A researcher at Duke discovered that 40% of everything we do during the day is habit. “Habit” means our brain is doing it without us noticing. Habits don’t expend as much energy as conscious thought. Interestingly, high performing athletes and business execs aim to make a large part of their lives habit, thus preserving /reserving critical cycles for when they need to push hard or solve more complex problems.
In it, Duhigg uses storytelling to explain the neuroscience of habit, making this fascinating subject accessible to a person like me…someone who just wants a little light reading before bed.
Habit and what I want to share with you today are connected.
In the past four years, a solid, repetitive morning routine has become somewhat addictive to me – to the point that when I travel for work (or even for fun), I pack the essentials of my routine. This includes coconut milk, laptop, and running shoes. It requires that I set the alarm for the same time every day no matter the time zone or the purpose of my trip.
My routine looks like this:
- Get up between 5:45am and 6am. It’s usually 5:45am but if I’m really tired I sleep until 6. (Which is annoying because I have to change my alarm). Note: I do this on weekends too. For one, researchers recommend that we keep our circadian rhythm the same every day. It’s easier for our bodies to be consistent and actually they feel more rested when there is a pattern. AND…the time it takes to complete my morning routine doesn’t change. I try to get most of it done before my son wakes up.
- Make coffee. Currently, the auto-brew feature is on the fritz, so I have to start the pot manually. This kind of stinks because I have to wait to actually start drinking it for about 7 minutes.
- Add full-fat coconut milk and froth with a milk frother. I’m on the “sugar-reduction train” these days so I traded out Coffee-Mate for coconut milk. Without other sweet things in my life, this actually has started to taste divine.
- I write. I used to write emails and catch up on work. Now I write this blog and it fires me up with more energy than even step #3…the coffee. Tim Ferris is a fan of doing something called ‘the Morning Pages’ a concept introduced by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. In the morning pages, you write…stream of consciousness for as long as you can (she recommends three pages). I did this for a while too…it’s incredibly therapeutic and quite fascinating as thoughts, ideas and feelings emerge with clarity that you never even realized were there under all the noise in your head.
- I exercise. After 45 minutes to an hour, the coffee has kicked in. The words in my soul are out in the open, and my body wants to move. 20 minutes of heavy cardio is just about right for me or an hour of yoga. When I run, I listen to a podcast from The Good Life Project, Super Soul Conversations, Harvard Business Review, TED Radio Hour, TED, or Tim Ferriss. I don’t run long and I don’t run hard…2 miles is what I need and it’s the perfect length to get the rush of endorphins, experience fresh air, and listen to insights and inspiration via these podcasts.
You can find all sorts of resources and commentary on morning routines. If you’re looking for some inspiration as you craft your perfect start to every day, you might enjoy this site dedicated to morning routines.
And, here’s the warning but not in small print. Whatever you do, do not get upset or let a hiccup in your morning routine ruin your day. We can fall so in love with the perfect morning that if it doesn’t happen, it truly can impact the rest of our waking hours. Do not let this happen. Rather, treat a disruption as an opportunity to experiment with a different pattern. You may just uncover an element that you want and need to integrate into your regularly scheduled agenda of morning events. Be on the look out and treat a deviation as an opportunity for discovery.