Morning routines have been the darling of the self help crowd ever since Tim Ferriss began asking every single person on his podcast what theirs was. He’d ask questions down to what brand of coffee they’d drink in the morning and possibly even the damn grind size they used for their beans. No detail was too minute to go into, because you never knew where the silver bullet lay.
The implication was that these titans of their respective fields had found some kind of secret sauce at the beginning of their day that we could all emulate to be a little less bad at life. Maybe the root of all our problems was that we didn’t have this intentional routine that involved cold showers, journalling or that disgustingly virtuous drink, green tea. I really hate green tea.
After all, if these ultra successful people are doing everything and the kitchen sink before they start work and we don't, well that's clearly where the fault lies. Yeah, I don't buy it for one second.
My morning routine pre-COVID was nothing more than what I needed to ensure I got ready and out the door to work in a set amount of time:
5:40am: Wake up and shower. Brush teeth in there to save time.
5:50am: Get dressed in clothes prepared the night before.
5:55am: Eat breakfast prepped the night before. Grab prepped lunch out of the fridge.
6:00am: Out the door to the train station.
As you can see, the whole thing was pure momentum. Why? Because I’m not some millionaire who could screw around for an hour or two doing all the “virtuous” things I seem to keep hearing about to start my day for “success.” I sure as hell wasn’t going to wake up even earlier to fit all that BS in either. Then suddenly COVID hit, and we’re all working from home.
My commute goes from 90 minutes to zero.
My mornings became drastically different. Did I start doing all these virtuous things that every damn CEO, investor or startup founder seems to do? Hell no. I’d wake up at 6:30 to the sunlight — occasionally my alarm clock. Sometimes I even slept in a bit if I was feeling tired! I’d roll over and check some things on my phone, have a scroll through Instagram and then get out of bed maybe 10 minutes after that. Go downstairs and put the TV on. Make some breakfast, have a coffee. I’d finish off with a shower and be opening my laptop at 7:30am.
So rather than doing the usual thing of getting up super early to get stuff done like we keep getting told to do, like going for walks outside, meditating, journalling and blah blah blah, I used the time to chill the hell out and enjoy a relaxed start to the day.
It’s changed how I work completely.
It’s no longer a million miles an hour all the time. Now, it’s about starting in the right frame of mind. Sure, I could keep getting up at 5:40 and using that time to do writing, go for a walk or even get ahead in my work. But what the hell for? Doing it the way I am now — slow, relaxed and without any pressure has seen my stress levels plummet and the quality of my life increase exponentially.
My mornings now make me think of that line from Fight Club:
“After fighting, everything else in your life got the volume turned down. You could deal with anything.”
Because the truth was, with my previous work and morning routine, I was exhausted. I felt like I had to maximise every second of the day. I did it a couple of times since going back to the office and the only thing that came to mind was the question “how the hell did I used to do this?” By the time I got on the train to go home, most of the time I’d be wiped — and that’s with good sleep, good diet and everything else optimised. God only knows how people who don’t have their act together make it through the week with all the commuting.
After all of this it’s quite clear to me: morning routines are a load of self help propaganda, and I don’t want to hear from some know it all twenty something year old life hacker that I need one ever again. I work more effectively now than I ever did before, because I don’t treat my body like a racehorse bolting out of the gates when my alarm goes off at stupid o’clock, or like Patrick Bateman with his million step self-care routine.
Look, there’s no doubt that starting the day off right is important, because it sets the tone for everything that comes afterwards. But defining what “right” means is up to the individual. It shouldn’t be pop tarts and a can of Red Bull as you rush out the door, but it doesn’t have to be about productivity or affirmations or any of that life hacker crap either. For me, it certainly doesn’t involve:
- Green tea
- Green juice
- Working out
- Writing down ideas
Hell, if you made me drink green tea as part of my morning routine it’d make my day worse, because I’d be really annoyed at having to drink that bitter, swamp tasting garbage water (I warned you earlier that I hated green tea).
So if you’re one of those people out there who is thinking of writing the millionth article on how we all need to have a morning routine and that it needs to include any of the things above, don’t bother. You’re adding nothing new to the conversation and even worse, you’re perpetuating a myth that we need to include all these stupid things to have a good day.
And for the love of god, please don’t ever tell me to drink hot water with a slice of lemon in it. Now you’re embarrassing yourself.