How Do You Start Your Day?

The sun is rising; a full day is ahead of you. From the kitchen table; where do you go from here?

How does your day begin? Are you an early or late riser? Quick to grab your phone to scan e-mails or patient and simply enjoying the process of getting up? I asked these questions about my own daily life a couple of months ago as I became consumed with the Tim Ferriss Show Podcast.  If you haven’t checked it out I encourage you to get on iTunes, search for Tim Ferriss, and scan the list of individuals he interviews to see if anyone interests you. The hook for me was listening to people I found interesting describe not only their morning rituals but the books they read! Ahh books!  (Book nerd note: I actually get excited simply writing down the books that are suggested. The thought of maybe getting a new book is exciting…!)

OK so the hook was interesting people describing their morning routines and what became clear was that many of these individuals, who are highly successful in their careers (Tony Robbins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rick Rubin, Dr. Peter Diamandis, and the list goes on…), all have similarities in their rituals. Suddenly the podcast became a glimpse into the lives of people I look up too and a source of easy to implement “lifehacks” that I could take and try out. Apart from any book recommendation, the morning ritual became something that I honed in on and started to dissect for myself.

“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”-  Buddha

As I began to dissect my own morning ritual there were a few changes that felt like easy to implement “wins” that many people thought were beneficial.  The first was making the bed. My morning starts between 3:45AM and 4:00AM during the week and with my eyes barely open I’d never considered making the bed as I stumble to find clothes and get Edgar outside. The idea is that it’s the first thing you do in the morning and an easy to repeat simple win to start your day. If there was a checklist you’d immediately be able to check the first task off. This positive step setting your mind up for a more productive day seemed reasonable to me. So I gave it a shot. I’m about a month in and although it happens most mornings I have to be honest it doesn’t feel like I’m necessarily winning.  Perhaps I need to stick with it and try to bring a little more awareness to the process. My mind can immediately jump to “Edgar needs to get outside” that I forget to do it until I’m ready to go to work. There are detractors to bed making as some cleanliness experts would disagree with this though so be warned!   Here is an alternative to assuage both sides.  Wake up, make your bed, then when you are about to leave for the day tear it apart.  Problem solved!  Productivity increased and dust mites can’t get cozy.

Edgar then gets the focus of my attention for the next 15 minutes. We get some fresh brisk air, wander around the front lawn, stand around smelling the air, bark at things if it’s deemed necessary, and then head back inside for the most important part of the day; first breakfast (for Edgar). Vitamins, water, espresso. Check. Edgar’s food and vitamins. Check. Then to the reading room after I’ve grabbed my journal.

The morning pages ritual has become one of the best things I’ve added. I generally get 2-3 pages down before I start my 20 minute meditation practice but some of the most interesting ideas come from this 10 minutes. Tim Ferriss’ points out that brain dumping all of the things that come to your mind first thing in the morning helps to clear the cobwebs and junk out of your head for a more clear headed day. I agree. It was actually an idea from Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way who utilizes Morning Pages as a creativity boost.

Typically the morning pages is simply how I’m feeling. It really is anything and everything that comes to mind from worries and concerns to new ideas for a photo, a blog post, or business idea. It even includes things I’m dreading as they approach which you then start to notice as a theme to consider. Put everything on the page because it’s an easy way to get your journal started (if you don’t already have one) for the day and again feels like a positive step towards a good day. Another check mark on the imaginary task list. In general I’ve really loved having a journal by my side now for the last year and a half and this is another way to keep myself positive by getting initial muddy thoughts down on the paper.

Meditation has been, and continues to be, the basis for getting up so early because I truly love sitting and meditating first thing in the morning.  Many of Tim Ferriss’ guests talk about their own meditation practice which is reassuring if for no other reason than hearing about other people enjoying the benefits of a meditation practice. I’ve talked to meditation in the past so I won’t get into it again but rather note it as another key ritual to start my day off right.

It’s then time to get ready for work or the gym depending on if it’s the weekend or not. So to summarize it really is only a few key steps.

  1. Make the Bed
  2. Edgar
  3. Morning Pages
  4. Meditation
  5. Ready to Start the Day

A simple but effective way to start my day and several tasks already completed before I even walk out the door. So what have I noticed? Well besides the benefits of meditation the morning pages has really been the biggest add and win I’ve made. Simply starting my journal early in the morning for some reason unlocks my ability to write during the day if the moment strikes. For the longest time I felt locked in this strange mode of not wanting to write anything or not having anything to write. Morning pages felt as though someone gave took the key from my hand and just opened the door. My pile of empty and waiting journals is now slowly shrinking and I’m on to my third Moleskine notebook since November of last year.

One last note on technology. My phone comes with me simply for the purposes of the Headspace app and my meditation. I’ve found that opening up e-mails, Instagram, Twitter before I’ve done my morning pages or meditation can have an interesting but sometimes negative impact. My mind feels almost sensitive so early and any type of quick negative blast of information can lay a strange tint over the whole process as if my mind is now focused simply on that one point. If you can avoid technology before you get through your meditation and morning pages than I’d suggest taking that step for a clearer mind and more natural outflow of writing. Many of the people who are interviewed have varying opinions on this though. Many check their e-mails first thing to get it out of the way. It really is a personal preference.

Tim Ferriss’ podcast on his morning ritual is what spurned this whole idea on so I encourage you to have a listen to his podcast on morning rituals as well. I’m interested to hear your morning rituals and what you find helps you be more productive and creative. While writing this post Mason Currey’s amazing blog Daily Routine came to mind as well expanding beyond simply the morning and focuses on the day for many famous people throughout history.

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