Power Habits - Morning Routine
This is the first in my series of “attorney power habits” - routines when practiced consistently over time provide a strong compounding effect.
Power Habits - Producing Power Through a Morning Routine
Before I started the morning routine power habit, mornings typically involved checking email before leaving the house and possibly surveying the news and social media. More often than not, I would go to the gym, then rush to the office to “get things done,” which typically was impacted by the priority of others usually through emails, phone calls, and office stop-bys. Scoring “wins” in this chaotic environment is difficult, and often, I would get to the end of the day feeling like I got nothing done — at least nothing on my list.
I’ve always been a morning person and fairly quickly figured out that my time before lunch was best used on analytical projects while after lunch I focused my time on people activities such as calls, meetings, and other communications.
By adopting a morning routine years ago, I positioned myself to start each day with a “win” before the world started imposing its will on me. Below are the various elements I found to be most effective for my business, which involves three distinct and competing roles — Managing Partner, business developer, and practicing lawyer.
Elements of a Successful Morning Routine
A little bit of research will uncover a vast universe of activities included in morning routines. The following is a list of my preferred activities developed through years of experimentation:
Hydrate with a large glass of water.
Checking in with my “why” (purpose) and my core values. Takes about two minutes. See Lessons 9 and 10 for a discussion of ethos in my post 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Practicing Law.
Writing down 3 things for which I am grateful. Takes less than a minute. I have tried several journals and planners over the years. My overall favorite is the BestSelf Journal, which is a paper journal. For digital users, I recommend the 5-Minute Journal. Starting the day with gratitude puts you into a positive mindset.
Exercise - at a minimum working up a sweat. I usually commit 30-90 minutes for this. An added advantage of the morning workout is you can couple that with doing something really uncomfortable, which has significant psychological benefits. In addition to hard workouts, you can do a cold shower or extended plank hold until muscle failure. The key is scoring a “win” by overcoming adversity early in the morning before your day starts.
Read 5-10 minutes of educational content. I usually have a theme for a quarter and read material around that theme. I string four quarters into a “personal PhD” for the year. Podcasts and emails subscriptions like the Daily Stoic are other great learning resources. Podcasts are particularly good because I can listen to them while working out.
“Future Me” visualization - pick a future time frame and visualize success real time. Takes less than 2 minutes. Visualizing completion of quarterly goals is a common application.
10 minutes of Box Breathing. Boxing breathing is a focus exercise developed by Mark Divine and taught in his Unbeatable Mind Academy. Put simply, you inhale for 5 seconds, hold it for five seconds, exhale for five seconds, hold for five seconds, then repeat the cycle. The goal is to keep your attention on the breathing. When thoughts intrude, you let them go and bring your attention back to the breathing cycle. This exercise develops awareness and focus simultaneously.
Review top three targets for the day, determined in my night routine. Takes less than 2 minutes. If I miss my night routine, I write the targets down at this step. See my posts Power Habits - Evening Routine and Power Habits - Daily Action Plan for more detail on this.
“Mental Workout” - centering breath, state a positive mantra, visualize success on your top three targets from the previous day and success on your targets for today, positive mantra, and centering breath. Takes less than 2 minutes. This was developed by Dr. Jason Selk and discussed in his book Executive Toughness.
“Daily Hooyah” is a practice a group of us from the Unbeatable Mind Inner Circle developed that involves sending a positive text message or email to someone expressing our gratitude, sharing appreciation or honor. Takes less than a minute and is significantly impactful to relationships. See my post on Building Relationships Through Emotional Bank Account Deposits for more information on why this is a powerful relationship-building tool. If you can only do a few things each morning, this is one of the best and will produce noticeable results within a week.
Morning routines like night routines are flexible and there clearly is no right way to do one. See additional resources for ideas on other activities.
Final Thoughts on Morning Routines as a Power Habit
Don’t get too wound up on all the possible actions you can include in your morning routine or if you miss the routine or a few steps. I am not always able to do all of these activities each day. As with any power habit, if you miss more than twice in a row, that should raise a red flag.
Here is a short list of things I have found to be unhelpful in your morning routine:
Checking email first thing,
Surfing the web, reading social media, or other “electronic” activities,
Watching/reading the news,
Thinking about work,
Telling yourself you don’t have time for a morning routine, and
Failing to set an intention the night before.
A missed evening routine the night before heightens your need to nail the morning routine. As observed by the team at the One Thing, it takes on average 66 days to form a power habit before you start nailing it without thinking.
Putting the Power Habit into Action
What: Dedicate a set amount of time before your day starts to activities that provide a compounding effect on your personal development. Even 5-10 minutes per morning will work. The key is consistency over time to get the benefits of compounding.
Why: A commitment to an effective morning routine, consistently practiced, is one of the most impactful changes you can make to increase productivity, reduce stress, and develop self mastery. Additionally, a consistently practiced morning routine provides you with a “win” before the day starts creating momentum throughout your day — all while the rest of the world is sleeping.
Apply: Commit to perform a morning routine Monday through Friday for at least 10 minutes per day for the next 30 days. Knock out your routine before checking your electronics and thinking about work.
Additional Morning Routine Resources
Executive Toughness by Dr. Jason Selk. The “Mental Workout” is provided in Chapter 8.
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. Note - this is one of just a few books I have read over 10 times. It is well worth the investment.
Warrior Book - “Balance” element of the “Core Four.”
I hope you have found this blog post helpful and welcome comments from readers.
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In addition to Thriving Attorney, Darin M. Klemchuk is founder of Klemchuk LLP, a litigation, intellectual property, and transactional law firm located in Dallas, Texas. He also co-founded Project K, a charity devoted to changing the world one random act of kindness at a time. Click to read more about Darin Klemchuk's practice as an intellectual property lawyer.