Mornings are crucial. And they are fragile. They can serve your greatest values, or they can feed your greatest weaknesses. You can live your life getting up at the last possible second, racing around the house, speeding to work … or you can be intentional about mornings.
I think the single greatest, most impactful change I’ve made in the past 5 years in my life has been developing a routine for my mornings. Here are the steps you need to build one for yourself.
Step 1: Identify how much sleep you need.
To have a good morning routine, you must start the night before. A morning routines is not built on some sort of Spartan ability to sleep less and less. It’s built on recognizing sleep as important, so you don’t stay up forever watching pointless late night TV or browsing the internet.
Your body needs sleep. (I can’t get by on less than 7 hours for many days in a row.) Your problem with mornings might not be self-discpline to get up when your alarm goes off — it might be to go to bed at a decent time!
Three thousand years ago, Solomon wrote, “do not love sleep or you will grow poor” (Proverbs 20:13). But in his day, people went to sleep soon after the sun went down, instead of staying up with electric lights and TV. (Check out this chart of average sleep for Americans since 1942.)
Step 2: Figure out which values you want to put up front.
Mark Twain quipped, “I can teach anyone to get what they want out of life; the problem is, I cannot find anyone who can tell me what they want.” Do you know? Do you have a time slot for things you value? Is that time slot early in the day?
Here are the values that I base my morning routine on:
- Spiritual enrichment
- Blessing my wife
- Health and fitness
- A thankful, positive attitude
- Leadership development
- Family values
- Speaking into the lives of my kids
- Intentionality, mindfulness, and productivity
Step 3: Draft a list of 5-minute-or-less ways to live those values.
Here’s why 5 minute ideas: Your mornings are not everlasting. You don’t have hours before going to work. So jot down ideas of how you might live out your values in a quick way. For help in this area, try SJ Scott’s Kindle book, Habit Stacking.
Step 4: Identify how much time you have.
When do you have to leave for work? What’s your get-up time? What’s your go-to-bed time? Which ones need to be adjusted?
Aim at a solid hour of routine. If you can become efficient in that hour, you can put in a lot of things that will make a difference in the person you will be in 10 years.
Step 5: Pick the best ideas, and write out your routine.
Keep it somewhere that you can see, somewhere accessible through the morning. After a while you won’t need to look. But at first, you’ll need to see what’s next between every step.
For a long time, I kept mine in Evernote. To avoid using all my phone battery looking at it, I emailed a copy to my Kindle. You might want to print it out and post it on the fridge or coffee maker.
Step 6: Set alarms and use a timer.
I use Morning Routine Alarm Clock for Android, which automates most of my timing through the morning. But maybe all you want or need is an alarm clock. But to make sure you’re moving forward and not dragging, a timer is a great thing.
Step 7: Practice and tweak your routine.
I can assure you — It won’t work 100% right the first time. Some mistake will come to light. You’ll have too much time for one activity, and not enough for another.That’s OK! Tweak it and do it again tomorrow!
That’s OK! Tweak it and do it again tomorrow!You will miss a day — no problem. Do it again tomorrow!
You will miss a day — no problem. Do it again tomorrow!
A FEW HINTS
Hint #1: Don’t forget commute time as part of your routine. Can you listen to an audiobook? Encourage someone? Write a thank you note at a red light? Pray and memorize a verse of Scripture? Encourage yourself with some great music?
Hint #2: Find a way to fill “mindless time.” There are some activities that don’t require a lot of mental energy and decision making. You don’t have to think deeply to brush your teeth—I hope. So, can you fill that time with a growth habit that matches your values? Personally, I listen to a dramatized audio Bible for about 30 minutes each morning while dressing, eating, and starting laundry.