The prosperity perks of keeping a consistent morning routine are no secret.
If you Google “rich habits of highly successful people” you’ll get 121 million hits, and while I didn’t read all of them (who has time for that?), there was clearly a common thread within the first several results:
If you want to be successful, morning routines matter.
In his best-selling book Change Your Habits, Change Your Life, Tom Corley found that 50% of self-made millionaires get out of bed 3 hours before their workday starts. Why? Because they use that time to invest in morning routine activities that propel them to success such as exercise, reading, planning the day, and mindset development.
High achievers are notoriously busy people. We’re on a mission to change the world and reap the rewards in the process. So how are famous billionaires fitting in hours of self-investment while some of us can’t even manage to eat breakfast every day?
Here are 5 ways you may be overcomplicating your morning routine, and some tiny habit hacks to make it more simple.
You’ve read more than a few of the millions of articles outlining the morning routines of successful people and decided to add a Top 10 list of habits to your own daily routine, stat. It might last a few days or a couple of weeks– you wobble, you miss a day, you try again– but the pressure to keep it up ends when you finally ditch the whole thing. As far as your subconscious mind is concerned, there is less pain involved in giving up than in repeatedly failing. And failure is inevitable when we take on more than we can realistically accomplish.
Action step: Pick just one morning habit to start.
Our brains love repetition. The bad news? We stay stuck repeating old, unhelpful habits when we feel overwhelmed with too much to think about, remember, and do. The good news? Focusing on one habit at a time feels doable and, ultimately, safe. When habits are founded in safety, our brains can relax. Instead of worrying about the potential for failure, we take the actions necessary for building a solid routine.
(Related: 3 Little-Known Ways to Jumpstart Your Day When You Don’t Have Time for a Morning Routine
2. Counting on cookie-cutter solutions
You’re following a morning routine you received from your life/business coach. After all, who should know better about success strategies than the expert you hired to help you manage entrepreneurship and life? Although you value and respect this expert’s advice, trying to maintain their prescribed morning strategy feels about as doable as swimming in molasses. You may be trudging through the motions, or worse, finding yourself completely stuck. Trying to cram your life into someone else’s box not only sabotages day-to-day productivity and feelings of accomplishment—it’s a recipe for burnout.
Action step: Tune into your unique needs and honor them.
This is extremely difficult when the focus is checking off to-dos and clinging to “shoulds.” Instead, pay attention to your internal reward system (dopamine) and use it to your advantage. This happiness brain chemical is released on repeat every time we do something pleasurable, and thereby connects that positive feeling with the activity. (Reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6082399/)
When you choose habits that feel good, you are strengthening your routine in a way that willpower and “shoulding” just can’t match.
This doesn’t mean that it will always feel effortless. However, it’s easier to stay consistent in our habits when we don’t dread them… or avoid them altogether. Discuss this with your coach to see how your plan might be customized to suit you better. If he/she can’t or won’t help you create a perfect-fit solution, it might be time to seek out someone who will.
3. Resisting your natural rhythms
Some success icons—including Michelle Obama, Deepak Chopra, and Richard Branson—reportedly get up by 5 a.m. every morning. They are shining examples of the 3-hour morning routine mentioned earlier. If you struggle to feel energized and productive in the morning hours, are you pushing yourself to wake up early just because you think it’s the only path to achievement?
It’s vital to understand that this doesn’t actually work for everyone. If fifty percent thrive by waking early, that means half of successful people do not!
If you pay attention, you might notice you’re one of many whose focus and energy rhythms naturally peak in the late morning or early evening. Maybe you’re a night owl, producing your best work when you burn the midnight oil, and therefore you function suboptimally as an early riser. Many clients tell me they can’t manage to enjoy big blocks of time for self-investment until after everything has been settled for the day.
On another note, perhaps it’s not about your body’s natural rhythms as much as those of your household or lifestyle. The schedules and patterns of your partner, kids, pets, etc. can all come into play here.
Action step: Accept your natural rhythm as-is.
Fighting against it only drains your energy and wastes time. Try infusing a quick and effective morning ritual to get you going, like 10 minutes of outside time, yoga, or reading, and save the more time-consuming success habits for later in the day where they may fit more naturally.
(Related: How To Embrace Your Natural Circadian Rhythm For Success And Happiness )
4. Expecting perfection
Maybe you’ve tried simplifying with one morning habit, but still can’t make it stick. It’s common for success-driven people to set high expectations for themselves. Those with perfectionistic traits take this to the extreme, then feel like failures when they can’t live up to their ambitious but unrealistic standards. One bad day can completely throw you off track.
Remember that life happens to everyone, even the uber successful. The highest achievers have cultivated a mindset that many of us neglect to embrace: the understanding that success is possible even when things don’t go the way we planned. Think about how different life would look for Arianna Huffington if she had given up on publishing after her 35th rejection, or for Kendra Scott if she’d quit after having to close the doors on her first failed business. The same mental-emotional agility that drives our professional success is key to establishing consistency in our routines and habits.
Action step: Create a Plan B morning routine.
Make sure it’s easy and fast to do even on the most hectic “life happens” kind of days. Building flexibility and quick-pivot options into your morning routine will strengthen your resilience against the inevitable monkey wrench.
5. Underestimating the basics
Our brains are wired to look for patterns and repeat behaviors that are easiest. They try to take the path of least resistance, so why does it feel so hard to maintain the habits we know will help us? To put it bluntly, we dismiss the staying power of easy routines. We live by that age-old advice, “if it’s not challenging us, it’s not changing us,” assuming that it applies to every aspect of our goal-setting endeavors.
From the perspective of creating habit consistency, this is untrue. Brushing our teeth every morning hasn’t been a challenge since preschool, but we’ve continued to do it because we know it prevents extra trips to the dentist (and embarrassing social situations). Over time, we built a habit that feels easy because it no longer requires any mental energy to complete. Our brains don’t get hung up on distractions or extra decisions that eat up precious energy needed for taking action.
Action step: Make it easy.
The habit of dental hygiene is simplified by keeping your toothbrush in the same place and solidified by doing it at the same point in your daily sequence. *** It’s the same with successful morning routines. Decide what rituals you want to include, consider what materials are needed, and choose a place to keep them where they’re easy to access and implement.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
However, we can find ourselves with a giant mess to muddle through if we seek all of our answers from sources outside of ourselves. Habit mastery requires us to take a big-picture approach, so when we try to apply what’s worked for others, we must also examine whether or not these approaches are the best match for us as individuals.
Try new things. Switch it up. Honor what works for you. Because no matter how busy our schedule, or how quirky our natural tendencies, we will always win the day when we start with simple morning routines that play to our strengths.
Originally published at Entrepreneur .com