Morning Routine for a Healthy and Productive Day

 
Walk upright, with calm, dignity and joy as though you were an emperor. Place your foot on the earth, the way an emperor places his seal on a royal decree. A decree can bring happiness or misery. Your steps can do the same. If your steps are peaceful, the world will have peace
— Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the things I’m grateful for is not having to drive to work every morning. I can just wake up, and immediately sit down in front of the computer.

And that is exactly what I did for a long period of time. I’d set an alarm for 8 AM, and wake up at 10, after at least 10 snoozes. Sit in front of the computer with a bowl of cereal, spend an hour browsing my Facebook feed, while the cornflakes vanished into my mouth without me even noticing. Answering emails and other messages on Facebook and WhatsApp, and only then, reluctantly begin editing wedding photographs. Those were not especially productive days.

And then I met my wife, who is also in the wedding business as a videographer.

Thanks to her, I began getting up no later than 8 AM, and even then, the day would feel longer and more filled with opportunity.

After a while, we decided to get up even earlier and start the day with a half-hour walk in the park. Breathe some fresh air, be in nature, and get our blood flowing. Talk of important things, laugh about less important things, or just be quiet and enjoy each other’s company. In time, we loved this so much that it became 50 whole minutes, followed by 20 minutes of yoga and stretching. True bliss. From a stiff, heavy body, to a light and energetic body all day.

Some time passed, and I began adding meditation in my morning routine as well. I sit on a pillow, and dedicate 15 minutes to listen to myself before I’m bombarded with endless information for the rest of the day. Getting used to focusing my consciousness on this precise moment, and dealing with any challenge that might arise with clarity and peace. At the end of the meditation, I’d dedicate several seconds to remind myself of all the things I’m grateful for in my life.

In the past two years, I also began loving to read books, mainly non-fiction ones. And so, I began getting up even earlier, to make some time each day for opening my mind and learning new things.

And then I felt it was time to start writing a blog. Something that is entirely new and not easy for me at all. If I’d make plans to write in the evening, it would somehow end up not working out, and I even found myself deliberately avoiding the task, procrastinating, and tending to other insignificant matters. So, I decided that every now and then, I’d write these words for a blog in the mornings, instead of reading a book.

I dedicate the beginning of the day to developing a certain new skill, with the intention of doing something good for the world, and for wedding photographers like me in particular, who wish to enjoy what they do and avoid occupational burnout.

Right now, my morning routine looks like this:

6:00-6:05    Wake up and brush my teeth
6:05-6:20    15 minutes of meditation
6:20-6:30    Drinking a green juice my wife makes for the both of us (made of apple, carrot, beetroot, celery, ginger, lemon and olive oil)
6:30-7:40    50-minute walk, followed by 20 minutes of yoga with my wife
7:40-8:10    Shower and breakfast (oatmeal cooked in water and cinnamon, with pecans, almonds, dates, banana and tahini)
8:10-9:00    Writing or reading
9:00    Beginning of work day

Several tips for creating a morning routine:

Alarm clock on the other side of the room. Getting up early is never easy for me. Every morning, there are those 2 crucial minutes in which I make excuses in my head why I should return to bed. It’s so easy to succumb to this trap. But if I pause for a moment, closely examine these excuses and the sense of fatigue in my body, I find that they always end up vanishing, replaced with a feeling of expectation for the new day. The chances of success when lying down are much, much lower than when standing upright. Therefore, place the alarm clock on the other side of the room, so that you’re forced to get out of bed to turn it off in the morning.

Gradual change. Developing habits takes time. For two weeks, try waking up half an hour earlier and see how you feel. This is already a great step. If you see that it works well for you, every two weeks, try to wake up half an hour earlier.

Slow mornings. Imagine a morning with no stress. Without feeling the need to always rush to do things quickly and on time. Without running from place to place, from task to task. Allow yourself to take it slow and do things in your own time, while feeling fully aware and focused.

Making dreams come true. Do you have a dream or a new private project you’ve been wanting to fulfill or carry out for a long time now? You don’t have to dedicate one whole day a week for it, if your schedule is already too full. No more excuses. Add the planning stage for your dream into your morning routine, or even its actual execution, if possible. This way, with every day that passes, you’ll get that much closer to your goal.

What makes you feel happy in the morning? Do you wish to paint, play an instrument, practice yoga, run, read, take photographs – and are always postponing it, somehow never ending up actually doing it? Because you’re exhausted or because other unexpected things just pop up and stand in your way? You don’t have to wait till evening. Add something you really love to do into your morning routine, something that’ll get you excited to wake up every morning for.

Offline. Try a morning routine without emails, Facebook and WhatsApp messages, or any other distraction. Just like that, cold turkey, without peeking even once. You might discover at first how dependent you are on these (like I did), but in time, you’ll most likely feel freedom and peace without them. You’ll find that nothing bad will happen if it’ll all just wait for a couple of hours.

* I try to sleep at least 7 hours every night, and therefore avoid dragging photograph editing late into the night. You can read about making editing time more efficient in this post.

* This whole ritual is an ideal situation to aspire to, and therefore not compulsory or inflexible. Of course I give it up or change it if I return home at 2 AM from photographing a wedding the night before.