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In his book, Miracle Morning (highly recommended), author Hal Elrod says,
“It’s been said that the first hour is the rudder of the day. If I’m lazy or haphazard in my actions during the first hour after I wake up, I tend to have a fairly lazy and unfocused day. But if I strive to make that first hour optimally productive, the rest of the day tends to follow suit.”
Framing the first hour after you wake up as the rudder for the rest of your day is a fascinating idea. After all, for most of us that first hour is spent just trying to wake up and eat breakfast before trudging out the door to work or taking care of our family’s needs.
If Elrod is correct, approaching that hour much differently has the power to transform the remaining 23 hours in each day—and in turn alter the course of our lives. It starts by creating a morning routine. Morning routines are a collection of habits that come so engrained in our lives that we no longer have to think about them. And a good morning routine can do wonders. Just look at some of these wildly successful people.
We’ve come up with a few tips to help you get started. Implementing any of these will help you turn the first hour of the morning into a productivity machine.
Keep It Real
Ok, first let’s get something out of the way. Keep your morning routine attainable. Yes, running 5 miles, followed by a chia seed breakfast, an hour of meditation, some light reading, and personal development would be great. But chances are, it’s probably not going to happen for most of us.
When developing your morning routine, it’s important to make sure you’re creating habits that can stick. Start small, and then slowly expand your routine as time and willpower allows. Nothing is more detrimental to budding habits than biting off more than you can chew.
Plan Your Day
It’s shocking how few of us actually plan our days, especially considering that it probably only takes a few minutes. There are several planning apps that work, and several more that come with your phone. A simple Moleskine will do, or if an old school planner is your thing, go for it. The important takeaway here is to spend a few minutes laying out your schedule and goals. What do you want to accomplish? What are you going to fill your free time with?
Give Your Dreams Some TLC
Spend 10 minutes focusing on your dreams. This can be a side hustle—a hobby or passion you want to start making money from—or a vacation, job promotion, or career change. Too often we put our dreams on the backburner, and once emails and meetings kick off at work, it’s not going to get any easier to think about them. Do yourself a favor and dream big in the morning.
Review Your Goals
How are you doing on your yearly, monthly, or weekly goals? The thing with goals is they’re usually easy to write down but harder to actually follow through on. Keep your goals somewhere you can revisit them daily—like every morning.
Carve Out Your Own Space
Structure your morning routine around your own space. It can be an entire office or a corner of the room. The key here is to make it your own and make it consistent. Don’t just flop down anywhere. Your morning space should, in some ways, be sacred to you. And you should want to visit it every single day.
Eat a Healthy Breakfast
Most of the breakfasts we eat aren’t actually breakfasts: they’re desserts. Instead of loading up on cereal, pancakes, or waffles, spend a few minutes giving your body the nutrients it needs to get the most out of your day. Try making some healthy smoothies, for example.
What’s a subject matter that fascinates you? Is there a skill you’ve always wanted to learn but have been putting off? The morning is the perfect time to educate yourself. The kids are still asleep, and the emails haven’t started rolling in yet. It might be (ok it’s definitely) the only time of day that you have completely to yourself.
Make Your Bed
Sounds too simple, right? Well, it is. But making your bed can also have a profound impact on the rest of your day. Don’t believe us, just watch this video. Making your bed is a little thing but it’s a small accomplishment that can lead to another accomplishment, and then another. It sets you on a path for getting things done during the rest of the day.
Create a “Soon” List
Spend five minutes creating and reviewing your “soon list.” This isn’t your goals, and it’s actually incredibly fun to create. Your “soon list” includes all the stuff you want to do in the next three months: the places you want to visit, the letters you want to write, and the books you want to read. There are no rules here. Just keep a list of stuff that’s going to make your life better every single day.
Meditate for Five Minutes
How can sitting still and doing nothing increase your productivity? Turns out in more ways than we’d expect. Spending just 5-10 minutes in silent meditation helps clear the stress and anxiety while putting the rest of your day into perspective. Armed with that perspective, you can accomplish much more.
No matter how you choose to structure your morning routine, create a series of habits that works for you. Everyone is different. The idea is to experiment with several different habits that help you, as a unique individual, get much more out of your day. Treat the first hour of every morning like a rudder, and it will set you on a path towards more personal fulfillment and accomplishment.