Early Morning Routine – How it Started
Developing an early morning routine has proven to be life-changing. It started out as what some believed to be a hair-brained scheme to cure my insomnia. It developed into a routine consisting of an array of healthy habits. I struggled to sleep for many years. A few years back, I would go to bed, exhausted, after a day at work. Sleep would come quickly, but before long, I’d be wide awake, staring at the ceiling. This was the cause of much frustration. Eventually, I fell back to sleep but before I knew it, it was time to get up for work again. This was a vicious cycle, building up, day by day, night on night.
I reached the point at which I knew I had to fix this problem. I didn’t like taking any sleeping tablets. Although they would occasionally work and help me sleep, I didn’t like waking up so groggy. There had to be a better way.
The First Step
My first step was purely logical. As a software engineer by trade, logic comes natural to me, or so I claim :-). Exercise wasn’t enough to get me to sleep, as I run…a lot. I just stopped fighting it. If I couldn’t sleep, I was going to get out of bed and read. It was around this time I stumbled on a book called The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod.
Now, I’m not going to say I follow all his suggestions, but I did follow many. I don’t consider myself into “woo-woo”, but I was struggling, and was willing to try just about anything. The recommendation was to get out of bed at 6am every morning. This was no problem as I was sometimes not even getting to sleep by that time.
I have an uncanny internal clock. I have never needed an alarm clock to get up at a certain time. If I need to get out of bed at 3am, I wake up at 2:50. The benefit of this is that when I get up, I don’t need to wake my wife with an alarm. So, to begin with, I got up at 6am every day. I continued to read the book and took up more and more of the suggestions.
Building the Early Morning Routine – Journalling
OK, I’m up. Now what? The next step was to start journalling. I used to keep a journal, on and off. Now I had a few hours every morning before work that I needed to fill. This offered the perfect opportunity to write my journal every morning. I didn’t realise how beneficial journalling actually is. Here is a particularly insightful article about it. In short here is a small list of potential benefits:
- Achieve goals
- Track progress and growth
- Gain self-confidence
- Improve writing and communication skills
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Find inspiration
- Strengthen memory
Early Morning Routine – Daily Tasks
Writing in my personal journal only takes about ten minutes, at most. I still had a few hours to fill. I began keeping more than one journal. One of which is quite an important one for a runner. I used to track all my runs just within Strava or Garmin Connect. When I added a running journal, like this one, it helped to focus my running. I’m much more in-tune with it now. This was key in my return to running from my injury and training for Manchester, Kildare, Berlin and Dublin.
I also began taking care of the day-to-day tasks that need to be done. I started doing my banking, Email, to-do lists and daily preparation. It means that these things were being done and out of the way well before work started.
Building on Success
OK, my mornings got started early and I was better prepared for the day ahead. I was enjoying this early morning. The Miracle Morning also recommended performing a few minutes of mindfulness. As I said, I wouldn’t call myself a modern, new-age man. but I started using an app called Smiling Mind. I had tried some mindfulness exercises as recommended to me after I suffered my stroke. This time, I stuck with more consistency. It is a massive benefit to my morning and I highly recommend it to everyone.
After a few weeks of doing these things I noticed an improvement in my sleep. The long nights staring at the ceiling were becoming fewer and farther between. As a matter of fact, I was starting to look forward to getting out of bed each day. As this was going so well, I decided to see what would happen if I got up at 5am instead of 6.
The Morning Routine – Gaining Momentum
Better rested and more enthusiastic about getting out of bed in the morning, things were looking up. I now have yet another hour to fill and decided to add time for reading. I began devouring books, one after another. Most of the reading was focussed around the subjects of personal growth and self-improvement. I really enjoyed some of these books, particularly Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.
Eventually, after a few months of the 5am starts, I upped my early morning routine once again and I now begin my day at 4am. One of the most common questions I face is from those who follow me on Strava. “What are you doing at 4 o’clock in the morning every day?” The answer is that for the past ten months I start my weekdays with a twenty minute bodyweight workout. Although I only workout on weekdays, I still get out of bed at 4am each day, even weekends.
Twenty minutes might not seem like much of a workout. To be honest, it isn’t. However, now that I do it every single weekday, it is adding up. I feel stronger and I’m running better than I have ever run. I think it is so successful because it is only twenty minutes. It is just long enough to get benefits, but short enough that it isn’t too intimidating. If anyone is interested in what exactly the workout consists of, please reach out. I’m happy to share my morning routine with anyone.
I seem to have cured my insomnia. Falling asleep is easy, as soon as my head hits the pillow each night. Until I wake up at 4am each morning, I sleep soundly. For the first time in my life, I look forward to getting out of bed each morning. The quality of my life is exponentially better than it has ever been.
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