Use a morning routine to build healthy habits quickly
I love my morning routine.
It’s amazing that most of us have 25,000 mornings in our adult lives between the age of 18 to 80. Morning activities for most people range from the bare minimum (shower, dress, coffee, and… go!) to potent time chunks that are used to magically automate key life habits that would under other circumstances require willpower to achieve.
I accidentally stumbled on the power of morning routines about 10 years ago. At first what I was doing hardly qualified as a routine. There were just a couple habits linked together consisting of Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages (a free-flowing creative writing exercise where you write down 3 pages of anything) and a couple glasses of herbal tea. Now, I still do the Morning Pages digitally using 750words.com, and I still drink Rooibos tea, but over the years I’ve been adding other delicious habits that now run almost on auto-pilot. By doing the same key things repeatedly, it helps get the things I care about accomplished early in the day when I actually have the energy to do them.
So what are morning routines and why are they so important?
Routines are simply a series of linked habits. Each habit is performed until it’s fairly automatic, and then you simply link a new habit onto an existing one. For example, one habit that most of us have every day is showering. Something I’ve linked to my shower habit is dry body brushing. I don’t have to think about this anymore. The effort came mostly when first learning the habit: buying the body brush, deciding to leave it out on the counter the night before my shower, and thinking about doing the body brushing for the first few times. After that, things quickly became habitual and now there is very little willpower used up in doing the activity.
Willpower is highest in the AM and depletes with use
One of the most extraordinary things I discovered reading Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath, was that our self-control is finite, and depletes with use. We have a reservoir of self-control that we dip into through our day and willpower draws it down. Unfortunately it’s not the only thing that feeds off this energy source. Decision making, colds and even PMS, as well as controlling and managing our emotions, thoughts and impulses also uses up this pool of energy. As Heath says in this great 4 minute video, “we’re not lazy, we’re exhausted,” and he suggests that’s why change is so hard.