A few months ago, I made decision that was utterly out of character for me. A decision that would have a daily impact, for months.
The decision was to wake up at 5:30 am. Every morning.
That's a legitimate question. (I must admit, some mornings, I ask myself the same question.)
Did you ever wake up feeling like you were completely out of it? You open your eyes, and you're overcome with resentment. You immediately picture your relentless to-do list, how behind you are on everything, and all the deadlines that must be met.
The result: You wake up each morning wishing you could spend the rest of the day in bed.
I don't know about you, but starting every day off like that for the rest of my life? No, thank you.
Then I discovered The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, and the morning routines of some of the most successful entrepreneurs.
If tens of thousands of followers of The Miracle Morning, as well as people like Richard Branson (founder and CEO of Virgin), Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), Howard Schulz (CEO of Starbucks) and Jack Dorsey (founder and CEO of Twitter and Square) make the effort to do it, there must be something to it, right?
It's not about waking up at 5:30 for the sake of being up before the sun (I like my bed as much as the next guy). It's about having the time to get activities done that are known to have a considerably positive impact on our state of mind, our efficiency and (incidentally) our level of happiness.
If the idea of starting your day with a rush of enthusiasm, and with the intention of making the most of it appeals to you, here is the routine that I've adopted, largely inspired by Hal Elrod's suggestions in The Miracle Morning.
(Important note: Waking up at 5.30am is not mandatory. It would be enough to be up a little earlier than usual, in order to have time for these activities.)
-- 1 --
Clear your mind and concentrate
We're about to talk about meditation. Scientific proof on the benefits of meditation is growing.
Meditation isn't necessarily about sitting cross-legged on the floor for a full hour. Five short minutes of meditation, practiced regularly, will grant you the same benefits.
I tested two apps that can guide you at the beginning:
- Headspace (an impeccable user experience design!)
- Calm (what I currently use)
In The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod gives a simple technique:
- Find a comfortable spot, and sit up straight.
- Close your eyes or stare at a fixed point in front of you.
- Focus on your breathing; inhale through your belly and exhale through your chest.
- Appreciate the calm; try to stay focused on your breathing and don't think of anything else. When you your mind wanders off to stray thoughts, don't panic, draw your focus calmly back to your breathing.
You feel less stressed, you gain peace of mind. After a little bit of practice, you will truly feel like you're in a different state of mind once you re-open your eyes after those 10 minutes.
-- 2 --
Taking the time to write each morning, just for a few minutes, can really help you. It allows you to assess your present state, and to refocus on what is important.
You can, for example:
- Write down three things for which you feel grateful: your close friends and family, some good news, a beautiful memory, or an achievement.
- Write down what you're thinking at the time.
- Write down everything you'd like to accomplish during the day.
- Write down a quote that motivates you, or that you would like to keep in mind.
- Jot down one thing you have recently learned or one epiphany you had.
At the beginning I used to write in a blank Moleskine notebook. Then I used a special kind of journal (not the ones with tiny hearts that 14-year-olds use). Today, I am in the process of crafting my own journal. It will have a special layout, with predefined daily questions to which I can respond.
You will feel happier and more focused. Doing this exercise can also help you catalogue your progress, and all the positive things in your life.
-- 3 --
Remind yourself of your goals
There are several ways of doing this. You can choose one of them or a combination of the three.
- Affirmations. These are repeatable phrases which describe the person you would like to become.
- Visualization. Imagine yourself in the process of accomplishing the things you want to accomplish, enjoying a beautiful day. Visualize, and imagine the feelings that you would experience.
My initial reaction the first time that I heard about affirmations and visualization:
(I had a little trouble at first with affirmations and visualization. When you initially start trying them, you get the feeling that you've landed in the middle of one of those American conventions, where the speaker tells you just how fabulous you are, and how you can change the world...But eventually, I got used to them.)
- A reminder of goals. This is the moment to pull out the weekly worksheet we discussed earlier. You can also take a moment to write down your goals and remind yourself of the reasons you want to accomplish them. For example: "Spend an extraordinary day with my family- because they're my number one priority."
-- 4 --
Get moving !
10 minutes to an hour and a half
It's my shot of daily motivation! It reminds me of what I want to do, why I want to do it, and how I'm going to do it.
There is a reason why successful people exercise regularly. It's because they realized that they needed to be on top of their game to accomplish their goals and every day to the fullest.
It is not at all surprising that Tim Cook goes to the gym every morning at 5am, or that Jack Dorsey starts his day off by running 10 km.
If you would like to start off without buying any equipment, without joining a gym, and without commitment, you could for example:
Go for a run, even you start with 10-15 minutes
Do one of those famous seven minute workouts (this one for example - https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/7-minute-workout/id650762525?mt=8)
It would be ideal to do a little bit every morning. But what I found most useful was working out every other morning, for an hour and a half. When I don't work out, I rest. Eventually, I'd like to be able to do 10 minutes of yoga when I don't go to the gym.
Doing some form of physical activity in the morning, even if it's only 10 minutes of exercise, enables you to fully wake up, let go of your stress, and energize. Oh yeah, it's also healthy. Pretty good deal, right?
-- 5 --
An unlimited source of knowledge is at your disposal : books. Whatever it may be that you want to accomplish: running a marathon, getting rich, traveling the world...there are books on the subject that can be of considerable help.
Reading for 20 minutes (or even 10 minutes) every morning means absorbing knowledge that you can instantly put into practice to get closer to reaching your goals.
I regularly write summaries of the books that have been the most useful to me.
Some examples of books that have left a true impact on me:
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris (read it to boost your productivity considerably)
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (undoubtedly the best extant book about interpersonal communication and emotional intelligence)
- The100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau (shows you how to earn a good living while pursuing your passion)
- The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential...in Business and in Life by Leo Babauta (teaches you to eliminate the unnecessary to accomplish more)
Why not learn from the experiences of successful people? You would save a great deal of time. You'll enrich yourself. And by sharing everything you've learned, you will be able to help people around you.
I have been practicing this ritual for several months now and here are some of the benefits:
- I have never read so much, and, therefore, learned so much! (I also read outside of my morning ritual)
- I have (finally) succeeded at being dedicated to a regular exercise routine (this one verges on miraculous)
- I know where I want to go, and why (even if the "how" is still vague)
By the way, I wrote this piece at 6:10 am. I've just finished my morning ritual, and I've already started working on my first task of the day: writing this article!
I can only encourage you to give yourself the opportunity of starting every day, not by being late and stressed out, but by taking care of yourself, getting your fill of motivation, and feeling determined to make the most of every minute.
-- * --
Your to-do list, if you will
- For the hardcore among you: Set your alarm one hour earlier than usual tomorrow morning, and do 10 minutes of each of these activities.
- For those of you who like to take it slow: Pick two or three tasks that appeal to you, and start doing them tomorrow morning.
They say that to establish a new habit in your life, you have to pass the "21-day mark." If you want to take the plunge, you know what you have to do.
This article was originally published on Medium France.
This post first appeared on HuffPost France and was translated into English