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How To Design Morning Routines That Can Make You A Better Architect and Lead To Success On A Daily Basis

Why are mornings important? Obviously, the morning is the start of your day.  But we don’t place enough weight on what beginnings mean, each day.  The beginning, the start, the first for anything in life sets the stage for what is to come next.  First impressions can determine how a relationship will pan out.  The beginning of a project or schematic design creates the framework for what will later become the final design.  And the beginnings of your days, the mornings, dictate how the rest of your day will go.   If you wake up with negative thoughts, often your mind will be focused on the negative events in the day.  If you wake up feeling tired, you will likely be tired and unmotivated for the rest of the day. If you start the day on a positive note though, you can move mountains with what you are able to accomplish. 

The morning is also a magical time of day.  If you get up early in the morning there are fewer distractions. Your family may still be asleep and not in need of your attention.  Businesses are not yet open or just getting going so no one is trying to get ahold of you and you can’t get ahold of anyone else.  This distraction-free time is the perfect time of day to focus on yourself and your growth.  It can also be the perfect time of day to focus on side projects and things you have been wanting to accomplish or create that has nothing to do with your daily work.  It is amazing what you can get done when you spend a little bit of time on it each morning.

Mornings and what you do with your time in the morning allow you to get a jump start on the rest of the world.  If you are truly motivated to do better and have more success, focusing on your morning routines can help you get there.

Take a moment to look at your current morning routine. Think about how you start your days and take some quick mental notes on what you are doing regularly and how you have been feeling. Having an accurate assessment of the current state of your mornings is important to know where you can improve and find more daily success.

Negative Habits

There are a number of things we do on a daily basis and habits that we have built up over time that can be detrimental to your daily success. 

The News

The top habit that is can be hurting your daily success is starting your day with the news.  Now I hope I don’t lose some of you here as we are always taught the importance of staying in the know.  Yes, I think it is important to be informed, but the 24-hour constant news cycle is truly unnecessary.  News outlets are in the business of entertainment.  And being in the business of entertainment they need to keep your attention for as long as they possibly can.   They achieve this through shock and awe campaigns, negative stories, and scare tactics.  They need you to feel dependent on knowing what is going on by using fear.  This is not a healthy thing to give our attention to. We all know the news is mostly composed of negative information, so why do we focus on it?  And what happens if we stop paying attention.  

Over a year ago I unplugged myself completely from the news. I deleted my news apps on my phone, I had canceled the newspaper long before that, and I don’t have cable and am not able to watch live TV or live news. Let me tell you, my level of happiness quickly grew after detaching from the news and feeling the need to be constantly informed.  I haven’t followed the news since then.  You might think I was completely disconnected from the world right?  Not at all.  In fact I had more headspace to give attention to the things that mattered and my brain had less negativity influencing it every day.  

The high majority of what the news reports have no relation with your day to day life and should have no effect on how you live each day.  And if there is anything important happening in the world, trust me, someone is going to tell you about it in a short time. People love to talk about what is going on and they will keep you informed so you don’t have to waste time watching what is going on and let others fill you in as they see fit.

Detaching from the news probably is not an easy task for most people to do, but it is truly worth it.  I am not here to tell you to completely give up the news as I did, but just stop giving it your attention in the mornings. You can catch up with the nightly news if you need to or the newspaper later in the day.  If you love news and really feel the need to stay informed in the mornings, try sticking to the business sections of the paper, business periodicals, the weather, or industry news.  Stay up on the things that are important to your everyday life and avoid the rest.  As they say, the rest is just noise.

Your Phone

The next negative morning habit is going straight for your phone. When you reach for your phone first thing in the morning you are overstimulating your brain.  Whether you are scrolling through social media, checking emails, or playing games, doing this can push you in the wrong direction for the day.  With emails, wait until you get to your office or officially start your workday before making your way through thm.  Separate your work from everything else.  Waking up to an “urgent” email from a client or contractor or whoever desperately needs your attention can instantly add unneeded stress to your day and is the perfect way to sour your mood first thing in the morning.  

Social media can be fun to scroll through but it is an addicting and unhealthy habit in the mornings.  Most people use social media to post all the great things they have going on in their lives. So we naturally begin to compare ourselves to others and view this false reality of their lives vs ours.  This will not lead to a positive day if we are judging ourselves or others first thing in the morning.  

Staying off your phone in the morning is an extremely difficult habit to break.  If you are going to work on breaking it, try charging your phone in another room overnight instead of on your bedside table (which will also help your sleep).  Set your phone on airplane mode when you go to sleep and don’t take it off until you have completed your morning routine.  Or use apps like Freedom or Screen Time to control how often you can access apps and at what times.

Snoozing

Snoozing is also a really bad way to start your day.  When you keep hitting the snooze button you will find yourself being more tired throughout the day.  This is because you are not getting real rest in the small fragments of sleeping and waking between alarms.   Get up with your first alarm and stay up.  Do this if you are not already and trust me you will feel more alert and awake throughout the day. 

Rushing To Work

And the last negative habit, usually directly related to snoozing, is running straight off to work.  When you have to get up and rush to get ready and run to work you are setting your day up for failure, every time.  I used to do this, I would hate my days.  When you give yourself ample time to go slow, focus on yourself, and take your time getting ready in the morning you will be more clear throughout the day.  When you have to rush you are usually focusing on the negative thoughts like being late to work or hating getting up in the morning, and so on. This is by far the easiest habit to change.  Just wake up early enough and go to bed earlier if you need to in order for getting up to be easier.  Don’t allow running late to ruin the rest of your day. If you need extra help try getting an alarm clock that has a built-in light to simulate the sun and ease you into an awoken state  

Positive Habits

Now with the negative habits out of the way lets focus on positive ways to set you up for success every day.  Darren Hardy, in his book, The Compound Effect, talks about how little habits and small decisions, repeated over time compound and build and snowball into massive success.  It is the small things that create the discipline to be able to tackle the giants. I hope to give you a tool chest of small things that you can implement in your daily practice to help you compound them into a huge success.  

I have worked with and experimented with all of the following things in my morning ritual and still use all of them on a daily or weekly basis. Though seemingly minor the first two are very important.  

Hydrate

You have just been asleep for however many hours and your body has gone without any water through that time.   Wake up and fill a glass of water and down it as the first thing you do. Preferably take in a full pint or two. Being dehydrated is one of the main causes of lethargy and lack of energy throughout the day.  Starting your day by rehydrating will help you to be more alert through the day and can balance out your moods. 

The average person needs to drink about 2-3 liters of water a day. Staying hydrated is clearly a day-long process but starting your day by drinking a pint right when you get up puts you 1/6 of the way there, easy!  When you are sleeping your body is working on repairing itself and recovering, so your immune system is working hard to get rid of toxins.  When you drink a glass of water in the morning you help flush out toxins faster, which can help fight sickness and keep you healthy.  It will also jump-start your metabolism.  If you want to take it a step further add fresh lemon juice to your water in the morning which can have huge daily health benefits above the extra vitamin C.

I keep a glass of water on my night stand and it is the first thing I grab when I wake up.  I drink down a glass quickly in the bathroom before brushing my teeth every morning and try to drink a gallon every day.

Make Your Bed

How minuscule and obvious is this task?  But it is not to be overlooked.  If you are the last one out of your bed in the morning, make it, as one of the first things you do.

 Navy Admiral William H. Mc Raven wrote an entire book on just this.  He says “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”  So why is it important to do this small thing every day?

From my experience, it gives a minute, but important sense of accomplishment first thing in the morning.  You were just successful at the first thing you needed to do for the day and I don’t know about you but I just love that feeling of getting something done and being productive.

Completing this small task turns in to more and more things getting done as you have set the tone of productivity and accomplishment for the rest of the day.  Admiral McRaven also goes on to say that making your bed “reinforces the fact that little things in life matter, and if you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right.”

I use to cringe at the thought of having to make the bed and what a little, yet not fun task it was.  Silly and lazy, I know. Then I timed how long it would take one day. It takes less than 60 seconds to perform this task, except for the days that my dogs keep jumping on the bed and I have to kick them off over and over again. 60 seconds! There is never an excuse to avoid this when it takes so little time.  Yet a lot of us will avoid doing it because we are in a hurry or have other things we think are more important.  Commit to spending less than 60 seconds each morning to complete your first task of many for the day and watch how it snowballs into a very productive day.

Read

When you read in the morning, your mind is rested and fresh. This helps you to retain more information since your mind is most active in the morning.  Reading something every day is an amazing way to improve yourself and improve your knowledge. Read something positive or something educational.  Focus on what you can learn that can be applied to your life.  Don’t read fiction in the morning.  Fiction has its place but if you are designing your morning routine to help you become better on a daily basis then you should be reading something you can benefit from.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fiction, but I save it for the hour before I fall asleep every day as it helps me to unwind.  Choose topics in areas where you are wanting to improve your life.  By reading non-fiction you are learning from experts and the fastest way to success is to learn how these experts did it and model what they did.

Try reading biographies, this is an amazing way you can spend time with and inside the minds of the people you admire the most. If you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, then choose wisely who you are reading.  

Read self-improvement books.  Once again, there are thousands upon thousands of these books out there, but I guarantee you can pull at least one actionable item from all of these that will improve your life if you apply it.

Read architecture magazines, use your mornings to learn about new products or technologies that can improve your work. Stray from the fluff though, a lot of blogs and sites are creating content for content’s sake.  Make sure to ask yourself when you begin reading, whatever it is, “why am I reading this?” so you can keep the goal and the learning objectives at the forefront.

I would suggest reading for 15-30 minutes every morning.  By doing this you can fit in 10-15 pages from an average sized book.  That is an extra 15 books you can read a year if you implement this daily!  Think about all that extra knowledge to set you apart from the rest of the world.

Journal

Journaling is one of the most important habits I have picked up over the years.  Writing will encompass a few other habits we will talk about in a minute, but let’s focus on free journaling first.

By writing you are able to get all of the thoughts and ideas and questions that are constantly jumping around in your head out of there and on to paper.  This can clear up space for so many other things in your mind when you are not trying to remember your ideas or thoughts you are having. 

 By journaling you are also gaining insight and knowledge about your self and the best way to improve yourself is to know yourself.  The act of writing something down, by its nature, causes you to think through what you are writing and truly understand it.  This can provide clarity to your thoughts and help you really work through your problems.  

Your journal entries also become a log of your life which is really amazing to go back and see all the things you have done and what you have accomplished.

To journal effectively, pick an amount of time that feels comfortable to you and just write.  You can set a timer to know when to move on or just let yourself go until you are done. 

I recommend using a traditional journal instead of a digital one.  There is magic in the act of writing by hand, each word is permanent and you have to put more thought and care into what you write.

Gratitude

The practice of gratitude and focusing on what you are thankful for is by far the most life-changing habit I have introduced to my daily routine. Ever since I started focusing on what I am thankful for every day, I haven’t had a bad day. If you only choose one thing or have one take away from this article, I hope that it is to practice gratitude on a daily basis.

There are many ways to be thankful for what you have in your life, but going back to what we just talked about with journaling, physically writing down what you are grateful for is the most effective way this practice can change your life. By writing down what you are grateful for every day your mind will then start looking for the good things in your daily life that are happening.  And as your mind is more aware of the good things you have going on the more good things you will have in your life, because you will see it everywhere.  This is the quickest and easiest possible way to increase your happiness.

By focusing on the things you are grateful for in the morning you start your day on a truly positive note and have built momentum for the rest of the day to be good, or even if its not amazing you will still be able to see the good in it.  

You might be thinking that things are going poorly for you and there isn’t anything to be thankful for.  I guarantee you if you sit down and think about it you have a lot to be grateful for and this can instantly begin to change your mood and outlook.  

How you practice gratitude is up to you, please just give this a try and do it every day.  The way I do it is I list out three things every morning I am grateful for that day.

I write “I am grateful for…” and then name whatever it is.  These can be the most minor things like the weather or big deals like maybe you got a new project yesterday. There is always something that we can be grateful for.  

Speaker and life coach to the ultra-successful Tony Robbins will sit in silence and control his breathing for five minutes every morning while thinking about everything and everyone he is grateful for.  There is no wrong way to practice gratitude in the morning, except for not doing it at all.

While you are writing or thinking about the things you are grateful for, truly feel the appreciation in your body and your mind.  That right there is the secret to getting the benefits and the changes you want out of a daily gratitude practice.

Affirmations

Affirmations are short, positive statements that declare goals and objectives you have for your life.  The idea behind affirmations is that you are bombarding your subconscious with positive thoughts and statements to help change your mindset and help yourself believe in what you can accomplish or what you can become. They help reprogram your mind for success.  Affirmations can help you get rid of self-limiting or negative beliefs and help you believe that anything is possible. 

It is important to keep in mind that there are negative and positive affirmations, and you want to be repeating the positive ones every day and become more aware of the negative ones you have been repeating to yourself without knowing it. Negative ones can be things like “I’m always nervous in meetings”  “Or I’m not losing any weight”.  Examples of positive affirmations are “I am bold”  “I am confident”  “I am successful at everything I do”  or “I am a great architect and designer”.  

By repeating these things you make whatever it is come true because you begin to believe in it the more you tell yourself this positive story on a daily basis.  

The key is to start each affirmation with “I am…” and to make the statement in the present tense.   This communicates to your mind that you ARE this way already, which you are, you just need to believe it.  By repeating these positive statements you are then actively reprogramming your mind and any limiting beliefs you might have.   You will start to see yourself becoming more and more like the attributes that you are repeating to yourself  because your subconscious is switching to feeling and being that way.

As with gratitude, there are many ways you can practice affirmations daily. You can repeat them to yourself out loud in the shower, or sit down and quietly repeat them in your head for a set amount of time.  My favorite, and what I do every day is to write my affirmations out in my journal.  I have about 12 short statements that I write out while focusing my mind on the meaning of the affirmation.  Do this practice and you will start to see changes in the way your mind works and what you believe about yourself and your capabilities.

Goal Setting

We all have a number of things that we want to accomplish and achieve each year.  Many people set goals for the year as part of their New Years resolutions and then leave it for the remainder of the year and probably forget what they decided they were going to do or they gave up on it.  Goals shouldn’t be a set it and forget it practice.  Goals are going to change and evolve as we grow, change, evolve and reach our goals.  Setting goals should then occur much more often.  

Real estate mogul and ultra success guru Grant Cardone lays out his daily practice of goal setting in the book The 10x Rule.  Grant takes his goals and lists them out on a yellow legal pad first thing in the morning and last thing before going to bed, every single day. He will change the goals on his list as what he wants in life changes, but the practice never changes.

Doing this every day can keep you laser focused on what you have set out to accomplish.   It will also tune your subconscious to the certain frequencies where anything relating to helping you reach those goals in your daily life will stick out and come to the forefront of your mind, helping guide your way. You don’t need to go as extreme as Grant Cardone, with writing down your goals every day, but I would recommend re-approaching them at least once a week.  I list mine out every morning and follow the same format as the affirmations, stating “I am…” and then whatever the goal I have is or attribute I want to adopt. I also write each goal out in the present tense.  The key is to be honest to yourself with these goals and not be afraid to change them if you change your mind or are just not interested anymore, or the goal doesn’t align with your ideals any longer.  It is completely ok to say “no that’s not for me anymore” and move on to the next goal.

10 Ideas List

The ten ideas list is something that I adopted James Altucher. In his book Choose Yourself he has a chapter where he describes how to become an idea machine.  This is a method he used to come up with new business ideas and products that have brought him a lot of success.  The practice is pretty simple: list out 10 ideas every single day.  That’s it.  The key here is to write down everything that comes to mind no matter how stupid or silly. This helps you to not be afraid of working through the bad ideas to get to the good ones.  

I have found it is easier to do this every day if I list out themes I want to come up with ideas for every so often.  So I will come up with things like Tech Business Ideas or App Ideas or Blog Post Ideas and then choose a theme and write out 10 ideas pertaining to that theme.  

I can attest that this is a fantastic and very valuable practice.  Listing out 10 ideas every day is how I came up with the idea for The Every Day Architect, and now it is an actual product available on the market.  Doing this every day really does help you grow your creativity muscle and it’s a good way to give yourself permission to think outside the box and think a little crazy. 

Like mentioned before, just list out everything that comes to mind no matter what. Otherwise, you will spend all morning coming up with ideas.  Getting anything and everything down on paper allows this to be a 5 – 10 minute exercise, and you definitely get better at it the more you do it.

Visualization

Visualization goes right along with affirmations but uses your imagination more than repetition.  The idea behind visualization is that you imagine yourself in scenarios or outcomes you desire to help grow your belief in it being possible and real.  With visualizations, as well as affirmations, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the more “woo woo” beliefs like the law of attraction made popular by the book The Secret where if you imagine something and believe in it then, POOF it becomes reality!

No, The real magic behind visualization is what it does for your subconscious mind and your belief. 

Here’s how it works, say you have a big presentation to give and you always get nervous when speaking in front of others.  Sit quietly with your eyes closed and imagine yourself giving the presentation.  Make the scenario as real as possible in your mind from who will be in the room to what the room looks like.  Now affix positive attributes to everything in the situation.  Imagine that you are having a great time.  Everyone in the room has a big smile on their face and are really captivated by what you are saying.  At the end, everyone is giving you a standing ovation.  Sure it might be over the top for what the real life situation will be but repeatedly doing this can help you shake away any fears or uncertainties. When you get to the real life situation, you are ready to take it on because you have already lived it in your mind and you will be much more confident and capable.

Top performing athletes, like Michael Phelps, are famous for utilizing visualization.  Phelps, as part of his warm up routine, will sit quietly and imagine in his mind every second of the upcoming race.  He will imagine each stroke, the movement of the water, the starting gun, hitting the wall at the end of the race.  Every single detail is plotted out in his mind and the race is won even before it has begun.  

To incorporate this to your daily practice, plan for a few minutes, I like doing five, when you silently sit in a comfortable position and imagine your success in whatever it is you are after. 

Exercise

I won’t spend too much time on exercise, we all know the importance and the health benefits of exercising but it is just a matter of incorporating it in to your practice. Make it as easy for yourself as possible to get out and do.   If you are a runner, have your running clothes and shoes laid out the night before, have your route planned so the uncertainty of the workout doesn’t prevent you from doing it.  I know I have a hard time making it to the gym if there are too many barriers for me getting there.  So I will pack my gym bag the night before, get my protein and work out supplements ready the night before, and my gym clothes laid out.  First thing in the morning, after chugging a glass of water, I will throw on my gym clothes before having my coffee and doing my morning routine. There is no excuse for me not to go now that I am dressed and completely ready. 

Meditation 

The author and podcaster Tim Ferriss has interviewed hundreds of world-class performers on his podcast and in his books.  He has found that 80% of all the hugely successful people he has interviewed have a daily meditation practice.  There are many forms of meditation and the benefits of meditation are too many to discuss on a short blog post here.  But a few of these benefits are clarity of thoughts, a deeper sense of well being, more relaxation, and less stress. All great things, right?

You will have to do some googling and research for yourself to see which techniques and types of meditation are right for you.  You can simply sit still and focus on your breath or be mindful of your thoughts and allow them to pass, or even use guided meditation apps like Headspace to help you achieve this.  

The most successful practitioners of meditation tend to meditate for periods of 20 minutes, 2 times a day.  This is a lot to take on when beginning so start with 5 – 10 minutes and move up as you get more comfortable with it.  

Sketching

Sketching every morning can be a great habit to add to your routines.  We all know the benefits of sketching and hopefully you all still get enjoyment from the action.   By building the discipline of sketching daily, you will be able to become a better thinker, be more creative, and more easily express your ideas. Drawing something also helps you remember it better, and study it in a more in-depth way.  This daily practice will also help you be confident and empowered when you are sitting down with a client to sketch out ideas.

It is your choice how you decide to use your daily sketch time.  What you draw, when you do it, to what level of detail, and the medium you use is completely up to you.  The important thing is that you come back and sketch every day if this is something you decide to do.  Just draw.

Work on a side project

The final tool for your morning tool chest is to spend the early hours rocking out a side project.  The morning is an amazing time to tackle one of your side projects or ideas you have been wanting to get to.  Want to write a book?  Build a website?  Whatever it is just block out time in the morning to slowly whittle away at your project and do it every day.  

Doing this in the morning I find is the best time of day as I am usually feeling the most productive, least distracted, and most energetic as I haven’t given my attention to much anything else yet. Just get up early enough to give yourself enough time to fit in what you are working on.  

Designing Your Routine

So now let’s talk about how to design your morning routines to help you win the day.  I consider my morning successful if I have hit at least 5 of these things we have talked about. 

You can and should start small to build up to success in these habits and keep the practice going.  If you try and do everything we just talked about tomorrow you will likely quit pretty quickly as it is too many new things and too many changes.   

Go through the negative habits that have been ruining your mornings and select what you are going to eliminate. The easiest way to stop a bad or negative habit is to replace that habit. So in the place and time you would spend on those previously negative habits, start to implement some of these things we talked about.  

To start off, choose three of these tools from this article and start to implement those tomorrow morning.  Write down the three things you will commit to doing and what you hope to get out of it. Commit to doing these things for at least a week straight to start.

After the first week choose one more practice to add you your morning ritual or reevaluate and replace what isn’t working for you.  The way to success with morning routines is to actually perform them, so you have to be interested in the actions and motivated for the outcomes or nothing will happen.  

Write down the estimated time you expect to spend on each task in the mornings. Don’t plan to dedicate less than 5 minutes per habit, (except for making the bed and drinking water).  Add up the total amount of time you plan to spend on your new morning routine and plan for needing that much extra time in your mornings.

You may need to get up earlier to fit these in or you may find that cutting out old habits gives you plenty of time for your new habits. However much time you need, just plan for it so you don’t feel rushed in your new routine.  Go to bed slightly earlier if you need to get up earlier, and wake up at your first alarm, this will keep you getting the same amount of sleep and make it easier to wake up earlier. There are many great products to help you get up earlier, I love the alarm clocks with a light that simulate the sun rising.

A lot of you may be thinking to yourself that there is no way you can fit all this into your mornings.  You are busy with getting your kids off to school or there is too much going on at work to give time to something else.  I completely understand that, but I promise you can do it.  I have done it for years now, and it only takes me about 10-15 minutes to do 5 of things and then I go to the gym for an hour.  I started doing this when I was working 10-12 hour days while selling real estate and doing contract architecture work, so I promise you can fit it in.  Tell yourself you can and you will.  Tony Robbins likes to say to people who tell him they don’t have time to meditate or take on a daily positive routine, “if you don’t have 10 minutes for this, then you don’t have a life.”  

When you really start to make these positive habits a ritual in your life you will see benefits in many areas.  You will see your relationships improve, you will see your work improve, and even your business get better and better because you are starting your day by focusing on the important things, though they may be little things.  The best investment you can make is in yourself, so I hope you decide to invest a small amount of time in yourself each morning.

Lastly, I would like to mention how if you need something to make your new morning routine easier, The Every Day Architect was designed just for that reason.  It is a 13-week journal that incorporates almost everything discussed here in a structured format.  

Further Reading:

The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod 

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure by Grant Cardone

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

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