Discover the six essential practices that revolutionize the start of my day, balancing energy, boosting focus, and setting the stage for success.
Successful people all have one thing in common: nepotism. Just kidding. Highly successful individuals have perfected their morning routines. Many of us begin our day by hitting the snooze button, endlessly scrolling through short-form video apps, drinking a large cup of coffee, and rushing off to work. However, if you've ever read about the morning routines of successful people, like Oprah Winfrey's morning gratitude practice or Arianna Huffington's discipline in avoiding her phone first thing in the morning, you'll realize that these are precisely the things they don't do.
I started 2024 with a stack of self-improvement books that I want to read this year and a burning desire to revamp and perfect my morning routine. This isn't just because I know these activities will make me feel good, but also because I am aware that successful people I admire are practicing them too. One of the best resources I've discovered is The Mel Robbins Podcast. Robbins, a renowned motivational speaker and author, captivated me with her practical and straightforward approach to life and self-development. In one of her episodes, she introduced the "Million Dollar Morning Routine," a concept that became a turning point for me. It inspired me to adopt my own set of morning 'non-negotiables' – practices that kickstart my day with productivity and fulfillment, and that I absolutely cannot skip, regardless of how late my night was or how much I want to sleep in. These practices are the pillars of my morning that set the tone for my entire day, and adhering to them ensures that the day is filled with positivity and success.
Here are my six non-negotiables for a morning routine that lays the foundation for a day that is both peaceful and productive.
Jump Right Out of Bed When You Wake Up
Do not touch that snooze button.
Mel Robbins champions the idea of not hitting the snooze button, suggesting that we often show more commitment to others than to ourselves, especially in the mornings. She's right. Think about it: when friends or loved ones need me, I'm there on time, no questions asked. Yet, when it comes to showing the same punctuality for myself, I somehow justify hitting that snooze button.
But here's the thing: mornings are our launchpad for the day. The way we start these initial moments can set the tone for everything that follows. By jumping out of bed as soon as the alarm rings, I'm making a statement: I am as important as anyone else I commit to. This mindset shift is crucial. It's about showing up for myself, not just for others. It's about giving my own goals and well-being the same respect and urgency I offer to those around me.
This change in perspective has been transformative. It's a simple act, yet it empowers me, reminding me that my time and goals are valuable. So, when the alarm goes off, I get up — not just for the tasks waiting for me, but as a pledge of commitment to myself.
Don't Touch the Phone
Protect your peace.
This one is crucial: Avoid your phone first thing in the morning. In her episode, Mel Robbins presents a powerful image. By checking our phones immediately upon waking, we invite the entire world into our most personal space — our bed. Would you want the whole world crowding into your bedroom before you've even brushed your teeth? Probably not.
There's more to this than just preserving mental space. The blue light from our phones is notorious for disrupting our natural circadian rhythms. It acts as a wake-up call for our brain, signaling it to increase cortisol production, our stress hormone, which our body already produces more of in the morning. The abrupt intrusion of light and information further spikes your cortisol levels, setting a tone of anxiety and urgency from the moment you open your eyes.
Pro Tip: I’ve found a workaround for those who use their phones as alarm clocks and worry about missing emergencies. Customize your 'Do Not Disturb' settings. On my phone, I’ve set it so that calls (especially from family and key contacts, a.k.a. my bosses) can still come through. This way, when I turn off my alarm in the morning, I'm not tempted to start scrolling through notifications. I ensure that non-urgent demands on my time and attention are delayed until I'm ready to face the day.
This small act of not immediately reaching for my phone has significantly improved the quality of my mornings. It's like giving myself permission to start the day on my own terms, in peace and quiet, without the world barging in.
Make Your Bed Right Away
Set the stage for productivity.
Let's talk about something incredibly simple yet massively impactful: making your bed as soon as you get up. It's a task that takes barely 30 seconds, but its effects can last throughout the day. Why is this so important?
First, it's about starting your day with an accomplishment. Making your bed is a quick, easy task that gives you an immediate sense of achievement. It's a small action, but it sets a positive tone and can spark a chain reaction of other productive activities. Think about it: you've barely started your day, and you've already completed a task. It's a small win, but a win nonetheless.
Also, a made bed contributes to a sense of order and calm in your personal space. In a world where we often feel like we're in a constant state of chaos, having a neat and orderly space can provide a sense of control and peace. It's like setting the stage for a day where you're in charge, starting with your immediate environment.
So, the next time you stand up from your bed, take those 30 seconds. Smooth out the sheets, karate chop the pillows, straighten the covers, and start your day off with a win.
The DIRN Method
Do it right now.
While moving through your morning routine at home, you'll inevitably come across small chores that need attention. Perhaps it's a dish left in the sink from the night before, a dust bunny in the corner, or clothes left on the floor. This is where the DIRN philosophy — Do It Right Now — becomes useful.
Like making your bed, tackling these small tasks immediately contributes to a sense of accomplishment and order in your space. You might think that leaving a dish for later or ignoring the laundry on the floor won't make much of a difference. However, these seemingly minor undone tasks accumulate, not just physically in our space but also mentally. They hang over our heads, subtly adding to our mental load throughout the day, making us less eager to return home from the office to clean up, or less keen to hang out with friends because we feel overwhelmed by chores at home.
By dealing with these tasks immediately, you're doing a favor for your future self. Come evening, you'll be grateful to walk into a tidier, more organized space, free from the mental clutter of unfinished tasks.
Sunlight and Movement
Start your day with en*light*enment.
Morning exposure to sunlight isn't just about getting that Vitamin D; it plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythms. Natural light helps balance our cortisol levels and signals to our body that it's time to wake up. Incorporating a walk into your morning ritual is not just a matter of physical exercise, it's about mental and emotional rejuvenation as well. Whether it's feel-good music or a podcast, the key to really enjoying a morning walk is to listen to content that truly resonates with you. And I don't mean those heavy economics or political podcasts that we pretend to enjoy to seem more intellectual. I mean digestible, friendly, and, most importantly, practical knowledge. For me, that's (obviously) The Mel Robbins podcast. Every morning offers a new lesson in self-improvement, ensuring that I start each day with fresh, actionable knowledge.
The beauty of starting your day with this kind of content, as opposed to the chaotic bombardment of information on social media, is the quality and consistency of the information. You're not overwhelmed by fragmented, half-told, and often unverified snippets of information that often contradict each other. Instead, you get coherent, expert insights that you can trust, reflect on, and integrate into your daily routine.
When you combine movement with meaningful learning, it both energizes your body (hello, endorphins!) and empowers your mind, providing gratification on both a physical and mental level. You might even find yourself genuinely looking forward to your morning walks, as they transform from a mere routine into a source of genuine pleasure. And truly, what better way to kickstart your day than with a dose of pleasure?
The Hot Beverage Ritual
No, not coffee.
After returning from your illuminating walk, it's time for the comforting ritual of a hot beverage. Now, I’m going to touch on a somewhat sensitive topic for many: coffee. Yes, it's popular, and yes, it's what we're accustomed to. But seriously, it's something I strongly recommend avoiding before you've eaten anything. (You've heard this a million times, but if it still hasn't stuck, I'm going to tell you again.) Drinking coffee, which is a stimulant, on an empty stomach can cause an overproduction of cortisol. Cortisol, a hormone crucial in managing energy and alertness, already peaks in the morning as part of your body's way of waking you up. The excess created by coffee can lead to various negative health effects, such as increased stress, anxiety, and disrupted sleep patterns. Over time, consistently high levels of cortisol might contribute to more serious concerns like chronic stress or adrenal fatigue. In other words, by adding coffee to the natural morning peak of cortisol, you might be pushing your body's stress response too far, offsetting the natural balance and rhythm of your stress and energy management system. Is putting your body through literal physical and mental stress for a beverage really worth it? Probably not. Plus, by the time you've completed the previous steps in your morning routine, you might find that you don't even need caffeine to feel energized.
In the context of your carefully curated, peaceful morning routine, drinking coffee can disrupt the calm and centered start you've worked so hard to create. Instead of easing into the morning with steady energy levels, the combination of natural cortisol release and the stimulant effects of coffee could lead to a quick burst of energy followed by a crash. More importantly, increased cortisol causes increased anxiety, counteracting the grounding effects of your morning routine and moving you from a place of calm to a heightened fight-or-flight response. But luckily, I've found a solution that maintains the joy of the ritual without undoing the harmonious balance you've set for your day. Instead of my usual black coffee, I opt for hot beverage alternatives like bone broth, hot water with ginger and lemon, or even decaf coffee. These options provide the same comforting warmth and routine without the cortisol spike.
And now, the moment you've been waiting for: once you've enjoyed this peaceful moment with your chosen beverage, you can finally check your phone. By then, you’re not just physically awake but also mentally prepared to engage with whatever the day throws your way.