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Start a Simple Morning Routine to Spark Spectacular Results All Day Long

Sunrise over a calm beach

This post was first published on my Medium blog—follow me there for the most up-to-date entries!

I win or lose the day before 8 AM. If I get a strong start for the day, I can count on gaining productivity and profitability all day long. But why is a morning routine so effective for anyone, and how might it be done?

Morning routine: a magic potion

There’s only one magic potion for controlling our external environment. And that’s to control our internal environment. Having a morning routine gives us control of our inner world so that we can better cope with the outside world for the remainder of the day.

Beware, if you work from home, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of “going to work” immediately after you rise. Many people, even those who commute to the office, check their phones before they get out of bed. I’ve rarely done that, but I’ve done plenty of other things that detract from rather than boost my chances for a successful day.

If I skip the morning routine, here’s what happens. I look at my calendar and that prompts me to look at an email from the person I’m meeting with. Before I realize it, I’m sucked into answering emails. Then I click on a link, and the next thing I know, I’m off to the races! I’ve just sabotaged my day. Sound familiar?

When we launch into work within minutes of waking up, we miss out on the proven benefits of alpha brainwaves. Alpha brainwaves are predominant during the first 20 minutes or so after we wake up.

Unlike beta, high-beta, and gamma brainwaves, alpha (and delta and theta) brainwaves are slower and produce larger waveforms. Focusing on the alpha brainwaves, here are some simple explanations and diagrams that describe how each type of brainwave “has been shown to affect the overall mental state, from our mood and focus to our perception and memory formation.”

So, what are those benefits?

In Lustenberger’s study, alpha waves were associated with increased creativity, and better moods. Hence, that’s a setup for better mental fitness. And a study by Katahira and colleagues showed that alpha brainwaves help us to more easily achieve Csikszentmihalyi’s famous flow state. (The father of this concept, Csikszentmihalyi (2000), defines flow as the “holistic sensation that people feel when they act with total involvement.”)

Hence, when we roll out of bed and start working, we’re basically smothering our naturally predominant alpha brainwaves, and we’re asking our body to immediately jump into the beta brainwaves.

You get to experience the morning only once a day. So don’t waste it.

Adapting life SAVERS method for yourself

A successful morning routine for one person might not work for another person. So here, I’d like to suggest a few ideas that have worked for me.

In his book, The Miracle Morning, author Hal Elrod suggests six Life S.A.V.E.R.S. practices. With the help of your alpha brainwaves, any or all these practices will help you to maximize the strength of your inner world now, and thus transform your external circumstances later.

· Silence

· Affirmations

· Visualization

· Exercise

· Reading

· Scribe (journaling)

Silence might be praying, doing deep breathing or yoga, using the trataka (candle gazing) exercise, or any other type of silent activity. There are a seemingly endless number of apps to help us more fully experience the benefits of silence.

Affirmations are statements that are being affirmed; affirmed, that is, the assertion that something exists or is true. The famous Napoleon Hill called these auto-suggestions. That is, you’re telling yourself something. It’s roughly equivalent to self-talk.

While you’re moving from the bed to floor, try an affirmation from Florence Scovel Shinn: “I give thanks for this perfect day. Miracle follows miracle, and wonders never cease.”

You could do all sorts of gratitude affirmations, too.

Later, I like to listen to Louise Hay’s powerful affirmations while I’m doing morning hygiene (e.g., brushing and flossing, doing my hair and makeup, etc.)

I could go on and on about affirmations. But to get started, consider any positive affirmation that seems meaningful to you. There are many pre-recorded affirmations out there. Personally, I favor those that start with “I am …”.

You could also use the ThinkUp app and record your own affirmation, which I find highly effective.

I admit, I have trouble with visualization. I love Shakti Gawain’s book, Creative Visualization. If that’s a little too deep for you, try starting with the app, EnVision.

Exercise has enormous benefits; it gets blood flowing up to the brain and around the whole body, and it releases the feel-good endorphin hormones.

But I simply don’t like exercising in the morning. It feels like a big distraction. I prefer it shortly before dinner. Like I said: what works for one person might not work for another person.

Reading is my favorite part of my morning routine. I read business-related books or personal development books. I try limit myself to 15 minutes, because I know that otherwise, I’ll want to devour the whole book. But there are days when I am a little strapped for time, so I read only a page or two.

Scribing, i.e., journaling, is a great way to reflect on your feelings, thoughts, and actions of the previous day. I almost always write in my Full Focus Journal some little nugget of a lesson from my reading that can be applied into my daily work. (Yes, I’m an affiliate.)

The S.A.V.E.R.S. model is popular, but you could use any or of all these ideas, or something completely different.

As little as one activity qualifies as a morning routine. On the other hand, it may be any number or combination of activities, and done in any order. Also, some people like to organize their activities into groups. It doesn’t matter. Your aim is not to follow a formula, but rather, to set yourself up for a good day.

Steps for starting a morning routine

Remember, the whole idea of having an intentional morning routine is so that you can maximize your alpha brainwaves and set yourself up for a productive workday that isn’t hijacked by all of the time-suckers that crop up afterwards.

Hence, how you structure your workday startup routine is totally up to you. Otherwise stated, it needs to work for you, and if it doesn’t, then you should feel free to adjust it so that it does.

If you’re new to all of this, you might be wondering how you can get started. Here are some simple steps that you might find helpful.

1. List all the “morning” activities you’re now doing before you head off to work. (Even if your office is 20 feet down the hall.) Rate your current activities like this:

a. Non-negotiable; they just need to be done.

b. Semi-negotiable; they’re good; you’ve done them before, and you don’t mind doing them. But they neither add to or subtract from what makes you feel good, productive, profitable or focused for the day.

c. Critical. These activities are often something you’re already doing, and you know you would miss them if you didn’t do them.

2. Rate how your current routine is working for you: Great, fair, terrible, uncertain.

3. Identify one or two activities that you believe put you in a good frame of mind. (Maybe you’re already doing them regularly, or sporadically, or not at all.) These activities should be something that you feel cheated out of if you don’t get to do them. For some people, that might be prayer. For other people, that might be walking the dog while listening to a favorite podcast.

4. Estimate how much time each of those activities might take. For the moment, let’s say you do all six in the S.A.V.E.R.S model, and each takes you 5 minutes. If so, that would be a 30-minute morning routine.

5. Consider grouping your activities in your morning routine. For example, all quiet activities, all on-the-move activities, or all interactive activities. Personally, I don’t do this, but some people do, and they find it helpful.

6. Write out the activities, along with the estimated time it will take for each.

7. Think of ways to “yoke” activities. For example, if you want to listen to an audiobook, you could yoke that with your morning bike ride. Or you could read or journal while drinking your coffee.

8. Set your alarm clock so that you can wake up in time to do your entire morning routine, and still get to work on time. (Ideally, your alarm should be set for the same time each day, but that isn’t always realistic.)

9. Plan for unusual days that bring unusual circumstances. For example, your alarm clock didn’t go off, or you need to be at the airport by 4:30 AM. Identify an “abbreviated” morning routine that will work for those days when you can’t do as many activities as you’d written down.

10. Especially if you have small children, alert the other parent that you’re starting a new morning routine. Both of you will need to be on the same page when getting breakfast, coordinating drop-off and pick-up duties, and more. You’ll probably need to build in some extra time for signing permission slips or something along those lines.

11. Review and revise after a month or so. You might not be able to make your morning optimal the first time.

Here’s hoping that these ideas will help you to develop a morning routine that helps you to kick-start your day. And by the way, I write all of this in my Full Focus Planner.

What is your favorite activity in your morning routine? Or what would you like it to be?

Once you’ve aced your morning routine, where do you go next? Level up your productivity across every hour of your day with your Full Focus planner. Join Marie’s Friday Accountability Mastermind Group to find like-minded professionals and learn from an expert!

Part of a series on routines: learn to maximize your Morning Routine, Work Startup Routine, Workday Shutdown Routine, Evening Routine, Getting to Bed on Time, and When Your Routines Aren’t Working

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I am a Full Focus Planner affiliate, and earn fees by linked to products.

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