In the past, I had a morning routine which was pretty rigid, and although it was better than nothing, I nonetheless found myself simply going through the motions far too often.
My Old Routine
I would wake up at 5:30 AM to a blaring alarm, and get moving regardless of how well I slept the night before. I’d go downstairs, get my coffee, perform a grueling workout, take a cold shower, meditate for 10–15 minutes, make a green smoothie, and finally get to work.
This might sound like a powerhouse morning routine, but it wasn’t really making me any more productive. More importantly, it wasn’t making me happy.
That’s because at the time, I still didn’t comprehend the full extent of my OCD. The more I got into a routine, the less I could tolerate any slight deviation from the norm.
For example, some mornings I wouldn’t wake up at my normal time. I might stay in bed until 5:45 or 6. Already I’d be starting my day with a toxic inner dialogue and unnecessary stress. “You’re late” “You won’t have a productive day now” “You’re falling behind” and so on.
Taking Back The Morning
It got to the point where I wasn’t even excited to wake up anymore. I felt like I had a mountain of responsibilities to tend to before I even began my day. Morning routines should serve to reduce stress, not create more of it.
But you don’t know what you don’t know, and it took me knowing myself on a deeper level to understand that my morning was mine. I have the incredible luxury of not having to take any phone calls or check email or do literally anything I don’t want to do before 10AM.
That led me to change my entire approach, and looking back, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My current morning routine looks different every day, with a few common threads that have stood the test of time. Instead of giving you a step-by-step process, I’ll highlight the key components that help me win the day:
1. Waking up
My fiance and I have two windows in our room, so I wake up with the sun. Usually that’s around 7:15–7:30. Some days I wake up at 6:45, some days at 8. Sleep is sacred, so while I’m still in bed, I’ll ask myself “How am I feeling right now? Am I well-rested? Do I want to cuddle my woman for a few more minutes? I listen, and respond accordingly.
Of course, if you have to wake up before the sun, or don’t have windows in your bedroom, I would recommend investing in an alarm clock that doesn’t jolt you awake in the middle of a sleep cycle. Phillips makes a Smart Sleep Wakeup Light that uses true sunlight hues and natural sounds to wake you up.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “I’m a heavy sleeper Colin. There’s no way light can wake me up” but research has proven that we have photoreceptors on our skin that respond to light. One study blindfolded people before they fell asleep, then shined lights on the backs of their knees. Their cortisol levels rose, promoting an increase in wakefulness, even in the absence of any visual or audio stimulation.
After feeding our cat, the next thing I do without fail each morning is observe silence. Not just audible silence, either. I’m talking about silence of mind.
Whether you meditate, go for a walk, read, write, sit and breathe, or drink a cup of coffee in the morning, I’ve found it incredibly transformative to be very quiet to start each day.
Your day will no doubt throw a lot of unexpected things at you, but one thing you have control over is the kind of internal dialogue you start with. And before you decide how you want to approach your day, it helps to get quiet.
What’s great about this component is that it’s very broad. I don’t feel compelled to do breathwork and meditation every morning, but I often do it anyway because it gives me a blank slate to work with. It ensures that yesterday’s dialogue doesn’t determine today’s outcome. From there, I journal to set a clear trajectory for my thoughts and actions.
This doesn’t have to be exercise, per se, although I do like to do Yoga and go for morning walks in the sunshine. But some days I just want to stretch for a few minutes. Some days I don’t even want to do that, so I’ll jump up and down for a few minutes.
Many people overthink exercise so much that they don’t do it at all. A morning workout isn’t meant to exhaust you or even make you sweat. The point is simply to move. It gets the gears turning in your head and promotes lymphatic circulation to clear out built-up toxins.
That’s it! If I wake up mindfully, get really quiet, and move a little, the rest of the day flows pretty smoothly. Best of all, none of it feels like a chore.
The common thread in all of this is the element of trust. The human body isn’t some disobedient dog that has to be forced into compliance. It needs to be loved, nurtured, and above all trusted to do what it’s made for. To approximate a quote by Alan Watts: letting go of control a bit is the surest way of having it come back to you.
So before you look at another billionaire’s morning routine and try to emulate it to the tee, consider what you can do to honor and celebrate yourself each morning. Do something worth waking up for, and you’ll win the day every time.