Refining the Morning Routine

Sunday was a failure. My alarm was set for 4:45. I rolled out of bed at 6:30 (this lack of discipline alone is cause for much grievance). I went downstairs and began a later-than-planned morning routine. I meditated for 10 minutes. Then I did some reading. My plan was to read one chapter. Instead I read about 4-5 to finish the book I was reading. My wife, Bethany, woke up at 7:30 followed soon by my son, Alec. Once they were up, I put a stop to my morning routine. No workout. No writing. No creating a plan for the week to come. I could have kept going and finished up. But when they are up on my day off, my concentration goes to them.

Why was this morning a failure? Because the quiet time when the house is asleep is my time to really work on my own personal development. And once I dropped the ball on this morning, I never made the time to pick it back up. The busy-ness of the day took over, and there was no working out, no planning, and certainly no writing. By the time Monday morning came around, I was still trying to create a plan for the week.

Some would think: It is a Sunday morning, why be so hard on yourself? The truth is that I look at a Sunday morning as one of the most important days of the week. It is a day off from my normal work shift. It is a morning for planning and catching up from the previous week. And why am I so hard on myself? Because nobody else is going to accomplish my goals for me.

As Monday progressed, I had an opportunity to speak with my work partner Kia about my viewpoint on Sunday. I probably should start paying Kia as she has become to some degree my personal advisor. Our conversation turned to my morning routine in general and what specifically I am trying to accomplish. I laid out my normal Monday morning for her:

  • Wake up at 3:45
  • Meditate from 4-4:10
  • Read to 4:30
  • Quick workout to 4:50
  • Write until I run out of time before getting ready for work.

She asked me what was the most important thing I wanted to accomplish? I told her to write. Her response: Why are you not writing more? And it wasn’t just writing she was asking about. Am I writing toward a specific goal or am I just writing whatever comes to mind?

You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve. –Marcus Aurelius

I looked back on my routine and had to have second thoughts. Do I need to get up earlier? Do I really need to read in the morning? I read throughout the day. How is an additional 20 minutes (sometimes longer) really helping me to get the writing done? When it comes down to it, am I spreading myself out on so many small things that I am not spending enough time on the really big thing that matters the most?

Only having a short amount of time in the morning, there is no room for wasted time. Every activity has to be qualified. If the activity is not getting me closer to my goals, then it has to be dropped from the morning routine. This refining process makes me stronger and more productive. It turns me from a sad wishy-washy dreamer into a disciplined producer inching ever closer to the destination I seek. The more I produce in those quiet morning times, the happier I become. Happy knowing that I got it done and happy knowing the rest of my time can be spent on other pursuits.

What does your daily routine look like? Are you spending it on the small insignificant things or on the big things that matter? If you are looking to up your current level of productivity, refining your routine is a must. This simple act leads to a more disciplined life, one that is truly happier.

A disciplined mind leads to happiness and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering. –Dalai Lama

Planning For Tomorrow

I had goals for the weekend, but they were loose one. I didn’t have any concrete plans. There were a few things I wanted to do: workout, work around the house, and get in some writing. From a planning standpoint, this was a failure. When looking back on what I accomplished over the weekend, I may have scored a 60%. Failure. I got in all my workouts. Those were already planned out in advance. I may have got about 75% of the chores around the house completed. In terms of writing, I scored a big fat ZERO.

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What’s going on with my writing? Almost every day, I have been putting entries into my journal. In addition to my journal, I have been writing on printer paper with the goal of filling up at least the front if not both sides. What I have not been doing is getting these pages typed up, revised, or published. Some of this is due to my current work schedule, but in reality that is a lame excuse. As Epictetus says, “If you want to be a writer, write.” And that is in essence what writers do, they write. Why? Because they make it a priority.

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. –Steven Covey

Right now, I am not committing enough time for my writing. I am trying to fit it in when I can and then possibly catch up on the weekends. And this is a bad plan, because my writing on the weekend is not happening. I need to make this a priority. I need to go back and look at my goals and create a plan I can adhere to. I need to do better.

How do I do this? How do I become more successful in accomplishing the things I want to accomplish? If I want to win in the long run, I need to win each day. To win each day, I need to make a plan. It does me no good to make a plan on the day of. I need to make it in advance. To win each day, I need to make a plan the night before.

To be prepared is half the victory. –Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra

I usually write in my journal in the morning. It is for the most part a once a day process to get some thoughts out of my head. Occassionally, I write in it at night. But this rare, unless something is really on my mind. I need to make to night time journaling a regular process, and it needs to be done strategically to plan out my next day’s goals. Every night before turning in for the night, I need to write specific goals for three categories.

  1. Body. What am I planning on accomplishing physically? This should be simple, but there has been a few times I woke up in the morning and put together a makeshift workout. Doing this is not strategic and often wastes precious time in the morning. Having my routine ready to go the night before may speed me up 15-30 minutes.
  2. Soul. In terms of my soul, I really consider this a matter of the heart. What am I going to do to become a better human being? When I think of the heart, I think of bravery, courage, love, character, and discipline. Most likely my writing goal will fit in here as well.
  3. Mind. Every day I am searching out new things to learn. What am I reading, want to read, or need to learn? As important as it is to train my body and my heart, it is just as important to train my mind.

Tonight will be my first attempt to write in my journal from this perspective. I will start with a recap. Did I execute? Why or why not? Then I will finish with a plan for the next day.

What is my motive for such actions? It is simply to improve. It is always to improve. My personal development has become one of the greatest driving forces in my life. It is one of the principal lessons I want my son to learn. Become better today, than I was yesterday.

Scheduling For Best Results

In regards to writing, what is preventing me from consistency? I know it is something I am passionate about, but something is keeping me from doing the thing that I want to do the most. I have a few theories, and it all starts with planning. I know the direction I want to go, but I struggle with planning. I struggle with finding the right tools that are going to help me stay on task and plan for future events. If I do not have a plan, I am not prepared during my allotted writing times. The effect is my writing is not focused. Even worse, without a plan I am likely to do something else. This is not good. There are things in my brain that do not need to be stuck there. If I can’t get it out of my brain, how can I get it to my readers? If I can’t get the content to my readers consistently, what hope do I have that they will keep coming back? None.

There is this calendar on my phone, which some would suggest is a great scheduling tool. I use it to set the occasional reminder for personal things, but I never have used it for my writing. There is also the pocket calendar I get every year from my employer. I have received seven of these and have never once made an entry into it. Each one sits in my locker until I replace it with the next year’s version.

The great thing about writing out your problems is that you often stumble upon the solution. This year, I want to be consistent. It has to be if I want different results. I can’t expect to do the same things over and over and expect different results. So it has to be different. I have to be different. Tonight I took the first step. I broke out that pocket calendar, dusted it off, and made my first entry. It only took seven years to do so. I downloaded the google calendar app on my iPhone so that it could sync up my non-iOS laptop. It is a great first step. Now I have to stick with it. Consistent behaviors lead to consistent results.

What are consistent behaviors? It is discipline. It is the path that I am looking for in every aspect of my life. Discipline.