I took tremendously helpful tips from this strategically analytical book based on the writings of a time management expert, Laura Vanderkam. Her ideas were surprisingly elegant in their simplicity. The basic premise is that the morning is a quiet time with few distractions that is underutilized by most people. However, not by most successful people. She finds, through extensive interviewing, that most successful people have some type of morning ritual that adds a significant amount of value to either their relationships, their careers or their self (their soul). Morning time is not only carved out by highly effective and productive people but fiercely protected and guarded.
While some may find the morning a time to cultivate relationships - children, spouse, or other relatives over coffee, breakfast or books, some spend their time nurturing their careers; finding the early morning a secret weapon in their arsenal against constant interruptions and barrages of emails and meetings. Finally, the part that really resonated with me was her suggestion to use the morning time to add value to yourself. I have found that activities such as creative expression (in any form), working out (physical fitness), spirituality (prayer and meditation), yoga, reading inspirational texts, and other enriching activities for the individual is how my morning routine best serves me.
Taking inspiration from the book, I started a morning routine this week that included 30-45 minutes of physical fitness - mostly walking on the treadmill and short fitness videos on YouTube - and 20-30 minutes of my already longstanding habit of prayer and meditation. This revived my normally rushed morning and created a sacred space in which I invest in nurturing myself; mind, body, and spirit.
I've heard various little soundbites through the years about famously and wildly successful people who claim they couldn't start their day without their morning training session or simply arriving at the office before anyone else (as I read our former mayor of NYC Mike Bloomberg did in his early career).
There are numerous beneficial effects to exercise which I will review when I revisit the book, Spark by John J. Ratey (a bevy of the latest research on neuroscience and exercise); but the benefit of a morning exercise regimen is one which was not lost on me this week as I went through my day more alert, more focused, more confident, and less troubled by anxiety and workplace stress.
One of the things that helped make this possible is advice I read in one of David Allen's books. He said that if you want to exercise put on your workout clothes, and if you want to write a novel, sit down at the computer, boot the word processor and come up with a title. In other words, action follows form and preparedness. Before this past winter break, the spare bedroom in my home was a place for a guest bed and a treadmill. I hated the art, the color on the walls, and the general "vibe" of the room. However, a fresh coat of paint on the walls and dressers, some new coordinated art, and (most importantly) an exercise mat with successively increasing sets of weights placed along the wall for easy access was the equivalent of "getting in my exercise clothes". For if I didn't have a dedicated space, how and when was this morning ritual going to take place? Needless to say, my exercise regimen was immediately amped up after the dedication of the space to exercise; and the addition of a morning ritual (rising early and strapping on my running shoes) to my already existing exercise regimen was a very cataclysmic combination for my physical fitness.
In case you were wondering why you might need to get up early to squeeze in a morning run before the kids or hubby wakes up, check out this recent excerpt from an article from nbcnews.com:
"British researchers studied about 200 workers at three sites: a university, a computer company and a life insurance firm. Workers were asked to complete questionnaires about their job performance and mood on days when they exercised at work and days when they didn't.
Participants were free to engage in the physical activity of their choice. Most of them spent 30 to 60 minutes at lunch doing everything from yoga and aerobics to strength training and playing pick-up games of basketball.
Six out of 10 workers said their time management skills, mental performance and ability to meet deadlines improved on days when they exercised. The amount of the overall performance boost was about 15 percent, according to the findings, which were presented this month at a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Nashville, Tenn." - nbcnews.com
Documentation on increased focus, decreased levels of depression, ADHD, dementia, and other detriments to well-being are well documented in the book, Spark by John J. Ratey, which will be blogged about at a later date. In the meantime, ask yourself, what do I want to add value to and nurture: myself, my relationships, or my career, or a combination of those? And skip that last episode of late time tv, go to bed an hour earlier, set the alarm, and rise and shine! You will not regret it!