I used to be a morning person, until the demands of being a CEO at the same time as being an involved father of 4 took it’s toll. I found that my focus, productivity and energy throughout the day was getting depleted more and more quickly.
I wondered whether this was simply inevitable – that getting older and the demands of responsibility determined the degree of focus, productivity and energy that I had throughout my day – or maybe there was something I could do differently to extend my dwindling focus, productivity and energy for longer throughout the day?
What I learned and began practising utterly transformed my productivity and has even increased my level of fulfilment each day!
Today, as a Life & Business Strategist it’s one of the things I get asked about most often. It’s usually framed around willpower – “How do I generate the willpower to get up earlier to harness the power of an effective morning routine?”
We know that willpower is like a rechargeable battery for most people – once it’s been used up it needs recharging! Anything that requires self-control or discipline draws on that willpower – like getting up earlier to adopt a more powerful and productive morning routine – however, willpower is also like a muscle, the more you use it the more you build it up.
The simple fact is this, anything you can set to automatic, anything you can do as a routine, as a system or ritual, doesn’t tax your limited supply of willpower.
You already have routines that run on auto-pilot particularly in the morning – but if you want to understand how powerful a new morning routine can be, if you want to find out whether it really is worth it to get up earlier – then what you need to do is re-program that auto-pilot to incorporate a more effective morning routine!
You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. – John C. Maxwell
So here are Six Steps to really increase and sustain your focus, productivity and energy every day:
Step 1. Get ahead of the madness
Basically get up before the you allow the craziness to shape your day. You need to wake up before demands are made upon you. The majority of these demands are usually self-inflicted so it is within your power to do something about that. This requires you to do two things differently than you did yesterday:
One: Set your alarm 10 minutes earlier – for some of you, your alarm is not enough to get you out of bed. So, why not try one of these solutions that clients of mine have come up with: getting a dog that needs a walk/getting friends to call you at a pre-determined time/getting an auto coffee-maker in your room that starts brewing at a certain time to wake you with the aroma/using a sunshine lamp that shines a gradually brightening light in your face at a specific time to harmonise with your Circadian rhythm; and
Two: don’t check you phone (other than to turn off the alarm or to answer that wake-up call!) for the first 45 minutes of your day! Your phone is one of the most significant sources of stress in the morning. You may be one of the many people have trained themselves to wake up in state of fight or flight – having an elevated cortisol level (the stress hormone). You may have unintentionally programmed this response by your repeated experience of low level anxiety about what your phone is going to demand of you the moment you wake up – so why don’t you try not giving it that power over you? Just 5 days of this simple practice can reduce your morning cortisol levels.
Step 2. Adopt a start-up ritual
It might be the splash of water on your face to shock you into being more alert or the stumble into the kitchen to get a glass of water into which you’ve squeezed fresh lemon juice – the tartness of which causes you to shiver, hydrates you and kick-starts your metabolism – or it may be the typical morning caffeine shot that stimulates your fuzzy mind.
Whatever it is, prepare for it the night before;
– put your cup or glass on the side in the kitchen,
– get out the chopping board and lemon,
– get the coffee-bean grinder or French press out of the cupboard and place it on the side so it is ready.
This all primes your sub-conscious and reduces start-up energy, which allows you to flow into the ritual.
Step 3. Appreciate Stillness
Once you’ve prepared your drink, find the most comfortable seat in your space or a part of your house where you usually feel positive. Then stop and be still for about 4 minutes – you can stand or sit and be silent (maybe sipping your coffee/water) and just breathe.
If it helps – set a timer (perhaps it feels like a standing snooze). There’s nothing to focus upon, nothing to do yet, nothing but you and your breath, let your thoughts come… and go. Focus on your in-breath… and then… your out-breath and just take the few moments.
This is incredibly powerful for setting up your day but you won’t know just how powerful it is until you try it and see for yourself.
If you can’t resist some digital help in exploring a few minutes of mindfulness or meditation, then why not download an app to help you. Many of my clients find Headspace useful and other use The Mindfulness App but there are many others like Calm or Buddhify which may suit your taste better and just a reminder, you don’t need to check you messages when you open an app!
And then, when 4 minutes is up it’s time to move onto the next step.
Step 4. Affirm who you are and where you’re going
Now spend 2 minutes repeating two separate sets of statements;
– the first, a set of three about yourself and
– the second, a set of three about what you want in your life:
With the first three statements you begin to tell yourself who you are becoming. With the second three you begin to tell yourself what you are moving towards achieving.
Some people visualize their success and then visualise the steps to get them there. This is a super powerful productivity tool to move you nearer success.
Affirmations bring that visualization into the present; they cause us to re-visit that imagined reality and to draw positive energy from it. They motivate us and they influence and activate both our subconscious and conscious mind.
– They change the way we feel,
– they change what we believe and
– they ultimately change how we behave.
This is a great reason to incorporate them into a morning routine in order to contribute to us experiencing our best day ever!
Many people use general affirmations like:
“I deserve to be happy” or
“I am successful” or
“Financial Abundance is flowing into my life”
Affirmations like this are fine, they are positive and you can find many lists on the internet that are helpful to choose from. However, when we use words that are deliberately crafted to connect with our essential selves, that resonate with our values and that are aligned with our purpose, then we reinforce truth – whether we believe that truth or not.
And when we use words that are related to our already visualized successes and desired outcomes this moves from positive self-talk to something much deeper, much more profound and much more authentic.
These types of affirmations are powerful statements of both intent and belief, they strengthen and empower us and they create momentum.
So before using this step in your morning routine perhaps you might want to spend a few minutes constructing three very personal statements that connect with your essential self, resonate with your values and are aligned with your purpose.
And if you feel like you want to revisit them throughout your day then keep a copy in your notes app on your phone or on a piece of paper in your wallet.
Step 5. Express gratitude
You’re going to spend the next 4 minutes in two segments – you’ll need a paper and pen for this:
Spend the first 2 minutes recalling 3 people to whom you are grateful in your life – write their names on your paper …along with a note of why you are grateful to them specifically.
Once you’re done, spend another 2 minutes bringing to mind things that you are grateful for in your world right now. This may also be specific people but can be experiences, circumstances, gifts you’ve received, …you may even be grateful for the peace and quiet of getting up a little earlier than the rest of your household!
Whatever these are, make a note of them and keep the list as a gratitude journal. If you begin to find this tedious or forced after a few days, try to think of novel ways of looking at the thing you were grateful for yesterday or how you might express gratitude to that person.
Being grateful is one of the most fundamental determinants of happiness in our world – this simple exercise re-programs our minds to be more positive and to become more grateful too.
The world’s leading expert on Gratitude is Dr Robert Emmons, prof of psychology at the University of California, Davis.
He’s collaborated on so many helpful studies with numerous happiness experts like
– Professor Angela Duckworth and
Every one of these experts links the practice of a simple exercise, like the one I’ve just given you, with an increase in happiness and contentment and a decrease in depression and frustration.
A great reason to make sure you add this to your morning routine!
Step 6. Get active
Stretching, practicing yoga, going for a run or simply a walk in the morning is enormously good for you.
The benefits of getting active in the morning are many – who doesn’t want
– increased energy throughout the day,
– deeper concentration,
– a more effective metabolism,
– fewer aches and pains and
– improved sleep later the same day and so on…
But what prevents many people from adopting this daily routine is that they think that this has to be intense and strenuous to yield any results. But the weight of evidence contradicts this – it is just not true. A recent study Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. Exercising first thing in the morning ensures that you’ll have the time for it, and it improves your self-control and energy levels all day long.
Whether you spend 2 minutes stretching, or 10 minutes practising yoga or even 30 minutes going for a run, as long as you wake up your body with some activity you will get some of the benefits in this morning routine.
If you want something challenging but don’t have more than a few minutes why not do a 7 minute workout. Again, there are plenty of apps out there to help you.
And feel free to change it up every few days to do something different but for the same time.
Motivation is what gets you started. Habits are what keep you going. – Jim Rohn
Bringing it all together
Implementing these 6 Steps will take you between 15 and 20 minutes – longer if you decide to incorporate an extended exercise session.
As a quick reference reminder I created a short guide called “6 Keys to Unlocking Your Best morning Ever”. You can download a copy here or by clicking on the picture below.
A good morning routine will make you more focused, more productive and give you more energy, every day. Not only that, it can reduce stress and anxiety and create a deeper sense of fulfilment. The trick is to be intentional, to harness routines, reduce start-up energy and create new habits.
You may have adopted your existing morning routine by default, but now is the time to adopt one by design, your own design. These 6 Steps work for me and can help you too. But if you want to check out other morning routines then Tim Ferris‘ Tools of Titans is a good read as is Charles Duhigg‘s The Power of Habit.
What routines have you adopted in the morning to start your day off right? P
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Charlie Hugh-Jones is a Life and Business Strategist. He writes, speaks and coaches individuals and organizations all over the world on how to “Unlock the Best Version of You”. You can get a copy of Charlie’s latest book: Unlocking A More Productive You: Discover the 3 Keys to Making Space, Increasing Focus & Getting More Done.
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