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Our Morning Ritual: How We Set Ourselves Up For Success Every Day

Hey everyone, Derek and Rachel here. This week we’re going to give you a quick peek into a typical morning. On Monday Rach posted a workout video from one of our early mornings, so we thought it would make sense to go over what a typical morning looks like for us. For the most part this post was written by Rachel, but I (Derek) have included some notes of my own as well.

Before reading, please take a minute to check out our About Us and Blog Disclaimers pages to get some context of who we are and what you need to keep in mind while reading our posts.

It’s ironic that we’re posting this today. For some unknown reason, this morning we didn’t stick to our morning ritual. We started off strong by getting adequate sleep and prioritizing our main tasks, however sometime after that we let ourselves get off track.

We were still reasonably productive, and we got some good things done, but our stress level was much higher than normal during the process. On top of that, we ran out of time for one of our main objectives for this morning – finishing and pre-scheduling this blog post. The blog post is still making it up, and a little stress won’t kill us, but mornings like this one are definitely not something we want to repeat.

Below we outline 5 steps that we try to stick to in order to keep our morning organized, productive and stress free. Perhaps we’ll give this post a read next time we get off track!

Step 1: Get Adequate Sleep

We usually aim for 8-9 hours of sleep each night, but often with working full time and starting the business we don't have time for that. When we can't sleep the full 8-9 hours, we try to make sure that we get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night. That seems to be a number that we can survive on. Any less than that and we end up brain fogged and lethargic.

Since we don’t function particularly well on short sleep, we focus on making sure that we get enough sleep so that the time we do have to work on projects is highly productive time.

What's the point of making ourselves miserable sacrificing 2 hours of sleep each night if the extra work is canceled out by poor performance?

It takes practice, but we have gotten into a rhythm for this: If we go to bed at around 7:30 or 8:00pm and get up at 3:30 am, we have successfully achieved 7.5-8 hours of sleep. However, if we go to bed at around 9:00 or 10:00pm (out socially, or side-tracked by other priorities), we'll usually sleep in until 5:00 or 6:00am.

Unless we have a deadline it's not worth the negative effects that sleep deprivation causes. It's all about finding that balance.

Step 2: Prioritize

If you’ve been in our house recently, you’d notice that we often have a whole bunch of cue cards strewn across the dining room table (which is currently being used as our desk). On these cue cards are priority lists.

Each morning (or evening if preparing for the next day), we set aside 5 minutes to write down the tasks we need to accomplish before leaving for work. Once written down, we number them in order of priority and even scratch some off if they aren’t immediate needs.

You can also write the estimated amount of time you think it would take to get done and schedule that into your morning so you really stay on task.

The feeling of crossing off a high priority task on your list first thing in the morning is very rewarding. With that task complete, no matter how badly you screw up the rest of the day you still know that you are making progress on that project.

As Tim Ferriss says in his post The Not To Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now, “If you don’t prioritize, everything seems urgent and important. If you define the single most important task for each day, almost nothing seems urgent or important.” [Emphasis mine.]

Step 3: Get The #1 Priority Task Done

This is where we went wrong this morning. We made our priority list, but we didn’t follow it.

Sometimes we wonder where the morning went! You get distracted by other immediate tasks and thrown off course (ie. Cleaning up dog pee, remembering you forgot to make your lunch for the day, you have to shovel the snow outside, etc.)

To accommodate for the unseen circumstances, ALWAYS do your #1 priority task first. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200 dollars.

I don’t care if you want to check your e-mail first, if its not your #1 priority for the day it needs to wait its turn.

Step 4: Morning Workouts

Lately, we much prefer morning workouts. Although strength is often higher in the late afternoon, getting a morning workout in has an incredible effect on the rest of the day. 

Personally, I feel so refreshed and ready for the day when I get a morning workout in. I'm motivated to be my best self!

As an added bonus, after a long day at work I can enjoy my walk back home knowing that I don't have to summon the energy to workout. I can finish up a few household errands, eat dinner, do a bit of work on the business or a coaching session and get to bed nice and early.

There is also some interesting research indicating that people get up to 75% more deep sleep when they workout in the morning rather than later in the day. Shawn Stevenson of Advanced Integrative Health Alliance discusses this in more detail here.

Step 5: Acknowledging Weaknesses

If we aren't able to get a full night’s sleep (less than 7 hours), we are very careful the next day when it comes to willpower and self-control.

We make a point of acknowledging that our willpower will be weak, our moods will be quick to react, our cravings increased and a high likelihood of mindless time-wasting on social media.

Understanding that will-power compromises are likely to happen while we're low on sleep allows us to set ourselves up for success. I find that the following two 'set-up' practices make a big difference:

1) Hide away any 'enjoyment' foods. I'm not talking about hiding them in the cupboard below the counter, I'm talking somewhere you KNOW you couldn't be bothered to go and retrieve it when cravings hit. (Where we store ours? The backyard shed! Since it's cold out and they'd need to be defrosted we're usually too lazy to get them!) If you know you’ll be weak today, it doesn’t make any sense to rely on willpower. Set your system up for success.

2) Stay hydrated. Very hydrated. You're chances of being irritable and hungry are extremely high already, so try and minimize other contributing factors and avoid getting dehydrated. 

keeping balance

While we believe it is important to have a ritual in place, it’s also important not to let it become too rigid.

I (Derek) came across this problem while first trying to enact a morning ritual. I have a terrible habit of being perfectionistic when it comes to rather unnecessary tasks, so it takes constant attention and reminders to keep myself from getting too neurotic about it.

There isn’t always a universal formula. Yes, some things can be greatly beneficial when practiced daily, but when taken to the extreme and mandated for yourself daily, they can become a burden rather than providing relief.

If you’re not feeling it that day, skip it!


If you enjoyed this post, do us a favour and share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The only way we can grow is with your help!

Hit us up on Facebook, Twitter or by email if you have any questions or would like some tips on how to apply any of these strategies!


Derek & Rachel
Live For Today Fitness

P.s. don't forget to check out our new LIFT.FOUNDATIONS. program if you're local to the KW-Cambridge area!