With each morning comes the promise of a clean slate, a new day yet to be spoiled by the haphazard rush of our lives. We’re told that if we learn to master our mornings, we can experience endless productivity and set our day up for success before the rest of the world wakes. Yet despite our best intentions to rise early, many of us continue to reach for the snooze alarm.
Observing my own follies when it comes to making the most of the morning hours, I realised I was committing one key mistake: placing too much emphasis on what time I started the day, instead of what I was doing to kick-start it. Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, setting up your day effectively has more to do with how we choose to spend the beginning of each day.
To put this to the test, I spent three weeks trialling morning routines.
The Eat The Frog Approach
Mark Twain once said that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day. Popularised by motivational author Brian Tracy, the eat the frog technique suggests we tackle our most dreaded task early in the morning when we’re less susceptible to distraction
Each night, I’d determine my “frog” for the next day – the thing I didn’t want to do, but actually needed to do. Each morning, I’d wake up (without an alarm), make a cup of tea and eat my frog. This routine gave me the feeling of getting two days in one: with the hardest task behind me, I’d then reset and attend to the rest of my morning – exercise, a shower, a full breakfast and meditation.
The Miracle Morning ritual
Popularised by “success coach” and author Hal Elrod, the Miracle Morning is a set of rituals encapsulated in the acronym SAVERS: Silence, Affirmations, Visualisations, Exercise, Reading and Scribing. This sequence can be completed in any order and in as little as six minutes.
I got up an hour earlier than usual to accommodate my sequence: 20 minutes of meditation; five minutes reading a positive affirmation and making mental visualisations; 10 minutes of free-form writing; 10 minutes of reading; and a 15-minute jog or high-intensity workout.
The results were divided. On the mornings I did manage to get out of bed with the alarm, I felt energetic and motivated by the sequence. As the week wore on, though, the routine lost its glow and felt more like a daunting to-do list to power through than a leisurely and mindful way to start the day. My snoozebutton alarm habit was quickly resumed, and the miracle morning quickly became a guilty morning.
For anyone working outside set office hours, not having a specific start time can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s liberating, but can equally feel directionless and chaotic. As a freelance writer, I don’t have an office to hurry to, but this routine required me to be at a cafe or library no later than 9am. The structure proved to be a great way to force me out of bed instead of scrolling on Instagram until mid-morning. Yet once I was at my faux workplace, I fell into old work habits of getting trapped in my email inbox till midday. Combining this routine with Eating The Frog, however, was a great success.
Post-experiment, I’ve found enjoyment in switching between the various morning sequences. There’s a notion that our daily routines must be fixed in order to be geared for success, but when we experiment with different approaches to our mornings, each day becomes its own choose-your-own-adventure story.
What morning routine will work best for you?
• The Eat The Frog approach is best for people who are prone to procrastination. Completing the hardest task first creates a sense of accomplishment and momentum for the rest of the day.
• The Miracle Morning ritual is better suited for go-getters who want to “win the day” and form new habits quickly.
• The Faux-Workplace concept is ideal for students, self-employed people and anyone who thrives on structure and deadlines.