Two years ago I launched http://mymorningroutine.com with my co-founder Michael. Publishing over one-hundred routines over the last two years has taught us many things about how to create an effective morning routine, the main pillars of which I’d like to share with you.
Perform Your Most Important Tasks
Our natural willpower is highest in the mornings, which makes it the perfect time to perform your most important tasks; that is, the things you want to do, but never seem to find the time for.
One of the most intriguing questions we ask each of our participants is “What are your most important tasks in the morning?” Though many answer with simple (but important) habits such as brushing their teeth, others, such as Austin Kleon, offer a more philosophical approach, concluding that “The biggest task is to try to keep my headspace from being invaded by the outside world; to be alone with my own thoughts before I can sit down and make something.”
Incorporating your most important tasks into your morning routine is a surefire way of ensuring they have a chance of getting done.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep the night before is so important when you’re creating your morning routine, as waking up too late to do anything other than throw on some semi-clean clothes and run out the door will never result in a morning to look forward to.
I’ve written in depth in the past about how to create the perfect sleep environment, so I won’t belabor the point here. What I will say is that the number one way you can all-but ensure you get enough sleep (assuming you’ve not been diagnosed with a sleep disorder) is to go to bed earlier.
Most of us have our deepest sleep in the first third of the night. The length of time we’re in deep sleep depends on how early we go to bed, which is why sleeping from 10:00pm to 6:00am often feels ten times more restorative than sleeping from 1:00am to 9:00am.
We ask each of our participants’ at what time they go to sleep each night (on average), and the results are clear: people who we would consider to be early risers go to sleep much earlier than people who get up much later in the morning.
If you want to create an effective morning routine, you need to get enough sleep.
Embrace Less-Than Perfect Conditions
Having the ability to adapt your routine to any changes that may occur is essential to making you stick with your morning routine over the long term.
It’s for this reason that the following two questions, asked at the end of each of our participants’ interviews, are my two favorites:
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
When you set out to create an effective morning routine it can be difficult to keep yourself on the straight and narrow, especially in the first few days and weeks.
In these circumstances it becomes all-but impossible to keep up your new morning routine if your mornings themselves are turning out to be far from a routine affair. Performing at our best under perfect conditions is something we should continually strive for, but performing at our best under less-than perfect conditions? We need to work on that too.
In her interview, Sarah Kathleen Peck shared a quote from her college swimming coach that had stuck with her: “Here’s the thing. If you had perfect circumstances, you could own this race. You could win. The bigger challenge is winning even when you’re down — even when you’re fatigued.” Sarah noted “He taught me that no one has perfect circumstances — and you’re allowed to go on and do incredible things even if you’re not feeling perfect about it.”
Several of the people we interviewed said that their routine basically dissolves when they’re staying with friends or family; though they said that this isn’t a huge problem if it’s only for a day or two at a time.
In his interview, James Clear highlighted his approach to less-than perfect mornings: “There are always emergencies that can pop up and take things off track. If I miss one day, I try to get back on track as quickly as possible. My general rule is: never miss twice.”
Creating an effective morning routine in which you can perform your most important tasks needn’t be hard so long as you get enough sleep and embrace less-than perfect conditions.