(This is the first of a three part series on the importance of morning rituals and routine)
What time do you wake up?
When you wake up, what’s the first thing you do?
What does your morning routine look like?
These are questions I tend to ask people a lot these days. In part, because I am constantly searching for that ONE perfect morning routine that will allow me to create some order out of the chaos of my life. Unfortunately for me (as for most lawyers) things like 7:30 conference calls, early morning hearings, and busy travel schedules make for a life where mornings can be anything but routine.
After talking to so many people about how they begin their day, here’s what I’ve learned: There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to morning routines. For that matter, a morning routine that works at a certain point in one’s life, might not work 6 months later. We’re all different. And at different times in our lives we need different things. But while what works for one person might not work for another, having some type of routine, and adhering to it daily, really matters.
I read a lot of articles and listen to a lot of interviews of men and women performing at the highest level of their chosen field (be it the world of business, professional sports, or the arts). One thing almost all of them have in common is that they all have a routine that they follow every morning that sets the stage for how they will enter their day. And they follow that routine religiously. In reading these articles, listening to these interviews, and engaging in dozens of conversations around this topic, there are some common themes that emerge. And those themes can become a roadmap for constructing a routine that works for us.
Get Up Early—Before the Craziness Starts.
Getting up early is key. Not only does it give you a jump on the day, it also allows you to exercise some control over how your day unfolds. Many of us wake up and it seems that everything is already in motion. We oversleep, and we scramble to get out the door to make a meeting on time. Or we begin our day by picking up our phone and checking our email. And before we know it our day has started by reacting to whatever the world is throwing at us. And that’s how the day continues—the world keeps throwing stuff at us and we keep reacting, until we come home and fall into bed exhausted.
This is why waking up early is so important. It gives you an opportunity to start your day before there are all of these demands on your time. Set the alarm for 5:30 in the morning, and when it goes off don’t check your email, or get on Facebook, or do anything else that’s going to dictate what you do. Instead get up and do something nice for yourself. Stretch and move around. Work out. Make yourself a cup of tea. Go outside and tend the roses in the garden. Create some space to gently move into your day and make sure that the first 60-90 minutes is spent only on what you choose to do. Not reacting to someone or something else.
Create whatever routine works for you. Just make sure that the first hour to hour and a half of every day is pretty much the same every morning. A routine that varies very little from day to day will go a long way in helping you feel more in control of your life and less reactive. And overall less anxious.
Our lives as lawyers are frequently crazy and unpredictable. No, we’re not going to achieve the Nirvana of the perfect work-life balance. But with some intention, we can start the day off right. We can spend less time reacting to what is thrown at us and more time doing the work that really matters.