Humans are creatures of habit and things work well if made as a routine. It’s what you build as your daily plan that defines what you end up achieving in the day and in turn with life.
If you are a late night person, you can read ‘morning’ as ‘late night’ - the focus here is routine!
A morning routine is nothing but a sequence of actions regularly followed. I have tried switching my routine too, to late in the night a few times but found that mornings work better for me. But this could be different for you, so stick to the time of day that works for you. Before going to how my morning routine looks like (which I just started a week back), I will explain how I made the plan for the routine.
At any point in time, there are a lot of things in my mind and things that I kept committing to myself and others. It is not possible to keep up with everything that I wish to do. So the very first thing to do is to dump everything out onto to paper and then decide what needs attention. The Incompletion Trigger List assists to get everything out of your mind onto paper. It’s a good idea to block some time of yours to perform this exercise and give it all the attention it needs. At times it helps to Slow Down to Go Fast.
Most Important Task (MIT)
If you are following along, hope the brain dump helped to flush out all that was there in your mind. This exercise needs to be occasionally done (maybe every 2-3 months) to stay clear and stay on top of things. I was sure that I could not do everything on that list after the brain dump. Now comes the hard part of choosing what matters to you and choosing those that aligns well with your goals. For the morning routine, I stuck to items from the brain dump that fall under ‘Personal Projects’ category (as highlighted in the below image).
These are the items that matter to me and aligns to the short-long term goals that I have. Below is a part of my list.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
– Stephen Covey
Progressing towards all of these items on the list at the same time is not possible, as time available each day for achieving them is limited. I usually get around 2-3 hours a day of ‘me time’, provided I wake up at 4 in the morning (more on this shortly). The number of hours you have might differ, and you could choose those many items as you think you can fit in. But 3 is a good number to choose, as that helps to mix in a few different goals and gives the flexibility to shuffle around with them on a day. For me, it also means I roughly get around 40-60 minutes daily, for each item.
Currently, the ones that I have in my morning routine are:
- Learn Functional Programming
- Open Source Contribution
MITs to Mini Habits
Having high-level short-long term goals is good, but does not provide anything actionable on a daily basis. It feels overwhelming to approach them because it does not give any sense of direction. So it’s important that I have small actionable items that I can work on and progress towards achieving the goal.
Break your goal into the smallest possible task that you can think of so that you don’t feel to skip it
For me, the mini habits look like this
- Write at least one sentence for the blog
- Read at least one line about Functional Programming
- Read at least one line of code of an Open Source Project
The idea behind keeping it so small is just to start. It’s very rare that I have stopped writing after writing a sentence or stopped reading after a line. The trouble is only with getting started - once done you can easily carry on for at least 20-30 minutes. Even if I make 2 out of the 3 of the above tasks, I take it as a success, which gives me some flexibility each day.
Waking up Tricks
There are days when Resistance beats me to it, and I don’t get up to the routine. But I feel low on those days for not able to progress on my goals. So I try hard to have less of such days.
Alarm Phone Inside Pillow: I use Timely on a spare phone to set alarms. Till a while back I used to keep the phone at the bedside while sleeping. But I noticed that I often ended up snoozing the alarm, at times even without full consciousness. So to make I wake up to the alarm, I now keep the phone buried inside my pillow with just the vibration. The vibration forces me to wake up and also removes the need for any alarm sound - my kid and wife does not get disturbed.
Wear a Sweater: During winter, at times the cold beat me to it. It’s hard to leave all the blankets and wake up to the cold. I started sleeping with the sweater, and I don’t feel that cold when I wake up.
Rationalize Against Resistance: However hard I try not to rationalize on getting up when the alarm sounds off, looking at the snooze button I end up rationalizing. Often I have found that when I try to use the tasks that I can achieve if I wake up, to motivate myself, I end up justifying that it can wait for tomorrow. Because there is no hard deadlines or accountability to anyone - it’s just me!. Now I try just the opposite - Think about the resistance that is trying to force me to the bed and reassure myself that I should not fall to it. The ‘me’ waking up after sleeping in is not going to like it then. So wake up!
- Wake at 4 am
- Drink Water
- Review the tasks for the day (Todoist)
- Mini Habits (2 or 3)
- Wake up wife at 5:45 am
- Continue Mini Habits (2 or 3)
- Wake up Gautham at 7 am
Having a morning routine has helped me focus more on things that matter and not wander from one task to another. It has also helped set a sense of direction to what I do every day and spent less time in thinking what to do. I find my days starting in gradually and not rushing into it, setting up the pace for the day. Hope this helps you too!