Ramit Sethi: My morning routine isn’t guru approved

God, can we please stop with guilting people over the morning pages, the journaling, the meditation, the drinking 18 gallons of mint-infused water, and the yoga?

If you want to do those, GREAT! But you don’t have to.

My rules for the perfect morning:

  • No, you don’t need to meditate to be successful!
  • No, you don’t need to journal or do yoga.
  • It’s OK to check Instagram first thing in the morning. (I do.)
  • If it’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist
  • You decide your Rich Life, including your morning routine.

Why we take bad advice about morning routines

There’s a new cottage industry of people telling you all the thing you “should” do every morning. But as it gets more absurdly specific, it gets even more performative. Drink a glass of water? No! Make sure you infuse it with turmeric and mint.

If you like mint, great. But just adding mint doesn’t do anything. The real win here is to be intentional about what you want to do — and how you want to do it.

This is a lot harder than making an esoteric recommendation like drinking 6oz of yak tea. People love those recommendations because all of us want a magic bullet, or “secrets” that will magically change everything for us. Deep down, we know it’s all bullshit.

I spoke to Tim Ferriss about this on his podcast a few years ago – you can watch the interview here:

How to create the right morning routine for you

Real happiness and productivity comes from making much deeper changes.

  • If you love waking up without an alarm clock, how can you go to sleep at a time where you can make that a reality? 
  • If you want to make breakfast for your kids every morning, how can you set things up the night before?
  • If you like to have a leisurely morning where you take 2 hours to watch TV, what does it take to make that happen?

This is a lot harder than taking some magic pill. It means fundamentally restructuring your lifestyle, including how you work (maybe even where you work), how you relax, what time you go to sleep, and even what you think of yourself (“I’m not a morning person” is an identity you can rewrite).

Real morning routines are decided the week before, month before, and year before

I love the idea of crafting a meaningful morning for your personal Rich Life. I do not love the cargo-cult fanaticism about random tactics. The best morning routine is decided the day before, the week before, and the year before by mastering the fundamentals. 

What I mean by this: When I wake up and have a leisurely morning, then wander over to start working, I open my calendar. What I see has been decided weeks and months before:

  • I know what I’m working on because every Monday looks the same, every Tuesday looks the same, etc.
  • I’ve customized my work to what works for me. For example, I’m more creative in the morning, so I have writing time scheduled then. I do most calls in the afternoon.
  • I honor my own commitments. If it’s on the calendar, it’s getting done. If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not. You know how we don’t “try” to brush our teeth every morning? We just do it. Same thing for a schedule: Once it’s scheduled, I’m going to honor it. That’s become a habit — and you can build the same habit!

It’s far better to consciously decide what your morning looks like. If you want to roll over and check Instagram (as I do), that’s great. The first thing I get to read is some 17-year-old telling me I am wrong about investing. Good morning, @crypt0_4_lyfe7291. Thanks for your contributions to the investing literature.

Be realistic about your time and energy

Look at your calendar for tomorrow. Have you thought about how your energy fluctuates throughout the day? Does your calendar include the 3 most important things that need to get done? Is it realistic — does it include time to use the bathroom and eat and just zone out?

These are much more important than decisions than how many ounces of water you’re going to drink. They’re also harder, which is why we avoid them. I believe in tackling the Big Wins in life, not chasing tiny decisions that are ultimately meaningless.

3 questions to ask yourself when designing your morning routine

  1. What would your perfect morning look like? Think expansively. They could involve walking your dog in the park, making the perfect cup of coffee, or watching an hour of TV. You decide!
  2. What are all the reasons this will never work? Get them out on paper. I know, I know. You’re not a morning person. Your boss won’t let you start working at 9:30am. Your kitchen is too cluttered. You don’t have the right equipment to make an espresso. Write all of the reasons down.
  3. What are all the reasons you could make this work? Now reverse it: If you absolutely had to, what could you do to make your perfect morning happen? Perhaps you could come to an agreement with your boss about your start time. You could buy an espresso machine. You could even move closer to a park. Think big and don’t limit yourself.

As you tackle these questions, you may realize that your perfect morning is a lot closer than you thought.

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