Every day I see another blog about some perfect person's perfect morning routine. Cold plunges, meditation, journaling, gratitude diaries, no coffee (people really!), no food (intermittent fasters), and my yoga friends would add a few sun salutations into the mix. Dave Asprey, supreme life hacker, would no doubt add about 10 other things.
They are all awesome, fantastic things to do in the morning. Tony Robbins swears by a cold plunge. He notes that if you do this in the morning you tell yourself you can do anything. I do a version of them when I am traveling as they really help adjusting to the time zone (nothing on this planet wakes you like a cold shower) and it’s great for your lymph system which takes a beating when you fly long distances.
My preferred morning routine looks a lot more like knocking everything off my bedside table to turn my alarm off and going back to sleep till my wonderful husband brings me coffee. I then continue to pretend I am asleep until I think my coffee is cool enough and I sit up in a daze to drink it. At that point Rugby (my dog - but I think everyone knows that) comes over and gives me that look so I reluctantly get up and take him out for a walk.
The walk always wakes me up. Walking in the morning always felt like it got the cobwebs out of my body, which apparently it does. There is a thing called ‘the fuzz’ and Gil Hadley does an amazing talk (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_FtSP-tkSug) about why we need to move our bodies in the morning.
There is no bouncing out of bed in my life. I don’t meditate first thing, I need my coffee. Yes, I intermittently fast and that’s been life changing for me but I’m not - anytime soon - getting out of bed in the morning and doing a few rounds of Surya Namaskara A (that’s how you say ‘sun salutation’ in Sanskrit, fancy HUH!).
I never measured up to all the perfect people and their perfect mornings. It didn’t feel right to have an elaborate ritual, I just wasn’t that alert first thing and I didn’t feel I was doing anything justice.
What works for me is setting an intention in the evening of what is important for me to accomplish the next day. I call these my big rocks. It takes me 5 minutes, I look over my projects for the week and I set three tasks which I must finish or progress the next day. If possible, I schedule that time in my calendar and make sure I don’t have any other appointments which will get in the way of that. I also typically set myself about 5-10 mini-tasks, little things which are a secondary priority but that I think I have time to do (like make a doctor's appointment or sign up for HBO so I can watch the final season of Game of Thrones!). The mini-task load is always dependent on what kind of day I have.
It’s too easy to wake up and mindlessly read my email. For others its reading the news (and getting increasingly agitated in that process) or spending time on Facebook or Instagram. My advice is skip all of that. They are the morning equivalent of eating potato chips; they are empty calories. You hopefully have learned by now to have a healthy breakfast for your body - you also need a healthy diet for your mind.
One of my absolute favorite morning activities which really brings me into focus is to write a manifestation for the day. And if that is too woo-woo for you let’s call it an intention. It also takes five minutes. For the first minute I sit and focus on my breath: even breath in, even breath out - this will help you drop into your body and get out of your monkey mind for a minute. You can call this meditation if you want and even better you can extend this to 5 minutes but you don’t have to - baby steps! Then I think about my day. I have a small notebook and I write a page of exactly how I want my day to be. You can write anything: how you want meetings to go, how you want your energy to be, what you want to say no to, what you are going to have the willpower for, and much more. Just write thoughtfully and quickly what your wishes are for the day ahead. Bonus points if you check in with yourself during the day and do a mini-audit of how you are doing against your intention.
It’s a powerful technique. This book by Shanti Gawain is excellent if you want to go deeper into this practice (Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life).
The first thing you do in the morning will set the tone for the rest of the day.