Routine. Structure. Systems. Deadlines. 9-5.
Those are words creatives hear that conjure up feelings of resistance. When thinking of how creative’s output their work, we typically envision it in a romantic, free-flowing state of bliss. Operatic music playing, an artist holding a paint brush in one hand, color palette in the other, dabbing their paintbrush on a canvas late into the night. I want to bring that opinion into question. Before we kick this off, I don’t think a routine and structure works for everyone. However, I firmly believe most creatives and almost anyone can benefit from developing a routine. I’ve lived the free spirit creative lifestyle (waking up and creating when I felt like it), worked at loading dock (where I had to wake up at 5:00 AM to go to work), and I’ve lived the regimented, show up to work, GTD lifestyle as well. I currently fall under the latter of those three.
Over a year ago, I decided to adopt a morning routine. I can’t imagine where I would be had I started one earlier in my life. I adopted a morning routine because my workout partner recommended that I try one out and to read the book, “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. I took his advice and decided to try it out. After going through one for a week, I started to notice some results. My energy was more stable throughout the day, decision-making was easier, and my confidence was higher. The results caused me to want to learn more about routines and their importance. Routines seem to makes creatives feel like they are going to be less creative or stifled. I’ve found the opposite to be true and I’ve found more and more evidence to support my stance.
Here are my three reasons why you should have a morning routine:
- “If you win the morning, you win the day.” — Tim Ferris. Typically if I start my morning off right, the rest of my day goes the way I want it to.
- Routines force you to start your day off by doing something you naturally don’t want to do. Life is made up of choices and decisions. We have to do the things we don’t want to do to get the things that we want. Routine causes you to flip a switch and makes it easier to complete certain tasks.
- Predictability. Routines allow you to not have to make decisions. The day is started with action and no pondering of what to do next.
Let’s take a look at some routines. Below are some sample routines from famous creatives and authors:
Writer and theologian C.S. Lewis had a very clear schedule of his day, with activities such as work, walking, meals, tea, and socializing down to the very hour they should be done. He even describes when beer should be enjoyed (not at 11:00 for fear of running over the allotted 10 minutes for the break).
This famed writer keeps to a strict routine each day, starting the morning with a cup of tea or water and his vitamin. King sits down to work between 8:00 and 8:30 in the same seat with his papers arranged on his desk in the same way. He claims that starting off with such consistency provides a signal to his mind in preparation for his work.
Franklin kept to a tight schedule, starting his day waking at 4:00 am. Until 8:00, he would wash, eat breakfast, and think about what he would accomplish for the day. From 8:00 to 12:00, he worked. Lunch was from 12:00-1:00, where he ate, read, or looked over his accounts. He then worked until 5:00. The evening was filled with dinner, cleaning up, music or conversation, a look back over his day, and then bed at 10:00.
This famous thinker and writer would start early each day sharing a breakfast with his wife. He would work uninterrupted until lunchtime. After lunch, he and his wife would go for a drive or a walk, then he would return to work again from 5:00 to 7:00, then have dinner. After dinner, his wife would read to him until almost midnight. Due to an eye illness early in life that left Huxley with very poor eyesight, he relied heavily on his wife to do many activities for him.
Hemingway described his writing ritual as starting just as the sun began rising, then working straight through until whatever he had to say was said. He likens completing his morning of writing to making love to someone you love–being both empty and fulfilled at the same time. Upon completing that morning’s work, he would wait until the next morning to begin again, going over his ideas in his head and holding on to the anticipation of starting again the next day.
My current morning routine:
6:30 — Wake up
6:31 — Drink a glass of water and take a probiotic enzyme — I like taking an enzyme on an empty stomach because my body absorbs it better.
6:32 — Make bed — This is the most critical step for me. Remember what I said about doing things that you don’t want to do?
6:34 — Boil water for coffee and make protein shake — the shake consist of frozen berries and mangos, pure coconut oil, flaxseed, honey, beef and egg protein powder, a banana, mixed nuts, and almond milk. I make enough for two serving and take one to work with me.
6:40 — Plunge coffee in french press and pour into my favorite mug.
6:41 — Stretch/quick exercise — Push-ups, sit-ups, general stretches, etc.
7:05 — Drink coffee and shake — By this time the coffee has cooled off, my blood is flowing from working out, and I feel like my body better absorbs the nutrients.
7:10 — Read a Proverb out loud with my wife — There are a total of 31 proverbs. For example October 27th, I read Proverbs 27; October 28th, Proverb 28, etc.
7:15 — Visualize my day — sometimes I’ll journal and nix the next two steps and do them on my drive to the office. On my way to the office, I typically listen to one the following podcasts: Entreleadership, Radio Lab, Mystery Show, Tim Ferris, Stuff You Should Know, or Hardcore History.
7:20 — Determine The One Thing I want to accomplish for the day. By the way, that book rocked my world.
7:25 — Text a friend I haven’t seen or talked to in a while.
7:30 — Walk out the door. Serve and conquer.
Here are some other rituals you can add to your routine:
- Take a walk or go for a run
- Affirmations out loud
- Take vitamins
- Review goals
- Five Minute Journal
- Listen to music
- Call someone on your commute to work
- Not check email
- Not check social media
Other resources and articles:
What is your morning routine? I recommend starting one and finding out what works for you and what doesn’t. Mine is pretty fluid and I love asking others what their morning routines are. It’s fun to add parts of other people’s routines. Let me know how it goes and feel free to steal mine.