What was your morning like yesterday? How about the day before? What was it like the day before that?
Do you have a morning ritual you complete each day or is every morning a little different? Maybe you do have a routine, but you’ve never given it any thought. Now is the time to think critically about your morning habits. Are they working for you? Do you arrive at work ready to tackle your most important challenges, or do you slink in barely on time with an empty belly and an attitude not to be messed with?
With this post, I want to help you discover how to establish a morning ritual that can help you become your best self.
Why a ritual?
A ritual is something you do everyday—a pattern. A morning ritual helps take some of the guesswork out of the first few hours in the day, so you can focus on what your body needs to prepare for the challenges you’ll face later on.
A morning ritual gives you a reason to get out of bed. Your alarm goes off, and you know exactly what you’ll do next because it’s the same thing you do every day. What separates a morning ritual from a routine is a sense of purpose. You get up an hour early every day to exercise because it gives you energy is a ritual. You hit the snooze button three times is a routine. Here are ten suggestions to transform your routine into an inspiring morning ritual.
1. Figure out how much time you need
The key to a productive morning is to start planning the night before. What do you need to accomplish before you arrive at the office? You probably already have a good idea. But what is it that you’d like to add or avoid? Maybe you don’t have time to make a healthy breakfast. You could schedule some extra time into your morning ritual or make this something you prepare the night before, like me.
I optimize for a fast morning. Therefore, I try to make healthy breakfasts the night before (boiled eggs, overnight oats, etc.). I take showers the night before, I get my laptop bag and my son’s daycare pack ready in advance by putting everything in its place ahead of time.
Perhaps you prefer a more leisurely morning, or you’d like to work on a personal project before you head for the office. Figure out how much time it will realistically take you to do everything to feel prepared for the day.
2. Respect the bed time
Often referred to as the “body clock,” the circadian rhythm is what we call a group of cells that regulate when we feel sleepy or alert. This internal body clock can be impacted by environmental cues like light and temperature. A morning ritual helps to maintain a consistent circadian rhythm, making it easier to go to bed and fall asleep.
Why does this matter? Because the circadian rhythm can be disrupted by light, make sure to turn off the TV, set aside your laptop and ignore your phone at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. Light caused by LCD and LED screens send signals to your brain to delay the hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
Temperature also plays an important role in regulating our circadian rhythms. For instance, it’s a good idea to keep the bedroom cool at night. Your body will respond naturally by “shutting down.” Set your thermostat to cool in the evenings and warm in the mornings. No one wants to get out of bed when it’s freezing!
The most important thing to remember, however, is to take care of your body. After establishing a morning routine, you will notice when your body begins to feel most tired. Have a bed time and take it seriously. Set yourself up for success by getting enough sleep the night before.
3. Have a compelling reason to wake up
Perhaps you take advantage of the peace and quiet early in the morning to meditate. Or maybe you’re like my friend who gets up for a 5am spin class every weekday. If you have no reason to get out of bed, you’ll have little chance of consistently doing it.
Now, you may be thinking that “getting to work on time” is a compelling reason. However, this reason is created out of necessity, not motivation. Instead, try keeping a list of life goals ready on your bedside table. Glancing at these goals will give you the motivation you need. Instead of dragging yourself out of bed because you need to, you will WANT to get up.
This is something EVERYONE should add to his or her morning ritual. And really, it’s a no-brainer. After eight hours of sleep, your body is incredibly dehydrated—you’ve gone at least eight hours without drinking any water! Instead of reaching for that cup of coffee first thing, start your day with at least one cup of water. For best results, try warm water with lemon. You want the water to be warm so that it’s not a shock to your system. The lemon helps boost your metabolism to get your engine running!
5. Dress for success
Build an outfit that makes you feel successful. The more confident you feel, the stronger you’ll appear to others. Even if you plan to work from home, put on something that says “I’m ready to work!” This will psychologically prepare you for a more productive day.
It is also important to pick an outfit appropriate for the business you’ll be doing. For instance, you may not want to wear heels if you know you’ll be running errands all day. Or, you may want to wear something more formal if you plan to meet with an important client. To save time, I usually plan my outfit the night before.
6. Fuel your body
There is a reason experts say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A well-balanced breakfast kickstarts your metabolism and provides lasting energy that gives you the creativity and productivity that will help you succeed at work.
However, a well-balanced breakfast does not necessarily mean a big breakfast. Too much food in the morning, especially carbs, can lead to grogginess and lethargy. Instead, opt for lean protein, fruits, and veggies. I like boiled eggs or whole-grain oats, but superfood smoothies are good too! Avoid greasy food, which is hard to digest, or sugary treats, which can lead to an afternoon crash when your blood sugar plummets.
7. Fuel your mind
It is just as important to feed your mind as it is to feed your body. “Real happiness and success comes from the quality of your attitude, your relationships, and the emotions you experience each day.” Help your family, friends, clients, and co-workers by helping yourself first. What is something you can do every morning to make your day just a little more enjoyable?
For me, I listen to audiobooks during my long, 45-minute commute. I listen either to fiction for fun or non-fiction for inspiration to grow and learn. This takes up no extra time during my mornings and provides relaxing me-time during an otherwise stressful commute.
Other ideas? Try listening to inspiring music, or practicing mindfulness.
8. Develop keystone habits
Ever heard of these? A keystone habit, a term coined by Charles Duhigg who wrote The Power of Habit, is a specific pattern that leads to a cascade of other actions. For example, exercising a little bit every morning will often lead to healthier decision-making at lunchtime. That in turn makes you feel stronger and more energized during the day, which ultimately leads to better nutrition and higher satisfaction.
How can you add a keystone habit to your morning ritual? Try making your bed every morning. The act of making your bed each morning sets the tone for an organized and clutter-free day, which may then boost your happiness and productivity.
9. Plan ahead
Arriving to work with a set schedule saves you time and stress. As a manager, I juggle a lot of projects and meetings. Therefore, I always plan my days ahead of time using my Spark Notebook and Google calendar. Doing so gives me a good idea of what I need to do when I get into the office. In the event that I haven’t had time to plan in advance, I block off a chunk of time first thing in the morning to tackle some weekly planning. That way, I know that I am always doing work that matters and will move the needle on my larger goals.
10. Do something important
What is the single most important task that will help me achieve these career goals? The answer to that question should be the first thing you do at work. This creates momentum. Now that you’ve got the ball rolling, you’ll be unstoppable!
Here are some other great resources for establishing a morning ritual: