Over the past several months, most of us have found ourselves forced to re-work and re-examine our routines and rhythms, especially around how we start our days. With work and life and everything else being smashed together in new and challenging ways, many of our clients have found their morning routines disrupted and tested. Even leaders who would have considered their routines an area of strength in the past have experienced some new challenges in our new reality.
On average, it takes slightly more than two months to form a new habit. We need to realize that many of us have been forced to adjust our morning routines for much longer than two months. Whether we’ve meant to or not, we have created new habits for ourselves. And the longer we stay in this season, the harder it will be to make changes and break out of these new habits.
A key question to ask ourselves is: “Have we been reacting to what’s happening around us or intentional about the changes and structure of our new morning routines?”
When it comes to self-leadership, the morning routine is incredibly important because how you begin your day will have a tremendous impact on the quality of your entire day.
In one study, researchers found that people watching just three minutes of negative news in the morning were 27 percent more likely to report their day as unhappy six to eight hours later. And let’s be honest, most news tends to be a bit more negative these days. So, if only three minutes had that type of effect, what about 10 minutes? Or 30? In fact, the study authors described it as a “poison pill” that affected the rest of their day.
Whether your morning routine needs a complete re-haul – or slight re-working – here are some best practices to help you start your day off the right way:
- It Starts the Night Before: A good morning routine starts the night prior. Before going to bed, review your schedule for the next morning. This will enable you to hit the ground running, better able to adjust your schedule, if needed, without feeling rushed.
Be intentional about how you are ending your day, avoiding high-stress inputs where possible (news, social media, TV). And be sure to go to bed early enough to get the right amount of sleep for you (hint: it’s probably at least 7 hours).
- Skip the Phone: While many of us use our phones as our alarm clocks, fight the urge to have it be the first thing you interact with each morning. As soon as you check email, social media or the news, you are giving control of your day over to someone or something else.
Don’t take that lightly or give that power away too easily. Starting your day off by reacting to what’s happening around you is not a recipe for long-term success. (Note: If this is an area you struggle with, this new invention could be the solution.)
- Intentional Inputs: Simply blocking out the negative and reactionary isn’t enough. You need to be intentional about what you are consuming first thing in the morning. Try to find things that will positively fuel your thoughts, mood and soul.
For some, it could be scripture or a devotional. For others, meditation or inspirational reading or podcasts. There is no one size fits all answer – but find something that will build you up rather than break you down when starting out your day.
- Get Moving: Incorporate some type of physical activity into your morning routine and rhythm if possible. Whether it be exercise, walking, yoga or stretching, get your body moving and heart pumping early in the day.
Bonus: Try to get outside if that’s an option. For many people working from home right now, it’s easy to slide right into your home office without ever going outside. Breathing in some fresh air (and sunlight) can have a huge impact on your mood, energy and outlook.
- Hydrate: Think about this – how long do you typically go throughout the day without a drink? Yet we go all night without one, which means most of us are waking up dehydrated. Before reaching for your coffee or tea, consider starting your day off with a big glass of water as well. I know it sounds simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective.
If the human body is a machine, then water is the oil that keeps it functioning properly. One study estimated that as many as 75 percent of Americans suffer from dehydration, which can cause headaches, fatigue, mood swings and difficulty concentrating.
- Create Routines: We call it a morning routine for a reason. Rather than re-inventing everything every morning, create a routine that works for you. Rather than reacting to your feelings or circumstances, establish a rhythm that you believe will best position you to enter your day with momentum. Change can be hard – so determine how long you will try your new routine out and then stick with it (a week is a good starting point).
Then, take time to evaluate how things are going. Don’t be afraid to let things go that aren’t working well, and experiment with new ideas to add value. Here’s a big tip: keep it simple. Find those few practices that really give you the lift needed and focus in on them. Too many things and you may find it hard to stay the course long-term.
And remember, consistent is better than perfect. There are going to be days where you have an early morning meeting or an extra late night that will necessitate adjustment. That’s OK. They’ll be days when you are running behind, and you’ll need to eliminate parts of your routine (or, cut it out altogether). That’s OK, too. Perfection is the not goal. Consistency is key.
When talking about this subject (which is one of his favorites – he even did a podcast episode on it), Building Champions CEO Daniel Harkavy often says, “Show me your morning routine and I’ll tell you about your day.” He knows (and our experience and research would back him up) that how you start your day has a disproportionate impact on the rest of your day.
So, here’s to starting it off well – which begins by making a commitment to start your morning intentionally, rather than reactively. Take control of your day and set yourself up for success. Don’t turn control over to someone else’s wants, needs and agenda. Make that decision and then stick with it, knowing it won’t always be perfect, often messy – but always worth it.