Buffer cofounder Joel Gascoigne takes his morning routine seriously. In fact, he calls it his “most rewarding habit“. Here, Joel shares the two most important changes you should make to kickstart your own consistent routine.
Those who know me know that I love my morning routine. I’m always making adjustments to it, and at its core it revolves around waking up early (before sunrise), working on something important for 90 minutes, and then hitting the gym. I recently shared my most recent routine in a blog post about creating new habits.
Today, I want to share a couple of things I’ve neglected to mention in previous articles about my routine. These two aspects have enabled me to create a morning routine that has lasted several months, and it’s through my morning routine truly becoming habitual that I’ve seen massive benefits. I hope that these two insights can help you too.
Why wake up early in the first place?
Before I jump into those two key insights that helped me, I want to share some of my thoughts about why you might want to wake up early at all.
First, I’ve observed that many of the most successful people wake up early. In fact, I don’t know anyone who consistently wakes up before 6am and isn’t doing something interesting with their life. Some of the top CEOs are well known for waking up super early, many of them at 4.30am.
Additionally, I feel that waking up early sets the tone for my day of “making a choice”. If I leave it to fate as to when I roll out of bed, then I feel like that’s the outlook I’m taking in general. On the other hand, if I choose to get up early and do amazing things in those quiet hours, that’s when I feel like I’m grabbing hold of my life and controlling where I go. That’s the choice I want to make.
So, if you’re thinking about starting starting an early morning routine, here are two things which took me a while to notice:
Craft your evening routine to get enough sleep
One of the most important things I’ve found when I’ve attempted to keep up an early morning routine for several days and weeks in a row, is that if I let my daily sleep amount get much below seven hours for too many consecutive days, I’ll burn out sooner or later.
The best way I’ve found to counteract this is to decide how much sleep I need (for me it’s about 7.5 hours a night) and then figure out the exact time I need to be in bed. Once I’ve done this, I set up a 30-minute winding down ritual (for me, it’s going for a walk), which allows me to disengage from the day’s work and not have work in my head when I hit the pillow.
The key thing I’ve found is that in order to wake up early over a sustained period of weeks, this evening ritual is just as important as how much I think about my morning routine.
Wake up early during weekends too
Another key aspect I’ve found to having a consistent early morning routine over a long period of time is to pay particular attention to the weekend as well as the week. I certainly believe that allowing imperfection and some slack at the weekend is important, but I personally made the mistake of having a weekend wake up time which was too divergent from my week day wake up time. Only once I started to think about the weekend, I hit a chain of many days of early mornings.
Once you’ve decided when you want to wake up during the week, I recommend that you don’t wake up much more than one hour later at the weekend. This also probably means that you still need to go to bed quite early on Friday and Saturday night. The problem arises when you wake up several hours later on Saturday and Sunday, and then want to wake up super early again on Monday.
The most likely thing is that Monday will be a little later, and Tuesday too. Perhaps by Wednesday you are back to your early morning waking time, but you won’t feel that magical state of gliding along, having several days in a row of early mornings and productive quiet hours. If you don’t try to wake up at a similar time at the weekend, it is similar to giving yourself jet lag every weekend. By waking up at a similar time at the weekend, you don’t stretch your body, and therefore you can achieve long term consistency with your morning routine.
Joel Gascoigne is the founder of Buffer, a smarter way to share great articles with friends and followers. He tweets at @joelgascoigne and writes regularly on his blog about startups, life, learning and happiness.