day organized and already accomplishing something. You come back to a ready bed at the end of the day when you are tired.
-Accomplishing a priority task such as starting your own business, reaching a new contact, finding a new job, working on a project. Working on a difficult project early on is great because you focus is high, you don’t get distracted, and you feel great the rest of the day if you have already mad progress on something that is important to you.

-Deliberate practice learning new skills, training, is great for the same reason as the above, good focus, no distractions, early accomplishment.
-physical activity (stretching, cardio, workout, Yoga/ taichi): A physical activity in the morning is a great way to kick start you metabolism for the day and provide you with more energy. I can be any sports, also solo activities are easier to organise.
Workout in the morning is a good options as you have a lot of energy, meaning the quality of the workout is likely to be better. Also by getting out of the way, you don’t have to think about, and it doesn’t become a daunting after work activity.

-Breathing and mindfulness exercises can really boost your energy and your mood, see below

-doing something that you like, leisure, reading, practicing something, music, drawing, whatever you start the day by doing something that you like, setting you up in a good mood.
-browsing or media or email, if it is self-controlled, it is also a good way to get is out of the way. You could set up a 30 min browsing time for social media and blogs in the morning that count for the entire day.

Keep in mind that you can get lost in other people’s lives and priorities by doing so. That’s why I recommend leaving this kind of activity for later during the day, when you have accomplished something for yourself first.

The importance of contemplative and mood elevating practices:

Mood elevating exercises are great in the morning because they can really set up your mood for the day. Some form of meditation and visualization can boost your energy, mood and productivity.
Some that I find particularly appropriate for the morning are:
-Keep a Gratitude journal to really start the day appreciating.

-Standard meditation
-Loving kindness meditation
-smile meditation to start your day with a happy body
-success, and energy visualisation
-Pranayama fire breath or Wim hoof breathing method

The Idea is to release endorphine in your brain early on as a primer, and providing oxygen to your body. Your brain is like an engine. If you prime it well and early in morning, it will function better for the rest of the day. At the start these practices can seem daunting and difficult, even unnatural. You may need to exert some discipline to stick to it. But then you can start to enjoy it as something to look forward to, plus it can really boost you up.

Other factors:

Your morning is dependent on a few factors that you have to organise yourself with or around.

-The time you start work: I believe it is important that you have some personal time before you get to work. Whenever you start work, it is good to have more spare time than necessary to get ready for work in the morning. That way, you can also achieve some of your priorities, and get a head start.

-Family life: If you have a partner, kids, that share your life in the morning, it might make it complicated to focus on yourself and get things done. The first solution which I recommend is to get up earlier than anyone els, you can ensure that you have time to achieve what you want went the rest of the family is still sleeping.

The second solution is to set up a clear schedule and boundaries. Your morning relationship with your family is a matter of habits. If there are things you need to do and need private time, it will be accepted as long as it is clear and organized. You don’t want to neglect you family either. Have a dedicated plan for everything, from getting the kids ready and to school, enjoying breakfast together, to work on your own project.
Third, teach your kid to be independent as early as possible, so that they can take care of themselves as much as possible. Teach your partner to respect your boundaries when you need time and space to be productive.

-your energy level and motivation:
What if you feel tiered and unmotivated in the morning? You simply don’t have the energy to do what you need to do.
You may lack energy and motivation for a few different reason, if you identify the reason and fix it, you can gradually improve your energy level and your morning.
-your day doesn’t look enticing. Try to plan something that you enjoy during the day, ideally in the morning, set up time for your self. By looking forward to it, you may gradually feel more motivated. You might need to dig deeper and examine you sense of meaning in your life. (see article)

-you are not sleeping well. The quality of your sleep is how your recharge your battery. Improve your sleep by taking the necessary steps. (see article)
-your health and fitness is poor. Eating better and exercising will slowly increase your metabolism and energy level of the time. If you are unhealthy from unhealthy habits, it is likely that you energy level suffers. Identify what your habits are and try to rectify them.
-you are sick. If you are sick, your energy is taken for healing. The best thing you can do is rest and recover properly instead of trying to be half productive. You will take more time to recover and won’t be performant. Also if you are sick often, it might be a sign that your immune system is lacking and or that you have health issue.

If the morning routine doesn’t go as plan:

Not every morning is perfect, in fact few are, but that’s OK. If the morning did not go as planned and you are running behind where do we go from here?

The first thing is to not beat yourself up. By beating yourself up, you make it that much difficult to recover and have a good day. If the morning didn’t go well, the first thing to do is let it go, stop thinking about focus on the present.

Once you are back on track and focused on what you need to do, see if you can reschedule some of the thing you wanted to do, like working on a project or working out later on in the day. If you can, that’s great, you can catch up and adapt, so you minimise the impact.

Lastly, you might not be able to catch up. If that’s the case, accept having a slow day. Not everyday can be optimal, things happen. Just accepting that today wasn’t the best day can let the tension go of your shoulders and also help you make most of the time you do have left.

Learn why things didn’t go as plan. Draw lesson from your failures, maybe if you learn and identify what messed up in the first place, you’ll take the necessary adjustments and make it less likely to mess up with your morning. If it was something significant, maybe it need to be address and reflected upon. If it was insignificant, it might simply be due to lack of planning or organisation, see how you can account for that and adjust.

Putting it together:

Once you have selected the activities that work for you, you want to organise them in a sequence that is memorable and repeatable.

Plan and write down your morning as a sequence of activities one after the other.
You need to find something that work for you, and that requires experimentation.
Try a few different practices, a keep what works. Stick to something for a little while at least to give it a fair trial, at least 30 days. If it pass the test keep it in your routine.

It is important, that your routine does not become another challenge or thing to do. If it is to hard or causes stress, it becomes counter productive. The morning routine is here to provide a mental space where you can be happy, calm, and enthusiastic about your day.

Don’t try to change to fast either. Try to hard to soon and you might burn out. Observe you current habits to identify what is setting your back and what you can change gradually in order to be more productive. Again, the goal is to have repetitive actions that are easy to accomplish and make you feel good.

To finish, here is an example here is my ideal morning routine:
Keep it mind it’s personal, I encourage you to come up with your own.

-Get up early (5am)
-tongue brushing, washing teeth
-Glass of water or green tea
-Yoga 20 min
-Breathing exercise 5 min
-meditation 20 min
-visualisation 20 min
-shower (cold if I have the courage)
-Write for at least 30 min
-make the bed when my wife is up, (usually after around 30 min of writing) >get on with my day