Becoming More Mindful
The idea for 10/20/10 mornings came from necessity more than inspiration. Over the past few years, as I began to be more mindful with my money decisions, I also began to apply that same mindfulness to other aspects of my life. This is true for many people and is discussed in depth by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. Creating one good habit will most likely lead to more.
Years ago, my sister decided to paint her living room. She did it herself, and it came out great. Shortly thereafter, we talked, and she said, “now the living room is laughing at the kitchen.” It was now inevitable that the kitchen was to be painted, then the dining room, playroom, and so on until the whole house was done. This is similar to how good habits and mindful decision making can quickly permeate all aspects of your life.
My Old Mornings
As I applied mindfulness to other aspects of my life beyond money, I quickly zeroed in on an area I struggled with. I hated my mornings. Every morning was a blur of groggy stress. The alarm would go off and be snoozed a few times. I would struggle to get the energy and motivation to get out of bed. Thoughts of calling out of work would scramble around my brain before forcing myself to leave the warmth of the blankets and stagger into the bathroom to begin my day. Each day there seemed to be less time than the last to get ready and out the door. The routine was mindless and without purpose. Get up, brush teeth, shower, grab stuff, rush out the door, get to work, immediately start seeing patients.
Every day started and was filled with fatigue, stress, and resentment. I hated it, so I decided to change it. What would a morning with purpose look and feel like? To answer this question and ultimately change the feel of my daily life, I applied mindful decision making to the current routine and created a routine that I have done every day for over a year now.
Putting a Stop to Nighttime Drift
My awful mornings started at night. This realization changed everything. How could I possibly change my mornings without changing my nights? Nightime me was sabotaging morning me. They were living two different lives and could no longer coexist!
Like many people, I had become a nighttime drifter. After a long day at work, followed by carting the kids to sports and other activities, I would plop down onto the couch and enter my drift state. I always felt tired and rushed. The nighttime drift was “relaxing. My phone and the TV would run concurrently for a few hours until my wife and I would inevitably nod off our respective couches. Eventually, one of us would wake up somewhere between 10 and 11 o’clock, nudge the other, and stumble up to our room to resume our now interrupted sleep. This was the mindless routine for years.”
When I discovered that late nights and interrupted sleep result in waking up with no energy, motivation, and purpose, the solution was clear and easy. The last two hours of my nights were useless drift, so I got rid of them. My wife and I now go to bed at 9:00 every night. There are very few exceptions to this rule. We go to bed before our teenage boys do! Our bedroom is free from distractions (no TV, phones on sleep mode, etc.), and we close our door to minimize light and noise. Instead of drifting, we now sleep.
Rise & Shine!
My new wake up time is now 4 AM. It sounds extreme, but when you consider that I go to bed at 9, it’s not that crazy. I still get 7 hours of sleep, and the sleep that I am getting is so much better than before. When my head hits the pillow after a purposeful, fulfilling day, I am asleep within minutes. I wake up refreshed and excited to start my morning routine.
Before I get to the good stuff, I start with the same routine as most which includes personal care and getting my work stuff together (lunch, clothing, etc…). I usually take a few minutes to straighten up the house, let the dog out, and make sure the coffee is going. After that, I move on to the the things that give my mornings purpose and set me up to have a great day.
Meditate (10 minutes)
I decided to start meditating about a year ago. It is a work in progress, but I absolutely love the way it makes me feel. After some research, I decided to use the Calm App for my daily guided meditation. There are a lot of choices on the App Store and most offer free trials. I would suggest trying a few and picking one that fits you best.
Over the course of the past year, I have been able to work up from 1 min a day to 10 min a day. When I first started, 1 min felt like an eternity. It is tough to sit alone with your thoughts and to try not to focus on them. Clearing my head is almost impossible, but that is OK. I am training my mindfulness like a muscle. Every time I notice that I have lost focus on my breath, I return to it and tell myself, “that was one rep.”
Meditation now sets the tone for my day. Starting each day with mindfulness and insight from my Daily Calm (the tool on Calm that I use each day) primes my brain to be more mindful throughout the day with my personal interactions, decision making, parenting, and anything else that comes my way.
Read/Coffee (20 minutes)
After my 10 min of mediation is done, the coffee is ready to go. I grab my coffee, sit by the fire (in the winter), and start to read. Like many people, I basically stopped reading after college. I am sure that is some inner rebellion, but I absolutely regret it. In the past year, I have read over 40 books. My co-workers and family tease me that I now talk a lot more and always have lessons to teach them. Apparently, I am now annoying, but I don’t care! Reading every day has rekindled my love of learning, and I am trying to pass that love on to my kids and anyone else that will listen to me.
Reading, like meditation, carries with me throughout the day. Almost daily, I can apply what I read that morning to a circumstance or conversation that occurs during that day. Reading gives me the knowledge and confidence to be a resource for others and do so without feeling like an imposture. Meditation calms me and makes me more mindful, while reading makes with think. They compliment each other well.
Finance/News/Email (10 minutes)
The last part of my morning is a personal choice. I think that meditation and reading are great for everyone. The final part of my routine may not apply to everyone, but this can be substituted for those with something that interests them.
My morning ends with 10 minutes of mindlessness. It’s mindless in the sense that it is a little like my hours of nighttime drift, but it is now condensed into 10 minutes, and I have complete control of it. Its almost like a little treat after training and exercising my brain with mediation and reading.
My last 10 minutes consists of scrolling through my Google News feed, watching CNBC, checking email, and checking my Mint App. That is a lot for 10 min, but knowing that I only allow for 10 minutes of this makes me very efficient! I get a lot done in a short amount of time, and then I leave for work. When I first began, I figured I would enjoy this part the most, but it quickly moved to the bottom of my list as I have enjoyed meditating and reading more than I ever imagined I would.
Starting With Purpose
My 10/20/10 mornings have transformed my life. Every day now starts with purpose. Meaningless drift has been replaced with mindfulness and knowledge. I feel healthier and more alert throughout the day. My sleep patterns are consistent and truly restful. Most importantly, I really feel that I have been a better dad, husband, friend, co-worker, and employee this past year because of my 10/20/10 mornings.
What is your morning like? Do you drift at night and/or rush in the morning as I did? Share your story in the comment section below.