Written by Abhinit Modi
From a 4:20 am an early bird to a 4:20 am a sleeper. From a 4:20 pm sleeper to a 4:20 pm slogger, a lot of us have been through vivid sleeping routines. Given our biology, our conditioning, and our “Haalath”, we have varied these routines over time. Some people prefer one over the other, some situations make some more convenient.
A morning routine does not mean waking up early.
A morning routine to me refers to the time after I am out of the bathroom and before I begin my main activity like going to work or school. Breakfast, shower, chores, family time (if) are the obvious avenues we invest the most time in. What else do I need to think about?
Why a morning routine
No matter how shitty yesterday was or how much you have to do today, the morning routine is your daily constant— you're totally 100% selfish ritual. It’s the time that you allocate towards yourself, every day, no matter what.
Whatever governs your sleep/wakeup time, internal or external, consistency is the game-changer. It
Unravels a lot of hidden time.
Lets you live with intent.
Skills you up.
Maintains healthier body energy.
Expecting everyone to follow the same routine is just crass. A marathon-like situation would demand stamina, a sprint would demand an amortized burst. But there are some foundational habits which could be set in both. So instead of telling you what time you should wake up I want to share more fundamental hacks to
Build a morning routine,
Include in a morning routine,
Sustain a morning routine.
Use them irrespective of your personality, or situation. What’s important is that it remains largely the same every day.
Building a morning routine
Habit-forming is a biological, psychological phenomenon and hence very personal. We need to experiment, iterate and customize a routine which will work. Before going over what to include, here are some founding strategies.
Establish a reasonable wake-up time for YOU. Try, retrospect and identify what keeps you the most productive. When do you thrive, and for that what kind of routine you will need? Account for snooze-sleep-snooze cycles.
Do not copy your friend’s or Steve Job’s morning routine. Get inspired, get recommendations. But personalize. Take stock of who you are.
Consistency can have a non-daily frequency. Make it fun! I like to eat before a shower on the weekend and I like to shower before I eat on weekdays. I treat my week like a marathon from Monday to Friday, a sprint from Friday to Saturday night followed by a dead Sunday.
The most important hack - Do not make drastic changes in your morning routine. Add small things, incrementally. Behavioural shifts take time. Our body will resist change. Start with awakening at the agreed time every day.
Be kind to yourself if/when you skip.
Post wake up is the best time for conditioning yourself to a habit. To the extent of “muscle memory”. Do you have to think about how to brush your teeth? Your brain takes care of performing it on auto-pilot. When you accomplish things soon after waking up, however, small the activity, your brain produces much dopamine.
Here are some micro-hacks which you could include to level up your per day quality.
Make your bed. This is the simplest and the best hack I learnt from my girlfriend. It takes a minute, but it not only makes your physical space organized, it creates a mental order too. Taking initiative makes you feel in control and this is the lowest hanging fruit.
Family time. If you have a family, get some warm together-time with each other. Could be in any form. Cuddles with your partner, meal with kids or banter over a beverage! Anything.
“The” Latent interest. #LifeChanger. We all have hidden interests we have been procrastinating, been irregular or given up. Picking up a new language, learning an instrument, reading/writing about an interest have crossed all our minds. Some chose to begin. Many dropped eventually. Skilling up in these avocations demands consistency - which everyone knows. Investing just 20 min in the morning is the greatest hack to nail consistency. I started learning guitar a couple of years back plugging it in this routine. Not only has it stayed with me, but it helps me fight morning blues!
3 min of exercise. I always work out in the evening. This quick session is only to flood my brain with oxygen and activate those neural connections. If this seems hard, start day 1 with 10 pushups and a glass of water, like me. You feel in control of your day. An indirect advantage -> you WILL drink water.
Intent forming. This is a 5-minute mental exercise after my exercise. This can be combined with meditation but it is NOT meditation. I sit and go over the pivots in my day - Family, Work, Interests, Friends, Fitness. And look over two things. What interactions will I be having? Who with? What will I do? What emotions would I want? This is the hardest because it takes the most time to get accustomed to. But once you internalize this, the emotional high is unparalleled!
I cannot stress enough - do not include all these at once. Go one at a time.
Add. Practice. Add. Practice. More Practice. Add...
Sustaining a routine
Once you have established a basic wake up time and figured things to include in your morning routine, keeping it going is the hardest part. Hacks to ensure durability -
Keep it simple. Do not engage in a lot of decision making. Pick easier tasks to do. Avoid actions which you do not like unless they are very urgent or existentially important. Be flexible.
Social Media. Avoid it till you have “started” your day. This hogs a lot of time, without us knowing. Be on it, but not in the morning. Expose your rawest morning mental stimulus in better avenues. Read. Learn. Grow!
Breakfast. Or let me call it the first-meal since we wake up at different times. Your metabolism peaks in the morning. Have a hearty meal - filling but not heavy. Skipping breakfast is the easiest way to harm yourself. A filling, enjoyable first meal sets the tone for the day. Top it up with “your” beverage - chai, smoothie or acoldbrew.
Sleep. Have consistency in both time and duration. Sleep at least for 7-8 hours on an average, around similar times. This is the single biggest factor which can make or break the routine. You can optionally consider pre-preparing logistics for the next day.
Your body WILL resist. It will make it hard to show up everyday. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 hack. Whenever you feel like procrastinating, not showing up, just count backwards in your head from 5 to 1 (or 10 to 1) and at 1 just get up OR if you are still on that “last” episode, count backwards and shut your computer. This seemingly stupid act has worked hundreds of times.
Nailing a morning routine is the easiest hack to stay on top of things by having more time, living in control of life than on autopilot, maintaining a healthier body and the best of all - building a habit and skilling up. And even after accomplishing so much, not getting drained.
Start today, start slow.