Miracle Morning: Effortlessly starting your day with your most important task

This article will show you (with the scientific background):

  • How to effortlessly start your day with the Most Important Task (MIT) for that day (it’s really possible!)
  • How to kill procrastination for good
  • How to have time to do everything you want to do

Over the last few years, I experimented with different morning rituals to see which made my day the most productive. Of course, this was a trial-and-error process, and most of my experiments did not work as I expected. Regardless, I did have a few breakthroughs that made me more focused and productive.

This might sound like a story of Hal Elrod, the author of the book Miracle Morning. However, I started my experiments before the book was even written. I did get a chance to read this book recently, and I found it very inspiring. However, my morning routine is quite different, as it focuses on specific goals that are most important to me, and I don’t try out as many different things as I can.

Some of the things I was doing, but that I don’t do anymore (more about this later):

  • Five minutes of yoga
  • Seven minutes working out
  • Going to the gym first thing in the morning
  • Reading a book
  • Listening to Anthony Robbins
  • … and more

Some of the things I currently do (full routine is down below):

  • Drink fresh ginger tea
  • Meditate
  • Write for five minutes in my journal
  • … and more

Hal Elrod includes a lot of activities in his morning routine, and while they are awesome, they don’t focus on what’s really important. I tried out different things with the goal of designing the perfect routine that will empower me to achieve whatever I want. I did not aspire to simply fill my mornings with a multitude of activities that would not contribute to my overall long-term goals.

I discovered that there were two principles that really mattered in my morning ritual:

  • Relaxation
  • Increasing my focus

Relaxation

Just after we wake up, our cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is a hormone that is responsible for our stress levels. Scientists believe that this hormone increases by 50 percent in the 30 minutes right after we wake up in the morning. That’s why learning to relax in the morning is important. When we go straight to work without giving ourselves time to relax, we start the day with a high level of stress.

Around 2012 I put one rule into my life to spend two hours after waking up doing empowering activities that I like. During those two hours, I could do anything I wanted (except for energy-draining activities such as computer games). Basically, I stopped thinking about work first thing in the morning, because it increased my stress level. This two-hour rule changed my life completely.

Now, I don’t follow this rule anymore because I designed a much more effective way to handle the stress. My routine, despite being shorter than one hour, makes me relaxed and focused. I am able to start my work early when I am at the peak of my productivity.

Relax in the morning

Start your day with activities that are relaxing for you. Spend time on yourself. It does not really matter what you are doing, as long as it makes you more relaxed.

Dan Meredith, an author of How To Be F*cking Awesome and founder of the popular Facebook group Coffee with Dan, has a very good method (in the following order):

  • He does two minutes of controlled breathing (by using an app to help him).
  • He reads one or two chapters of three books. The books range in genre from autobiography to books about business, marketing, mindset, etc.
  • He watches some stand-up comedy or adult cartoons, plays some Xbox, or does something that makes him just as happy. The most important thing here is to put himself in an awesome mood before doing anything else.
  • He does not check his phone or emails until he has completed this ritual!

We can see similar elements in the morning rituals of Richard Branson, Tim Ferriss, and others. Bill Gates, for example, watches DVDs from the Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” series during an hour on the treadmill every morning. Every one of these people follows the principle of relaxation.

Focus

This is the second principle to follow in order to have a morning routine that will ensure a super productive day. In the documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett” by HBO, there is a short story of how Warren Buffett and Bill Gates met for the first time:

Shortly after I met Bill Gates, Bill’s dad asked each of us to write down on a piece of paper one word that would best describe what had helped us the most. Bill and I, without any collaboration at all, each wrote the word “focus.” Well, focus has always been a strong part of my personality.

Warren Buffett went on to become the richest man in the world. Then, Bill Gates went on to become the richest man in the world. Their focus was what helped them achieve such success.

Building your focus

If focus is so important, why don’t you design your morning in a way that it will improve it? There is a very interesting method described in The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler; it is based on a theory made by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and described in his book Flow. You can watch a great summary of the first book with the exact description of the process on one of my favorite YouTube channels.

The method might seem difficult and complicated; however, if you extract the essence of it and use it in your morning ritual, you will have almost the same effect. When implementing this method, you will most likely start your day with the Most Important Task (MIT) effortlessly, no matter how difficult it is (really, watch the youtube video to understand why it’s so).

Here are the core principles as I adjusted them to my morning routine (with this exact order):

  • The struggle: Plan your day and choose the MIT. Keep it in mind for a while. What are the challenges and difficulties?
  • The release: Relax. Do whatever relaxes you most. I do a meditation and breathing exercise, but it doesn’t matter what you do; the most important thing is to do an activity that relaxes you most effectively. Free your mind. Don’t think about the MIT! It’s best if you don’t think about anything.
  • The rich sensory experience: Now you are ready to enter the flow state by having a positive experience. It could be drinking a cup of coffee or listening to good music. Do something that will make your day.
  • The recovery: At the end of the day, don’t forget to rest before the next day.

I actually designed my morning routine before I even knew about this book. I just followed what worked for me. After reading this book I immediately understood why my morning ritual worked so well.

There are countless different morning rituals in Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss and Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. I found a common pattern among all the morning rituals in those books, though: most of them are focused on relaxation and positive experiences. So while the details of each ritual are different, the principles are the same.

You can build focus with certain morning activities, but others can destroy it. It is best to avoid these destructive activities.

Is working out in the morning a good thing?

I recently stumbled upon an article that criticized working out first thing in the morning, as it is a distracting activity. The article opined that getting to work as soon as possible was most important, and working out could be done later. In the end, however, it’s up to the individual whether to work out before or after work. There are a couple of articles pointing out pros and cons of each solution.

Earlier I talked about how cortisol levels are high in the morning. What’s important here is that working out actually increases the level of this hormone, which may cause even higher levels of stress. It makes us less relaxed.

Of course, you must test it out for yourself to see whether exercising in the morning is a viable option for you. A lot of successful people do it. For example, Bill Gates runs on the treadmill for an hour every morning, and Richard Branson goes kitesurfing. You might think that if successful people do it, it must be good; however, the question here is, what caused them to be successful? Don’t focus on what they do now that they are already successful. Don’t follow the habits of successful people. Make your own habits that will make you successful.

I found it more pleasant to workout in the afternoon — not too late and not too early. This timing is well-aligned with my meal plans, so I’m at the peak of my energy level.

Please note that physical exercise is crucial to being highly productive and that you must do it regularly. Without exercise, even the best morning routine will not be very effective.

How about reading a book?

This is another thing that is not so clear. Does it improve your focus or not? I love reading, and I read a lot; however, reading first thing in the morning often distracts me from my main focus. I already mentioned that Dan Meredith reads one or two chapters from three different books every morning. I don’t find this practice helpful, because it is just informational overload. It’s hard to process so many things at once and then switch to your own work and your own focus. I prefer to read in the afternoons and evenings.

So, it’s the same as with exercise. Just find what works for you, by following the principle of relaxation and increasing your focus.

Four hours of full focus

I do not work eight hours daily, as I found it impossible. Yes, you can be in the office for so long, but you cannot focus on your work for a full eight hours a day and still have a normal life and proper rest. My minimum is four hours, but I never exceed six hours. And I’m talking about pure work; I do not count the time for chats over coffee.

I really like the approach of Dan Meredith. He suggests to have two blocks of two hours, and that’s pretty much what I do.

My morning

After dozens of trials and errors, this is how my morning looks like. Copy it if you want.

Make a tea from fresh ginger

There is something magical about drinking fresh ginger tea on an empty stomach.

Take a shower with my favorite uplifting music

I have one playlist for my mornings, and yes, I play the exact same songs every single day.

Five-minute journal

Every day, I write down the answers three questions:

  • What am I grateful for?
  • What would make today great?
  • What are my affirmations of the day?

This activity takes less than five minutes, and it improves my focus and happiness.

Drink the ginger tea and check my to-do list

I define the most important tasks for the day and prepare mentally to jump into it. Doing this is not comfortable and not relaxing, but with the follow-up activities of relaxation and rich sensory experience, I can enter the most difficult tasks effortlessly. The psychology behind this is described in The Rise of Superman.

Meditation and deep breathing

After checking my to-do list, I use meditation to clear my mind and relax. There are dozens of benefits of meditation proved by hundreds of studies.

I also engage in deep breathing. It’s a well-known concept promoted by Tony Robbins; however, his explanation that deep breathing cleanses the body of toxins did not convince me when I was reading his books and listening to his audiotapes. What convinced me is a study that shows that just two minutes of deep breathing boosts willpower immediately. It’s very well described by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., in her book The Willpower Instinct. For people who don’t have much time, I recommend watching her presentation — her research is one of my favorites. Her theory sounds like magic and works like magic.

Make and drink a green smoothie

Breakfast should be light and healthy. I used to eat eggs on bacon and a lot of veggies; however, too big of a meal decreases my focus.

Yerba mate and go on!

This is the part of having a positive experience. I like yerba mate because it does not decrease my energy after one hour as coffee does. If you prefer coffee, that’s fine; the most important thing is to have a positive experience in order to jump to the most difficult task effortlessly.

Next, I spend two hours working, then I relax for 30 minutes. My relaxation time usually consists of a short walk to a co-working office, where I work for two hours more. After those four hours of solid work, I eat lunch.

After lunch, it’s finally time to take a longer break and do whatever I want to do. I read books, do some general administrative things, etc. I also schedule my calls here.

Exercise

For me, two hours after lunch is the perfect time for working out. While at the gym I listen to audiobooks. I read two books monthly by just listening to them at the gym — time well spent. Listening is not as effective as reading, but it’s always better to read by listening than not read at all.

Last words

If you enjoyed this post and learned something, tweet it and share it with your friends.

Post a comment below: What is your morning ritual?

I believe we can agree that simply reading is not enough. Reading inspires you and extends your knowledge; however, if you don’t make changes to your life after reading a good book, it was a waste of time.

Applying the advice from books is not easy. That’s why we created BooksInAction — a mobile application that has everything you need to apply knowledge from the best books in your life.

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Greg Swierad

Greg Swierad

Founder of www.mentorist.app — Acquire skills from self-help books.

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