Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Dave Bonollo. Without my morning routine, I’d be a complete wreck. So I’m excited to share Dave’s tips on how a solid morning routine can be the most important part of your day. Ok, take it away, Dave…
“What time is it?”
“Alright, I guess it’s time to wake up now.”
This was my inner dialogue from middle school to my late 20’s anytime I had a day off. I loved to sleep, still do—but I never felt like I was getting closer to the man I envisioned I would be.
However, there was something missing. My life had no purpose. I never felt fulfilled. I was just going through the motions. I was angry at the world and most of all, myself.
The only thing I had to look forward to was retirement in 40 years (I hoped). I never felt that I was any better as a man at 28 than I was at 14.
That is when I started to look at my life—and more specifically my daily routine—to figure out where I was going wrong.
- Video games. Check.
- TV. Check.
- Drinking. Check.
- Learning. Nope.
- Reading. Nope.
- Becoming better each day. Nope.
When I saw that fitness and exercise was missing, I knew I needed to fit that into my daily schedule. The only logical place was the morning.
My motto became: Get yourself done before the distractions of the world take over. The only limiting factor would be what I did, and I did have control over that.
My life has never been the same since. If I am ever interviewed by Lewis Howes or Tim Ferriss, this will be the first inflection point to all my life successes.
Here are 8 tips that have helped me win the morning while growing in my career, my relationship with my wife, and in my personal endeavors. Most importantly, they have helped me become a man I am proud of and that my parents are proud to call their son.
1. Wake Up Early
Most people get up anywhere between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m. for work or school.
Unfortunately, that time of the morning is full of distractions.
If you are serious about winning the morning, you need time for yourself. No kids, no email, no phone calls.
In our world of constant immediate notifications, time alone without distractions is worth the price of admission in itself.
Sure you will be tired at first, but like anything else, you will get used to it.
If you are worried about going to bed early, forget it. Getting up at 3:30-4:00 a.m. a few days in a row will take care of that problem on its own.
During the week I get up at 3:30 a.m., which gives me enough time to do everything I need to do before I leave the house at 4:30.
Action Step: Aim to get up at least an hour before the next person in your household and give yourself enough time to perform your normal morning routine (hygiene, getting dressed, etc.).
2. Avoid Email
Do not check email, social media, or even if you won the weekly fantasy football.
The world continued to spin while you were asleep; it can wait another hour.
By checking emails, there will inevitably be one that ruins your mood and keeps you on the pissed-off spiral all day. Save yourself the aggravation and hold off on everything internet-related until you are at work.
This is your time. In order for everyone to get the best you that day, you need to start off on the right foot. Protect it like you would protect your kids.
Action Step: Keep your phone in airplane mode or just ignore notifications until you get to work.
3. Make Your Bed
Think back to a time when you woke up and then plopped down on the couch to watch TV. My guess is not too much got done that day.
A small morning chore can do wonders to help you complete more tasks during the rest of the day. Plus, it gives you a sense of accomplishment. If the world goes to hell that day, at least you accomplished something.
However, if your wife or girlfriend is still in bed, I would advise against trying to make it. They frown upon having the light turned on that early in the morning.
In that instance, fill the dishwasher, put the dishes away or tidy up in the living room. Besides starting your day with a feeling of accomplishment, you earn brownie points with your significant other.
I empty the dishwasher and take care of the dog, this way I am primed to conquer the world each day.
Action Step: Find something small that you can do in 2-5 minutes without disturbing the household.
4. Eat a Protein-Based Breakfast
Protein is not just for bodybuilders. Protein in the morning is a game-changer.
Whether you lift weights or not, protein in the morning will do a few things that bagels and cereals cannot do:
- It keeps you full longer because it takes more energy to digest than bagels and cereals. Plus, you are less likely to stop as you pass a doughnut shop.
- It does not spike your insulin like sugars would. This prevents shuttling the unused sugars from the bagels and cereal to your waistline.
- You are more alert. Protein, broken down, provides amino acids which help stimulate the brain. Carbohydrates activate serotonin, which makes you more tired.
Action Step: Aim for around 30g of protein for breakfast, which could come in the form of eggs (3-4 large eggs), a protein shake or any lean meats like turkey or chicken (4oz.).
5. Focus on the Calmness
There is not a more relaxing feeling than going outside at 3:00 a.m. in the Fall. There is complete silence. No cars. No basketballs bouncing. No wildlife making noises. It is nothingness and it is wonderful to experience.
I try to focus on the calmness and truly enjoy the present moment during my morning routine.
We tend to go through life thinking about everything other than the present and miss the beauty that is all around us.
Take a few minutes a day and enjoy it. It does amazing things to your state of mind and your outlook on the day. I have found a general calmness and I am able to better handle problems later in the day when I do this.
Action Step: Get outside and embrace the world around you for 1-2 minutes.
6. Read a Book
I added this leisure activity to my morning routine in the beginning of 2016 and it is by far the best thing I have done this year. I have read more books in the last 10 months than in the previous 32 years combined.
Books open up your mind to topics and different ways of thinking better than any other medium.
Read books that interest you—not just because everyone else likes them. Reading fiction would be torture for me. I read what I want to improve on. As of right now, it is marketing and making money online.
To truly become better every day, you need to expand your mind in different ways.
Tony Robbins once said that he would read everything when he was younger because he did not have the mentors around him to learn from—so the books became his mentors. The same holds true for me.
Action Step: Take 15-20 minutes to read something you want to learn in the morning.
7. Make a Plan
I need plans in my life or I end up getting lost in the rabbit hole that is YouTube when I get home from work. I have all the ambition in the world in the morning. However, once I get home from work my brainstorming ability is non-existent.
To combat this, I brainstorm for a few minutes in the car about what I need to get done during the course of the day, then I jot it down in my phone. This way when I get home, I won’t have to think about what I should be doing—I can just start doing.
I found myself to be a lot more productive applying this strategy rather than trying to come up with ideas after a stressful day at work. You may not have a website to run to after your day job, but there might be that one thing you have been meaning to do for months and have not gotten around to it.
Action Step: Brainstorm for 5 minutes on the drive to work and jot down your To Do List for after work.
8. Do Something Physical
The final tip for a successful morning is to do something physical. This could be lifting weights, yoga, running, or a thousand other things. Whatever tickles your fancy is what you should do.
Exercise in the morning is a natural stimulant. It helps to keep those extra pounds off and keeps your heart in good shape for the long haul.
A strong body conveys confidence, a strong work ethic, and pride.
Add a strong body to the personal development from the previous 7 steps and you are well on your way to winning each and every day.
Action Step: Do something physical for 45-60 minutes each morning. Whatever form of exercise you enjoy is what you should do.
Conclusion: Make Your Morning Routine Work for You
This is a lot to digest at once, I’ll admit. It took me 5 years of work and constant tinkering to get these 8 tips down. My advice is to start with one or two, then add or subtract as time goes by to see what works best for you.
Winning the morning will give you the best chance to win the day. I know that by the time I get to work, I’m showing up with the best version of myself. By the time most people are rolling out of bed I have already:
- accomplished something..
- practiced mindfulness…
- expanded my mind…
- planned my day…
- worked out…
I now feel like my life has purpose. Each day I am becoming closer to the man I envisioned that I would be.
Dave Bonollo is a fitness writer and founder of Aesthetic Physiques. His goal is to help people get the right information about fitness without someone trying to sell them a “miracle” supplement or the next “silver bullet” piece of exercise equipment.
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