I just finished a 30 Day Trial to set up the habit of using a morning ritual. After using the habit for over a month I’ve been able to gain an extra hour each day. Because using a morning ritual has also given me greater control over how my time is spent, I’ve been able to squeeze out an extra hour and thirty minutes of useful time every day.
What is a Morning Ritual?
How often do you hear your alarm, silence it with the snooze button once or twice and drag yourself to make that first pot of coffee? The idea behind a morning ritual is to take the pain out of waking up by making it automatic. A well-designed morning ritual also offers you extra time in the quieter hours of the morning to devote to something important.
My morning ritual was fairly simple:
- Wake up at 5:30 each morning.
- Do a few push-ups to shake off any remaining grogginess.
- Read for 90 minutes.
A couple of the benefits I’ve noticed from using this ritual for the past month:
- Easier to wake up. For you night-owls, it may seem hard to believe that waking up earlier would be easier than staying in bed. But if you can wake up at the same time consistently it takes a lot of the pain out of deciding to get up or sleep in.
- Increased strength. Improving how many pushups I could do wasn’t the motivation for starting this habit, but when I started I did around 45 pushups each morning and now I do 55-60 (the most I’ve ever done is 100). My benchpress also went up from 165 to 185 lbs.
- Read more books. Adding the extra ninety minutes of reading time puts me back on schedule to read about 60-70 books each year. With all my in-class reading, assignments and work, my rate was slipping. It’s nice to bring back the literary gluttony.
- An extra hour each day. My wake-up time went from 7:00 to 5:30 or 1.5 hours earlier, but my sleeping time only went back about 30 minutes. This means an extra hour awake each day.
This isn’t actually the first time I’ve set up a morning ritual. Over a year ago I set up the habit of waking up at 5:30 and starting each morning with a half-hour jog. That habit didn’t last too long as I started to face the Canadian winters, but it was still a useful experiment.
How to Set Up Your Own Morning Ritual
Here are a few suggestions for how you can set up your own morning ritual to get an extra hour out of the day and invest it somewhere useful:
- Pick a Wake-Up Time. I decided to go with 5:30. Depending on your schedule and social calendar, you might want to go with an earlier or later time. I find that waking up earlier tends to afford more quiet hours, but if you live by yourself this might not be a big issue.
- Pick Your Investment. With this morning ritual I wanted to invest the gained time in reading. I’m a big fan of consuming ideas as a way to hack reality. Other good investments for your morning ritual include:
- Exercise – Jog, hit the gym or stretch to start your day.
- Projects – Get some work done on your novel, website or building the next killer app.
- Study – Learn something new, build skills or practice an ability.
- Set a 30 Day Trial. The core element in changing habits for myself has always been the 30 Day Trial. This great tool, first proposed by Steve Pavlina, forces you to focus on the hardest part of changing behaviors–getting through the initial conditioning phase.
- Get Moving. The hardest part of waking up early is getting over that initial grogginess where you might easily drift back to sleep. My solution was to do a few pushups right after waking up. By getting yourself moving you can boost your heart rate, making it easier to keep from falling back to sleep.
- Procrastinate the Unimportant. Aside from putting on clothes and using the washroom, my morning ritual started immediately after I woke up. Don’t delay your ritual by eating breakfast, answering e-mail or having a shower.
- Write it Down. As always, I find writing down any habits I take on to be helpful in making them stick. If you don’t write down exactly when you’ll wake up and what you’ll do when you wake up it’s easy to go back on your commitment.
- Stay Consistent. Stick to your wake-up time or investment plan for the whole thirty days. If you skip a day or two throughout the trial you sabotage your efforts in making the habit stick. When I did this that meant a very early start to my Christmas morning and New Years Day.
- Work on Something You Care About. This should be so obvious it doesn’t need mentioning, but it’s easy to setup a habit because you feel you should rather than you really want to. Studying because you feel you need to rather than reading more books about subjects that fascinate you. Pick an investment that you’ll be really happy about waking up an hour earlier to work on.