I’ve struggled with making my mornings healthy and productive for as long as I can remember. I don’t eat right. I don’t exercise. When you look at me, you can see it. When I try to get work done, I can feel it. But for the last 2 weeks I’ve kept an amazing set of habits that have put me on the right path and I’ve hardly had to use any willpower to do it.
It all began when I started browsing around the Asian Efficiency website after they gave us Macstock attendees access to the Omnifocus Premium Posts section of their website. I found many posts talking about creating a “morning ritual”, and the morning routines of some of the most productive people in history. I’ve tried many times to get into the morning groove, trying habit apps to check off each thing I needed to do every morning. Every single time, I fizzle out 2 or 3 days in. It just doesn’t stick.
While reading these posts, I started to get inspired again to give this a try. I purchased their Morning Rituals Starter Kit. The starter kit consisted mainly of a video which I watched immediately and began to create a plan of my own morning habits. Things were beginning to develop.
Coincidently during this time, I got an email about an upcoming “Evening Ritual Challenge” from AE. Since I was already in the “rituals” mindset, I signed right up. This is when things really started to happen.
Within the first 2 days of the challenge, I learned something so simple about morning habits I couldn’t believe it. To have a “good morning”, I really needed to have a “good night” beforehand. What does that mean exactly?
First I need to know when to go to bed. I wake up at 6:30am normally and I’ve read most people are best with 8 hours of sleep, so I need to be in bed by 10:30pm. The key for me, I learned, was to set an alarm for 1 hour before I needed to be in bed. That hour is to do my evening ritual to prep me for tomorrow morning. It rings my wrist at 9:30pm telling me to close up what I’m doing and get ready for bed. For me, that means I need to make my morning smoothie, plan my goals for tomorrow and a whole host of other tasks so that when I wake up tomorrow, everything is already laid out for me.
It’s like a super “cycle of productivity”. The things I do at night feed into how productive I am in the morning, which feeds into wanting to prep those same things again the following night. All of this, triggered by a simple alarm an hour before bed…
I currently use the the Productive habit tracker app for iOS and Apple Watch. It looks great, is easy to use, and quick to check off a completed item.
So what exactly am I doing? Here it is.
“It’s going to be a GREAT day!” - I learned this one from Mr. Tiny Habits, Dr. BJ Fogg. The first thing I do every morning, barely after my feet touch the ground is say “It’s going to be a GREAT day!”. This helps get my mind in a positive, anything is possible mindset. Yes I can see you through the computer screen shaking your head laughing. Don’t, it works. Just try it for 1 week, and mean it when you say it, and I guarantee you that you’ll feel better about your morning as you move through it.
Stretch - I’ve been lying in the same position for 8 hours. It’s time to stretch it out a little bit. It helps wake me up and get loose.
Use the Bathroom - I’m not sure if I need to explain this one… If I do, this blog probably can’t help you.
Weigh Myself - I’ve been focusing lately on being healthy, and you can’t see how far you are away from your goal unless you know where you are. I don’t get too hung up on the numbers, I just want them documented to use as a guide.
Drink 16oz of Water - I remember doing this before I heard that it was a good thing for your body. I chug about 16oz of water to get me rehydrated. It also helps wake me up and gives my stomach something to do.
Get Showered & Dressed - Again, plain and simple. This includes brushing my teeth, doing my hair, beard oil, deodorant, cologne, etc. I don’t need reminders for all these little tasks because I already do them. Having this as a habit though makes me get up and do it immediately on the weekends where previously I’d sit in my pajamas till the afternoon and not get anything done.
Drink Morning Smoothie - I had watched the episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown went through how he lost his weight. I wanted something fast and easy in the morning, and a smoothie, when prepared the night before, fits this bill perfectly. Here is a link to the episode if you want to learn more about it. On the weekend, this gets replaced with a healthy breakfast since I have the time to cook one.
Take Vitamins - I’ve taken a multivitamin more off than on over the past 10 years. Now I’m taking a multivitamin, extra vitamin D, and fish oil. I won’t go into the benefits here, but they do a body good. A few of them are giant and awful. I just take a big gulp of smoothie, drop the pill in and swallow. The smoothie hides almost all the nastiness.
Review Today’s Goals - I open up Day One and review the goals I set for myself today. Laid out is my most important task (MIT) as well as 2 other tasks, and I have separate sections for professional and personal. 6 tasks total unless it’s the weekend when I’m not at work.
Work on MIT - “Eat that Frog” as Brian Tracy says. Do your most important, hairy, scary task first thing and get it out of the way. If you ate a frog first thing in the morning, you would know that it is probably the worst thing you’ll experience all day.
I also love coffee in the morning with my Chemex and beans from a local roaster, and I make it most days during the week, but I don’t HAVE to have it everyday and don’t consider it one of my habits.
I’ve tried to do many of the above steps routinely before, but following my evening ritual is what has kept it together for the last 2 weeks with honestly not much willpower at all.
Prep Morning Smoothie - Alton Brown’s smoothie uses frozen fruit, and works best if you let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to thaw a little bit. So I prep everything that goes into the smoothie at night in a medium size Ninja container and in the morning, I just blend it up and pour it into a tumbler.
Prep Tomorrow’s Lunch - As I’m working on eating better, I need to be not eating out as much. Now I bring my lunch in a cooler bag with some ice packs. Obviously this needs prep so I can just grab it in the morning as I leave for work.
Set Tomorrow’s Goals - In Day One, I plan out what I want to get done tomorrow and what my most important task is for work and at home.
Reflect on Today - This also happens in Day One, only in seperate journal. I’ve really been liking Day One 2.0’s multi-journal feature. When I can, I keep a log during the day of how I’m doing. At night I use a TextExpander snippet to add prompts for what was good about today, what was bad, whats on my mind, etc. I also review the goals I set for the day and see how I did.
Brush my Teeth - Why do I have this listed at night and not in the morning, because I tend to forget to do it at night. I added this one so I can make sure my teeth stay healthy, and it’s great kissing my Wife goodnight with fresh breath.
Put Wallet & Glasses on the Night Stand - Previously, I was always looking for where I left my wallet or glasses the previous night. Now they are right there by my bedside waiting for me to leave my bedroom in the morning.
Lay Tomorrow’s Clothes Out - Laying out your clothes the night before is one of the most stupid simple tasks that for me reaps one of the highest benefits. When you wake up in the morning and your clothes are laid out, you immediately say to yourself, “I guess the maid set these out for me to wear, how nice!”. It just makes you feel good! There is no decision to make in the morning because it has already been done for you…just not by the maid.
Read/Listen to 10 Minutes of a Book - This I got from the book The Slight Edge. If you read just 10 pages, or 10 minutes of a book each night, you could read 2 to 6 decent sized books each year! Just think of what you could learn and the skills you could master. Many times I already have this checked off because I listen to books on Audible in my car on the way to and from work.
Read 1 Article in Pocket - “Read It Later” services are an addiction for me. I get so enthused by many of the article titles in my twitter feed and on podcasts I listen to that I just can’t help myself. I do want to read them, just not “now”, and usually not till much later, so it seems. I use the Pocket app at the moment, and right now I have 138 articles stored in there. To boot, I probably save 2 or 3 new articles per day. Going forward I think I’m going to make a plan just to decrease that amount by 10 every day until I get to a manageable number, either by reading or deleting.
Put Phone & Watch on Charger - My iPhone and Apple Watch need to be charged daily, but before, I’d usually fall asleep with my phone in my hand and it never got on the charger. Now it’s always charged because I want to check off this habit to complete my day.
I’ve had a few interesting insights in the 2 weeks I’ve been doing this.
I need surprisingly little will power to do all these habits. I just do them. I barely even think about it really. I want to check off each of the habits in Productive and as Seinfeld says, “Don’t break the chain”.
I really don’t have much time in the evening on weekdays. Previously, I would end up watching 2 or 3 hours of TV during and after dinner. Now since I know that bell is going to ring at 9:30pm, I need to get stuff done. I have 4 hours from the time I get home to the time I need to get prepped for the morning, including time to make and eat dinner. So at most I’ll watch 1 show and get to doing other things.
Getting in bed by 10:30pm is hard. I have so much I want to do. Cutting off whatever I’m doing at 9:30pm has been difficult. If we’re out doing something past 9:30pm, then I can’t get started on my morning prep until we get home. I know the prep MUST get done, so I end up going to bed later than I want. I’m thinking about making “Be in bed on time” as a habit to help force me to go to bed, but haven’t made a decision on it yet.
It feels really good. With every habit I check off, I feel like I inch that much closer to reaching my goals and being the person I want to be, building more and more momentum with each day that passes.
These habits are helping instill other positive habits in my life. For the last 2 weeks, I’ve practiced guitar for at least 15 minutes each day and I plan on adding 15 minutes spent working on this blog as a daily habit very soon.
So listen, I’m still only 2 weeks into this. I get it. The chance of all things going south are huge in reality with how many times I’ve failed in the past. In fact, I’m specifically not adding any exercise into the mix yet. If I’m not able to keep up with it, I’m worried I’ll let myself down and as a result, stop doing these other habits. But I really don’t feel like this could all be thrown out the window because of a misstep, though. The 2 rituals work in tandem to keep the cycle going. If I go another 2 to 4 weeks with out any hiccups, I think I’ll have enough momentum to add in the exercise. The BJ Fogg in me says I should add it in right now, but make it so tiny that I couldn’t help not doing it. Like “walk around my house for 3 minutes”. We’ll see.
I’ll post updates in the coming weeks on my status. If any of this sounds like something you want to do, just do it! Setup a morning ritual. Support it with an good evening ritual. Keep it simple. Keep moving forward!