One of the big factors (and game changers) I've found both with myself and my clients that determines whether our goals become reality or not, is the state of energy we’re in. When we're in our optimal energy physically and mentally, everything flows more easily. We bounce out of bed in the morning, we're ready to face challenges, and our well of patience and compassion is fuller.
There are many components to great energy, and one of the most fast acting changes to implement for enhanced energy is optimising how we start our day. Until around 18 months ago, mornings for me were all about waking up at the last possible moment, jumping straight in the shower and running out the door around 7 minutes later, often without breakfast. For some time, I was eating all three meals in the office Monday to Friday.
One day, I was rushing through Grand Central on the way to my office in midtown Manhattan in New York City, and I decided I didn’t want to start my days like this anymore. I didn’t want to start them frantic and rushing. I wanted to make mornings more intentional and relaxed, to have time to gather my thoughts, to connect with what I really wanted, and to start as I meant to go on.
I started experimenting with a more conscious morning routine.
I had started listening to the popular podcast “The School of Greatness” by Lewis Howes, and had picked up some great pearls of wisdom on starting the day the right way. Including, first and foremost, being sure to always make one’s bed, even if you were the only one to see it.
Following are a few of the morning rituals I’ve found work best for me, and that many other successful people rely on. But I encourage you to experiment with different habits and timings to work out what feels right for you; everyone’s different and there’s no shame in that. An important consideration when planning out or experimenting with your morning ritual is to avoid comparison at all costs.
1. Aim to rise at the same time every day
And get up as soon as your first alarm goes off. Get a vibrating alarm clock if you need to, or one that emulates sunrise and birdsong for a more natural experience. Although if you rise at the same time every day, and you’re getting adequate sleep, you may find that you don’t need an alarm at all.
2. Make your bed immediately, no matter what.
This may seem trivial, particularly if you live alone, but beginning your day with intentionality and attention to detail sets off a powerful ripple effect that permeates your entire day. Take it from a Navy Seal Commander: "It's good to start off with a simple task that moves you forward."
3. Drink a glass of water with a slice of fresh lemon in.
Lemon water aids with digestion, detoxification, rejuvenates your skin and body, boosts your energy and mood (without the caffeine crash of coffee), and provides a great vitamin and immune boost. Lemons also contain pectin which helps to stave off cravings and help you feel fuller.
4. Meditate for 5-15 minutes.
The benefits of meditation are numerous, in including relief from stress and anxiety, decreased blood pressure and increased production of anti-aging hormone DHEA(!!). You might decide sitting in silence works best for you, just tuning into your breath and noticing any thoughts come up and letting them drift away, or you might prefer to use an app like Calm or Headspace. I have found 5-15 minutes to be the sweet spot, much longer and I can find myself feeling a little too relaxed, but if you’re particularly stressed longer can be beneficial.
5. Go to the gym or for an outdoor workout.
Getting exercise done first thing in the morning means you can avoid potential procrastination later, both because there tend to be less distractions earlier in the day, and because we tend to feel more tired as the day goes on. Personally, I’ve also found my mind is more proactive but less noisy first thing in the morning, so all those rational reasons that come up as to why it can wait until later or tomorrow or why it’s less of a priority than other urgencies are much quieter. If Obama could make time to work out while serving as President of the USA, we can all make it work. Bonus points if you listen to an inspiring podcast or classical music while working out.
6. Make a green juice.
Feature fresh leafy greens in your juice and eat some high quality protein such as beans, eggs, fish or white meat. This will replenish your system, assist with muscle repair and give you a great energy boost, without the subsequent crash a carbohydrate heavy breakfast can lead to.
7. Eat some frogs.
Mark Twain famously said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Focusing on your least enjoyable yet high priority tasks first thing in the morning not only makes excellent use of the fresh well discipline you find yourself with at the beginning of a new day, but it can also reap a multiplier effect because the quality of your attention is stronger, and there are fewer distractions trying to pull you in other directions. Decision fatigue also sets in later in the day, so you're much more likely to find yourself either struggling to make a decision with regards to a challenging task or project, or feeling the urge to delay it until tomorrow.
Developing a consistent and nourishing morning ritual has been a huge game changer for me.
It has amplified my physical and mental wellbeing, productivity, creativity and energy enormously. The key is to be open to experimentation and to paying attention to what works for you TODAY.
If something stops working for you, forget about analyzing why, just stop doing it and try something else. Your routine doesn’t need to be the same forever, and you don’t necessarily need to hit it in the same order or every item every single day, but conscious intentionality is key. Daily consistency also has the added benefit of breeding automatic habits that require less discipline to continue enforcing. Establishing an optimal start to your day is a commitment to yourself, to your productivity, and to those in your life to be your best self.
What does your ideal morning look like? What have you tried, and what are you inspired to try? I’d love to hear in the comments.
Jaimie Crooks is DrivenWoman Group Leader for Kensington, London. She is a life and business coach for ambitious high performers across the globe.
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