(Originally posted in 2019)
What do you do each morning before work? You might grab coffee and a quick breakfast. Maybe you check Instagram. Hopefully, you shower.
These are the basic habits we all fall into as our day begins. And then, before we know it, it’s 7:00 AM and time to catch the train to work.
Throughout the first half of my twenties, my morning looked just like this – minus the breakfast that is.
By skipping breakfast and rushing off to work, I’d be the first one in and was off to the races. The problem, which I couldn’t see at the time, was that I was running the wrong race.
I was grinding at my sales job and racing to get promotions… not knowing where they’d lead. Knowing only, that it would mean more money.
In those days, I took no time to reflect on my path and had no strategy for carving out a career I’d love.
For a while, I ran on fumes. It worked, until I burnt out.
The Turning Point
One morning, on my walk to work from Southie to Boston’s Seaport District, I was listening to The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim Ferriss, serial entrepreneur and author of The 4-Hour Work Week, had slowly become an idol of mine as my interest in entrepreneurship picked up.
I was crossing the street onto Pappas Way when Tim said something that woke me up from my groggy morning walk.
“If you win the morning, you win the day.”
I watched the sun as it rose slowly over the Boston Harbor. Was I winning the morning?
In terms of productivity at work, I certainly was. Thirty cold calls before noon was the top pace on the sales desk.
But, what about before work?
Surely, scrolling through Instagram as I dried off from the shower was not “winning.”
I reflected on my haphazard morning routine as the episode went on. Tim and his guest talked about what a good morning routine consisted of.
A few of the tips revolved around journaling, meditation, exercise, affirmations and a healthy breakfast.
Sure, I had heard all of these things before. But did people out there really do all these things? And do it all before work? It seemed farfetched to me.
On my walk home from the office that day, I felt that all too familiar feeling of defeat. I needed to find a new career path before I collapsed.
I thought back to what Tim Ferriss had said that morning on the podcast. He said one of the benefits to a good morning routine was clarity and better decision making. These were two things I needed desperately.
As I waited to cross East Broadway, I made the decision that I needed to try something new to escape this endless cycle at work.
I decided that tomorrow morning would be different. No Instagram. No rushing to work. Tomorrow morning was for me.
Implementation of the Morning Routine
Having failed at making sweeping life changes before, I decided on a different approach for establish a morning routine. I would implement one new routine at a time.
This would give me a chance to see what worked for me and what didn’t. It would also give me a chance to change the habits that had already been engrained in my morning for so long.
On Day #1, I chose to replace Instagram with journaling. I made a firm rule: no Instagram before work. Instead, when I got out of the shower, I’d journal for five minutes.
There are a number of journaling techniques that I tried to implement. My first journal entry consisted of three parts:
1) What was bothering me
2) Things I was grateful for
3) Recent life victories
Throughout the first week I noticed that, when I got out of the shower, my natural instinct was still to run to my phone to scroll through Instagram. Admittedly, I broke my rule a few times.
In order to combat this habit, I placed my journal on top of my phone as soon as I woke up. This little trick helped to rewire my brain and remind me that journaling was the priority.
The other trick I used was setting a daily Reminder Notification on my iPhone. Every morning at 6:45AM I started getting Journaling alerts. This repeated reminder, day after day, helped to engrain this new habit into my morning routine. By the second month, journaling was automatic for me.
Once I fully committed to journaling, I looked at the other morning routine habits I wanted to instill. I worked on adding meditation, then affirmations, and finally a full breakfast. Within a year, my morning routine had evolved completely.
And the result? Over that same year I rerouted the direction of my career, found a new job in a different industry, and moved from Boston to New York City.
Of course there are many factors that contributed to all this, but ultimately my upgraded morning routine helped me find clarity and then helped me act on my intuition. Without this change, I might still be lost.
Today, my morning routine is still in place. I credit it for helping me start my own business and stay focused through all adversity. It gives me a chance to refocus, slow down, and think creatively before my day begins.
I know now that all of these mini morning activities have compiled into who I am today. Now I know the truth of Tim Ferriss’ quote. “If you win the morning, you win the day.”
You too can use a morning routine to reshape your life. You just need to make changes one step at a time.
Make one change tomorrow.