My Morning and Evening Routines
The word routine used to bother me. Now, it’s music to my ears. Routines harness the immense power of habits and lead us to success.
The specifics of my daily practices will most likely not be something you want to replicate into your own life. Rather, my goal is to convey the principles that support what I believe to be a crucial component of a successful life: being methodical and painstakingly consistent in our daily routines.
Be intentional with your time.
As leaders, we must deliberately exercise control over our time. What does that mean specifically? Plan what you will do and stick to your plan. This may sound trite, but it is extremely difficult to stop everything long enough to create a routine for ourselves that serves our goals, supports our values, and works practically with our schedules. And it’s even more difficult to be consistent with it. But we must try. When we are not intentional and methodical with our time, it is spent without purpose or dedicated direction.
There are 168 hours in a week. How do you spend yours? How many hours do you sleep? How many do you spend watching TV? Literally. Do you know? A couple of years ago I measured my time for a period of two weeks down to five-minute increments. It was eye-opening! In this article, I want to share with you how I learned to be more intentional, with specific focus on the morning and evening windows.
Take advantage of the 5am to 7am window.
For some, these two hours must be spent at work or getting kids ready for school. But for most of us, I think we will find that at least a portion of this time is free and clear (if we can get ourselves out of bed). Why 5am? Well for me, it’s ideal. A few years ago I disciplined myself to awaken at 4am, but that meant that I had to be asleep by 9pm, which required that I had to end all evening activities by 8:30pm. That just didn’t work for me. Like most people, the evening is a time I usually dedicate to connecting with loved ones and friends. Waking up at 5am requires that I fall asleep close to 10pm, which proved much more doable.
A bonus to the 5am to 7am window is that most people we know are still sleeping, so the phone calls and texts are not yet taking us hostage. And at this time of day, we aren’t usually expected to respond immediately anyway. Moreover, it is a time when we are refreshed (if we slept well). It is a time of quiet.
If you don’t already, I highly recommend that you reserve this time to do what is most important for you personally in your day.
You must go to sleep early if you intend to wake early.
I have tried all sorts of sleep disciplines. When I measured my time and averaged it about two years ago, I discovered that on average I sleep about 6.5 hours per night. Some nights I sleep more, some less. Even though that was my average each night, I think I require more. I was just not getting it at the time. So currently, I budget 7 hours for sleep. I aim to sleep from 10 pm to 5am.
For me, going to sleep at a scheduled time takes tremendous discipline—and an occasional Ambien. Since I begin my evening practices at 9 pm (I’ll share those with you below), I have to schedule all of my social interactions to end before then. Sometimes I am in the office until almost 9pm, or a social or business dinner takes longer than planned. In those cases, something gets cheated. Either I skip my evening (or next morning) routine, or I sleep less. And this usually occurs once or twice a week.
Dedicate time in the evening.
Why dedicate time in the evening for daily routines? The evening presents another period of time (albeit shorter) that is relatively quiet and contains fewer distractions. For most of us, work is finished, and the day is coming to a close. If people depend on you to answer texts and calls, their expectations are lower as well that you answer them in the evening.
My evening routine is from 9 to 10pm. Of course, most people have responsibilities to their families in the evening. But I believe, if planned, we can still carve out a little time in the evening for consistent daily habits.
Do the same things.
So, what are we planning on doing with this time? Whatever is important to you. Whatever will add value to your growth and development and help you move closer to your goals.
For me, these three hours—two in the morning, and one in the evening—are critical to my consistent growth. I spend time with God, exercise, answer email, read, file thoughts and principles, dedicate time to my personal development and a few other disciplines listed below. When I am not intentional to allot time for these activities in a regimented routine, they simply do not get accomplished in a consistent way. And it is consistency that I am after. In the long run, consistency is what leads us forward.
Here are my morning and evening routines.
I’ve found the best method for me is to assign an exact time for each discipline in my routine. I literally use a timer. If you want to try your own routine, you may decide not to be as rigid as I am, and that’s fine. But once you find a method that is comfortable for you, aim on being consistent with your program.
My Morning Routine
Everyday at 5am (or 5:10 if I snooze), I start the following practices. And I do most of them from my bed!
5 minutes: I read the BBC online, check the weather, and read my daily affirmations.
30 minutes: This is my quiet time to read and study the Bible and to pray. I intentionally make this practice the first part of what I do daily: to honor God with the first part of my day (after I spend the first 5 minutes waking up).
22 minutes: Process my email.
13 minutes: Review my to-do list for today.
2 minutes: Check the clinic online reviews.
4 minutes: Check my bank account.
4 minutes: Check my calendar. I confirm appointments and look ahead for the next four weeks.
15 minutes: I organize my home office and/or my computer files.
15 minutes: Exercise. I don’t go to the gym; I do plyometrics at home. I watch Charlie Rose, my favorite TV interview program, while I exercise.
All together, these activities equal 1 hour and 50 minutes. After this, I allow 20 minutes to shower and dress.
My Evening Routine
15 minutes: Personal Growth. I dedicate this time to review a set of principles and personal practices I am endeavoring to apply in my life.
15 minutes: Filing. I electronically file what I learned that day from the notes I took in my personal journal along with any seminar or book reading notes I may have recently made.
30 minutes: Reading. I try to read 30 pages in 30 minutes. Sometimes, I can do that. Though many times I go over the 30 minutes. I do my very best to finish 30 pages daily though. At that rate, I can complete about five books per month.
Remember to be flexible. But don’t allow your desire to be flexible to become an excuse to be unintentional. Start with shorter times if you prefer. And know, it is not easy to do at first. Even when you have done it for a while, you still have to be self-disciplined. Accept that you will fail. I do. But that’s okay. I keep comping back and starting again. And over time, I have gotten better.
Actionable Step: Make a list of what you would like to do daily. Assign how many minutes you would like to dedicate to each activity? Now, set a time in your morning or evening for each activity you would like to complete.
I would love to hear about your routines! If you’re willing to share, hit reply and email me.
Reading now: Practicing Excellence by Stephen Beeson, MD. Dr. Beeson, a family doctor and nationally renowned thought leader on excellence in healthcare, discusses how physicians and medical practices can lead their organizations to a better place in the area of patient care.
For Further Reading: