How to Create a Morning Routine You Can Actually Stick To
‘If you win the morning, you win the day.’
How did you begin your day today? By hitting the snooze button sixteen times before slowly slithering out of bed like a hungover sloth? Or by springing out of bed like a kid at Christmas, shouting, “What doth the day bring, dear universe?”
Whichever type of morning person you are, you’ve probably heard how a morning routine is one of the stepping stones to achievement. From Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington, to Richard Branson and Tony Robbins, many successful entrepreneurs start with a routine that steers their day towards success.
You might even have heard of some die-hard morning routine fans, like former US Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink, who proudly starts his day at 4.30am.
Every. Single. Day.
He even documents it on Instagram to inspire others to do the same.
Perhaps you’ve thought about establishing your own morning routine, but you’re not entirely sure what the benefits are. Or maybe you’ve tried it and it just hasn’t worked for you.
So, to help you decide whether a routine first thing is for you, let’s look at what the benefits really are and establish what kind of habits might be useful.
Benefits of a Morning Routine
In order to stick with a morning routine, it’s worth knowing just what benefits you can hope to experience. You’re more likely to try it out if the proof is in the pudding.
1. Cortisol levels
According to scientific research, our cortisol levels are at their peak first thing in the morning. We are alert and focused, ready to tackle all manner of tasks. It makes sense, then, to use this time to be at our most productive.
2. Sense of control
You start the day as you mean to go on, improving your confidence and developing a more positive mental attitude. You know where the day is likely to take you and you’re ready for it – bring it on!
3. Increased productivity and achievement
Just starting your day with certain habits can help you feel a sense of success before other people have even got out of bed. You’ve been productive in the early hours and that productivity tends to continue into the rest of your day.
4. Head space
Establishing a morning routine means dedicated time for wellbeing. You start the day quietly, before the rest of the family awakes, meaning you’re calm and ready for them when they do wake up. You’ve carved out important ‘me time’ into each and every day – something we can all benefit from.
5. Time to plan
Often the day feels as though it runs away from us. We’re often chasing our tails, hurtling along at breakneck speed. Building in time to quietly plan the day means you’re in as much control as possible and more likely to tick those important things off your to-do list.
Now you know some of the benefits of a morning routine, you might be wondering how to set one up. And, more importantly, how you can actually make it work for you in order to grow your business.
Well I decided to take one for the team… and try it out.
Establishing a Morning Routine
As a personal development and behavioural change enthusiast, I’d read a lot about the importance of a morning routine and how, by establishing one, I could get the most out of my day.
But I’m also human, and the thought of being productive before 7.30am gave me a headache.
However, I was willing to give a morning routine a go for the sake of research, so I bought The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and read it from cover to cover.
Now, with two kids, I was already forced to be a ‘morning person’, but this book made me realise that I’d not been using this time wisely. Apparently, lying in bed until the last possible second before getting the boys dressed for school isn’t the best use of my time. Who knew?
Hal’s approach is done in six easy steps.
Using the S.A.V.E.R.S acronym, it puts your morning into manageable, bite-sized chunks:
By following these 6 habits, my morning routine was set to become highly productive, gearing me up for an even more productive day ahead.
Let’s look at each one of the S.A.V.E.R.S in turn.
The start of each day should begin with time for quiet reflection and contemplation. It clears the mind of internal chatter and allows focused thought. By training the mind to focus on the present moment, it enables you to build these strategies into your day when you feel overwhelmed or stressed.
I am a big fan of the Headspace app and I have been using it for six months now. It gives me ten minutes of guided meditation time each morning and my head always feels clearer and ‘ready for the day’ after I have completed it.
Next on Hal’s list of habits is positive affirmations. These are the way to kick-start your dreams and make them a reality. Say your affirmations as if they are goals that are already complete, using language that’s positive and in the present tense too.
By following meditation with affirmations, I’ve found that I have a clearer mind to really focus on the positivity involved in this process. Saying my affirmations and visualising them only takes 5 minutes, but I’ve found it a powerful addition to my morning routine. I feel energised and pumped for the tasks ahead of me and I’m reminded of my all important ‘why’.
Everything I do each day takes me closer to my goals and the affirmations are making those crystal clear in my mind.
For a great book about creating affirmations, I highly recommend The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. It changed my life.
Visualisation goes hand in hand with positive affirmations, so it’s no surprise that Hal recommends doing this immediately after them. By picturing a goal already achieved, you’re ‘tricking’ your brain into believing that this is the reality of your life.
In turn, you are more likely to seek opportunities and work hard to reach the point where your vision is your reality.
Originally, I did my visualisation at the end of the day, just before I went to sleep. However, there were two problems with this:
- I would often fall asleep before finishing
- Visualising my success would get me so pumped up, I couldn’t sleep!
By putting this task as part of my morning routine, I’m wide awake and ready to do it properly. I’m also able to take the positive energy from it and put that into my day ahead.
The most successful people realise that both a healthy mind and a healthy body produce the best results, whatever their chosen field. By putting exercise into your morning routine, it means you’re less likely to skip it if you leave it until the evening.
The exercise you do is purely your choice, of course, but it should be something you enjoy. Why? Because you’re more likely to do it and keep doing it. Creating new habits is exciting at first, but when that initial excitement has worn off, it can be difficult to stay motivated.
Just ask anyone who has set resolutions on January 1st…
You may feel as though you need to do something that gets your sweat on, but gentle yoga or a walk is just as effective.
I was dubious about getting up and doing exercise before breakfast. If I’m honest, I didn’t think I’d be able to.
Er, hello fixed mindset!
But doing exercise at the start of the day has been a revelation! I choose something that I feel like doing and vary it up a bit to keep me interested. Sometimes cardio, sometimes weights and definitely yoga at least once.
I aim for 20-30 minutes each morning. The feeling you get knowing you’ve had a great workout and you’ve got the rest of the day ahead of you is a-mazing. I’m sleeping much better too.
The most successful entrepreneurs read a lot each day. Hungry for knowledge that will see them achieve more and raise their aspirations.
Elon Musk reportedly read as many as two books a day in his teens. In one year, he was getting through over 600 books.
Hal recommends setting aside 20-30 minutes per morning to read as part of your morning routine. It’s worth reading books/articles that are going to help you move closer to your goals. Read purposefully for 80% of the time and you’ll soon see the results.
By setting aside reading time each morning, I have found that I’m able to fit in an activity I really love, but that often fell to the wayside. I purposefully choose books that I want to learn something from, as I find I’m more able to focus at this point in the day.
I read over breakfast, usually a chapter or two, depending on their size. Developing this habit means I’m absorbing loads of really useful information that again leads me closer to my goals. My notebook is always handy too.
Journaling isn’t new. It’s not quite the woes of a teenager anymore, but it’s still highly effective.
People use their journals for different things and Hal suggests spending 5-10 minutes putting your thoughts on paper during your morning routine.
Some have a gratitude journal; others write down how they’re feeling as they take on new adventures or attempt new things in their lives. Research shows that an ‘attitude of gratitude’ makes you a happier person overall, as you realise that you have a lot to be thankful for. You’re less negative and more optimistic.
I’ve tried journaling a few times over the years and I’ve failed to stick to it. However I’ve recently become a convert of the Bullet Journal Method and have been sticking to it for six months now. I like how organised my day becomes, making sure I’m taking consistently small steps towards my goals.
By adding gratitude into the mix, I’ve also found that I recognise all the things that make my life a happier one. From small things like a warm bed to big things like my desire to learn, there is always something. I think it’s changed my outlook on life in general.
It also makes a great journey log for the meandering path we call life.
Creating a morning routine takes dedication and perseverance. Sometimes you won’t achieve all the things you had planned to do. Some days I run out of time to do my scribing during the morning session, so I fill it in over lunch. Other days I won’t read for quite as long.
It has to fit in with your life.
The S.A.V.E.R.S approach won’t work for everyone. I’m lucky that my children are that bit older now, so I’m able to dedicate time to it. But it doesn’t mean that a morning routine won’t work for you at all. It’s about finding what does work and trying that.
Try to include something from each of these areas, as suggested by Tracy Kennedy in her Life Hack article.
As with everything in life, it has to evolve and change as circumstances change. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ model for morning routines either. Make it useful and suitable for you.
Establishing a morning routine has had a truly positive impact on my life. My days feel more purposeful and more organised. I feel as though I’ve achieved a lot before 8.30am and this spurs me on to achieve more in the hours ahead of me.
I encourage you to try establishing yours. The rewards are plentiful.
- What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
- My Morning Routine by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander
- Morning Routines to Make Your Day – Lifehack
- The Morning Routines of the Most Successful People – Fast Company