For years my morning routine was this:
1st alarm goes off at 6:00am
Groggily turn over, turn it off
2nd alarm goes off 5 minutes later
Groggily turn over, turn it off
Repeat 5 more times until I have just enough time to get a shower, get dressed and drive to work.
Now my morning routine is this:
Alarm goes off at 5:00 am
Get out of bed, walk to alarm, turn it off.
Get into already laid out gym clothes.
Make pre workout and drive to gym.
Shower, Meditate, Read, Eat
If you told me 3 years ago that this would be my morning routine I would have laughed. Heck, if you told me a year ago this would be my routine I would have been doubtful. Waking up early and establishing a good morning routine had always been one of my goals, but I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. How I did it, and how you can do it too (not just for waking up early, but for any habit) is the baby step method.
The Baby Step Method:
The basics of this method is to take the habit you want to instill, and break it down into small parts. As an example of the “Baby Steps” method I’ll break down how I started a morning routing.
Break Down Your Goal Into Smaller Parts:
When it came to a morning routine the smaller parts were: waking up early, working out, meditating, and reading.
Once you have the main components of your habit broken down you go step by step instilling a small new habit, and then another one. For me step 1 was waking up early. I broke this down into two parts, going to bed early and waking up to first alarm (and staying up).
Now that you have these action items you practice them 1 by 1 until you are doing them without thinking. Most people say that it takes around a month to add a habit, but your mileage may vary.
Waking Up Early:
I started by going to bed at 10:30pm, and waking up at my usual time. Once I had the early bedtime down, I moved on to waking up to my first alarm. This took a lot of testing and experimentation. I found that one of the most common recommendations, moving your phone/alarm away from your bed, worked the best for me. I started putting my phone on the other side of my bedroom, which forced me to get out of bed to turn it off. It took me about 3 weeks to get in the routine of getting out of bed, turning off the alarm, and staying up once I turned the alarm off.
Another thing I added recently was the Alarmy app. It’s an alarm clock app that you can program to require a “test” to turn off the alarm. This can be math problems of varying difficulties, scanning a QR code, or taking a photo. Activating my brain by doing math problems or getting up to take a picture of my coffee machine really made a difference.
The first step of my routine was done. I had the first building block habit of my routine done.
Now that I was waking up early, I had to start exercising. My long term goal was to drive to the gym and workout in the morning before work. I broke this down further into 3 parts; working out at home, increasing the intensity with kettlebells, and moving the workout from home to the gym.
My goal through these steps is to do the minimum viable amount of effort necessary for a day to count towards my goal. In the beginning it was 1 pushup. That turned into 10 pushups and some squats, then 50 kettlebell swings, and now hour plus workouts at the gym.
Meditating was already a habit of mine before the morning routine, but i worked on it using the same method. I would sit down and focus on my breath for 10 seconds minimum. If I meditated for as little as 10 seconds I counted that as a success. Eventually I increased the amount of time required for me to consider it a day meditating. I find a lot of people take meditating too seriously at the beginning and psyche themselves out of it. It’s not a win/lose scenario. Doing something as little as focusing on your breathing or clearing your mind for 10 seconds is a good start.
Reading was a bit easy for me, as it was something I’ve done almost daily for as long as I can remember. I added it to the morning routine as well as having it be a part of my evening routine. My suggestions for getting into a reading habit is to read as much as you can whenever you can. If you read 15 pages a day for a month you can get through most books in a month! Check out our blog post on simple tricks to increase the amount you read.
I’ve used this technique, without thinking of it as a technique, for years and on many things. It can be applied to any habit you want to add to your life and can make it much easier than any brute force method. All it requires is some thinking, and patience.
I actually wrote this blog post around a year ago. At the time I had used it to get into a great morning routine. Then about 6 months ago I started working from home 100% of the time and fell out of the routine. In the past two months I’ve used this method to get back in the habit of waking up early, working out, and meditating. I know this “Baby Steps” method works for me, and it could pay some big dividends for you as well.
What tips and tricks do you use to instill good habits in your life? Comment below with your habit building routines.