Morning routines fascinate me. I’ve always liked reading about how successful people start their day. This interest isn't because I want to be a big shot CEO but rather I have found that following a simple morning routine is key for highly anxious people, like myself.
Decision making is a key trigger of anxiety and in turn being anxious can make decision making even more difficult. Also keep in mind that conditions such as decision fatigue are legitimately grounded in behavioural science. This is because we have a finite amount of decision making energy each day and you don't want to waste it on wondering about what you are going to wear or eat that day. Basically, you should be operating on auto-pilot to eliminate any taxing decisions thus conserving your decision making energy for more important ventures.
Obama hit the nail on the head when he said:
You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia. -President Obama, Vanity Fair.
Obama, like many highly successful people, follow inspiring routines that involve the following rituals that are designed to reduce stress and increase productivity:
Start your day early
Being late makes you stressed. Almost without exception, successful people start their day early e.g. Waren Buffet wakes at 4:30 a.m., Oprah is up at 6 a.m., PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi wakes at 4 a.m., Disney CEO Bob Iger gets up at 4:30 a.m., Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey is up at 5:30 a.m., even Mozart woke at 6 a.m.
Me: I’m up between 5 and 6 a.m. thanks to my baby girl. No need for an alarm clock.
Exercise first thing in the morning
Beyond the fact that exercising in the morning means you won’t run out of time later in the day, an early workout reduces stress and anxiety and has many benefits for your brain.
Anne Wintour plays tennis for an hour at 5:45 a.m., Bill gates spends an hour on his treadmill, Arriana Huffington gets on her exercise bike, while Jeff Bezos goes for a jog first thing.
Me: I would love to exercise in the morning but right now it’s impossible. I squeeze it in almost everyday but whenever I can.
Eat the same breakfast every day
Warren Buffet eats the same breakfast from McDonalds and it never costs more than $3. Richard Branson eats a fruit salad and muesli every morning. Winston Churchill always ate a hearty breakfast which was to be brought on two trays. The first tray included a poached egg, toast, jam, butter, coffee, milk, and cold chicken or other meats. On the second tray, he liked his grapefruit, sugar bowl, glass of orange squash, and a whisky soda.
Me: I religiously stick to the same breakfast for a few months and then change it up once I get bored. Also as soon as I wake up I drink a big glass of warm water with some apple cider vinegar. It’s my non-negotiable ritual.
Wear the same thing every day
Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Giorgio Armani, Mark Zuckerberg and Albert Einstein all made life easier by adopting a uniform. There is certainly a gender bias here but a few years ago a former art director, Matilda Kahl, went viral for writing about her decision to wear the same outfit to work every day. I can only think of political players such as Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Elizabeth Warren who streamline their wardrobes by sticking to various shades of pant suits.
Me: I am notorious for wearing athletic wear all day, every day. It has become my uniform. I’m not proud of it but I find I’m much more productive if I’m wearing practical clothes and footwear. But if I have to scrub up I always organise my outfit the night before to avoid the so-called decision fatigue.
Do you have a particular non-negotiable ritual in the morning? Coffee? Meditation? Oil pulling?