Waking early and making good use of the early hours is the biggest life hack there is — no exception. It’s a competitive advantage that almost feels like you’re cheating. You’re getting stuff done whilst most other people are sleeping like babies!
But, it can be hard to find one you like doing and will stick to (these are linked).
In my experience, there are three things that are at the root of not sticking to a morning routine:
1. Scheduling things you don’t like.
It sounds stupid and obvious, right? But, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve built a morning routine around things I don’t look forward to, or like doing.
Why on earth would I do that? Usually because there is a mass opinion that successful people do a certain thing – so I feel I should be doing it too. Meditation is a good example.
Now, I get that it’s not realistic to be insanely excited about everything you do. But, I can guarantee if you have stuff in your morning routine that feels like a drag — it’s just a matter of time before you choose to stay under the covers instead.
It’s your time. You get to decide how to use it. Spend the time on things you like doing and that add value to your life.
2. Doing too many things
This is perhaps the most obvious and easiest way to trip over. It’s human nature to try and squeeze the most out of something that works.
Pick less things (2 or 3 is ideal). Be overly realistic about how long you will spend doing these things (add a 25% to 50% buffer). It shouldn’t feel like a race to get everything done. If it does, you’ll usually fail to get everything done. And then you’ll start to dread getting up to do it.
3. Having too much structure
I used to think a fixed structure was best for building habits and consistency. But, again, it tends to lead to boredom and then skipping it.
It’s fine to have a fixed structure, but be open to straying from it when you get the urge. I’ve found it’s best to have focuses and a few things you might do in each of those. Then just do what you feel like on the day.
Here’s an example. I spend the first 30 mins of the day on ‘mindset’. I have a handful of things I can choose from to do in this time. I might do one of them consistently every day for a week. Other weeks I’ll do something different each day. I’m always consistently working on my mindset — but the actual thing I do depends on how I’m feeling that day.
Also, be open to changing focuses over time. For example, working on my mindset is a priority for me at this point in my life. But I may go through a period where it is less important to work on every day. I will then either spend less time on it, or drop it altogether for a bit. If work is busy, I might even decide to spend all of my early morning time doubling down on work projects for a couple of weeks (beware, doing this for more than a couple of weeks will cause work / life balance problems).
Lastly, be open to shortening your morning routine if your day forces it. I find it’s better to skip a focus than to try and fit everything in with less time on each focus.
Warning: The above three things aren’t easy
They sound obvious, but they are deceptively hard to follow. I have more scar tissue with them than I can count. Despite that, I still fall victim to them now and again.
It’s a bit like when you write that email you know you shouldn’t send. When you finish it, you still know you shouldn’t send it. Then you send it anyway. And then you kick yourself for sending it.
The best advice I can give is to try and notice you’re drifting towards one of them, and then interrupt yourself. If you do slip up, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just re group and get back on track.
To give some context to everything above, here’s what my morning routine looks like at the moment:
05.00 – wake
05.00 – mindset work (one of the following)
- listen to dickens process
- connect with a short list of things that are important to me
05.30 – plan day
06.00 – move (one of the following)
I usually finish about 07.00 and then get on with whatever I have planned for the day.
As you can see, I have three focuses – mindset, plan and move. What I actually do is different, depending on how I feel on the day.
Today I only had an hour to spend because I woke late and had to catch a train to London. I used to get bent out of shape about this and let it derail my entire day. But, instead I wasn’t attached to the structure and was open to modifying it.
I decided to skip ‘move’ and only worked on ‘mindset’ and ‘plan’. When I planned my day, I scheduled some time to swim this afternoon and do some mobility before bed. Everything will work out just fine 😉
Hope that helps. Enjoy your mornings!
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