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How do you start your day?

Your answer to that question is essential. What you do in the morning makes a significant impact on the rest of your day. Good days don’t happen by accident. They happen by design. That is why it is vitally important to have an effective morning ritual.

Leadership expert and best-selling author John Maxwell said,

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine.”

John Maxwell

Perhaps no routine is more important than the one you practice in the morning. Lots of people have discovered the benefits of having a morning ritual, including:

  • Be prepared for the day
  • Increase your productivity
  • Have more energy
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve your focus

A morning ritual is an investment in yourself. It requires some thoughtful planning, but the extra effort has a huge payoff. A well done morning ritual prepares you for the day, both mentally and physically. Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM), states that a morning ritual is for “becoming the person we need to be to create the levels of success and happiness we truly want in our lives.”

Case Study: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

The Rock is one of Hollywood’s most prolific and successful actors. However, acting is only one part of his busy world. In addition to making mega-hit films, he finds time for the following:

  • He created and launched his own brand of tequila, Teremana
  • He has a partnership with fitness apparel brand Under Armour
  • He produces several television projects such as NBC’s Titan Games and Young Rock
  • He is one of the owners of the XFL professional football league
  • He is active in social media with over 200 million followers to his Instagram account

When asked about the secret of his productivity, he talks about how he starts his day. He has two hours of personal time in the early morning (before the sun comes up), including his daily workout. He focuses on mental and physical preparation for his day. In an interview by Think Bespoke, he said, “I’m able to work 10, 12, 14 hours if I know that I’ve centered and anchored my day in the beginning.”

Strong Foundations

Burj Khalifa (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

Tall buildings stand on strong foundations.

The Burj Khalifa also known as Burj Dubai is over 828 meters (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 stories, making it the tallest building globally. Equally impressive is the foundation that supports it. Over 45,000 m3 (58,900 cu yd) of concrete, weighing more than 110,000 tons were used to construct the concrete and steel foundation, which features 192 piles buried more than 50 m (164 ft) deep.

Productive days are built on the foundation of effective morning rituals.

What is a morning ritual?

A morning ritual is a series of habits that you perform in sequence every morning. According to dictionary.com, a ritual is “any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.”

When you repeat the behavior with enough frequency, it becomes a habit. Your brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine so that you can do it without thinking.

I live in a city where most people walk instead of drive. The other day, I noticed a mother was explaining to her son how to look both directions for oncoming traffic before crossing the street. It was a very deliberate set of actions.. I realized I do that without thinking by force of habit. It is something that is on autopilot in my life.

You create a ritual when you combine a series of habits. The secret to an effective morning ritual is to design the patterns of behavior. Build a system of practices that prepare you to be healthy, happy, and do your best work.

In his book, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, author James Clear said this about the difference between goals and systems (i.e. Morning Ritual), “I began to realize that my results had very little to do with the goals I set and nearly everything to do with the systems I followed.” It is one thing to have a goal for a productive day; it is another thing to create a system that helps you accomplish that goal. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says,

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

James Clear

Here are some simple steps you can follow to craft the perfect morning ritual.

Step 1: Evaluate

Even though you may not realize it, you already have a morning ritual. There are actions and activities that are on autopilot every day. Because you do them without thinking, you may not be aware of how integrated they are in your life. To be effective, you need to evaluate your current reality. For example, if your first automatic action in the morning is to pick up your phone to check email or scroll social media, then ask yourself, “is this practice optimizing my time for the most productive day possible?”

Your first step is to make a list of everything you do in the morning. What are your daily habits?

Step 2: Eliminate

Jim Collins, the author of such best-sellers as Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, shares in his blog about a professor he had at Stanford Graduate School of Business that told him he was undisciplined. The professor explained that there is a difference between a disciplined life and a busy life. He was challenged to make what he calls a “stop doing” list. It is a practice he recommends to all.

Time is your most valuable resource. What you don’t do with your time determines what you can do. Review the list you made in step 1 to identify anything that should not be a part of your morning ritual.

Step 3: Establish

In Step 3, you choose the ingredients of your morning ritual based on what is important to you.

Time

What is a reasonable time for you to wake up in the morning, and how much time can you devote to your morning routine?

  1. Consider your chronotype

Your chronotype represents how your body is genetically wired for sleep. All of us have an internal clock regulating when we have the most energy, but everyone is not on the same cycle. We recommend two books for a deeper dive into understanding chronotypes. Fist, we recommend the book, The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype–and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds and More, clinical psychologist Michael Breus defines four general chronotypes using the names of animals to make it more memorable: dolphin, lion, wolf, and bear. We also recommend the book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink.

Even without science, you probably already have an idea of your sleep cycle and what time of day you have the most energy. Your morning ritual will be most effective if you pay attention to your internal time patterns and work with them instead of against them. A lion might benefit from a routine that starts at 4:00 am while a bear needs to wait until 8:00 am.

  1. Consider your season of life

Single adults may have a more flexible schedule than parents with young children. Your work schedule and other responsibilities in life are also contributing factors. An empty-nester may manage a two-hour morning ritual, while a working mother may be wise to plan for a 15-minute morning ritual.

Do not get caught in the trap of comparing yourself to someone else. The best morning ritual is the one that is customized for you. It should align with your internal clock, your season of life, and represent your values.

Activities

The components of an effective morning ritual depend on the individual. The possibilities are limitless. In general, the plan will focus on a balance of activities that benefit both the mind and body. It might include some specific targets like personal growth, business goals, lifestyle, fitness, and relationships.

As a place to start (or simply as a catalyst for your thoughts), a simple morning ritual could be:

01 Wake up (consistently at the same time)
02 Drink water/coffee/tea
03 Exercise
04 Meditation / Mindfulness
05 Personal hygiene
06 Breakfast
07 Start your day with your most important task

For more inspiration, we recommend The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod.

You can also check out these resources:

Next Steps

  1. Choose your first habit. What is the one thing that if you committed to doing it every morning, it would have a significant positive impact on your life?
  2. Schedule it. Choose a time tomorrow that you will wake up and practice your new habit.

For a complete understanding of the topic and some additional training, use the Asian Efficiency Morning Ritual Starter Kit.


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