5-min journal and my morning routine for the New Year

“Win the morning, Win the day.”

I’ll start by stating that I am not a morning person. It takes me a good half hour to warm up to the day, until which I am barely coherent, mostly mute, and altogether miserable. Small children who have made the mistake of jumping into my bed to wake me have been scared off for life.

Nor am I inclined towards daily routines. Force me to follow the same exercise routine or eat the same breakfast every day, and I’ll quit within a week out of sheer boredom.

So why do I nonetheless believe in developing a morning routine? Because I have experienced the consequence of too many crappy mornings leading to crappy afternoons and evenings.

Good habits are the cornerstone of a good life, and their powers are magnified if you can do them in the morning. Why? 1) You are more likely to keep habits if you do them first thing before anything/anyone can get in the way. 2)  You have the most willpower in the morning. 3) You start off the day feeling successful and good about yourself (this one is most compelling to me).

To make my morning routine sustainable, I had to allow myself room for variety. More importantly, it had to be a routine that I would actually enjoy (or I might never get out of bed)! And it couldn’t take more than 30 minutes, since anything more than that would be self-delusion on my part.

So here’s my morning routine:

  1. Clean up: Make the bed, wash up, and change into clothes for the day. This sounds like a given, but when you work from home I can’t tell you how easy it is to stay in your pjs all day and not bother brushing your teeth until you realize your spouse is about to return home from work in an hour. As for making the bed – I would generally do this at some point in the day, but there’s something about doing it as the Very First Thing that is critical to start the day right. A four-star Admiral and Hindu priest agree.
  2. Hydrate: Drink a glass of water, preferably cold. It wakes me up, and I immediately get to knock off one glass from my daily goal of 8.
  3. Energize: Do something that will stimulate my body. If I’m short on time, I do a few sun salutations. If I have the leisure, I go out for a walk or undertake a more ambitious workout routine.
  4. Breakfast well: Eat a hearty, fat/protein heavy breakfast. It makes me feel full and keeps me from eating junk food later. Bacon and eggs are a common choice, as is my green protein smoothie. Anything with a load of peanut butter on top also makes me happy.
  5. 5-minute Journal: Express gratitude and set your intentions for the day. I suck at journaling. In a recent purge of my house, I found boxes of old journals that have been started and never finished. While there are all kinds of proven benefits to journaling (including strengthening immune cells), I have never managed to keep it up as a habit. Enter new approach: The 5-minute Journal. In the morning, I fill out what “I am grateful for…”, “What would  make today great?”, and a daily affirmation. Before bed, I write “3 amazing things that happened today” and “how could I have made today better”? It takes so little time to do, and I honestly believe this has made a real difference in my everyday happiness.

*A frugal tip: The official journal costs $28.95, but save yourself the money and just follow the same outline in any old notebook.

5min journal

Source: 5-minute Journal

6. Get Things Done: Review my goals, set tasks for the day, and tackle the most important task first. I have been a faithful adherent to the GTD method of time management since it first changed my life a few years ago. Seriously – please check out these 5 simple steps that will apply order to your chaos. For the longest time, my efforts to convince my wife to GTD her own life were rebuffed. But then after months of complaining of overwhelm, she let me set up a simple GTD system using her existing Google calendar and the $5.99 app GTasks Pro, and she’s now a convert as well.

So every morning, I review my Project List (e.g. actionable goals from my 90-Day focus plan), set my tasks for the day, and tackle the task that will make the most meaningful impact on my life first.

Easy, right?! No actually, I’m sure it won’t be when I wake up tired and cranky, which is certain to happen shortly (especially with new baby due in just 9 weeks, eek!). Hence, the most important thing that has to happen to make this morning routine work is to change my attitude about who I am in the morning.

The old me thinks: “I am not a morning person. I cannot overcome my  feeling of fatigue and physical discomfort in the morning.”

The new me says: “I have the power to change my attitude in the morning, and therefore the outcome of my day, in spite of how I may feel.”

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