Revisiting morning routines

Last summer, after reading a book about the morning routines of successful people, I wrote about how high school students should consider their own morning routines and how they may change in college. I’d like to re-post it, but I want to add a few comments first based on feedback I got last year.

First, as anyone who has been in any kind of internet argument has heard, correlation does not equal causation. I don’t believe that meditating, exercising, or drinking water in the morning is what made the people successful. A whole lot goes into making a life where you’re even able to do those things with regularity. What’s more likely is that a lot of hard work, time, and luck made these people successful, and that in turn gave them the time/motivation to do those things. But, as the saying goes, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. And if these are some of the markers of a successful creative career, then it’s still not a bad idea to begin sooner rather than later.

Second, I didn’t make explicit why a high school student might care about the morning routines of successful adults or why a high school student may want to think about morning routines at all. And it boils down to this: once in you’re in college, you have much more control over your schedule and your routines. That comes with greater freedom, and it also comes with greater responsibility. So just as you’re preparing for other aspects of your college life—academic, social, and financial—it would be wise to consider things like time management and routines.

Ok, on to the re-run….

The middle of the summer is the absolute worst time to think about productive morning routines. It's a time meant for staying up late and sleeping even later. Which means, of course, that now is the absolute best time to begin thinking about morning routines! You need to start planning the routine before you need it.

What's got me thinking about morning routines is that I actually read an entire book about morning routines this week: Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander's My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired. I wanted something fairly light and easy to read while on a plane for vacation. I'm also interested in learning how to structure a day. When I was a high school teacher, I didn't need to know how to structure my time. I clocked in every morning, and bells rang every 45 minutes to tell us where to go. At one point we even got a screen at the back of the classroom with a timer ticking down how much time was left each period. But now that I work for myself at home, I'm learning how to make my own productive routines--and how not to make them. After so many years telling students that good time management is the key to success in college and beyond, it's been pretty humbling to have to re-learn time management. I thought the book might help. It didn't.

And honestly, I don't really recommend the book. It's cool to see the variety of ways that successful people spend their mornings to prepare for the day, but it gets kind of boring fast. And I wish I had known before buying the book that it's mostly a compilation of interviews from their website. There are obvious contradictions in the book, because not everyone's ideal morning routine is going to be the same. There is no easy formula. Except...

At the back of the book, and on the website, they have a Statistics section that covers commonalities among the almost 300 interviews they've done. When you look at the big picture, you see that successful people seem to do a lot of the same things in the morning, and they're things that we all can do to get us going in the right direction. For example:

64% meditate or practice yoga in the morning, and 78% exercise in the morning.

Over half eat fruit for breakfast, and over half list "water" as their first drink of the day.

40% of them--working adults, many of them parents--get eight hours of sleep a night.

This is kind of hard for me to write, because I rarely sleep eight hours during the week, never meditate or exercise in the morning, and have several cups of coffee before I even think about water. But that's the point; we can all improve. And it's also comforting to see that some "bad" habits are still quite normal for successful people with strong morning routines: 49% check their email immediately after waking, and 61% check their phone immediately.

One thing I'm learning, often the hard way, is that a habit you should have when you're older is probably a habit you should have had when you were younger. I'm 43, and the past two years have been the first time in my life with a constant and premeditated exercise routine. What prompted it? Taking care of my injured back--a back that probably wouldn't be injured if I had exercised when I was younger. When I think of things I wish I'd had or known when I was in college, basic motivation and routines are high on the list. A car would have been nice, but an understanding of where and when I concentrate best would have been so much nicer. And this is why you need to think about your morning routines now, if you haven't already. There is no better way to begin your day refreshed, focused, and ready for success than planning out how the morning will begin and giving yourself what you need to make the plan work. 

Thanks for reading! Please send this to someone who would like to read it, or share it on your social networks. I’m on my summer schedule, which means I’ll only have posts on Thursday for a while. I’ll be back next week.

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Photo by Zoe Herring.

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