Five Morning Habits That Boosted My Productivity
"If we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It's not what we do every once and a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently." - Anthony Robbins
If you have been on Pinterest lately, you have surely seen a million different posts on morning routines, right? Everyone seems to be talking about it, from celebrities to authors to your coworkers. It seems like every self-help book mentions the importance of beginning the day earlier and starting it the right way. My old-self, a habitual night owl, used to scuff at the idea. However, I eventually had to admit the miraculous shift in my life when I started implementing daily reflection time in the morning. My productivity skyrocketed! My morning habits have been tested and changed throughout the years, especially when I started traveling full-time, but I think I have finally pinned down a morning style that works for me.
To be honest, I don’t really find it too significant to have a strict daily routine. It is nearly impossible with the lifestyle I lead and the unpredictability of it. Plus, when I have strict routines and I am forced to skip them, I get frustrated with myself. That’s not really helpful for me.
Instead, I believe in having morning habits that I aim to complete each day. Sure, some days are amazingly productive, and others are awful. I find that the flexibility is important for me. That said, if I do not have any habits that I am aiming for, I tend to wander around the house and scroll on my phone for hours in the morning, only to be shocked by how much time I waste.
I have morning schedules that I use as more of a guideline and ideal. This helps me to stay focused and stop wasting as much time in the morning. It really varies each day depending on how late I sleep in and what morning obligations I have. It is imperative for me to receive 6-8 hours of sleep each night, so I make sure my mornings are flexible enough to prioritize sleep. Here is my morning habits guide that I added to my bullet journal:
A lot of my morning habits are loosely reflective of the tools and principles from The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. I highly suggest his book if you are looking for advice on how to start getting yourself out of bed earlier and building morning habits that kickstart your day. His morning routine, super similar to mine, includes: Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing (writing). His habits are a bit more structured than mine and are a great blueprint for someone who like that sort of thing.
I’ll give you a little break down of my morning habits and why they play an important part in my day.
The Hard Part: Waking Up
As much as I have grown to love being a morning person, it is still a struggle to pull myself out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, especially if I am lucky enough to be bundled up in a comfy bed. For this reason, I do not usually sleep with my phone within reach. If I can help it, it is not even in my bedroom. That way, when the alarm goes off, I must get out of bed and go to my phone to turn the alarm off. At this point, I am already up and might as well stay up.
I should note, this is not always the case. There are always the mornings when my body demands more sleep out of me and consciously decide to snooze and crawl back into bed.
The promise of coffee is really the only thing that motivates me to get moving. The very first thing I do after turning off my alarm, besides a quick bathroom break, is start brewing coffee. This will be the reward for my least favorite part of the morning: Cold Showers.
Plunging into chilly water is a tactic to wake up in the morning that many swear by, including Tony Robbins. I absolutely hate being cold. If you read my blog post on the Vipassana meditation retreat, you will recall that I took great measures to avoid cold showers. However, I was talked into it by a dear friend of mine, Connor McCreesh. Connor is a successful entrepreneur, social media genius, fitness guru, and like me, a personal development junkie. He is one of those people that I tend to listen to when they’re giving me some solid advice.
Now, I am hooked. I still hate every freaking second of the shower, but I am instantly awake and have some adrenaline pumping to get moving. The heavy metal music I play also helps subdue my morning anger at the offensively cold water.
Thank goodness hot coffee awaits.
Writing and Reflection
The best time for me to get clarity in the chaos bubbling in my head is through writing each morning. It is one of the first things I do (after a cold shower and pouring a cup of coffee). This is before I start scrolling through my phone or begin any serious thinking. I just let whatever comes into my mind flow onto the pages of my journal, raw and unfiltered.
While many writers suggest a three-page minimum for their Morning Pages, I am perfectly content with only one page. It gives me enough space to reflect on something bothering me, a reflection on the previous day, or just random free-writing. I do not usually struggle with finding something to write about, but when I do, I can simply use a writing prompt to get started. Some of my favorites include:
- Reflect on a recent conversation that taught you something or gave you a new perspective
- What are five things I have done in the past month that make me proud?
- What relationships am I currently neglecting that I need to give more time to?
- Reflect on the things I am currently grateful for
Of course, there are some mornings that are more disordered than others and I do not always take the time to journal a full page in the morning. More recently, I downloaded the app version of the Five Minute Journal. This journal is praised by the author for 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss. He also mentions it as one of his five morning routines on his podcast. The best part of using the app version is that it reminds me to complete it. The daily morning prompts are: "I am grateful for," "What would make today great?" and “Daily Affirmation: I am _____." The evening prompts are: "Three amazing things that happened today" and "How could you've made today better?"
I find that even if I am only able to complete the gratitude journal, it helps me to set intention and begin my day with direction.
Silence and Listening
Opening my journal usually helps me to filter out any loud thoughts that pop up first thing in the morning. Once I get it all on paper, it is much easier to sink in to meditation or some other form of silent practice.
If I am meditating, I either sit up in easy pose or lay on my back with the soles of my feet touching and my knees dropped out to each side, or reclined cobbler’s pose for all my yogis out there. I have found that I really enjoy the deep hip-opening pose first thing in the morning because it roots me into the earth and opens my emotions a bit more than sitting. Some morning, I use the Calm App and follow one of their meditations. However, I really enjoy silent meditations too. I do a lot of focus on my breath and repeat the morning prayer from a Course in Miracles: “Where would you have me go? What would you have me do? What would you have me say? and to whom?” Then, I listen.
There are definitely times when I wake up a little too restless for still meditation. In this case, I can practice one of my other forms of mindfulness. This might include coloring a mandala or practicing a walking meditation. I enjoy the Buddhist practice of walking meditations, in which you focus on the distinct motions of each footstep. One would think, I am lifting the feet, I am reaching my foot forward, I am placing my foot down, etc.
For more on my mindfulness practices, check out this blog post.
Yoga and Exercise
Yoga is an important part of my morning, even if it only includes a quick 2-minute stretch. If I know my time is limited, I will usually hold a couple yin yoga poses during my journaling to make sure I take the time to get loosened up for the day. If I am not planning on going to the gym later in the morning, I will make it more of a priority to complete a longer yoga practice, or even watch a Buti Yoga class from one of my favorite instructors.
Three mornings a week, I meet with a small group of friends for a workout at the gym. It has been a crucial part of my fitness, because the group keeps each other accountable, pushing each other to do more, and laughing throughout the challenges. I am lucky enough to be training with Connor, my friend and fitness guru I mentioned earlier. He kicks my ass and encourages me to lift heavier and harder than I ever really thought was possible. I highly suggest getting a workout partner or pose.
It is the best feeling to conquer a tough workout in the morning. It provides the enthusiasm and drive to accomplish other challenges throughout the day.
Learning New Things
The best mornings leave time for learning new things or working on new skills. This usually means some solid reading time in the morning. I love the silence in the morning and the calm feeling of curling up on the couch with my coffee for some reading. It allows me to avoid rushing through my day. Audio books are great for busy mornings because I can listen to them while I prep breakfast or walk to the work space or gym.
If not reading, I may listen to a good podcast or watch an inspiring YouTube video. This is usually a video by Marie Forleo, TedTalks, or OWN channel. I may also take this time to work on practicing a new skill. I have been working on Spanish lately and may take this time to complete some challenges on the language app, Duolingo, or review my class notes.
Other important morning practicing worth mentioning are my planning and eating habits. I have an entire post that goes over bullet journaling and my big love of the practice. I take at least a couple minutes in the morning to open my bujo (bullet journal) to reflect on my tasks and schedule for the day, possibly adding to it as needed.
Typically, I fast for most of the morning, only enjoying coffee and water until 11 am or so. I started doing this after many of my fitness friends swore by the practice of intermittent fasting. This is usually the daily practice of fasting for 16 hours (or more) and eating for 8. I usually only fast for 12-14 hours a day. When I do finally have breakfast, it is nearly always a protein shake or smoothie. I also love to make some kind of toast or oatmeal. For more details on my breakfast faves, check out this post on my staple vegan breakfast choices.
When I follow at least a couple of these habits in the morning, I have more focus and clarity on my day. I am always more productive, and my mood is much better than on days when I skip AM reflections. Plus, I always feel incredible, like I have already accomplished many things, why not a few more? I enjoy feeling like a productivity badass.
Comment below: Do you have any morning habits you swear by? What gets you motivated and out of bed each day? Start the conversation below.