How you start your day pretty much determines how effective your day will be. Most people like to have some form of morning routine, otherwise we would have to make decisions on every small detail: coffee with milk or without, with sugar or without. For usual steps we go on autopilot and this mechanism of the brain helps us to actually get through the day!
In 2016 I changed my morning routine three times. I recently relocated from The Netherlands to Singapore and had to leave my own digital marketing consultancy to start a new life with my wife in Asia. I had to start looking for a new job, and during this process I noticed a change in my daily routine. Then, in mid-August I landed a new job that also caused a change in my (morning) routine. Realizing the impact a routine has on your day, I am sharing my experiences.
Make your morning routine a habit
Before you go to bed, make sure you have a towel, swimming trunks or sporting equipment ready to start your day on an active note. Organizing your equipment the evening before is already part of the routine. It also primes your mind that you will be doing some kind of excercise when you wake up, thereby making it harder not to go sporting. Plan the sporting exercise block in your agenda the day before. You will not skip a planned sport block that easily. Through your day you will notice the sporting block in your calendar when you plan new activities for the day after, making it a recurring part of your routine.
Getting out of bed
My alarm rings at 6.55. It is very important to not use that snooze button! When the alarm goes, just get up! I first put on my swimming trunks, then pour distilled water in the espresso machine and turn it on to let it warm up. I take the yoghurt out of the fridge (otherwise the yoghurt is too cold to eat), grab my towel and put on my flip-flops. Then I walk to the swimming pool downstairs.
I arrive at the swimming pool at 7.00. I just jump in the water letting the cold/ lukewarm water do the waking-up part. I swim for 30 minutes. After each lap I perform a ten second breathing exercise to keep my heart rate at a fast pace. Swimming is an excellent way to start your day since it gives a good kick, wakes you up and trains your whole body. In my case it really helps that our condo has a big swimming pool. Instead of swimming it is also a good idea to workout in the gym. If there is no gym close by, use one of the 7-minute workout. There are several apps available, try Wahoo for iOS or Android.
Most people love to take a medium to long hot shower to wake up. I used to love starting my day in the same way. Then I discovered that it doesn’t wake me up. The warm water is comfortable and relaxes your muscles but it does not get you up to speed. According to The Iceman (Netherlands), it is better to take a cold shower; it helps strengthen your immune system to fight-off diseases. Due to the cold water you get a real kick that causes your breathing to intensify. After swimming I take a lukewarm shower.
You probably have heard that people always come up with great ideas during showering or think of all important to do’s! Contradicting to taking a cold shower it is good to take a lukewarm to warm shower to get more and better ideas. You can choose to do a cold shower on Monday and lukewarm on Tuesday and so on.
Feed your brain
Depending on culture and your diet, the breakfast contents may vary. In my case I eat plain low-fat yoghurt with fresh fruits such as mango and some raw nuts.
I very much like a good fresh espresso. The whole process of making a fresh espresso (not a Nespresso or any form of automatic espresso machine) takes a few minutes:
- put the filter (piston) in the grinder
- grind the coffee beans,
- measure the amount of coffee in the filter
- tamp with your wrist, arm, and elbow positioned directly over the center of the filter basket
- place the filter in the espresso machine
- switch it on and begin brewing up to 24 seconds
There you have the perfect shot of espresso to kick start your day. Do not forget to clean up with a towel and put the coffee ‘puck’ out of the filter. During this coffee making process my mind wanders to make new connections or come up with great new ideas. The time it takes is also a moment to think about your day and most important tasks. Drinking a moderate amount of coffee helps to focus your attention as well.
If you do not have an espresso machine, make a small routine for your type of coffee or tea and let your mind wander.
Prepare yourself for work
Depending on the type of work you can already start working in the subway, train or even in the car. Depending on your means of travel, you can read, answer emails or make calls. I would advise you to do the following:
- read a book or newspaper
- read an interesting article on Pick The Brain or Medium
- listen to an audiobook or music since music is really impacts your mood and level of productivity
- make a to-do list featuring the three Most Important Tasks (MIT) of the day
There are several to do apps, one of my favorite ones is Wunderlist, use the * to make a task a MIT.
What is your opinion?
My morning routine from alarm to leaving the house is 75 to 90 minutes. Please share your views and tips on your morning routine. What works for you?
Alexis van Dam moved from The Netherlands to Singapore. He is a seasoned Digital Marketing Strategist. Currently CMO @ InsuranceMarketSG. He is a Visual Thinker, MindMapper, Lifehacker, Social Media Strategist, LinkedIn Trainer, Facilitator, Speaker, Smarter Working Coach. You can follow him on Twitter, Medium or via his website.