I know it’s a bit weird but I love a morning routine.
This is a huge change of events since my University days. I don’t even think I had a monthly routine back then. But as ever, life moves on and we all get a little wiser to the things that make our lives work just a tiny bit better. After all the tiny changes make a big difference in the long run. James Clear talks about this extensively in his book ‘Atomic Habits’. His excellent book is tided together by this theme that tiny changes make a big difference over time. Nothing fancy or shiny about it. Work on the tiny little things that make your life work a little bit better. One more push up. He introduces us to a chap called Dave Brailsford whom the British Cycling team had just hired to become their new performance director. Now Brailsford wasn’t into shiny silver bullets to solve the cycling teams 110 years of failed attempts of winning the Tour de France. What he was interested in marginal gains.
What are marginal gains you ask? Well they are essentially small, incremental improvements. Brailsford said that “if you broke everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and the improve it by 1%, you’ll get a significant increase when you put them together.”
So simple. So clear. So logical.
So if you broke down what makes up your day, and increased everything by 1% then that would lead to a significant increase. If you improve 1% everyday for 1 year you improve overall by 38 times. Imagine what that would look like. When I sit and ponder on that, I get a little scared about how much of a change that is.
The thing is, tiny changes feel small. In the moment they don’t feel like we’re moving. Think about if you went 1% further on your morning run or ate 1% healthier. It’s nothing. 1% might be 1g more broccoli, 1g less crisps, 1 more minute on the treadmill. It’s nothing. It feels small and therefore uninspired.
But, to Jame’s point, that’s it’s beauty. 1% is nothing, really, right now. But 1% isn’t nothing in a year. 1%, consistently, in one year… well that’s a lot.
So, with the understanding of marginal gains, I come back to the point of this article. Morning routines. Morning routines can seem boring and uninspired. Get up, do item number 1, item number 2, item number 3 and then off to work you go. But if you reframe that into what you’re actually doing, which is focusing on getting each element of your day better, by 1%… well then it’s a totally different story. Reading that extra page might not mean anything today but in two months time you’ll be reading for 30 minutes every morning. That means on average 50 books a year. That means you are learning at a speed you’ve never learnt at before.
If you build exercise into your morning routine, sure you won’t be in shape for the first couple of times, in fact probably not for six months. But when you’ve cracked it, when you’re maintaining these habits and improving bit by bit, day by day, then that leads to the envitable, which is success.
My morning routine is by no means there yet. I’ve been experimenting with it for the last three months and for the most part it’s been maintainable. It’s meant that I’ve written more than I’ve ever written, I’m reading more than I’ve ever read. I’m probably also consuming more coffee than I’ve ever consumed. As I go along, I tweak and tune my morning routine to give me that 1%. 1% better. I’ve just incorporated a long dog walk into my morning routine which means that my reading and writing in the morning is taking a bit of a hit. 20% better exercising has meant that I’m writing probably 20–30% less. So I tweak. Tomorrow I’ll try getting up a little earlier to give me the 1% improvement back.
I think what I’m trying to say is that life is an ever changing beast. Things happen, circumstances change. However, if you concentrate on the 1% and incorporate that into the systems you’ve already got, you’ll get to wherever you want to go. If you improve by 1% everyday success is the only outcome. When else is success guaranteed?
Trust in the process and you’ll get the gold at the Tour de France.
Have a little look at my website: www.careerhealth.info for more articles on habits and morning routines.