My Secret to Sanity. Routines.

Sites like My Morning Routine make me laugh. It seems most entries are from single, young and/or kid-free individuals reflecting on the optimal window to drink black tea after their sunrise meditation session.

Here is a great example from the site:

“I usually wake up around 8:30 am, without an alarm, and the first thing I do is open the curtains…We live in a cool home my talented architect husband built on a little lake outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, and it has a wall of windows in our bedroom. The first thing I do upon waking is take the little remote controller on my side table to open them and look out. Before I had one of these remotes I didn’t realize they existed, so I get an endless kick out of it. I could open and close that thing all day.”

Are you serious!!?

Here’s my version:

I usually wake up before 6 am after snoozing my five dollar Target alarm clock three times. I head into the kitchen to make my coffee in total darkness sneaking around like a ninja so my kids won’t know I’m awake. Because I can barely see anything I accidentally spill coffee grounds all over the counter while attempting to get a hipster French Press going.

As the coffee is brewing I sit down to meditate in my living room. After several deep inhales and exhales my 3-year-old taps me and I freak out thinking a spider is on my leg. I open my eyes and note the length of my meditation session: 3 minutes. Reese demands the original 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The file seems corrupted and won’t load which derails Reese emotionally. After five minutes of tears and intense negotiations, we settle on the newer 2005 Johnny Depp version

With official meditation over, I sit down at my dining table to read and journal.

Oh crap, I forgot about the coffee. My now totally lukewarm coffee. I head back to the kitchen and my ten-year-old — now awake — intercepts me wanting to cook eggs for breakfast. Yeah, sure.

Eggs turn into her using the full dozen organic eggs and adding green dye in homage to Dr. Seuss. Her little sister wants to “help” and a fight erupts over who will stir in the green food coloring. No one wants to eat the eggs. The eggs go into the trash.

And so my morning routine continues ever so smoothly…

Despite the challenges I can honestly say I do have a daily routine. A routine that is frequently modified, destroyed, skipped, one that took 6 months to develop and still is not easy to 100% nail but a routine nonetheless. A routine that really has made a huge difference in my daily focus and productivity.

There’s a zillion case studies on the positive impact routines create but let me share my more practical viewpoint on the topic.

We live in a highly unstable world.

Everything is changing and churning all around us. We are attacked with nonstop stimuli and decisions we could not predict an hour ago. A good chunk of the people reading this post are pursuing some type of entrepreneurial venture — further fueling the onslaught of unpredictability.

Do not fret. There is a path to sanity and that is through routines.

Routines create a foundation for us to operate from. The more developed our foundation, the more we go through our day as we intended. A less developed or nonexistent routine means we’re subject to the demands of others, ultimately wondering where the day went.

Do you wake up and check your phone, immediately thrown into the chaos of urgent emails and client requests? Or do you take time to mentally wake up and focus on your priorities?

Without a routine, it’s my guess you fall into the first bucket.

So, what makes up a good routine?

Here’s my rough framework:

  • Physical jumpstart — Stretch, run, pushups, yoga
  • Mental focus training — meditation, prayer
  • Learning — Some type of non-fiction book or topic you’re wanting to master
  • Fuel — coffee, protein shake, bulletproof coffee
  • Planning — Outline top priorities, journaling, three things you want to accomplish

Another way to look at a routine is a collection of small individual habits to guide your day.

I’ve talked about the power of habits before and a routine that touches on the right behaviors tend to snowball into more developed long-term habits.

What’s my routine? Plus or minus a lot of variables, it is something like this:

  1. Based on my sleep cycle calculation I try and get out of the bed between 4:45 am and 5:30 am
  2. I head straight to the kitchen and brew a french press of whatever organic single source coffee I got from Amazon the previous week
  3. A quick stretch around whatever aches. Nothing fancy.
  4. Meditate as long as possible in my living room. If I’m not interrupted, I usually max out around 10 minutes. The goal is to intently have a clear mind.
  5. Pray for 5–10 more minutes. The goal is to intently focus on specific issues and topics.
  6. Finish making my coffee drink — add 2 Tbsp of MCT oil, 1 scoop of protein powder and mix with a hand blender
  7. 10–15 minutes of study & journaling. Currently working on William Barclay’s analysis of the book of Matthew.
  8. Review my Things app and pick out the top 3 items to do for the day.
  9. Inbox zero myself

If I get to step 6 before one of my girls gets up, I’m on fire. Usually, I get to step 3 or 4 before I’m interrupted and continue on after I’ve sedated them with Daniel Tiger. If I get to step 9 before the day gets going, that’s a game changer, but it’s hard to reach unless I’m up before 5 am.

The impact of my morning routine has undoubtedly influenced the rest of my day. I feel mentally more focused, ahead of the game and new habits have stemmed since I started.

So ask yourself:

How does your day normally go?

What change do you want in your life?

What are the habits that will get you there?

Once you have a few answers, create a morning routine that includes a few baby steps in the new direction. Do your best to follow it and don’t quit.

Before you know it those baby steps will add up and you’ll be well on your way to mornings lounging in Argentina, playing with your automatic window remote 🙂

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