Thank you for your interest in learning about the 5 morning habits that have changed my life and helped me achieve more success. Before I get into the details of it, here is how it all started:
About a year ago, I went through the toughest time in my life. I had just shut down a multi-million dollar business that I founded and run successfully for 9 years. I found myself in very dark place, dealing with the issues that come with the sudden demise of a business. As if that were not enough, I had to also figure out a way to make money to pay bills and take care of my family. It felt like no matter how hard I tried, I could not focus my mind on anything. I was frustrated, scared, and helpless.
Then one day, while waiting to get my wife’s car fixed at an auto mechanic, I turned my attention to a TV evangelist in the waiting room. He talked about the life changing benefits of practicing gratitude. He said if you start your day being thankful for what you have, it greatly improves your mood, gets you excited to face the day and ultimately leads to a productive day. Since I was stuck in a horrible place and did not know what to do, I decided it was worth a try. Also, as a Christian, it’s been my goal to get into a better relationship with God and I saw this as my opportunity to work on that. What started as a morning ritual of gratitude has now evolved into five habits that have changed my life and helped me not only win the day, but stay in a mindset that fosters creativity, innovation and success. It did not happen overnight. I had to work at it – daily. I want to share my 5 morning habits with you. I am confident they will change your life too by helping you reach new heights of productivity and fulfill your dreams.
Now, if you are non-christian or don’t believe in God, you are probably wondering where this piece is going. Let me assure you of this: my morning habits are for everyone. Even if you adopted 3 of out of the 5 habits and practice them daily, you will see a dramatic improvement in your mindset and you will be empowered with the confidence and discipline you need to be your best. Feel free take some or all of these ideas and watch your productivity go through the roof.
Here are the 5 Morning habits that help me win the day:
1. Avoid Your Phone
The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is to avoid consuming any outside information or news. I don’t check my phone, computer or TV. This is the biggest battle I fight each morning because the tendency to pick up my phone and check my email, Whatapp, Instagram, Facebook or even the news is so great but I do my very best to resist. If you can do this, you’ve won the first battle of the day and are setting yourself up to win the morning, and by default the rest of the day.
Next, I journal. However, before I do that, I take a minute to focus my mind and be present. The goal here is to quiet any voices in my head so I can be 100% present in the moment. There are lots of exercises online about how to do this. Mine is very simple – I close my eyes and focus on my breathing. I try to bring my attention to each breath I take in and out. I do this for about a minute and that’s usually enough time to get me focused and present. Some people require more time to get to that state. You will have to play around with this to see what works for you. When you start doing this, you may find your mind going in several directions but keep doing practicing for a few days and you you will find that it gets easier.
I have also found that what I do between the time I wake up and when I start my morning routine determines how long it takes me to focus my mind. The more information I consume (reading anything on my phone or doing any chores), the more I have to work to focus since those things have a tendency to preoccupy my mind. As a result, I do my best to get to my morning routine right after I wake up and only take a detour for a bathroom break.
Once my mind is focused, then it’s time to journal. I start by listing all the things that happened the previous day that I am grateful for. I have found this practice to be the most impactful thing I do all day. When I see listed on paper all the blessings I am thankful for, my mood changes. I become more hopeful and positive. Even on days when my mind is preoccupied with negative thoughts or I am overly worried about something, once I practice gratitude, it turns the table and gets me back into a positive mindset.
Remember this: there is always something to be grateful for. Here are a few to get your mind going:
- that major task you accomplished
- the client phone call that came in
- the headache that mysteriously went away
- the difficult conversation you were dreading that went very well
- meeting that project deadline
- finishing that project
- starting that project
- making it back safely from a trip or adventure
- a successful visit from the in-laws
- that accident you avoided
- the meeting you thought you were going to be late for and somehow managed to make it in time
- the check you were fearful will bounce that went through
- making it through the day without any major fire to fight
- the phone call you had with your mom/dad/friend/colleague that made you realize how special they are in your life
If you still cannot come up with anything to be thankful for, you should at least be thankful for your health, a roof over your head and the fact that you can afford to provide for yourself and your family. Be thankful for the family and friends that love you. If you start with these, you will realize other things will start popping in your head to be thankful for.
A HUGE benefit of listing the things you are grateful for daily is that over time, you accumulate a whole book of gratitude. Whenever you find your self down, in a bad mood or worse, depressed, all you have to do is to read a few pages of your gratitude journal and you will see how blessed you are. This has helped me overcome some of my darkest moments/days.
After listing the things I am grateful for, I then list 2-3 major things I want to accomplish for that day.
3. Practice Gratitude/Pray
Then I pray. For those who are not Christian or Religious, take time to read over your list again and internalize it. It’s important to take a moment and appreciate all the things you are thankful for. If you are interested in my prayer routine, read on, otherwise, skip to step 4.
My prayer consists of two parts. First, I thank God for all the things I wrote in my journal that I am grateful for. Because I took the time to list them, my prayer becomes an affirmation – thanking God for his blessings the previous day. I then pray about the goals I want to accomplish for the day. Here again, since I wrote it in my Journal, my prayer becomes an affirmation and reinforcement – asking God to give me grace, wisdom, and strength as I seek to accomplish my goals for the day. I am essentially inviting God to walk with me during the day, and to order my steps as I strive to accomplish the goals I have listed. Doing this brings me a level of calm I don’t have words to describe. It make me confident and excited for the day, knowing that I have put my requests before God and that he is with me as I go about my day. I then read a chapter in the Bible and reflect on what I read. That’s my morning prayer routine.
After praying, I stretch. This I learned from Tim Ferris. Because I workout a lot (Crossfit), I am always sore and I pull muscles easily, and randomly. Stretching helps me recover faster from my workout and also makes me feel better. I have a whole list of stretching exercises I can do depending on how I feel, what hurts or what workout I did the previous day (Squats, Deadlifts, Pull-ups, Rowing, etc). Even if I don’t get the chance or don’t have the time to stretch, I always try to hang everyday. I do this for spine health. I have a pull up bar on my home office door that I hang from. I usually try to hang for one minute each day. If you are new to this, start small (10 seconds) and work your way up. Of course, you should talk to your doctor about this before you start.
5. Start Work on Something
The final part of my routine is to get head-start on my main tasks for the day. This is a great tip I learned from Maria Forneo. It’s about creating before you consume. The idea here is to get a big start on your main goal for the day before you “consume”/reward yourself with getting on social media or reading the news. There is no greater feeling than driving to work in the morning knowing that I have already gotten a head-start on my most important task of the day. It makes my commute pleasant, eliminates the frustration and anxiety that comes with traffic and delays, and when I get to my office, it’s very easy to get going because I have already started work and I just need to pick up from where I left off.
I have also found that once the main task is completed, I am motivated to tackle the other smaller tasks on my list since I have already knocked out the big one. In fact, these small tasks become a bonus, and the satisfaction of knowing that I have accomplished the main goal I had planned for the day and now have time to work on the other small items becomes fuel in itself.
And there you have it. These 5 morning habits/rituals have been the game changer in my life over the last year. I am more calm, purposeful and super productive.
Of course, there are days when I cannot get through all five rituals, especially when I am traveling or I am not at home in my own space. However, If I can get through the first 3 or 4 steps in my routine, I would have won the day. Don’t be so hung up on all 5. Start small and work your way down as you get more comfortable and build a routine.
Now that you know my morning habits for success, here are 5 quick tips that will help you get the most out of your morning routine:
5 Tips to a Great Morning Routine
- Start slow. Start with number 3 (gratitude) and get in the habit of that, before you add anything else. It is said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. My five part morning routine started with one routine (gratitude) and as time went on, I added the other elements to get to where I am today.
- Find a quiet space to do your morning routine. It helps to have a place you can go to every morning that allows you to be alone and focused on your routine. Mine is my home office, which is in the basement of our house.
- When you wake up matters. It’s best to wake up at a time when there will be the least amount of noise, distractions or interruption. In my case, since we have 3 young kids, I always wake up early, before 6am, so there is little chance one of them will get up and come looking for me or wondering around and throwing me off my routine.
- The routine is important. Sometimes, you may not have time to do all 5 routines. Make sure you at least practice gratitude. It will make your day so much better. Also, getting your mind on this routine helps you train your mind and body to expect and appreciate your morning routine. The main focus of my morning routine is to practice gratitude and pray. Regardless of what is going on or how much time I have, I make sure I get do this before I begin my day.
- Focus on the why. When I started this routine, It lasted for about 5-10 minutes. Now, it takes me about 20-30 minutes and I enjoy and appreciate every minute of it. On the rare occasion when I am not able to do it (sometimes during travel), it throws my day off. That’s how much I have come to depend on these habits for my focus and productivity. To get the most benefit out of it, you have to take it seriously and make the time. This cannot be a box you just check each morning. Put your mind, heart and soul into it and it will change your life and remove the constant state of fear and worry that consumes our modern day life.