There are days where I manage to check everything off my to-do list. And there are days where I don’t even come close. You’ve probably experienced that feeling. It gets to about 4:00 pm and you realize there’s no way you have the energy left to complete everything you have to do today. You’ve had a slow day.
The truth is that you might be setting yourself up to ‘fail’ from the very start of the day without even realizing it.
A series of small, counter-productive habits at the start of your day can have a big impact on your mindset. Instead of giving you the energy you need for a productive day, they’re eating away at your motivation.
Carving out time first thing in the morning to get yourself in the right frame of mind, could be the single most constructive thing you do all day. And the best part is, that these small, seemingly insignificant acts can reap huge rewards.
In time, you’ll benefit from the compound effect. As Darren Hardy explains:
“Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = RADICAL DIFFERENCE” — The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success’
The more you practice the same morning habits, the easier they become. They become habitual; you’ll soon start to do them without much conscious effort. They’ll form part of a healthy morning routine that sets you up for the day on the right foot.
So here are 6 simple morning habits that have been tried, tested, and adopted by several highly successful people.
1. Get out of bed straightaway.
This is the first decision you make when you wake up every day. Hitting the snooze button on replay is an excuse. Getting out of bed within seconds of hearing your alarm is you telling your brain that you’re bigger than your excuses.
This is a habit that comes highly recommended by renowned motivational speaker and American TV host Mel Robins. And science backs her up.
Humans sleep in cycles of about 90 minutes. The reason why you sometimes wake up in zombie mode, feeling groggy and pretty sorry for yourself, is because you’ve woken up in the middle of a sleep cycle.
When you hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, you’re sending a signal to your brain that it should start another cycle, and when your alarm goes off again 10 minutes later, you wake up at the start of it, when your body is preparing to wind-down.
This is why you feel awful. You’re in a state called sleep inertia. And, when you’re in this state, it’s difficult to perform even simple daily tasks. Most people will only stay in this state for about 15–30 minutes. But sleep inertia can last for up to 4 hours, which means you could be losing up to 4 hours of productivity!
Another reason why you should get out of bed straight away is that doing so will actually improve the quantity and the quality of sleep that you get, according to Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology, Matthew Walker. He explains that to get better sleep, it helps if your brain associates being in bed, with sleep. If you stay in bed when you’re awake, your brain starts to lose this association and you could start to experience difficulty falling asleep.
2. Get rid of your phone.
This is a habit that I have adopted this week — again, following the advice of Mel Robins. I’ll admit that I was guilty of scrolling through my phone as I lay awake in bed late at night, and I would often check it if I woke up in the middle of the night. And apparently, I’m not alone; a recent study by Deloitte showed that 33% of people are checking their emails in the middle of the night!
You might not realize the influence that your phone has over you, but you could be falling victim to the ‘phone proximity effect’. The simple fact of knowing that your phone is in the same room as you, even if it’s on silent, is distracting. Studies have shown that knowing your phone is in the room reduces your brainpower and harms your cognitive performance; i.e. it interferes with your ability to focus.
Having your phone in your bedroom could be having the same effect. You’re subconsciously aware of the presence of your phone and it’s providing a distraction that makes it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
Plus, I bet you probably check your phone first thing in the morning. Why do I think this? Do you use an alarm clock or the alarm on your phone?
For a lot of people, the latter is true. As soon as you wake up in the morning, you reach for your phone to turn the alarm off, and whilst you’re at it, you may as well check your notifications. Before you’re even vertical, you’re checking your messages, your e-mails, or scrolling through Instagram to see the granola bowls that other people are eating for breakfast. Using your phone first thing in the morning is preventing you from being present.
Before you’ve even defined your priorities for the day, you’re conscious of what other people are doing and what other people want from you. My advice to you is — buy an alarm clock, and leave your phone in another room.
Your phone is your tool, not the other way around.
3. Practice mindfulness.
Something that I like to do is meditate lying flat on my back without a pillow. I don’t have a scientific explanation for this, but for some reason, I find not using a pillow highly relaxing. Maybe it reminds me of yoga? Who knows? Who cares? The important thing is to find something that works for you.
Another thing I like to do, which helps me practice mindfulness and start my day with a dose of gratitude is to journal. Again, I heard about the Five-Minute-Journal through Tim Ferriss. I’ve been using it for a couple of months now, and it’s a great way to start your day feeling positive and to end the day on a positive note too.
An example that I love is the gratitude routine of American entrepreneur and thought leader in Silicon Valley Tim O’Reilly. According to Ferriss, he takes a picture of a single flower every day during his morning run.
Finding small ways to express gratitude every morning is a great way to stay present, grounded, and positive. It can help you become more aware and less reactive so that you’re not thrown off by the unexpected challenges of the day; you’re more centered and more productive.
4. Make a plan the day before.
If you’ve prepared everything you need the evening before, you minimize the decisions you need to make in the morning; you save yourself thinking time. This can include the clothes you’re going to wear, the food you’re going to take to work, your gym-bag; whatever you know you’ll need.
Plan your to-do list the day before too. I personally like to complete all the ‘bigger’ tasks that require concentration in the morning; that’s when I work best. Plus, I like to know that by lunchtime, I’ve done the most important things already; it’s reassuring and it motivates me to keep going.
Before you check your phone and look at your emails to see what other people expect from you today, define your two priorities. These are unwavering commitments you need to do for yourself for a good day. Put these at the top of your list.
It doesn’t need to be work-related. Your priorities could be (i) to be kinder to your partner, (ii) to call your parents, (iii) to help your friend with something, or to (iv) exercise. These are the things that are going to make you feel good and reassured that you’ve had a productive day.
5. Define your purpose.
The most motivating choices are those that align with your ‘why’. The chances are you’re going to have to do at least a couple of things today that you don’t massively want to do, but you know you need to do them if you’re going to get closer to your goals. The best way to stay motivated and not let your energy dwindle when you’re completing tedious tasks is to have a clear sense of purpose.
“Forget about willpower. It’s time for why-power. Your choices are only meaningful when you connect them to your desires and dreams. The wisest and most motivating choices are the ones aligned with that which you identify as your purpose, your core self, and your highest values. You’ve got to want something, and know why you want it, or you’ll end up giving up too easily.” ― Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success
Put simply, define your purpose. I have a list of core values that help steer me in the right direction. I wrote them down when I was going through a tough time, and I told myself that above all else, these values were the things that truly mattered the most to me. Now, whenever I have a difficult decision to make, I think about how the different options align with my core value. If one doesn’t, it’s not for me.
So define your list of values to find your sense of purpose. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, and let this motivate you to do your best today.
6. Visualize your goals.
Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith — these are all examples of highly successful people who used the power of visualization to realize their goals.
“It’s the same process I used in bodybuilding: What you do is create a vision of who you want to be — and then live that picture as if it were already true.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger
1. It activates your creative subconscious, which starts to generate creative ideas to achieve your goals;
2. It programs your brain to perceive and recognize the resources you will need to achieve your dreams;
3. It activates the law of attraction and draws the people, the resources, and the circumstances that will help you realize your goals; and
4. It builds your internal motivation to take action.
So why not try it out? When you’re reminding yourself of what your two priorities are for the day, visualize what you want to achieve. Go all in; imagine yourself celebrating; imagine you’ve already succeeded.
“In my mind, I’ve always been an A-list Hollywood superstar. Y’all just didn’t know yet.” — Will Smith
We’re creatures of habit. It’s not easy to let go of bad habits and adopt new ones. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
Making a series of small changes to the start of your day will help you reap much greater rewards. It might require a big effort at the start, but as these small actions become habits, they’ll become second nature.
It’ll soon become much easier to start your day on the right foot and increase your chances of having a productive, creative, and happy day.