How To Build a Morning Routine

In a recent blog post, I mentioned the benefits of getting up early. This post is meant to accompany that one, so that you can build an awesome morning routine. Moreover, I hope you can incorporate this into your life and experience the beauty and stillness at 5 a.m. 

When to Wake UP

This is going to be determined by your own individual situation. For example, I am a teacher and so most days I have to be to work by 8:30 a.m. This means I should leave my house by 8. On days when I teach the first period, I have to be to work by 7:30 a.m. Consequently, on those days, I should be the door by 7.

This is the first step in building a morning routine: when does your primary obligation (work) start?

From there, it is a series of simple math and activities you want to accomplish that will determine your waking time.

What to do in the Morning

As with the first step, this is going to be individual based upon your own personal preferences. In Robin Sharma’s book the 5 a.m. Club, he suggests building a morning routine based upon the 20/20/20 principle.

What does that mean?

20-20-20 methodEssentially, the 20/20/20 principle is how you cultivate the areas of body, spirit, and mind in your life within the first hour of your day. The first twenty minutes of this is spent doing physical activity that is meant to work up a sweat. The second set of twenty minutes focuses on your spiritual side, practicing meditation. And the final twenty minutes goes towards listening to a podcast or reading an article in your field of business. This, in turn, is meant to help grow your mind. While this doesn’t seem like much, the consistency of these efforts is key. These 20-minute increments will go a long way in making you a ‘world-class’ performer in the words of Robin Sharma.

This is a great template to begin with. I used to follow this myself, but I have since rearranged my priorities to follow my own morning routine. Here is how I spend my mornings currently.

morning routine

Journaling has really only entered my life recently, but I love doing it. In the mornings, it allows me to recapture my dreams. Sometimes I even get in the mood to plan my day ahead within my time allotment for my Morning Pages.

Next, what matters most to me is spending time with God. As a result, I make sure he is the next area of my life. Actually, he is my first activity in the day that isn’t time sensitive. (I say this because if I wanted to journal after reading the Bible, then I wouldn’t be able to recall the dreams that I had.) However, this works out really well for me. By journaling first, I can recall the dreams of the previous day and set myself up for the day ahead. Also, it allows me a little time to wake up and be fully cognizant, ready to spend time with God.

After, I meditate and reflect upon what I just read about. Usually, while this is happening, I might have something in the air fryer cooking or the coffee pot brewing. This way, it is ready for me when I finish my meditation. 

Only after I have eaten my breakfast do I go for my morning walk, which is part of my physical activity. Instead of taking 20 minutes of hard activity, I prefer walking for 30 to 45 to even 60 minutes at a time, listening to an audio book or catching up with friends and family. This allows better digestion for the food I’ve just eaten. Also, I’ve found it puts me in a great mental state when 8 o’clock rolls around, and I need to head out the door to work.

The Most Important Rule

The most important rule in anything is consistency. Consistency. I cannot stress this enough. As I mentioned before, my work hours fluctuate. Once or twice a week, I need to show up to school by 7:30 a.m., the other days I should arrive by 8:30 a.m. There is an hour gap there that makes a huge difference. To solve this problem, I make my morning routine as consistent as possible. This means that I plan my day to always get me to where I need to be by 7 a.m.

You’ll notice that my breakfast usually falls around 6:30 a.m. This is intentional. It means I never skip breakfast and that when I walk, that walk will be from 7 to 8 most days. Now, what about the days I have to go to school in the morning? Well, since this is meant to be light exercise anyway, and it’s just meant to aid in the digestion of food and keep me active, I find that teaching and walking around the classroom and talking to my students from 7:30 – 8:30 (the scheduled class time) is a nice substitute for that. Moreover, and the most important thing, is that it doesn’t break my routine at all. I am not waking up at 4 a.m. one day and then 5 a.m. another day. It is always 5 a.m.

Putting it into Practice

There is one other key caveat I want to point out to this before we put this all together. And that is the 90/90/1 rule also by Robin Sharma. This is something that I actually do still follow and something that I’ve blended in to segue from my morning routine to my actual work. The idea of this principle is that your #1 priority, whatever that is, you should do that for the first 90 minutes of your actual working day and do it consistently for 90 days (3 months). These 90 minutes should also be distraction free. They are meant to get you into the state of flow. In this flow state we achieve things better and easier than when we are distracted. Read more about the flow state here.

For me, this is my writing. I am an author. My main priority is getting words on a page whether that is typing a simple blog post like this for you to read or whether that is writing a new novel. I spend the first 90 minutes of my day doing that when possible. I would like for it to be more consistent, but the fact of the matter is that I am a teacher living in China first and foremost, not an author. Sometimes I will have classes in the morning that don’t allow me to complete 90 minutes. In that case, I’ll take 60 or whatever I can take. 

However, because of covid lockdown, my classes currently start at 10 a.m. This means that from 8:00 – 9:30 a.m. I am focused on writing. My goal during these 90 minutes is to hit 1000 words, but my bare minimum is to hit 500. This blog post that I’ve written today during this time window is around ~1500 words, meaning that I’ve crushed what I’ve wanted to do.

90-90-1 If I did nothing else today, my day would be considered a success in my eyes. That is important to note. Whatever that main project is that you have, put that first. Dedicate the time to it. Make it consistent. And see the “Gargantuan Competitive Advantage” it offers you to quote the 5 A.M. Club.  

When we understand these concepts, then it is easy to work backwards in order to find your waking time. If you wanted to follow Robin Sharma’s 20/20/20 method, then perhaps waking up at 6 a.m. is all that you need if you have to be out the door by 7 a.m. If your work doesn’t start until 9 a.m. then maybe that time you wake is 7:30 a.m., or if you adopt a more comprehensive morning routine like me, maybe that routine would start at 6 a.m. in this case. Whatever you do, make sure it fits you and your specific situation.

Let’s flesh this idea out with other examples. Take the period of 9-10:30 given in the example above. If you are a salesperson, maybe that is making calls during these 1.5 hours, or visiting as many houses as you can. If you are a trainer, maybe it is making these 1.5 hours your own personal gym time before you need to help others with their own programs.

The point is doing this at the beginning of the day will make sure you have the mental capacity to handle whatever that task is. We don’t have an unlimited amount of energy or brainpower. On the contrary, every decision we make uses up some of this capacity. By accomplishing this at the beginning of our day, we will have the most productive time with whatever task that is. By setting up a morning routine and accomplishing small, auto-pilot wins, it helps rev the engine for the larger, more important task during those 90 minutes of prime time.

The Secret Tip

Before I close out this blog post on building a morning routine, it would be remiss of me not to mention one of the most overlooked things that can help you set yourself up for success or failure. That is your nighttime routine. Maybe even more crucial than your morning routine, a nighttime routine is the prerequisite that will allow you to have a wonderful morning and more productive day.

You may think I am crazy for waking up at 5 a.m. every day, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds. I go to bed at the latest by 10 p.m. which still allows me to get 6.5-7 hours of sleep. My nighttime routine begins around 8 or 8:30 p.m. Two hours before this is when I will have my last meal so that it has some time to digest, and then I will make sure I start powering off my batteries around 8 to 8:30. This includes doing some reading, brushing teeth, and praying to God. By 9 p.m. I am usually in bed or just about to go to bed, and so I still manage to get 8 hours of sleep.

Without this nighttime routine, waking up at 5 a.m. would be horrible. Many people can’t wake up at 5 a.m. because they are up all night watching videos or chatting with friends, and if that is what you want to do, then go for it. I like to start my morning with chatting with friends because of the time zones so for me it works. I also like the peace and solitude the morning brings and knowing that I am not rushing to work, I am going to work, and that when I step into the office, I will have already:

  • Journaled
  • Spent time with God
  • Ate breakfast
  • Meditated
  • Walked 5000-6000 steps

In essence, I will have already crushed a great deal of my day. That is why having a morning routine is so beneficial and so empowering. Do you have a morning routine? What does it look like? Feel free to share it in the comment section below! And, as always, if you like this content please like, share, and follow me as I give you the ingredients to make your best life.

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