Guys, we’ve all had mornings like this.
You wake up, check the time, and yell out a brief but heartfelt appeal to the god of your choice.
You’re not sure what your name is or where you are, but at least some of the furniture looks familiar. What’s pretty certain is that you want to make it to work on time, so you try to focus on accomplishing that.
- Why You Need a Morning Routine
- The Night Before
- The 10-Minute Routine
- Ready for Takeoff
- Up, Up, and Away!
It’s kind of embarrassing to arrive at the office smelling like a camel or looking like you’ve just wandered out of a Grateful Dead concert. Neither is a good idea if you want to get promoted.
So you make your way to what you thought was the bathroom and try to brush your teeth with a banana. Pressed by your bladder, you finally stumble into the real bathroom, forget why you’re there and try to locate the fridge.
You’ve misplaced the clothes closet, too, but it turns out to be located pretty much where you left it. Once you’ve managed to find it – ten, fifteen, twenty minutes after waking up, who knows? – your favorite shirt isn’t ironed. None of them, it seems, are.
You finally settle on an outfit that looks at least approximately professional, though you’ve wasted another ten minutes on this and your socks don’t match.
Now your car keys are missing and your cat is trying to judo you to the floor – did you remember to feed Cassandra?
What did you do while you were in the kitchen, anyway?
Really, what did you get up to, considering that it’s now half an hour later?
Do you smell something burning?
You rush out the door, the disapproving wails of Disastercat pinging off the back of your neck.
This day already sucks.
The best you can hope for is that you get through it with your mental health intact, which is now the sum total of your ambition.
In the distance, you hear church bells.
Your cat hates you, you’re wearing the wrong socks, you’ve fretted yourself into a panic and you don’t even have to go to work.
Why You Need a Morning Routine
Some guys drink to excess once in a while, some stay up watching Netflix until 3 am, and a few of us are simply lost to all logic and reason before breakfast and copious amounts of coffee.
This is why a morning routine, followed faithfully, is such a good idea. A pre-planned series of actions that allow you to go from zombie to productive citizen without expending precious mental energy before you’re really capable. Plenty of famous, successful people will tell you the same thing.
Most importantly, it sets you up for the day mentally.
Succeeding at even a relatively unimportant task gives you a small feeling of accomplishment. The little man that lives inside your head goes:
“Hey, I am actually in control of some things. I totally rocked this chore. I’ve started off the day by winning, now I just need to keep going like that. I’ve got this.
I wonder if I could ride a dinosaur?”
The Night Before
The best laid plans often go awry, but having no plan at all usually turns out even worse.
More specifically, knowing what you’ll have to do allows you to put the tools you’ll need where you can find them.
Prepare Breakfast After Dinner
10 minutes in the morning while you’re scrambling to get ready is a lot more valuable than 10 minutes at night when you’re probably not doing much in any case.
Eating a nutritious breakfast is by itself also a time-saver – you’re almost certain to be less cranky and more in control when you have something in your stomach.
There’s a wide range of meals you can prepare in advance, many of which you can take with you to work or eat on the way:
- Overnight oats can be made in a million different ways and come in their own lunchbox.
- Hard-boiled eggs are low in calories, high in protein, and last for up to a week in the fridge. If you hate peeling them, try adding some salt or baking soda to the boiling water.
- Cold-brew coffee tastes heavenly and takes no special skill to make. You can heat it up in the microwave if you find the idea of cold coffee hard to stomach.
- Making savory breakfast muffins is easier than you think: just mix the ingredients together and bake. Mini quiches aren’t hard to prepare either.
- Shakes and smoothies: enough said.
Lay Out Your Outfit
Our decision-making abilities are typically at their worst early in the morning and late at night.
The average man spends 12.4 minutes each morning just picking out his clothes for the day – a statistic I totally just made up but which is probably in the ballpark.
Unless you always wear the same thing, selecting an outfit while you’re clear-headed has some major advantages.
Actually, taking the clothes you need out of the closet and putting them on a chair is almost like having your own butler and allows you to approach the day with confidence.
Also use this opportunity to polish your shoes and knot your tie properly; people actually do notice.
Not everyone is comfortable with the word “meditation”, but “disciplined thinking” means pretty much the same thing and sounds a lot cooler besides.
Some people visualize their three or four most important objectives for tomorrow – if you can accomplish these, the small stuff generally won’t matter and you’ll have had a good day.
Others like to devote two or three minutes simply to feeling thankful – to someone else, to yourself, or just in general. The effect on the brain remains the same.
Journal writing forces you to be objective and put your feelings into words. Some people like to repeat a kind of goal mantra or “affirmation” that’s intended to program your subconscious mind.
Whichever you choose, and however silly you think it is, stuff like this works. Not in every single case, just like most medicines, but for almost everybody.
Doing any of them consistently will help you start your day with some forward momentum before you even open your eyes.
Sail off to Dreamland
Exerting yourself is hard. Paradoxically, so is relaxing.
Few things can ruin your morning as thoroughly as struggling to drift off the night before, but here’s the good news: there’s a plethora of techniques to help get you snoozing.
If any particular one doesn’t work for you, another is sure to, and you can even find technological solutions to try before reaching for the Benadryl.
The 10-Minute Routine
With that shriek you’ve learned to hate, your alarm clock yanks you away from a Caribbean beach back to the stark reality of Monday.
You now have a choice: are you going to start in on doing the things you know you’ll have to do eventually, or will you dawdle until you have no choice but to rush through them?
If you struggle with leaving the snooze button alone, an alarm clock that forces you to do some work to shut it up might be the productivity tool you need.
Wake up and Hydrate
Roughly speaking, your body exists in either of two states: catabolic and anabolic.
In the catabolic phase, it’s primarily expending energy and doing stuff – walking around, digesting food, thinking, and so forth.
During the anabolic phase, including when sleeping, muscle and organ cells are at work repairing the damage of the day and storing up energy for the next. This means that your body is using up its stored water supply even while you’re asleep.
Kicking off the day with a pint or so of pure liquid helps it dispose of built-up toxins, gets your metabolism into gear, and quickly fires up your brain.
The trick to making showers great again is to ignore those TV commercials telling you that you’ll stink if you don’t use at least 10 different products.
Assuming that you showered the night before, there’s no need to lather up and rinse your entire body in the morning. In fact, you don’t need to shampoo your hair every day.
There’s a further reason you might want to take shorter showers: just running one consumes an average of 5 gallons of water per minute.
One way of keeping track of how long you spend in there is to listen to music.
You’ll also automatically hurry a little if you turn the water temperature down – taking cold showers supposedly has a number of health benefits as well.
After toweling off, your mind should be well on its way to compos mentis territory.
While you probably autopiloted through the shower, the next few tasks require you to at least pretend to pay attention.
Cleaning Your Teeth
This is one step that can’t be skipped however short of time you think you are.
Research shows that six out of ten Americans feel self-conscious about other people seeing their teeth. This is not good: how are you going to speak up at a meeting or to the opposite sex if you’re ashamed to open your mouth?
Dentists famously recommend brushing for at least two minutes, two times a day. The actual results you can expect from this good habit vary widely, depending on your brushing technique.
To save time and make sure that you brush correctly, it is recommended to get an electric toothbrush. Since they automatically move the bristles in small but rapid oscillations, you can get a much better job done more quickly.
Flossing, which most people (those who actually floss, anyway) do in the evening, also becomes easier with the aid of technology.
If you have a beard, you probably don’t need to groom it every day and you can do so at whatever time suits you (which is one of the best reasons to grow one in the first place).
Shaving is more problematic and time-consuming, but let’s be honest: as long as it looks like you’ve made an effort, is perfection really worth it?
Some guys won’t give up wet shaves for all the tea in China, but running an electric razor over your chin a few times is all that’s normally necessary. Plus, you can keep the shaver with you for touch-ups during the day if needed.
Grooming Your Mop
One of the best ways to save time in the morning is simply to opt for a low-maintenance hairstyle.
These can typically be combed into place while damp, so you don’t need a hair dryer, and keep looking good even if you can’t visit the barber every two weeks.
If you still find that wrestling your strands into place every morning eats up too much of your valuable time, you can also look into products that make good results easier to obtain and longer lasting.
At this point, all that really remains to be done is get dressed, eat breakfast, and make sure you grab everything you need for the day.
Ready for Takeoff
Assuming that you’ve already assembled your clothes for the day and you always keep your daily necessities in the same place, the most time-consuming part of getting dressed and ready will be tying your shoes.
In little more time than it takes to read this article, you’ve gone from a bleary-eyed disaster to someone ready to carpe the stuffing out of the diem, grab the bull by the horns, and get down to work without having to spend 20 minutes on Facebook in the hope of finding some motivation to get started.
Speaking of, it’s incredibly important that you don’t check news, email, or social media before you’re genuinely due for a break.
A new war in the Middle East, a routine client query, and your cousin’s baby pictures can all get along fine without your attention until mid-morning. This kind of information overload in no way benefits you, but rather saps your capacity for seeing the big picture and taking action accordingly.
Up, Up, and Away!
There are certainly better ways to use the time you’ve saved.
Read, exercise, get the kids upright, dressed, and headed in the right direction, or simply spend time with someone you care about.
Early mornings can be really special: you’ll feel less stressed while hanging out with others, and for most of us the first part of the day is the best time for study and creativity. It’s also possibly the only me-time you’ll have all day, which by itself is a good reason to wake up early and get ready as soon as possible.
As you step out, do a final check in the mirror – a full-length one near the front door makes this easy and adds a nice decor touch to any hallway.
Take a deep mental breath and confirm that you have everything.
Does the weather call for an umbrella?
If you brought work home last night, are you taking it back?
Maybe you need a book to read on the train, or a towel and change of clothes for the gym?
This is the beauty of sticking to a morning routine. It gives you the opportunity to step back and think, because everything mundane has already been taken care of.
Of course, consistency is key here. Occasionally skipping or neglecting important tasks is how bad habits get started.
Once you’re used to doing the same things in the same order, you’ll find that reducing the number of choices you have to make every day increases your mental clarity more than you’d think, especially if the rest of your day involves making important decisions.