Mornings are my favorite time of day … and that wasn’t always the case.
When I worked in the theater, I often didn’t get to bed before 2 or 3am and would typically sleep until 10 or 11am.
Now, I’m up at 6 or 6:30 and I’m digging it.
Things feel so much manageable when I’m up before the sun and the world is still cozy in bed. It’s just a feeling but/and it has a powerful positive effect on my mindset.
And when you start off on the right foot, it’s easier to ride that momentum and stay a step ahead the entire day.
If that seems a little crazy or overly ambitious, consider this.
You know those days where you oversleep, and from that point on, you can never seem to catch up? The whole day feels like a marathon and all you do is keep your eye on when you can finally put the phone down, unplug and surrender?
Yep … so the opposite is also true.
You don’t find yourself reacting to whatever is happening, scrambling between competing tasks and deadlines or trying to figuring out what to focus on next, because you know exactly what to do and when.
Here’s the morning routine that’s changed my life. I hope it changes yours, too.
STEP 1: MEDITATION AND QUIET REFLECTION
Let’s be clear—this step only requires 5 to 10 minutes of your time. You just need a relatively quiet place to sit in stillness for those minutes. You can even do it while you’re still in bed … I sometimes do.
If your home is never quiet or still, that’s okay. You can still get a lot of mileage from simply sitting and breathing deeply for a few breaths.
You don’t need to spend hours “ohm”ing every morning to see a massive benefit—you’ll get a big boost from even a little bit of mindfulness on the front end of your day.
If you’re new to meditation, it might sound overwhelming or intimidating, but it’s really quite simple.
Sit (or lie down) and focus on your breath—meaning just observe yourself breathing in and out. When any thought comes into your mind, don’t chase it away … just don’t grab onto it. Let it come and then let it go. Over and over again. All while observing your breath.
If that still sounds too confusing or weird, here’s more info on how to meditate.
Morning meditation offers numerous benefits, but if you have to work up to it, simply sitting quietly and breathing deeply for the first few minutes of your day will do.
STEP 2: REVIEW YOUR CALENDAR
Now that you’ve woken up a bit and taken the time to be still, look ahead at the “big rocks” of your day as well as those “life maintenance” tasks that have to happen for the day to function.
What’s on the schedule already?
- HVA (High Value Activities) typically tied to work and goals
- Major life cycle events—these only happen once
- Home/family responsibilities: partners, kids, pets, medical, etc.
Both of these kinds of things should already be on your calendar … but if they aren’t, add them now.
This way, you’ll start out with an accurate picture of your day along with some structure.
When scheduling your High Value Activities, or HVAs, these activities almost always directly align with your core values.
Once you know what you must accomplish during the day, you can start to consider what else you can add into your day.
STEP 3: REVIEW YOUR TO-DO LISTS
Next, pick up your to-do lists and see if anything there would fit into the times during your day that aren’t already spoken for.
There’s no right or wrong here—if the day is already booked and it’s filled with HVAs and life maintenance, you just have to show up and move through the day.
If you have some blocks of time not already committed, we’re looking for things you can slot into those openings.
Keep in mind that even though one of your to-dos is calling the credit card company to dispute a charge and another is running to the drugstore, you may choose to run the errand rather than having any more tasks that involve talking that day.
The main thing that matters is that you work your way down your lists from most important to less important when harvesting and scheduling in these less important but still valued tasks.
You get to decide which tasks you’ll take on. Hopefully, they move the needle forward in some way and you do them in some order of significance to you.
STEP 4: MAKE APPOINTMENTS WITH YOURSELF
Now that you’ve found some additional tasks you have time for, add them onto your calendar.
Remember that someday is not a day on anyone’s calendar.
So if you are reviewing your to-do list(s) and see something you plan to do “someday,” get clear on whether you will actually do or if you’d rather (and can) delegate it OR delete it.
Because as long as it’s scheduled for someday, it won’t happen.
The only way things get done is for them to appear on a specific date and time slot on your calendar. When they linger in to-do list purgatory, they hold either the promise of something wonderful or the threat of something less than wonderful.
STEP 5: HAVE YOUR DAY
The last step of planning is also the first step of your day.
Now that you’ve got your mind and body in the right place and you know what you need to do, head out and live the day you’ve planned.
Complications and setbacks may arise, and that’s okay. The more structure you have in place before things happen, the easier it is to adapt and pivot your attention to where it needs to go.
Also, you’ll start to see how so often urgent is someone else’s agenda and important is yours.
Stick to your schedule as best you can, and give yourself the grace of understanding when the day demands you do something else.
Finish what must be done today, reschedule anything that had to change, and without beating up yourself, remember that “Winners do what they have to so, everyone else does what they want to do.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Your calendar is what’s driving your day, and meditation is what’s starting you off in the right direction.
You’ve got a certain structure to each day made up of HVAs and life maintenance.
To-Do lists are to your tasks what your closet is to your clothes—so you’re choosing your to-dos each day just like what you’ll wear.
You don’t need your entire list with you any more than you need to drag around every garment you own trying to decide on the fly what you’ll wear next.
You review the list, harvest what you can and schedule those tasks. Then get into action.
This simple morning routine is incredibly powerful because you start every day grounded, focused and in alignment with your core values.
It’s so easy to roll over, pick up your phone and lurch into the day, hoping for some relief.
With this routine, you are building in a humane pace AND relief from the get-go.
Try it for a few weeks, and watch what happens.
Mornings are just the start—we’ll help you optimize your entire day. Schedule a quick and free strategy call with our COO, Kevin Smith.