Through high school and the first years of college I always had problems sticking to habits and getting things done.
I can still remember sleeping in and postponing or canceling all the stuff I knew in my heart I needed to do to accomplish my goals.
During one year at university I procrastinated so badly on my reading, instead prioritizing sitting inside and playing Football Manager most of the days.
When exams came around I knew I had no chance of passing them and therefore had no point showing up. I even went as far as lying to my flatmate and telling that I was going to school to take my exams but ended up staying in a group room at Uni the whole day and reading news instead. Not showing up and flunking those exams cost me around 10 000 $.
I was ashamed of my lack of willpower and for my lack of purpose in life.
I knew that I could do better and I was getting increasingly more worried that I was going to continue down this path of self destruction.
No purpose, no will power, and a constant fear of giving up on my dreams and instead getting a job I did not want to have.
One of the main culprits for those years with failures and not accomplishing a damn thing was how I started each day.
I started my days with reaction instead of action and my habits led me to choose the lazy and wrong way of living every morning when the alarm started to buzz.
Fast forward a couple of years and my life is way different. I can accomplish a lot more during a day of work and I have habits that keeps the old procrastinator in me at bay.
It is something special about the quiet mornings and the potential it has to set the stage for the rest of the day. If you start each day with action and purpose you build a momentum that can keep you going and make you more effective at work. And because of that it also frees up more time for hobbies, family and friends after work. By starting small in the mornings, and preferably with something you enjoy doing, you set the tone for the day.
Here is what Leo Babauta says about morning routines:
“Having these routines can supercharge your day while simultaneously creating a sense of calm and sanity in your life.”
Building momentum by starting with small actions is a great way to start the day on the right foot. Shawn Achor has written quite a bit about that in his excellent book The Happiness Advantage.
Choose one habit that you want to focus on the next two weeks and make it a part of your mornings. You will probably be more successful sticking to your habit if you focus on incorporating one at a time.
I advice you to focus on something that will strengthen your mind, body or spirit.
Examples of this can be:
- Meditation and focus on deep breathing for 10-15 minutes. (check out the app Headspace)
- Journaling. With a special focus on writing down 3 events or persons that you are grateful for each morning. To really think about how fortunate your actually are, appreciating the small things in life, and writing them down has a special effect.
- Visualization. This one is really simple but can have an profound effect on your mentality. Sit down and think of yourself accomplishing what you want to do. Maybe those goals you have deep within you. Imagine yourself starting a side business, or doing a great job and getting recognition for it, or becoming the best boyfriend you can be.
- Do something physical. Go for a morning walk while calling a friend or just enjoying the sounds of nature. Or you can do some mobility drills to start off the day to decrease some pain you have in your body.
- Do 15-30 minutes of reading. This can be something spiritual like Bruce Lee or Tao Te Ching or something within your interests.
When you have ingrained one of these habits into your morning for two weeks straight you start another one while still keeping the first one intact. Experiment with some and choose the ones that will get you motivated for jumping out of bed with passion.
If you have time constraints you got to make the best out of it. If you got kids you can focus on one or two habits to stick to in the mornings before it gets too hectic. Do one more habit at work, for example some easy mobility while standing.
Another important thing to do is to set off 15 minutes to think and plan. Just sit down in silence and plan your day and what you want to accomplish in the near future. This can be done in the morning before your kids or girlfriend wakes up or you can go to work 20 minutes before the rest of your colleagues and do it there. Planning is really important before execution in all facets of life so don´t undermine it.
At the end of this time you can write up your 3 most important tasks to do that day on 3 post-it notes. Just remember to not make them too big. It should be realistic to get them done by the end of the day. As you finish one important task, you can throw that post-it note in the bin. This is a simple system instead of making an highly advanced spreadsheet for your to-do list.
My own morning routine takes me about 45 minutes to finish and it can be done faster if I need to. But the big thing is that I made it all a habit and I do it almost on auto-pilot. As humans we can get fatigued by decisions. Making every morning a habit and not having to consider what clothes to wear, what you are going to do next and so on makes it easier to make good decisions later on in the day at work and at home.
What are you struggling the most with in the mornings and what are your action steps for fixing that, starting off tomorrow morning?
Bio: Magnus Maråk is a former teacher who is helping people to get more done in less time and live a healthy and rich life. You can sign up for his free newsletter here
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.