My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired (2018)
by Benjamin Spall & Michael Xander
by Benjamin Spall & Michael Xander
This book is a paradox of who I am and who I want (to experiment) to be. I'm a night owl. In Daniel Pink's latest book When: The Scientific Secret of Perfect Timing (2018), I'm a classic "owl" even before the rise of social media addiction that ‘creates' more night owls nowadays. The words "morning" and "routine" are two words that I don't feel comfortable with. Morning devotion and morning run are some of the activities that I have tried but never stick to. I need double alarms to ensure that I wake up early if need be such as to catch a flight or early meeting or hiking with my friends. My greatest insight and creativity often appear at around 11.00pm to 3.00am. And the word ‘routine'? Yuck! I'm an INTJ or The Mastermind or The Architect, so, I easily get bored when it comes to routine. I might change or twig it for the sake of improvement but probably do no good since I'm going to abandon it when it becomes rigid. So, why I read My Morning Routine? Well, because it doesn't say My Early Morning Routine. My morning can be 10.00am and I still can learn from this book.
"The way you spend your morning has an outsized effect on the rest of your day," write the authors. I agree. "The choices we make during the first hour or so of our morning determines whether we have productivity and peace of mind for the rest of the day, or whether it will clobber us over the head." Regardless of whether you're an early bird or a late riser, our ‘morning' starts when we wake up. That first hour or so upon waking up is the most crucial period. "Your morning sets the stage for the rest of your day." Knowing this fact, I find that this book is immensely important for me even though I hate the words ‘morning' and ‘routine.' For this book, Benjamin and Michael, founders of mymorningroutine.com, interviews 64 of today's most successful people such as Biz Stone, Arianna Huffington, Marie Kondo, General Stanley McChrystal, and three of my favorite authors, Maria Konnikova, Austin Kleon (most creative interview reply) and Ryan Holiday about their morning routines. At the end of every chapter, there are Over to You section where they offer advice on creating a custom routine of our own. They give very helpful tips and suggestions that we can try to suit our personality, profession, and preference.
I appreciate their desire to show as many examples of morning routines from different people and background but I have to admit that the questions (and most answers) are repetitive. At least for me, repetitive is equal to boring. So instead of selecting 5-9 individuals for each chapter, why not just 3 and then write remarks or notes for any variations and other ideas. However, I love the intro and Over to You section in every chapter. The illustrations are awesome too! Well done Elisabeth Fosslien! Here are my 5 takeaways ‘routine' that either I've implemented all along and need some modification or new ones that I like to try and improve over time:
#1 Make Your Bed. "Making your bed in the morning is one of the simplest things you can do to help wake up your mind and gets you ready and prepared for the day ahead. It also reduces your chances of climbing back into it." I always, always make sure – however busy or rushing – that I make my bed. I feel incomplete and messy if I don't do it. If I do, I feel a small achievement where I start my day with a task completed. Come to think about it, this is probably my most consistent habit (I recommend reading Admiral William H. McRaven's Make Your Bed).
#2 Don't Check Your Social Media (and Email) First Thing in the Morning. "For most of us, checking our email or social media accounts first thing in the morning spell disaster for our early morning productivity… When you check your email first thing upon waking, you're stressing your brain by jolting yourself awake to the realities of the day ahead." I can tell you that I've mastered the art of not checking email early morning. Email is the worst form of communication if you want to communicate with me. But social media is another story. About one year ago, I'm very addicted to social media. So, I counter that bad behavior with digital sabbath or technology detox. Every Sunday, I will off (with very few exceptions) my data from morning to 6.00pm and I always put my phone on plane mode when I'm about to sleep. These habits make sure that I'm proactive instead of reactive to the needs of others. "Be proactive in the morning, not reactive. You'll still be getting emails when you're dead."
#3 Have a Morning Stretching. "Working out is akin to doing a good deed for your body and making an investment in your future health. Not only does working out have positive physical effects, but it should also be valued as a meditative exercise that can help bring comfort and clarity to your day every morning." As a night owl, I don't do active workouts like Zumba or running early morning. I do, however, have simple stretching exercises and half-jog down and up the stairs while waiting for the water to boil to prepare my coffee. I normally exercise in the evening for walking, running and weight liftings.
#4 Get Enough Sleep. "Most of us require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. Of the several hundred people we have interviewed about their morning routines, their sleep times have averaged out at 7 hours and 29 minutes per night… If you're consistently trying to get by on less than 7 hours of sleep it will catch up with you, likely sooner rather than later." For my body (I've tested it), I need 7-8 hours of sleep for optimum mind, body and soul well-being. Right after wake up, before having my morning coffee, I make sure I drink 2-3 glasses of water to rehydrate and refresh my body. Good quality sleep helps me to focus, increase productivity, lessen stress and reduce my pimples (smile). "Getting enough sleep is the best productivity hack I know," writes Dan Counsell.
#5 Read Book Before Going to Sleep and Upon Waking Up – and Listen to Podcast or Audiobook Too. In the book, there is a chapter on Morning Meditation. I don't do meditation early in the morning. I daydream, that's what I do! But when I realized that there are many forms of meditation, perhaps, when I read a book early in the morning – inspirational books and sometimes the Bible – I do engage in some kind of meditation. I don't believe in emptying your mind (can you do that?) but I wholehearted believe that you must fill your mind with empowering, positive and uplifting words (that's Biblical). Besides reading in the toilet or on my bed for at least half an hour, I also love to listen to a podcast while I'm cleaning the room, sweeping or mopping the floor and preparing for my coffee and breakfast.
…but some other days, I don’t do all or any of these 5 ‘routines’ (except for Make Your Bed and drink coffee). Manuel Lima rightly notes: “Routines are like any set of rules. They can be helpful in giving up a sense of constancy, but at times, breaking them can be extremely liberating. Being a slave to a single routine can prevent spontaneity and unexpected discoveries.” Amen.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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