011 – The Life-Changing Power of Morning Routines

011 - The Life-Changing Power of Morning Routines

What do Ernest Hemingway, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Maya Angelou, Anthony Bourdain, and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have in common? They are early to rise.

They all understand the power of an early morning routine and the morning rituals that practically guarantee success.

 One of the most famous early risers was Ben Franklin, he of the immortalizing “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise…” Franklin woke at 5 a.m. and asked himself, “What good shall I do this day?” He would then plunge into reading, writing, and other work, along with a full social life, until finally retiring to bed at 10 p.m.

No other aspect of Franklin’s daily schedule stands out other than his morning routine to rise early, begin thinking about the most important to-do for the day, start work, and be unfaltering in this routine.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche held a similar dedication to waking up early. He rose before dawn, washed in cold water, drank some warm milk, and worked uninterrupted until 11 a.m. Both of these men recognized the power of getting to work early before anyone else was up to distract them.

But it isn’t just leaders who wake up early. Even artists know the morning hours are sacred.

  • Ludwig von Beethoven kept a ritual of waking at dawn, drinking his morning coffee (obsessively counting out 60 beans per cup), and composing until early afternoon.
  • Tchaikovsky, who composed such classics as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, got up before 8 a.m., read, went for a walk, completed the chores he most disliked, and sat down to compose at 9:30 a.m.
  • Victor Hugo, the mind behind Les Miserables, rose at dawn, took coffee, ate two raw eggs, then wrote until 11:00 a.m.
  • Maya Angelou also had a ritual to write in the morning. She got up at 5:30 a.m., had coffee by 6 a.m. and left the house to go to a hotel room, which she kept to do her writing. There, her ritual was to work until 2 p.m.

And yes, even entertainers wake up early.

Former professional WWE wrestler turned highest-paid actor in the world turned possible presidential candidate, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wakes up at 4 a.m., drinks coffee, and then hits the gym. Johnson wrote on Instagram, “I’m up at 4 am daily and puttin’ in the hard work that I already know my competition is not willin’ to do. If they’re willin’ to get up at 4, then you bet your butt I’m gettin’ up at 3.” This post accompanied an image of Johnson lifting weights and was taken on his birthday.

My friend Bedros Keuilian says, How you do anything is how you do everything, and how you start your day is how you live your life. Start with energy, conviction, and direction; your life will be full of success, happiness, and fulfillment. By the same standard, if you start your day behind the eight ball, you’ll struggle more to optimize your health, wealth, and mental capacity.

Clearly one of the secrets to success is waking up early.

What I’ve discovered in my extensive research on morning routines is that idea has been a constant throughout history, in every religion, in every tribe, and on every continent. If you’re looking for the slight edge for greater performance, or if you’re simply looking for a key building block in your foundation of success, then creating an effective morning routine is probably the missing link.

And best of all, it’s completely within your reach.

Science Says Waking Up EARLY Will Make You Better

But if you’re not one of the 20% of the population that finds it easy to wake up at 5 am, don’t worry.

First, you don’t have to get up that early. Second, even getting up just 15 minutes earlier than you do now can be enough to bring your greater wealth, health, and wisdom, as Ben Franklin promised.

However, the worst thing you can do is to hit the snooze button. When you do that, you’re telling your hopes and dreams that they can wait, and that’s the last message you want to put in your mind to kick off the morning.

Hitting snooze also makes the wake-up process physically more difficult.

Some experts say, “the harder we feel it is for us to wake up, the worse we think we’ve slept.” And hitting the snooze button makes us feel that way. So don’t! Add “hitting snooze” to your not to-do list.

If you’re sitting there thinking, but Craig, getting up at any time in the morning is difficult for me, then check this out… Basic training for the US military consists of reshaping men and women with disparate backgrounds into a well-oiled early morning machine.

In military basic training, there’s no such thing as sleeping in. You’ll get up at 5 a.m., every single day. Waking up in the morning is an adjustment process that’s the same for every basic training class. When you first arrive, the drill instructors require a lot of noise, yelling, and jostling to get everyone out of the rack. Then, sometime around week 4, all it takes is for the drill instructor to enter the room in the early morning and quietly say, “Get up,” and everyone pops out of their bunks immediately and begins their morning routine. It’s an amazing adjustment. 

That’s why the Army’s slogan is, “We get more done before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.”

Listen, it’s just the way of the world, especially the western world. Life has been constructed to reward people that get up early. It’s easier to achieve victories and make progress. And it’s more frustrating and causes more anxiety when you get up late.

I know from experience.

In 2006 I had the worst morning routine for my chronological clock and mood. I’d wake up at 7:30 am and immediately feel like I was late for something even though at the time I was working for myself, and could wake and work whenever I wanted. But I felt like I was chasing the tail of the world. Worse still, I’d immediately check my email, often finding one negative email out of the 20 in my inbox that would put me in a negative mood.

I’d lose my morning every single day from the lack of successful morning routine.

Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day hunting for it. – Richard Whately

But when I changed and got up a few minutes earlier each morning, success started coming easier and faster into my life.

The Research of Why Early Risers Are More Successful

I won’t bore you with all of the research showing that morning people are more optimistic, agreeable, and conscientious than night owls. It’s like Tigger vs. Garfield. Tigger is energetic, and Garfield is grumpy. Sure it makes for good laughs, but you don’t want to go through life in a Garfield mood.

One study worth mentioning is the Research from the University of Texas that found college students who identified as “morning people” earned a full point higher on their GPA than self-proclaimed “night owls.”

Also, it takes more discipline to be a night owl. Sure it sounds sexy to be working late, like the cool kids in college cramming for an exam, but with Netflix, kids, a spouse, and a million other distractions and temptations these days, it’s harder to actually get any work done late at night.

Even worse, research shows that “night owls” are more likely to be obese, physically inactive, and wasting time watching TV or on social media than early birds. They also smoke and drink more. Having the munchies, eating pizza, and watching movies till 3 am is cool when you’re 18, but not when you’re 38, 28, or even 23.

Finally, research shows that getting to sleep earlier gives you up to 90 minutes of deeper sleep.

Let’s talk morning routines:

According to the New York Times, “a morning routine reduces decision fatigue and can help you be more productive through the day.”

  • Jesus practiced early Morning Prayer routine before traveling to new towns to teach and heal.
  • Buddha’s routine began at 4 a.m. at noon and consisted of meditating and then going out to help the needy
  • The Dalai Lama recommends rising early for meditation.
  • People living in 1920s Japan practiced Rajio Taiso every morning, simulating a short circuit of dynamic stretching, joint mobility exercises, and bodyweight drills. This was done by both young and old to piano music broadcast over Japanese public radio. Today, around 20% of the population still carries out this morning routine.
  • In India, many follow ancient healing practices that put an emphasis on a balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Many practitioners choose to start their day with rituals.
  • German philosopher Immanuel Kant also woke at 5 a.m., being roused by his servant Martin Lampe who was under orders to be persistent so that Kant would not sleep longer. “Kant was proud that he never got up even half an hour late, even though he found it hard to get up early,” according to a biographer. “After getting up, Kant would drink one or two cups of tea — weak tea. With that, he smoked a pipe of tobacco…He then prepared his lectures and worked on his books until 7:00. His lectures began at 7:00, and they would last until 11:00.

What’s astounding about this trend is that you might believe waking early is only beneficial for advanced thinkers, academics, or Wall Street executives, but the habit has been credited amongst the best, most successful people in almost every profession.

This is one of my favorite stories

The famous American dancer and choreographer, Twyla Tharp, extolls in her book The Creative Habit, “I begin each day of my life with a ritual.” Hers begins at 5:30 a.m., where she wakes and puts on workout clothes, walks outside her Manhattan home, hails a taxi, and goes to the Pumping Iron gym to work out for two hours. “The ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go, I have completed the ritual.” She adds that this ability to harness the power of morning ritual is transferable to all other areas of her creative, professional, and personal life.

The brash and bold chef Anthony Bourdain, even during his time working the line, would get up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. to start typing his book Kitchen Confidential— which is a really, really great book and this is coming from someone that doesn’t cook!

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright drew out the sketches of what would become some of the most profound architecture of the modern age between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. when his “mind’s clear.”

Horror writers, like Stephen King and Anne Rice, write their creepy novels before noon!

And perhaps my favorite story of a night owl turning into an early riser is Neil Strauss. He used to write for Rolling Stone and stayed up all night with bands like Motley Crue. But one day he decided to flip the script and become an early riser. When he did, he confirmed that the morning schedule allowed him to get more done.

What Not to Do in a Morning Routine 

Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that what you do NOT do is sometimes more important than what you do actually do. For example, if you’re an alcoholic, it doesn’t matter if you say the serenity prayer every day and go to weekly AA meetings if you also keep alcohol in your home. That mistake is worse than all the good.

Same goes with a morning routine…you should not:

  • Hit snooze
  • Wake up without a plan
  • You must not over plan, either

First, We Must Get You to Bed on Time So You Don’t Snooze

Electronics, television shows, alcohol, and caffeine are the four horsemen of missed bedtimes. Stop wasting time on social media and email, limit yourself to one TV show per night, and cut out electronics an hour before bed, alcohol late at night, and caffeine after noon. Set an alarm an hour before bed and start a wind-down ritual then so you fall asleep faster!

 Planning Ahead

According to The New York Times, only 10% of people properly plan their days the night before. But you need to plan tonight for the perfect tomorrow. I recommend you do this before dinner, rather than before bed. One of the biggest mistakes people make is waiting until the morning to begin planning their day.

Andrew Carnegie, the famous steel magnate of the early 1900’s, knew that you should finish each day listing your top 3-5 tasks for tomorrow before you go home at night.

Doing this has two benefits. First, it tells your subconscious mind to work on these problems while you sleep (and when you wake up, you focus your fifteen minutes in the morning on turning your overnight ideas into moneymaking solutions). Second, it allows you to get off to a fast start in the morning, rather than wasting time getting organized.

Saying No to Over-planning

We’ve already covered the adverse effects of hitting snooze, but less mentioned are the negative impacts of over-planning. If you notice from the morning routine examples above, the most successful ones are simple. They are made up of small action cues that set you up for success.

Article lists from popular publications claiming, “The 14 Things Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” or “8 Things Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” are misleading. Don’t worry about small stuff. Focus on the big rocks. Keep your list short and powerful.

Three Parts to a Perfect Morning Routine: Cleanse, Center, Kickstart

Let me tell you an incredible story about how the perfect morning routine changed someone’s life:

Kerri Baker, a personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist, was struggling to find her passion and purpose after her younger brother died. She relied on alcohol to numb the pain and pass the hours of the day. Then she read my book, The Perfect Day Formula and created daily routines and personal discipline.

At first, she rejected the idea, then when she heard the Perfect Day Formula helped me overcome anxiety, her resistance dropped. The morning after starting the book, Kerri got up at 5 a.m. and began to use the power of morning routine to change her life. Within three months she reported feeling completely transformed. She had dropped 10 pounds, 6% body fat, was meditating every day and leading her clients to new levels of energy and engagement. All because one morning she made the decision to harness the power of a morning routine.

Baker’s story proves that there are really only three elements to a successful morning routine that need to be accounted for. Those are Cleanse, Center, and Kickstart.

Breaking down the elements, cleansing is the action of refreshing the body in some way, whether it’s using vitamins or drinking plain old water. The simple act of washing away the stale and the tired, whether it’s an internal cleansing or a bracing shower, resets us physically, a kind of “rebooting.” Like a shock to the system and a clear divide between slumber and wakefulness.

Centering then becomes the act of creating a level plane to operate from, and should somehow prepare you mentally for the Kickstart, which needs to relate to your biggest goal or to-do for the day.

Bedros Keuilian

  • Cleanse: Drink water
  • Center: Take the dog Cookie for a walk
  • Kickstart: Five-minute gratitude exercise

Craig Ballantyne

  • Cleanse: Organify, Vitamin C, glutamine
  • Center: Time with the dog
  • Kickstart: Open iTunes and listen to the same Arthur Rubenstein recording of Frederic Chopin’s Nocturnes, and my brain says time to write 1000 words.

Once you’ve kickstarted the day, there’s a way to dial it in even more for domination.

And you can do this in just 15 minutes.

Here’s Why The 15-Minute Wake-Up Hack Works so Well

Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of the Chrysler Motor Company, once complained he didn’t have a spare fifteen minutes per workday to focus on the big issues. Everyone suffers from a lack of time, and you’re not going to find time for what matters you have to MAKE time. And you make that time by getting up 15 minutes early each day to dominate your morning routine.

What you’ll find in those 15 minutes is a quiet space that exists nowhere else in your day. The kids aren’t running around the kitchen, but instead it’s dark and quiet. There are no phones ringing or buzzing. The office is empty and you can focus completely on your top priority.

You are controlling your morning and owning your life.

Even Hemingway, despite his legendary hangovers, would write at 6 a.m. because “There is no one there to disturb you.” He said in an interview with The Paris Review, “I write every morning as soon after first light as possible… and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write… You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again…. It is the wait until that next day that is hard to get through.”

There’s creative power in the first 15 minutes of the morning, and you’ll find very few people take advantage of it. I used this approach to go from struggling and broke personal trainer to being financially free.

But to Have a Perfect Morning, You Must Get to Bed on Time: The 10-3-2-1-0 Formula

For years the successful entrepreneur and CEO of Fit Body Boot Camp International, Bedros Keuilian, struggled to control his mornings because he felt rushed throughout the day, which then led to strong feelings of anxiety in the afternoon and evening. He put into place a new system of waking up earlier, plus other daily habits outlined in The Perfect Day Formula, which changed his living structure completely.

Keuilian says, “The system helped me overcome afternoon anxiety, gave me control of my day again, and helped create more time in the evening to enjoy my family rather than play catch up. I no longer work in the evenings and that means my work is of better quality because I think and process better in the mornings.”

He concludes, “The single most important factor in winning your mornings and owning your days is to get up 15 minutes earlier and work on your number one priority before anyone else is awake.”

Going to sleep at the right time is much like getting up earlier: it’s the simplest of tasks that feel as though it takes a horde of discipline. Without using willpower or wishes, the 10-3-2-1-0 Formula is currently the most successful system that allows for early to bed, early to rise.

How it works:

  • 10 hours before bed – No more caffeine
  • 3 hours before bed – No more food or alcohol
  • 2 hours before bed – No more work
  • 1 hour before bed – No more screen time (turn off all phones, TVs, and computers)
  • 0 – The number of times you will hit the snooze button in the morning

Stop drinking all caffeinated beverages 10 hours before bed. This is generally the amount of time required for your body to clear it from the bloodstream and eliminate its stimulatory effects.That seems like a long time, but the metabolic half-life of caffeine is over 5 hours. In the ten hours since lunchtime, that 200mg cup of coffee still has 50mg in your system.

Finish eating big meals and drinking alcohol 3 hours before bed. This will help you avoid heartburn (gastric reflux) and interrupted sleep. Alcohol might make you feel sleepy, but it impairs your natural sleep cycle and interrupts valuable deep sleep. The reflux is partially positional – stomach contents, like any liquids, move when you lay down. Better to have an empty stomach.

End all work-related activities 2 hours before bed. No more taking phone calls, checking emails, reading reports, or thinking about tomorrow.

*At this point, plan for tomorrow by scripting your day, including a Brain Dump. This takes five minutes and requires nothing more than a blank piece of paper and a pen. “Write down everything going through your head. Write fast and furious. Get it all out. Now take that paper and set it aside, perhaps in your office or at the front door under your car keys. Now forget about it for the rest of the day. It can wait until tomorrow. That will help clear your mind.”

Turn off all electronics 1 hour before bed. The blue light emitted from screens makes it difficult to fall asleep. Spend the final hour reading real books, talking with your spouse, meditating, taking a bath, or enjoying other activities in the privacy of your bedroom – but do not use your iPhone or tablet.

Hit the snooze the next morning 0 times. This is the last temptation to avoid. If you wake up to the sound of an alarm, you will be tempted to hit the snooze button. Don’t. Not only will it make you late for your scripted day and interfere with winning your morning, but going back to sleep for a few minutes actually makes you more tired than if you had started your day immediately. Many people who adopt this routine find they wake up slightly before the alarm goes off. They wake up naturally and shut the alarm off before it sounds.

If you must and if you can, place your alarm across the room, making you get up, leave your bed, and walk a few steps before you can turn it off. “By then, you’re more awake and it’s easier to resist the allure of snoozing.” A second, more stoic, approach is to “internalize the benefits of getting up immediately,”

“Remember why you are doing this. It’s your one and only life, one that is not rewarded for staying in bed, one that does not move forward because you stole an extra five minutes of sleep. If you want more sleep, you need to get to bed earlier, not wake up later.”

“Making a lot of money is great,” says Bedros, “but having the freedom to enjoy it without the feeling of stress and anxiety is happiness.”

Final Takeaway: Morning Routines Allow you To Own Your Life

Morning routines kickstart the habits that dictate our health, wealth and mental well-being. Every wise sage understands the power of quiet time in the morning and warns of the folly of trying to succeed late at night. If you want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, make time in the morning for what matters.

This is how you get ahead in life.

I’d love to hear about your morning routines for success and your cleanse-center-kickstart rituals. Please send your success stories about the power of the morning to Support@earlytorise.com or on Instagram, or Twitter.

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