As I write this it is a quiet Sunday morning. I’m nearing the end of my personal morning ritual with a solid day planned to get some things done. I’m certain that I’ll have a successful day because I know what I need to do to be successful today. I planned my Sunday yesterday.
There is power in my morning ritual. It’s an executable series of events that is preplanned and supports my goals related to continuous improvement of health and getting things done that I value. You most likely already have a ritual of sorts in regard to your day whether it be a workday or weekend morning, but you may not be aware of it.
Your first cup of coffee and the morning news. Walking the dog. Throwing a load of clothes in the laundry before you walk out the door or whatever. We tend to just fall into habits. In his book On Intelligence, Jeff Hawkins mentions that even how you shower and dress tends to be patterned and somewhat ritualized. These patterns and rituals tend to require little thought and get us through what we may consider mundane tasks that need to be done but are necessary to complete or maintain different aspects of our lifestyle.
Your brain likes consistent patterns. It reduces energy demands and conserves resources that can be used elsewhere. Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg and many others have been or are reported to wear basically the same type of clothes every day. Doing so reduces decision fatigue and conserves energy.
I’ve come rather late to this part in regard to how I can actually structure my morning ritual to get better results and more accomplished on a day-to-day basis. As the self-help books say, success is a habit. Admiral William H. McRaven reinforces this concept in his commencement address at the University of Texas in 2014. (go to 4:44 for the reference to ritual)
I also strongly recommend a book by my long-time colleague Craig Ballantyne called The Perfect Day Formula. I met Craig many years ago as part of a mastermind group of coaches in the fitness industry many years ago. (Note to Craig. I still remember the conference call when you announced the name of your flagship program Turbulence Training!). If there’s anyone that has demonstrated how planning and rituals can impact your productivity and success, it is Craig.
I’ve discussed some of my ritual and habits in previous posts, but I’ve tweaked it a bit over the last few weeks after some discussions with Dr. Mike and learning how I’m responding via some monitoring of key indicators.
Here’s my ritual and with some recent changes. (Full transparency… some of the links are affiliate links or discount codes you can use)
1. Wake at 5 am
I’ve been beating the alarm every morning over the last several weeks (take that Dr. Mike!). One of the keys to success, when I wake up in the dark, is my Phillips Wake Up Light. Basically, this thing simulates a sunrise and stimulates a gentle, progressive wake up. I truly think it would be harder to get up without it. I’ve also been better at hitting my bed time consistently which makes a huge difference in how rested I’ve been.
I’m still loving my OURA Ring especially to monitor sleep. The consistency in my rituals has allowed me to set personal records for deep sleep and REM sleep over the last two weeks.
2. Weigh-in and Waist Measurement
Last year was all about getting as lean as possible. I’ve maintained very low body fat for the last year so this year I’m trying to hit a specific weight to be maintained for life (fingers crossed) at a specific waist measurement. I’m close but still have a-ways to go, but these are my measures from which I make my caloric adjustments over the week.
3. Hydration and Cerevan supplementation
I’ve dehydrated all night so I wake a bit thirsty. I’ve been putting about 5 grams of branch-chain amino acid powder in my water for taste and then take my Cerevan. This is a timing issue in regard to the ritual. It takes about 2 hours to feel the Cerevan kick in. It’s been hard to explain this to people who have not used it. It’s not a stimulatory effect like caffeine, but rather as sense of focused attention. A totally non-scientific survey of friends and clients who have started on Cerevan confirms the same sensation. I time this to coincide with my writing as this is when I tend to get most distracted and my mind wanders a bit.
I’m still kicking ass with the Headspace app. As of today, I’m at 105 consecutive days of meditation and I can probably count missed days, mostly due to travel, in the last year on one hand. Attention, self-regulation, and inflammation control remain the goals here. This is tough to measure directly, but I’ll go with what I’ve been able to get done as an indicator. Blood work in a few months will confirm inflammation control.
5. Journal entry
I’ve been using The Five-Minute Journal lately. It’s something that The Gorgeous One and I are doing together (although we don’t read each other’s journals). It uses a morning and an evening entry system. It sets up what I expect for the day and reminds me of what’s important. I also express a few words for self-motivation purposes. At night, I can evaluate how I did and what I need to change for the next day. I’ve used a Moleskine notebook in the past and wrote a bit more per entry but I like that this is targeted and concise and takes less time (thus the name, eh?).
6. Morning Reading
My morning reading is technical. This may be journal articles or chapters of a textbook. I’ve learned that I’m not a good technical reader at night although sometimes it’s necessary. Doing my technical reading when I’m fresh has helped with retention a great deal. I’ve moved my less technical reading to the evenings. This is less demanding and helps be wind down as well as getting away from the computer screen. Even though I have a blue light filter on the computer, I’ve been trying to get away from it more.
7. Neuro Coffee (get 15% off your first order with the coupon code IFASTPT)
I’ve been trying to decide if this is what truly gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s become the favorite part of my morning ritual. Never having been a coffee drinker, it confounds me a bit. I’m enjoying it way too much. Strangely, I’ve had situations where Neuro Coffee was unavailable (vacation/travel), and I’ve tried other coffee. Still tastes like dirt.
Neuro Coffee at this time supports my learning process. By drinking it after reading, I take advantage of the benefits of increased BDNF and the caffeine in regard to the impact on memory. Again, it’s purely subjective, but I’m finding it beneficial.
8. Morning Mini-Mobility
This is new in just the last couple of weeks or so. I have always noticed that I solve problems and make more creative connections during light mobility activities and long-duration aerobic exercise (and audiobooks). I’ve added this not only to promote some creativity before writing but to work on a couple of movement issues I’m working on. Each exposure buys me better movement and comfort in my 50-year-old self (I’ll sneak some in throughout the day as well). If I can get some creativity out of it, all the better. Don’t forget to breathe through such activities. Breathing is movement.
By now, the Cerevan is kicking in and creativity has been stimulated. Time to write. It may be a blog post, a larger project I’m working on, or just a brain dump to get some ideas out of my head and on paper in one of my notebooks or writing out a stack of notecards. I’ve been hitting no less than 1,000 words a day. I’m hopeful that something useful is coming out it. If anything, I’m feeling good about it and writing mostly for myself. That matters.
10. Off to IFAST to train.
At this point, it’s off to IFAST. Mondays and Fridays are intensive training days. Tuesdays and Saturdays are moderate to easy days. This is feeling really good and supporting my current goals. No need to change at this point.
Start your ritual on Monday.