The Importance of Cultivating a Morning Routine

By Courtney Cho -

Trust us, we know: there’s nothing worse than hearing your alarm go off in the morning. Now that it’s getting darker earlier, and staying darker for longer, leaving the warmth and comfort of bed will only get harder with each passing day. That being said, resisting the siren call of hitting the snooze button in order to get up and make time for yourself has real benefits. Many of the world’s most successful people ­– from Apple CEO Tim Cook to The Huffington Post co-founder Ariana Huffington – all have morning habits they credit with giving them the ability to maximize productivity, minimize stress and show up in the world as their best selves, every single day. Read on for some of our favorite ways to set the tone for the day. (But first, coffee.)

Use the “5-second rule”

Coined by TV host, author and motivational speaker Mel Robbins, the 5-second rule is quite simple, and can apply to anything from waking up when your alarm first goes off to following through on a morning meditation. Robbins writes, “If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.” Once you know there’s something you should do, the method prescribes counting down (out loud or in your head) from 5 all the way to 1… and then going for it. Alarm blaring? 5-4-3-2-1… Whip off those sheets. Trying to avoid heading out for a run? 5-4-3-2-1… Get those sneakers on. It sounds juvenile, but it works because it’s realistic. As Robbins says, “Knowing what to do and why you need to do it will never be enough.” If we all had the intrinsic motivation to follow through on things we know we should do (or need to do) there’d be no need for self-help books. So instead of beating yourself up for always being late to work, try using the 5-second rule when your alarm goes off. You just might get addicted.

Wake up your body

Self-discipline is one of the most critical components of reaching success. “Being successful comes with a litany of things that you’re not going to want to do, but you’re going to have to do them anyway,” says Tom Bilyeu, the co-founder of Quest Nutrition. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Want to build a top-notch company? You’re going to have to grind when you’d rather lounge on your couch and watch TV. Want to get in the best shape of your life? You’re going to have to move and sweat when you’d rather chill out. Discipline is what gets you from point A to point B, and in order to refine this quality, you have to choose an area to develop. Because exercise has so many incredible benefits – both mental (i.e., stimulating creativity) and physical (i.e., detoxing your body) – waking up to some movement will not only get your blood flowing, but will provide you with an energy boost that will power you through the rest of your day. When you start your morning off with some stretching, yoga or even a gym session, you’re giving your body what it needs and getting so much in return. And remember: no one ever says, “Man, I really wish I didn’t work out.” You’ll feel so good, you’ll want to do it tomorrow.

Exercise your mind

Now that you’ve got your body awake, it’s time to do the same for your brain. We live in a crazy-hectic world and are constantly inundated with news alerts, emails, to-do lists, phone calls and meetings – it’s no wonder there’s a wellness revolution taking place. Before you jump into the cesspool of chaos that is the modern workday, make sure you’ve checked in with yourself first. How? Through meditation. Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of the world’s largest hedge fund firm, once stated, “Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient in whatever success I’ve had.” Oprah Winfrey, who is a huge fan of transcendental meditation, has said she sits in silence for 20 minutes a day, twice a day. The scientific benefits of meditation are well-documented, as are the not-so-science based observations (“I just feel like everything is much more manageable after I open my eyes,” says one PR executive we know). Whether you use a guided meditation (try the Calm and/or Headspace app, or look up free Youtube videos) or just choose to sit for 10 minutes focusing on your breath, it’s worth it. As the Zen proverb goes, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

Be Grateful

According to psychology research published in Harvard Health Publications, “Gratitude is strongly and consistently linked with greater happiness.” When it comes to how your mood affects your day, there’s no question that feeling positive and optimistic helps with your interpersonal relationships, ability to navigate and pivot throughout your day, and even boosts your immune system. The first step toward building resilience and bringing more joy into your life starts with keeping a daily gratitude journal (though we recommend having a set place to write your list, a scrap piece of paper works, too – whatever it takes!). We like to fill a whole page of things we’re grateful for, but if you’re new to the process, start with five – and make them specific. When you’re first starting out, you might struggle with finding things to write down and might even feel like you’re forcing it. That’s okay. Be thankful you’re even making the effort, and keep going. When in doubt, keep it simple: We can all be grateful for sunshine, for warm showers, for clean drinking water, for good music and for hot coffee. Once you realize how much beauty there is to be found in the simple, your list will start expanding and you’ll see opportunities for gratitude everywhere, from the delicious smelling hand soap in your bathroom to your perfectly working car. And then, once you’re really in your groove, you’ll see some truly amazing things pop-up in your journal, like the wonderful moment you and your boss shared during lunch, and the way your heart fluttered when you saw your kids playing in the living room when you got home.

Set your own priorities

Before you launch into your inbox and conquer your day, don’t forget to take a minute to create your to-do list. If you don’t run your life and prioritize your time, you better believe that somebody else will. Once you’re ready to get your work started, sit down and determine what needs immediate action and what can wait. Then use the 5-second rule and conquer the most pressing issues first – the ones most important and impactful to you/your business – before moving onto the other tasks. There’s a method to this madness, too – by “eating your frogs” first (i.e., doing the tasks that feel daunting and tempting to procrastinate on, but are important nonetheless), you not only create momentum for more productivity, but clear the way for the tasks and activities you really want to fit in to your day.

Whether you’re looking for some inspired motivation, or just needing to get out of your daily rut, cultivating and establishing a morning routine can change your life for the better. Every single person is different, so tailor your routine with the tips and tricks that appeal most to you – but remember, you are training your discipline muscle, so be sure to follow through on the methods you choose. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so take care of yourself first.

What are your favorite morning habits? Do you have any tips we didn’t mention here? Let us know what you think in the comments below!