There is this common theme in the self-help community that you have to start your day early in order to be successful in life. Only a early bird will catch the worm. Why go to the gym over lunch when you can do it at 4 am? You have to win the day by owning the night, otherwise you will be miserable and stuck in your cubicle for life. Getting up earlier to work on your passion projects before a hectic day starts makes sense. But is it worth sacrificing half your night?
My own experience
To be honest I also jumped on the bandwagon two years ago. I had several morning routines in place that sounded quite good on paper. Especially the night before, mostly on a Sunday, I imagined it will be an awesome way to start my next morning/week. But then the next morning came.
I got up to drink warm tab water with either lemon juice or vinegar added. This was followed by a bit of stretching. After that I meditated for five to ten minutes. Then I went to prepare a hot tea which I sipped during a ten-minute journaling session. This was followed by a block of reading and the whole routine ended by leaving the house for a 15-minute walk.
In theory this should have taken me around 45 minutes to finish. In reality the total time was almost twice as much. The reason was the time in between tasks, that I neglected to plan for. I had to wait for the water to boil for my tea, go to the toilette in between and look five minutes for my mobile phone in order to use my meditation app. After finishing all the tasks, I did feel some sort of accomplishment.
In reality, this felt like a chore from the start and the time pressure during the activities to not waste any time took the fun out of it. I was not able to enjoy the tasks because in my back head was a clock constantly ticking. There was no “let me enjoy this morning moment”, instead it felt like a “let’s get this over with as soon as possible”. I was never able to do this sort of routine more than two days in a row. Even when I finished the routine, all the tasks were done with a checklist mindset and not intentional at all. This led to frustration and my goal to win the day seemed to slip out of my hands. But maybe trying to squeeze in 6 different things before you start your day is just pure overload for me.
What I do now
I adjusted my morning routines several times and experimented with what I like and what not. Journaling for example is something I am interested in and I believe could bring me a lot of value. For some unknown reason though I am not able to get any enjoyment out of it so far. Therefore, I put journaling in the “let me look at it later box”, when I am ready for it.
Going for a walk on the other hand brings me a lot of joy therefore I do that around 3 times a week. Same goes for studying Korean, which is an almost daily practice for me. The third one is reading books, which I primarily do in the evening. I sprinkle in an 8-minute meditation session every now and then and I am all set.
Getting up early certainly has its benefits, if you are the sort of person that likes to raise early. Starting your day with a routine that you enjoy and brings you closer to your goals is a fantastic idea. For a while I got up around 6 am and went out jogging. This was something I truly enjoyed to be out in nature when most people are still sleeping. In general, I am someone who likes to get up early and by early, I mean around 6.15 am and not 4 am.
Forcing a barrage of different activities into your early morning hours just for the sake of having a morning routine is a waste of time. Only because Tim Ferries can do it doesn’t mean it is for me. Not following a certain routine schedule other people are doing doesn’t mean I am missing out. You should try out what works for you and what you get value from. If you prefer reading in the evening because you rather sleep a bit longer in the morning then please do that. Your own routines should be easy to follow for you, you should be able to stick to them for a long time in order to make progress.