Being an early riser has been touted as the key to success and productivity for centuries. In the words of Aristotle, “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” Similarly, Benjamin Franklin said, "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
But have we been overselling the influence of early mornings? If the majority of people require seven to nine hours sleep each night, then surely our waking hours should be equally productive, whether we’re early risers or night owls.
Having always longed to be an early riser but regularly falling victim to the snooze alarm, I realised I was placing too much emphasis on what time I started the day, rather than focusing on how I started it. So I decided to spend a month trying out different morning routines and tracking my productivity, energy and attention levels for each.
What I found is that there’s not just one way to start the day, but endless variations. We can all experiment with our mornings to find what particular habits set us up for success. After all, the more options we have available to us to deal with each day as it unfolds, the more capacity we have for feeling healthy, wealthy and wise in our daily lives.
Morning routines to try
1. Eat the frog
Inspired by the words of Mark Twain, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day,” this routine has been popularised by author Brian Tracy and consists of doing the day’s most important thing as soon as you wake up.
As it requires we tackle our most dreaded task first thing in the morning to avoid distractions, it’s best for people prone to procrastination and poor concentration.
To learn more, check out Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!
2. The miracle morning
Popularised by Hal Elrod, the miracle morning routine is a set of rituals wrapped in the acronym SAVERS: Silence, Affirmations, Visualisations, Exercise, Reading and Scribing.
This morning sequence can be completed in any order and in as little as six minutes, or paced out to fill an hour. It’s well suited for those who want to ‘win the day’ and take to new habit formation quickly.
Find out how in The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
3. The faux-workplace routine
The faux-workplace routine is ideal for freelancers, students or the self-employed who thrive on structure and deadlines.
The faux-work routine requires you head to a café, library or co-working space no later than 9 am. Similarly for the full-time employed, if you have a side project or creative pursuit you wish to fit in, you can set a new start time and head to a faux-workplace before you go to your actual workplace.
4. Working from bed
It’s reported that Winston Churchill maintained the same morning routine for decades. He would wake at 7:30 am, stay in bed to enjoy breakfast, read his mail and the news, work and dictate to his secretaries before finally rising at 11 am to bathe.
For those who like to ease into the morning in comfort – and who feel no shame attending Skype calls in their pyjamas – this routine is ideal.
Illustration by Stephanie Howden