Create Your Morning Routine With Habit Stacking
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Most of my adult life, I haven't been a “morning person.” If I could sleep late and begin my day slowly, I would. But most of the time I couldn't.
Although I wasn't a morning person, I was (and am) a responsible person, so if school, work, children, or any other pressing situation required I get up early, I would drag myself out of bed and get going. And that was most days.
Now my children are grown, and I work from home, so I can get up and start my day any time I wish. But ironically, I now enjoy getting up early. One reason is because I am passionate about the work I'm doing as an online entrepreneur, coach, and author. Also, I've learned how critical morning habits are to the entirety of your day. In fact, what you do every morning can make a huge difference in your success and quality of life.
Whether or not you're a morning person, I’m sure you’ve had those days when you got started on the wrong foot. Maybe you slept too late, rushed through your morning routine, skipped breakfast, raced to work, and then felt tired and overwhelmed the rest of the day.
If you have too many days like that, it can really drag you down and impact your productivity and your mental and physical well-being.
Since it's the start of a new year, and you're likely to be thinking about positive changes to make over the next few months, I’d like to suggest you consider a stack of positive morning habits that you build one after the other, until you have a morning routine that zips along on autopilot.
One of the beautiful things about habits is that you can use every habit you create as a trigger for a new habit. Triggers are the automatic behaviors we attach to any new habit we are trying to learn in order to remind us to perform the new habit. One of the main strategies for forming sustainable habits is using something you do daily, like brushing your teeth, as a trigger to perform the habit you're trying to create.
So you can begin a program of “habit stacking” that allows you to eventually accomplish a series of great habits, one after another, first thing in the morning. And you can use each of the habits you accomplish as the trigger for the next one.
So let’s talk about what some of those morning habits in your stack should be. There are certain habits that you’ll find successful people follow every morning to set them up for a productive day. There are others that are just important for your health and general well-being. A combination of these makes for a power-packed morning that leads to a great day.
Here's a great morning routine you can create by stacking small habits:
1. Waking Up Earlier
The first morning habit to consider is waking up early. Waking early is an advanced habit as it requires you to overcome the very powerful urge to fall back asleep. The key is to start really small, as you do with any new habit. Rather than setting your alarm an hour earlier, which is a big jolt to your system, start by setting it five minutes earlier, and then increase the time over several weeks until you reach your desired wake-up time.
Waking earlier has so many benefits, not the least of which is giving you more time to perform other habits in the morning. Even if your ultimate goal is only fifteen minutes earlier, you can get a lot accomplish in fifteen minutes.
2. Making Your Bed
The next morning habit to add to your stack is making your bed as soon as you get up. Bed making is a “keystone habit” — one that inspires you to accomplish other positive actions more easily. By making your bed right away, you’ve already tackled your first task of the day. And your trigger for making it is getting out of it. It really only takes a minute or so to make your bed, and you’ll feel great when you do.
3. Drinking Water/Taking Meds
The next habit I perform first thing in the morning is drinking a full glass of water. I go immediately from making the bed to the bathroom sink and drink water. If you take vitamins or other medications, this is a great time to maintain that habit. Put your water glass and medications together by the sink, and use making your bed as your trigger.
4. Flossing Your Teeth
Now while you are standing there by your sink, why not knock out flossing and brushing your teeth? So many people have a hard time remembering to floss, but flossing is not only important for your oral health, it’s also critical for your heart health. If you don’t already have this as a habit, it’s a really important one to add to your morning routine.
You might keep a basket or tray by your sink with your water glass, medications, floss, and toothbrush. You can accomplish all of these habits in about two minutes.
The next morning habit to consider adding is exercise. Although I like to exercise mid-afternoon, many people prefer to get it out of the way in the morning because it energizes them for the rest of the day.
Let’s say you want to exercise in the morning, but you haven’t created the habit because you don’t have the time or hate to exercise. With any new habit, you must start really small — with just five minutes. So combining an early waking habit with an exercise habit could work perfectly.
When you wake five minutes earlier, you’ll have an extra five minutes to devote to exercise. As you increase your wake-up time, you can increase your exercise time. I’d suggest in the beginning, you perform your exercise in your bedroom or somewhere nearby to maximize your time.
You could do five minutes of jumping jacks, or pop in an exercise DVD, or do my favorite exercise and jump on a rebounder. As you work up to thirty minutes, then consider taking your exercise outside if you wish.
6. Eating A Healthy Breakfast
When you finish exercising, this is the perfect time to improve your eating habits. Exercise also is a keystone habit that inspires you to improve other parts of your life. So use exercise as the trigger to make a healthy fruit and veggie smoothie or a high protein breakfast of an egg white omelette with spinach.
I scramble an egg with a little cheese and spinach in the microwave for about 30 seconds, and it comes out perfectly. The entire process takes less than two minutes.
So already in the first fifteen minutes of your day, you’ve awakened five minutes earlier, triggering you to make your bed, which triggers you to drink water, take your meds, and floss your teeth. This routine triggers you to do five minutes of exercise, which is your cue to fix yourself a healthy breakfast.
If you can accomplish this much alone in the morning, that’s an amazing way to start your day. I’d suggest you begin with the wake-up habit and work on that for a few weeks at the five to ten minute earlier time, as it’s the hardest habit to establish. Then begin adding the other habits one at a time until they feel automatic.
7. Writing Down Daily Goals
If you want to continue stacking your morning habits, here are a few more to consider. Use your healthy breakfast as the trigger to write down three main goals you want to accomplish for your day.
Be sure to put the hardest task at the top so you can knock it out first. This won’t be all of your tasks for the day, but these are the goals you’re determined to complete no matter what..
8. Visualizing Success
Once you write them down, take a minute to visualize yourself accomplishing them. Visualization has been proven to help you reach results faster, as you are triggering a response in your brain that supports your actual real world efforts.
9. Meditating for Five Minutes
While you have your eyes closed, this is a great time to add a brief meditation habit. Just five minutes of meditation can help your focus, productivity, and peace of mind for the rest of the day.
Meditation has so many health benefits as well, and it's a habit I use regularly to recharge during the day.
10. Connecting with Your Family
One hugely important habit to include in your morning is a few minutes to connect with your family members.
You might do this as part of your healthy breakfast habit, or maybe you use the time after meditation to intentionally hug your spouse and kids and tell them how much you love them.
Communicate with your spouse and family members about your plans. Maybe they’ll want to join you, or at least support you in your efforts.
Now imagine your mornings streamlined with a series of habits, one after the other, creating a great routine of early waking, making your bed, taking your meds and flossing your teeth, exercising, eating a healthy breakfast, setting your goals, visualizing, meditating, and connecting with your family.
Wouldn’t that be an amazing way to start your day?
What is your morning routine? Is it working the way you want it to work? What habits would you like to stack to create a perfect, productive way to begin your day? Please share your ideas in the comments below.