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MB #008: How To Build A Killer Morning Routine

faith lifestyle mission briefing Jan 23, 2023

Read time: ~7 Minutes

Today's issue is brought to you by Operation: Next Level an online course that uses a 4-part framework to help you learn how to break bad habits, create healthy habits, fix your mindsets, optimize your body/health, and improve your sleep. 

 

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A Killer Morning Routine

A world-class morning routine is a gateway to a life of consistency, success, and fulfillment, and it’s important that we talk today about how to set yourself up to create, improve, or refine yours.

The problem is, most people either lack intentionality, lack the information they need to structure it well, or they lack an understanding of how the power a morning routine has.

As busy dads, we’ve all been there (perhaps sometimes daily) where we sleep in, are woken up by the kids, jump right into parenting, breakfast, getting ready for work, etc. and find ourselves scattered, distracted, possibly overwhelmed, and probably often a little frustrated and angry (if we’re honest).

There are several things a morning routine does for us:

  • It helps us prime our mind, will, emotions, and spirit for the day ahead
  • It helps us prioritize the things that create the most change in our life
  • It helps us to find clarity for the day’s work that needs to be done
  • It helps us to start the day with discipline and do hard things that serve as a catalyst for everything else

The great news is that no matter where we’re at with our mornings, we can always improve them. So I’m going to outline some foundational morning routine habits that I think are critical and some ideas of ways to approach them. Let’s dive in.

1. The Night Before

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” - Alexander Graham Bell

The night before is the time when we can make the greatest impact on the success of our morning routine.

A big rock to address in your night before is nightly routines and bedtime routines.

  • Cut out or minimize TV and social media scrolling. It’s a rare day when a dad makes it to bed at the time he intended, once the TV is on, or if he’s trapped in a scrolling haze.
  • Keep a regular bedtime. Every day, go to bed within 30 minutes of the same time as other days. This will help regularize your sleep/wake schedules so that you sleep better and wake refreshed.
  • Prepare a list of your biggest priorities for the next day. Write out to-do’s, important deadlines, etc.
  • Prepare what elements to your morning routine such as workout clothes, the bible, journal, know what verses you’ll read, and have any books you’re reading ready and handy.
  • If you’re a coffee drinker, prep the coffee pot to auto-start so that it’s ready when you wake up and you can get right into things.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode overnight and leave it that way until your morning routine is complete.

2. Start with reading and prayer

“Morning prayer is to orient our hearts and mind to God as we begin our day. By praying when we awake, we attend to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you"” - Adrian Rogers

Your brain is very pliable first thing in the AM and what you focus your mind on will shape your thinking and your subconscious a lot.

News will cause a greater hardwiring of fear and anxiety

Social media will cause a greater hardwiring of comparison and self-focus

Reading email and work messages will shove you into problem-solving mode and crush creativity.

By starting with reading the bible and prayer, you’re rewiring your brain to the things of God in one of its most pliable states of the day, helping you think differently, and if you think differently you’ll live differently.

3. Read something you’re wanting to learn

“I am part of everything that I have read.” - Theodore Roosevelt 

Just like the bible reading and prayer, reading books about concepts you’re trying to learn or topics you’re trying to internalize is a great move in the morning. You’ll have an easier time rethinking something in the morning and creating a cascading and compounding effect over time.

I personally use this time for theological books or books about life and habits. My current read is The Life We’re Looking For by Andy Crouch.

4. Movement

“Wake up with determination, go to bed with satisfaction.” - unknown

Doing some form of exercise in the AM has a lot of benefits. So much so that for any client I work with, I recommend they switch their routine to the morning if they aren’t already a morning exerciser. There are several important reasons for this:

  • It boosts alertness and focus
  • It improves your mood for the day
  • it helps regulate your energy levels
  • It improves your sleep by causing a rise in the stress hormone cortisol to help you wake up and better normalize your circadian rhythm
  • Helps you accomplish something difficult early in the day
  • You capitalize on a naturally higher level of dopamine
  • More than anything, you’ve got it out of the way for the day before the rest of the world wakes up so that your plans to do it later aren’t derailed by life, work, kids, etc. - we’ve all been there with our great intentions for exercise that never materialize in the afternoon or evening.

5. High protein / low carb breakfast

Post-workout, I like to encourage clients to eat a healthy, high-protein breakfast. By keeping carbs lower in the morning you’ll help keep your blood sugar stabilized along with your energy levels. This will also help normalize your hunger throughout the day, and set your brain and body up with the amino acids from the protein that it needs for critical mental focus and function, as well as repair from your workout.

6. Writing your intentions, priorities, and tasks for the day

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four-hour days.” - Zig Ziglar

We all know what it’s like to have a day completely get away from us and look back realizing we didn’t get a lot done the way we’d hoped we would. We’ve all had a “busy day” that was unproductive. And I’m sure we’ve all felt the frustration of going for an extended season without moving the ball forward on our goals. I suggest sitting down for a few minutes each day and brain-dumping about what needs to get done. Then you can identify your top priority - the thing that can’t go without being completed today. After that, highlight your top 3 to-dos after that. Remember these’s aren’t just the things that have a pending deadline. These should be the things that move the needle the most for you in your work, life, and family.

 

Here are some of my favorite tools and strategies for the AM routine:

 

The YouVersion Bible App

The main reason for having this app on my phone is that there is a daily verse every day of the year. Having the first thing I see be a verse of scripture, usually leaves me wanting more and helps catapult me into my coffee and reading. You can set your notifications for this verse at any time of the day, so I have my phone deliver it to me at 4:45 am. I’ve also gone into my sleep/do not disturb settings to allow the app’s notification so it’s one of the only notifications that can come through and it operates on airplane mode so I can keep my phone on airplane mode until later in the morning.

The Pause App

The Pause App is designed by John Eldredge and his team at Wild at Heart. There’s a daily listening of about 5-10 minutes each that has some guided prayer, silence, a meditation on scripture, and teaching. He has a playlist designed around the concepts in his book Resilient, which I’ve found really helpful in this last season of busyness & stress from working at a SaaS startup, running a health coaching business, having a 4th child enter our family, etc.

A Journaling Bible

A Bible with margins and lines for journaling has helped me as a guy that moves fast. I often find myself wanting to skip note-taking and journaling and having it right there inside my bible has been incredibly helpful in getting me to slow down, think, write, and contemplate.

HabitShare App

For my daily habits of prayer and exercise (you can use it for any habit though), I like to use the HabitShare app and create a habit I’m tracking and sharing it with other people. If they download the app, they can see how you’re doing at following through and provide some extra accountability. You get to check off the days you complete and create a gamification and visualization of your habit journey.


Plus, whenever you’re ready, there are 2 ways I can help you:

  1. Are you a busy father who is tired of wasting your valuable time not seeing the results you’d like, and lacking the systems you need to live a healthy and fit, productive, and family-centered life? You can learn more, or sign up here
  2. If you’re still looking for ways to improve your health as a busy dad, I’d recommend starting with an affordable course - Learn the 4-part framework to better health and a balanced life, in the 'Operation: Next Level' Course. Learn more here.