Almost without fail, every single highly successful person whom I study for the purpose of emulation says that they rise early with a purposeful routine. As the guru of early mornings, Hal Elrod says, “How we start our day determines how we create our life.”
And so I begin my days with a sense of purpose. It has become clear to me that an early and purposeful morning is a common thread among those who have accomplished impressive things. It stands to reason, then, that if I want to do the same thing, I ought to emulate these actions.
So here is the morning routine that has begun to play a role in my journey.
My Coffee Ritual
I don’t just drink coffee. It’s a little more than that. I found that part of the benefit of the morning routine—not to mention something that helped me want to do it at all—was to get into a rhythm, a nice, cozy little ritual that helps me to flow more easily into a purposeful day.
So my routine begins with the ritual of making coffee using the pour-over method. I’m not a coffee connoisseur—I don’t do this because it absolutely makes the best coffee. It’s less cool and more practical than that. It’s quiet, for one thing. I heat up water in a pot and quietly pour it over the grounds of my choice. No Keurig grunting away and waking up my kids.
So, step one to making 5 am work for me: CAFFEINE!
I’ve been enjoying Dan Harris’ book, “10% Happier.” He talks about the transformation he experienced when he began meditating. It’s an important tool. I know that with my left-brain personality, I live mostly in the creative, ADHD realm, my mind is always wandering, distracted by shiny objects, or scrutinizing my own thoughts.
I’ve tried, in the past, to remove a song from my head when it’s stuck there, and it is profoundly difficult—almost impossible.
Meditation is simply the practice of learning to purposefully clear or quiet your mind, to master your thoughts as much as possible.
Many people view meditation and prayer as either/or—Christians pray, Buddhists and stressed out atheists meditate. I respectfully disagree. I find that meditation only enhances the experience of prayer.
tWith meditation, I try to quiet my thoughts. With prayer, they’re allowed back in. I use this time to express gratitude, and to ask for help in conquering the tasks ahead of me with the right mindset, a mindset of selflessness. I pursue a meaningful relationship with God, whom I believe is the source of all that I need.
Regardless of your beliefs around the Christian doctrine, the Bible is a phenomenal source of wisdom, and further contributes to a sound mindset.
In fact, speaking of prepping my mind for investing in the day, just this morning I read this in the book of Ecclesiastes: “I know that there is nothing better for [man] than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime.”
Spending time reading the Bible not only exposes me to the riches of wisdom, but it grounds me, reminds me of what I believe is the root of my value: that I was created as an act of love, and have a true purpose and destiny to fulfill.
Not a bad thought to begin a day.
I’ve shared previously how I feel about affirmations. I do them every single day. They focus me on goals, they direct my thoughts—conscious and subconscious—toward those goals, and they bolster my belief that I can and will accomplish my goals.
This is the newest member of my Morning Routine family. In reading Lewis Howes’ book School of Greatness, he recommends keeping what he calls a gratitude journal. My reluctance to incorporate this, though, wasn’t due to a lack of belief in the value, but simply a feeling that I didn’t have the time, and that I didn’t quite value this activity highly enough to make time for it.
I asked a guy I work with about his early mornings. This is a guy who has accomplished a lot, who I’ve observed as being very purposeful about his time, how he leads his team, etc. Of course, when I asked him about his mornings, he mentioned that he journals every morning. And every night. This is what I call corroborative evidence.
I’m now introducing this element into my routine. It seems to go hand in hand with the meditations, and the pursuit of what the Buddhists call ‘mindfulness.’
Finally, I finish up by reading a bit in whatever book is currently at the top of that stack. I love the chance to take a new concept or idea into a fresh day and try it out.
As an example, I read yesterday, in “10% Happier” about what’s called the RAIN technique for mindfulness, and I ended up getting to try it out just last night. I don’t know how well I executed it, but the point is simply that I’m pushing myself, expanding my understanding, and challenging myself to continue to change.
BONUS: Write out your day
The other thing that my friend at work mentioned yesterday was that he writes out his day each morning. He says that it helps him to internalize the tasks in front of him, so that he’s not constantly coming back to a calendar every 15 minutes to see what’s next.
I have yet to try this one personally, although I’ll probably begin incorporating this in the next couple days, just to see how it affects how my day unfolds.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments: Do you have a morning routine that you’ve found to be helpful? What do you do that my routine is missing?
Go-to Resource: This book has been a fun read. Not only is 10% Happier pretty insightful, but it carries entertainment value as well, as you follow Dan through the perilous ranks of local news on up to anchor desks at ABC News. Most of all, he’s quite savvy with his self-deprecation. I haven’t finished the book yet, and I’ve already put into practice several helpful ideas.