There is a saying that if you had to eat an elephant, the only way to eat it would be one bite at a time. I have taken a similar approach to my morning routine. I started the new year knowing that I wanted to get in better shape, both mentally and physically.
Like anyone wanting to add something to their day, I first had to look at when would I get it done. I am married with three kids, ages 10, 9 and 4. They all attend school and my wife works at the same school as them. They have to be woken up around 6:45 every school morning to be able to make it to school on time. I am lucky in that I work from home so I didn’t need to navigate a commute to work to find time to fit my new wellness plan into my schedule. I just needed to figure out the best time for me to do it. I felt like I had three options. (1) Do it in the morning before everyone else woke up, (2) Do it in the morning after they left for school (around 7:30) or (3) Do it after work. Because of research that Dan Pink did for his book “When,” I knew that I am more of a morning person. So, option three was out the window. I also like to do my writing, research and work for this blog and the new book I am writing before I get started working for the day. I typically spend about an hour a day on that work. If I wanted to get started working for my real job by 8:30 each morning and do my hour of writing a day, option 2 was not going to give me enough time to also perform a wellness plan. Option One it is…well damn.
Now armed with the fact that I was going to have to get up earlier than I used to, I decided to take the first bite of the elephant. I knew from past experiences that if I moved my alarm from going off at 6:30 to say 5:30 that it would last about a week or two before my laziness would get the best of me. I was not looking for a loose weight fast or gain fitness fast plan, I was looking for a sustainable morning routine that I could perform that would help my physical health as well as my mental health.
Let me pause for a second on the discussion of time and spell out what my morning routine was going to look like. I was looking for a full body, mind and soul approach. I stole shamelessly from the Miracle Morning from Hal Elrod. I created a morning routine that I would use in a notebook. The plan for the notebook would go as follows:
Top line: Today’s Date
Weight: I like to weigh myself every morningWaist: My biggest problem area is my waist so I measure it every morning
Affirmation: An affirmation is a bit more ambitious than a goal. The prompt I used for writing my Affirmation was three sentences: I would like to… This will provide me… I am willing to… By using those three sentence prompts, you can create an affirmation. I would challenge you to look deeper than a simple goal of I would like to lose 10 pounds. Think of an affirmation as a super long term goal.
What am I thankful for: List three things from the day before that you are thankful for
What makes today great: List three things that if they happened today, would make today great. Try to be realistic here. Sure winning the lottery would be great but is it realistic? Also, look beyond just work things. What could happen to your family? What could happen at work? What could happen mentally, physically, spiritually?
Meal Plan: I list out what I am going to eat for the day.
All of the above fits perfectly on the left side of the journal or notebook that I use.
On the right side of the page, I spell out my wellness plan for the day. The following steps are all part of the wellness plan: Meditate, Workout, and Read.
Going back to the time to get started and how long this would take me to complete each morning I figured out that if I woke up 5 minutes earlier than normal, I could go downstairs and write down everything that was on the left-hand side of the page with no problem.
Day 1: Wake up at 6:25. Go downstairs and write everything on the left side of the page. On the right side of the page write down Mediation: 0 Minutes, Workout: None, Read 0 Minutes. Not a lot going on day one. But that was the first bite of the elephant.
Day 2: Wake up at 6:24. (You will see the minor change, the next bite, subtract one minute off my alarm clock). If I told you to wake up one minute earlier that does not seem that hard. I again go downstairs and write everything on the left-hand side of the paper. It still takes me 5 minutes to complete and now I have an extra minute to play with. On the right side of the paper, I write Mediation: 1 minute, Workout: None, Read: 0 minutes. To meditate, I use the Calm app. I use the free guided meditations that they offer and go for my one minute. P.S. you have no idea how long 1 minute is when you are trying to meditate. My self-diagnosed ADD was kicking in big time.
Day 3: Wake up at 6:23. (one more bite). The left side of the notebook doesn’t change, The right side now looks like this: Meditation: 1 minute, Workout: 10 Push-ups, Read: 0 Minutes. Now for me, 10 push-ups are not hard to do. But I knew if I said go do 100 push-ups in one minute I would fail. So I went with the easy number knowing I will build up
Day 4: Wake up at 6:22. Meditation; 1 Minute. Workout: 11 push-ups (add one a day), Read: 1 minute
This continues on a daily basis of subtracting one minute a day from my alarm and adding a minute to Meditation every three days until I get to 10 Minutes and I stop adding. I add a minute of reading every three days until I get to 20 Minutes of reading and then I stop adding. I continue to add to my workout. Once I got to 25 Push-ups, I added 10 Squats and added a squat until I got to 25 squats. I then added 10 crunches and added one a day until I got to 25 crunches. I then add 10 arm curls and add one a day until I got to 25. Ultimately I got to a point where I was doing 25 push-ups, 25 squats, 25 crunches, and 25 arm-curls.
If you added the time up it took me 5 Minutes to write on the left-hand side of the page, I would then meditate for 10 minutes, workout for roughly 5-10 minutes and then read for 20 Minutes. So even on my slow day, it took me 45 minutes to complete.
The workout portion became boring to me and love of running slowly took over. I also realized that the earlier I woke up, the more relaxed my morning would be and I would be much more prepared for my day. During the school year, I now get up around 4:00 am. I have added workouts that take roughly 30-45 minutes to complete and am finding myself thinner, happier, more focused and more productive.
If I started off the article telling you that I woke up at 4:00 am every morning, meditated for 10 minutes, read for 20 minutes and worked out for 45 minutes every day. You would have stopped reading and chalked up my morning either to me being crazy or that I did something that you simply could not do. But if you would simply take one bite of the elephant each day and gradually you would find the same level of success.
I will give you one piece of warning though. I go to bed around 9:30 or 10 each night. My wife now thinks I am boring and I don’t watch as much TV as I use to. But when I accomplish my affirmation, when I find my six-pack (I have one it is just hiding) and when I accomplish my career goals, she will be a happy woman.