I start my mornings each day by doing three things: I meditate, journal, and I read classic nonfiction. All of this happens before I start my work. Consider it my morning routine, if you will. I do this for a few reasons. I’ve found that these things combined helps me be at my best before I start my day. In essence, they act as warm-up. I know when I don’t do one or more of these on any day due to travel or any other reason, something’s amiss and it’s not hard to trace back why.
The idea is to have some sort of morning and evening routine. That way, you know exactly how you’ll start your day and how you’ll get closure in the evening.
Start with one thing at a specific time. For instance, you could start with meditating for one minute. That’s your ritual. Rituals become habits over time, and habits piggybacking on each other form your routine. You can learn more about creating habits and routines from my previous writings.
Here’s how I suggest doing it. Block out 90 minutes in your calendar every morning before you head to work. For instance, if your work starts at 9, plan accordingly. Take 30 minutes each to meditate, journal, and read (in that order; more on this later). That way, you know exactly what you are doing and how you are doing it — there is no confusion as to what needs to be done when.
Start the routine by meditating. If you’ve never meditated before or have been inconsistent in the past, I suggest starting out with a couple of minutes. Even though a couple of minutes may not sound like much, the important thing is to start small and to be consistent while you slowly work your way up to 30 minutes. This is your time that you give yourself to listen to yourself. It’s your time to slow down and to be more mindful of things as you move along through the rest of your day.
After meditating, take 30 minutes to write everything (without filtering) that has your attention. Think of it as your daily spiritual practice. You’re simply writing from a ready stream of consciousness. I call it Morning Pages. Practicing it every day has been instrumental for me in being more present in my daily life without having to worry about the past or the future, since all of the potentially meaningful things have been likely captured after writing.
Finally, take 30 minutes to read some classic inspirational literature (nonfiction). Note, I am not talking about reading nonfiction from the current era. Some books from this genre include Man’s Search for Meaning, As A Man Thinketh, Manvotionals, The Bhagavad Gita, The Essential Rumi, et al. Reading books from this genre early in the morning will help you center your day. When you read a selection or a chapter from these books every day, you’ll take what you’ve learned with you and carry it through the day mentally. Even though you might not consciously practice what you’ve learned from it (which is not the point anyway), it will sub-consciously stay with you. Plus, it’s a great way to start your day.
In my daily practice, I’ve found that doing these three activities in this order (meditate → journal → read) works best for me. Instead of writing first, I want to listen to myself, which can only happen in silence before I read or write anything. Similarly, I want to capture what has my attention without filtering anything, which can only happen before I read, since those things will likely take my attention and I won’t be able to get to the “listening to myself” part that way. I’ll likely miss out on it.
In order to do the three activities, start small. We already discussed starting small with meditation — in the same way, do each of these things one by one. Don’t try to do it all together as you likely won’t be able to keep up after a few days (if you can even get to that point). Take one activity, practice it for a few days until that ritual becomes a habit, and then Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
For instance, it doesn’t matter if you start out by reading for only a few minutes a day. What matters is that you’re showing up and doing the exact same thing (at the same time) every morning. You can always work on increasing the “intensity” later, but, for now, focus on showing up and being consistent. Slowly build your practice over time. You’ll eventually get to a point where you have established these habits that now form your daily routine. You’ll be hard-pressed to explain how you functioned without it.
When I do these three activities as part of my morning routine every day, it helps me perform at my best. It helps me warm up so I can give my full attention to my work and stay fully present in the moment. It prepares me for my workday with gusto. I know that no matter how chaotic my day could possibly get, some things are going to remain the same and that I have full control over it. It’s the best 90 minutes I spend all day.
I look forward to doing the activities from my morning routine every day. Even on days where I wake up later than usual, I make it a point to follow my routine. Even if I may not spend 90 minutes doing it, the important thing is that I am doing it.
The important thing is not to do the same three things I do, but do things that matter and are important to you. For instance, it could be that you want to take some time every morning to pray, which may be a spiritual exercise for you. Or, you might want to simply take some time to write uninterrupted by way of capturing whatever has your attention so you can move on with your day without carrying any “emotional baggage”, so to speak.