You might think the picture above (credit to Lisa Cock) means this is a blog about bedtime, but it isn’t. I love the morning. I love waking up before the chaos breaks out, taking a moment to breathe, pour a cup of coffee and sit in silence. I sit and listen to the white noise of the fridge/furnace, the cat snoring or the kids gently tossing in their beds in their rooms above me. I like easing into my day until the last sip of coffee is almost cool, then standing up with intention and calmly starting towards the shower.
Ever since I graduated from high school, I have been interested in human performance. I don’t mean the 4 minute mile, I don’t mean Bobby Fischer and I don’t mean Peyton Manning (though all three are by themselves impressive). I am interested in people who lead full lives, contribute on many levels and still maintain control over the most important things in life. I read about, listen to and observe people who have figured out how to live fully and lead with positivity, energy and resilience. I devour material on people who have failed or have over come adversity to succeed. Here, success to me is feeling fulfilled and happy, not a measure of the savings account and personal assets.
One central theme comes through consistently in a lot of the research and anecdotal reports- a consistent morning ritual. I have experimented and documented my morning routines over the past several years and I conclude, for me, that my morning ritual is the make or break for the rest of my day. The first waking hour is the most important hour of the day.
Each day there are many expectations of me. My employer deserves my focus, my energy and my dedication to the work and the cause. My children deserve a man who is going to take care of the house, put food on the table, provide life experiences, support them during times of struggle, teach them valuable lessons, and fall asleep in front of a Pixar movie. My wife deserves someone who puts her needs and desires at the top of the list of priorities and supports her in what she wants to do to feel fulfilled. My parents, brothers/sisters, and friends deserve someone who listens, responds with support and someone to lean on. I expect of myself that I will train my body hard for 60 minutes almost everyday, train my brain to learn, train my attitude to handle life challenge and enjoy each day. I, like all of you readers, have a lot to live up to.
I see the time from 6:30 a.m to 8:30 p.m. as The game. This is where I compete, struggle, engage and grow. I want to stretch, fail, get up and try again. I live moment to moment, no time to reflect, look at the drawing board, draw up a new play or huddle. I need to be prepared.
I look at 5:15 a.m. to 6:15 a.m. as The Practice. If this hour of my day doesn’t go the way I design it, the rest of the day is at risk. This 60 minutes doesn’t go the same way everyday but I am getting pretty damn good at it. I have enough experience with this now that the cause and effect relationship of the days I start great and have amazing days is clear.
I have toyed with many variations but based on my “research”, which was taken from people such as Tim Ferris and other life hacking gurus, the following is my rockstar start to my day:
5:15 a.m. coffee -I wake, throw on a hoodie and sweat pants and head to the kitchen to pour coffee. I drink coffee and sit with a book for 15 minutes until the coffee is done.
5:30-5:45 Meditation– usually with headphones, sitting upright in a chair. I use an app on my iphone which guides me through some sort of a breathing exercise. This regulates my breathing, balances me and cleans out old, stale air from my lungs.
5:45-5:50 Visualization– I picture not the tasks I need to do but how I am actually going to approach situations. I picture myself in meetings, I picture trying to break a 1RM deadlift, I picture my conversations with my kids. For those naysayers who think this is foolish, the top performers in most sports/business etc., do this and there is good reason. It sets intention.
5:50-5:52 I write in my journal. I have been keeping a journal for 20 years but it has become much simpler now. I write “Three things that would make today great”. This might be “Delivering a great presentation”, “being present with my kids skiing”, “making the Crossfit class fun” and most likely it will include “make a new connection”. I use to-do lists at work, but they are based around the goals I have already set before I show up at my desk.
5:53 Push ups or air squats– 25 of them, just to get the blood flowing and to change my state.
I am in the shower by 6 and out the door by 6:30-6:45. I am calm, I am focused and I am not only ready but I am primed. If life throws me a curveball, which it will, I am in the best possible state I could be to deal with it.
If I sleep till 6 and leave at 6:45, my body and my mind is in flight mode all day. I don’t seem to catch up. Cortisol levels are high, I am distracted and reactionary. It doesn’t work.
This morning started last night
While 5:15 a.m. is the most important hour of my day, 8:30 p.m. is a very close second. I use this to have my food ready, my clothes ironed, gym bag backed, coffee on auto for 5 a.m. and briefcase is by the door. This needs to be in place. If I need to look for a missing sock at 5:30, everything falls apart.
Suggestions for implementation
If you think I always loved 5 a.m., please ask my Dad what milking the cows with me was like when I was 15. I love it when people say, “I would do that, I’m just no good getting up in the morning”. What they mean is that the reason to change their behavior isn’t compelling enough. My wife and I have lofty goals for everyday in our lives. I have a lot of stuff I want to do and experience. If I am going to get to do all the stuff I want to, I need to kill that voice in my head at 5:15 that says “stay right here, it’s warm”. So start getting up 15 minutes earlier every week until you get to that sweet spot of 5-5:30 a.m.
Go to bed early. 9:30-10:00 for me through the week. Normally not any later than 10:30 on the weekends. If I invite you over for drinks, it will be a 5:30 start and I will start turning down lights at 9:30…sorry. (Weekends are later though and I do sleep in until around 7:30/8:00 on weekends. Some blogs will say to go to bed at same time and wake at same time or it wrecks the rest of the week. I actually don’t really find it changes my weekdays that much).
Meditation– try it. If you feel it threatens your manliness, then just sit in silence for 10 minutes without your phone taking big deep breaths and counting.
Alcohol– this is where those other blogs and health articles tell you no booze before bed. This is a different blog. I like a glass of wine or two some nights and I sleep like a 200 pound baby and wake up refreshed.
So there you have it. Set the intention, set the alarm and do it for 21 days. It may change your life.