These Morning Routine Mistakes Are Costing You Dearly

Here’s how to fix them

If you win the morning, you win the day. Or at least you get a good head start. As Christoph Randler writes in the Harvard Business Review, the early bird always gets the worm.

He surveyed 367 university students at which time of the day were they the most active and how willing they were to change their life situation:

A higher percentage of the morning people agreed with statements that indicate proactivity, such as “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself” and “I feel in charge of making things happen.”

Morning people can anticipate challenges and take proactive steps to solve them. That is not to say that evening people cannot do the same — the data shows correlation, albeit not causation, between early-risers and success.

But no matter when you wake up, you can have the same benefits that morning people usually do. One of the main reasons why early risers perform better on certain tasks or jobs is they get time to plan their day.

As a result, they can be calm and collected as opposed to someone who wakes up a half-hour before they’ve to leave for their job.

Whether you sleep in till noon or rise before the sun, the benefits of a morning routine cannot be overstated. Ergo, you don’t need to rise early to have these benefits, rather you need to be intentional about how you spend your first few waking hours.

That said, there are tons of morning routines you can choose from. What you do in these crucial hours should be determined by what comes naturally to you.

Thus, instead of being prescriptive, I’ll outline certain categorical aspects of a morning routine that most people miss. Within these categories, you’re free to choose a specific activity that appeals to you.

At the end of the article, I’ll also share my morning routine to prove how simple it is to implement.


Empty Your Mind

How many times have you said, “It just slipped off my mind.”

Perhaps you promised someone to do something and totally forgot about it. You try to be honest with them but they rarely understand.

“What do you mean it slipped off your mind. Did someone just obliterate the thought? Why didn’t you write it down?”

Do you know why this happens? Because the mind is a bad office. It’s not designed to store facts.

Nevertheless, we use it the wrong way. We keep trying to store information and tasks in our minds. Let’s see why that’s a bad idea.

Kurt Lewin, the father of modern social psychology once noticed a strange phenomenon. While sitting in a cafe he noticed waiters distinctly remembered the order details of the customers who hadn’t paid the bill.

Yet they didn’t have a clue about the customers who’d already paid the bill a few minutes before.

Bluma Zeigarnik, his student, carried on a number of experiments to verify this hypothesis.

She told people to perform simple tasks like making a clay figure or solving a puzzle. Then she would interrupt them before completion and shift them to another task, which she allowed them to finish.

She would then call the participants to check which tasks they remembered more about.

The results were decisive. The first group remembered 90% more about the unfinished tasks and the second group remembered twice as much.

This came to be known as the Zeigarnik effect, which for the sake of simplicity, states “people tend to remember unfinished or incomplete tasks better than completed tasks.

If you went to sleep with all your unfinished tasks and errands inside your head, by the time you wake up, you can have a headache.

Imagine the fate of people who do this for days on end. No matter how simple you think your life is, give your mind a break and write things down.

Do a brain dump the first thing when you wake up. Even better, do it the night before. Start every day with a decluttered mind to focus on things that matter.

Nurture Your Soul

The soul often gets left out in our talks of personal growth. Yet, it’s the most important factor to focus on.

The way to do it is to practice your favorite spiritual activity. I know the word “spiritual” means different things to different people so I won’t go into the details of it.

What I’ll do is tell you some practices to nurture your soul:

  • **Meditate: **Parmahansa Yogananda said, “the soul loves to meditate.” When you practice enough, you’ll quickly find out that to be the case. Meditation gives unparalleled joy. It is different from the joy of eating an ice-cream or watching a movie. That’s because the soul rejoices in meditation.

  • Pray: For me, prayer has one important purpose — to remind me there’s something bigger going on here. It keeps worries away and allows me to focus on the bigger picture. Even better is to pray for someone else’s well being.

  • Gratitude: It’s been in the self-help space for a long time now. Gratitude is the antidote to fear, jealousy, stress, and a lot of other negative emotions you don’t want. Listing a few things you’re grateful for can shift your state completely.

  • Reading spiritual texts: It orients my mind to keep spiritual principles in mind throughout the day. These principles can otherwise slip out of our minds in the daily hustle-bustle of our lives.

  • Spending time in nature: There’s no motive. Bathe in the beauty around you.

Meditation and prayer are the constants for me. I do the others if there’s more time in the day than usual.

Feed Your Mind

Once you’ve created space in your mind, you can finally fill it with quality content. You don’t have to do much — just learn something every morning.

Whether it’s a new exercise, reading a chapter from a book, or reading long-form blog posts.

In the fast-changing world, we live in not learning new skills isn’t an option. But most people struggle to find time to learn them.

The mornings are the best time to do this.

Take reading for instance. It only takes about thirty minutes to read thirty pages every morning. Some can do it in fifteen. This way you can finish a book a week and fifty books a year which for most people seems like a far-fetched goal.

Further, you start the day with new ideas and inspiration. You can be more creative in your job by applying diverse concepts from various fields.

And finally, to drill the point home, it’s much better than watching/reading the news, scrolling through social media, etc.

Use Your Mind

In tandem with feeding your mind, comes using your mind.

In whatever field you work, using your mind to generate ideas is crucial since we live in the idea economy. But the mind’s idea muscle atrophies if you don’t use it regularly.

Just like a bed rest for two weeks makes walking difficult, the mind cannot generate ideas at will just because you need it to. You need to train it.

I stole this from James Altucher — write ten ideas every day.

It doesn’t have to be related to your work or your personal life. You’re completely free to decide your own topics.

The goal is to write ten ideas on any topic. I for example write five-to-ten headlines for blog posts, and social media content every morning.

In fact, James himself ties this practice with his reading habit. He’d read from 2–3 books before he starts writing down ideas.

It’ll take about 3–6 months for your idea muscle to generate good ideas consistently. When you reach that stage, however, amazing things can happen.

James was able to reinvent his life every six months using this practice. Think about what you can do with ten extra ideas every day.

Use Your Body

Finally, move your body every morning. Studies have shown enormous benefits of exercising every day. I can’t even begin to list all of them.

You don’t have to do much though. Research shows that a 20-minute walk is enough to prevent premature death. If you’re physically inactive, a short walk can do wonders for you. Apart from a release of endorphins, it increases blood supply to the brain and heightens creative thinking.

It’s hard to do anything else if you’re lacking in this area of your life. You cannot think about being productive or happy if you’re not healthy.

Once you’re accustomed to a short walk, you can gradually progress from there.

The best way to start with this is to find something you love doing. If you don’t like walking, pick a sport or invite a friend to join you.

I’m convinced that whatever activity you pick would be just fine. Don’t worry about anything else. Worry instead about not doing anything.

Final Thoughts

Though the list can seem formidable if you don’t have a morning routine in place, it’s easier than you think.

First, pick one category and decide on your specific activity. Perhaps, taking a walk is a good start if you’re looking for something simple. Over time, as you get the hang of it, feel free to add other categories as you like.

For instance, my routine (along with the categories) is as follows:

  • Brain dump (empty your mind) — 10 mins; the night before.

  • Energization (use your body) — 10 mins.

  • Have coffee and write ten ideas (use your mind) — 10 mins.

  • Meditate and prayer (nurture your soul) — 1 hour

  • Exercise; with weights this time (use your body) — 20 mins

  • Write (use your mind) — 1–2 hours.

  • Read (feed your mind) — 15–20 mins and more throughout the day

Following this routine helps me block the first 3–5 hours every day before my day job begins.

Yet, that’s not what I started with. Earlier, I only had a workout as a part of my morning routine. Over time, I added things as I became comfortable with the process.

You can too. But only if you start today.

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Written on October 12, 2020