Crush Your Day: 8 Step Habit Stackby
Morning routines can make us more effective, happier and healthier and yet for most, the morning is more akin to organised chaos. Most successful entrepreneurs have developed their own systems but many are simply unrealistic for those still climbing the ladder. Get up earlier so you can squeeze it all in we’re told and wake up at 4.30am – seriously?! Aside from being on the same page as Arianne Huffington when it comes to the importance of sleep, my partner wouldn’t thank me for waking them at such an ungodly hour – my dog even less so!
So whilst the benefits of an effective morning routine are widely acknowledged, how can you create a programme that works in ‘normal’ life and, most importantly - be repeated daily. What follows is a list of habits, inspired by those of the rich and famous, but distilled down into a routine that’s accessible to all.
Top athletes know the power of picturing themselves succeed in their minds before they do in reality, and successful entrepreneurs are no different.
As you awake from your slumber take a moment before rising to visualise the key moments of the day ahead. If you’ve got an important meeting, pitch or presentation coming up – what does success look like? Whatever it is – work it through in your mind. Visualise yourself succeeding; achieving every goal - nailing every objective.
Gratitude benefits us both mentally, and physically and studies have shown those experiencing gratitude stimulate their dopamine transmitters which create new learning pathways. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed out, a deep focus on gratitude can also take you back to a happier place.
There are different levels at which you can practice gratitude but if you’re just starting out, try a Triple-Gratitude session each morning. Once you’ve completed visualising the day ahead, consider three things for which you’re grateful. Think about the significant people in your life and why you’re grateful for them. Try to be specific; whilst you might be grateful for your mom or partner, it’s important to note new things each day in order to change the way you’ll perceive situations. Events or actions for which you show gratitude can be both big and small; maybe your partner cooked you a great meal the evening before or simply gave you a hug because they could see you were down. Maybe your kids did well in a test or made you laugh. Maybe you read a great book or saw a post on social that inspired you. Whatever it is, express your gratitude and recall the emotions you felt.
Once you’ve mastered Triple-Gratitude, or maybe just want to go all-in from the start…..journal. The 5 Minute Journal (5MJ), as used by 4-Hour Work Weeks Tim Ferris is a great place to start – find my full review here. Triple-Gratitude is featured (aka the Amazing Three) along with “What would make today great?”. Answering this question influences your Reticular Activation System which turns on and off your perception of thoughts and ideas and changes the way you look at the world – powerful stuff!
Having a glass of water first thing in the morning helps rid your body of toxins that have been stored overnight. Not only does it aid your digestive tract, it also boosts your metabolism, helping you feel energised/less groggy (delete as applicable!).
Exercise increases productivity and gets our endorphins going but in reality, the last thing many of us want to do in the morning is go for a jog or hit the gym. If a full-on session seems too daunting, try a short routine of push-ups, squats, sit-ups or jumping jacks, all of which require no equipment. If that doesn’t work for you, or jumping around in the bedroom or bathroom in the early hours is likely to be met with disapproval, even a 10-minute walk to the bus or train will help.
Whilst this might sound like purgatory – stay with me. Taking a cold shower after exercise helps reduce soreness and boosts recovery but the benefits of taking one after waking are also compelling. As the cold water hits your body your breathing deepens and your body tries to keep warm by taking in more oxygen. Blood rushes through your body as your heart rate increases leaving you feeling energised. Cold showers also activate brown fat which burns calories to keep you warm. The increase in your metabolic rate also activates your immune system which releases white blood cells to help fight off viruses.
The thought of jumping into a cold shower first thing in the morning fills most with dread – myself included – so consider a ‘hot-to-cold’ shower to ease you into the routine. As it sounds, this entails starting off with hot water and turning it down - step by step - towards the end of the shower. Some will progress to the cold-only shower from here but if the ‘hot-to-cold’ routine is good enough for James Bond – as referenced in Fleming’s book – who am I to argue.
The power of belief should never be underestimated and positive self-talk is key to cast-iron confidence. Reciting and repeating affirmations forms part of many a successful entrepreneurs morning routine and helps them start the day the right way. Like the coffee you drink, finding ‘your’ affirmation is a very personal choice. There’s a menu of ready-made affirmations online from the latte style ‘today is going to be the best day ever’ to the ‘I expect to win. I deserve to win’ double expresso version. Other popular affirmations include:
“I can succeed – I will succeed”
“I am the architect of my own destiny”
“I am in charge of my future”
“Today I choose to be happy, healthy and productive”
Rather than an ‘off the shelf’ version, you may prefer a custom version which specifically covers: what you want, why you want it and what you’re willing to do to achieve your goal. Whatever affirmation you choose - make sure it resonates, and own it.
Affirmations help you to overcome self-sabotaging, negative thoughts and make a positive change to your life. Repeat to yourself each and every morning for a minute and you’re one step closer to achieving your goals.
Breakfast takes a little forethought but if you want to improve your health, concentration and energy levels, take time out to refuel each morning.
The choice is yours but a popular (and personal) go-to is porridge/oatmeal which helps keep blood sugar levels on an even keel, lessening the desire for mid-morning snacking. It also helps lower high blood pressure and reduces bad cholesterol. If you don’t have time and want something that’s instant or perfect to eat on the go, consider a Bircher, which can be made the night before.
Meditation is a great way to prepare your mind for the challenges of the day ahead but also one of the most difficult habits to introduce if you’re new to the technique. A good way to start is by using an app like Headspace. Headspace offers a free ‘Take 10’ programme which teaches the basics of meditation from your smartphone (or PC).
Build meditation into your morning routine and you’ll experience greater calm and focus throughout your day. Arianna Huffington is an advocate, as are Tim Ferriss, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Weiner - the list goes on, so get your head round meditation and you’re in good company.
Don’t Break the Chain
It’s often cited that it takes 21 days to build new habits and there are both low, and hi-tech ways to monitor progress and keep yourself motivated. ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ is a free printable from graphic designer Karen Kavett that creates a visual pattern to motivate you to maintain the 8-habits. You cross off the day on the calendar when completing the routine, creating a visual chain that you don’t want to break – simple but surprisingly effective.
The 8 step habit stack is a simple, effective and practical routine to help you crush your day. Try it out, you’ve got nothing to lose…and everything to gain.