By the way, before I continue any farther, I want to thank my sister, Jennifer Wheeler, for making this amazing cover photo.
My dad is an airline pilot. Several times a week, he enters a vehicle capable of flying hundreds of miles, several tens of thousands of feet above the ground, over dense metropolitan areas, carrying dozens of very important of people.
What keeps my dad and so many other pilots like him able to keep from making mistakes? What keeps pilots from forgetting things? Checklists and routines.
AsianEfficiency wrote an article on rituals. Some checklists and routines are so important to how we function, that they reach the “ritual” level of importance, something that you do every day at the same time every day, in more or less the same way.
Why is this important? Because if you have a checklist that takes you “automagically” from when your alarm goes off until when you walk out the door of your dorm room/apartment/house, and that checklist does everything you need to get prepared for a successful day, then because you do this ritual every day you will automagically start every day prepared to be successful.
I use a ritual to convert myself from horizontal and asleep to being focused as I walk out my door of my dorm room every morning. I also have a ritual that brings me from a certain time of day (variable because I work evenings some days, and I’m free others), to being sound asleep every evening. These checklists cover everything from reviewing goals, to prioritizing tasks, to devotions, and make sure that the big things that are important to me in life are not going uncared for.
That’s a short explanation. If you want more reasons why this is a really good reason for you, there are other blogs online that you can get to with a google search. In this post, I mostly wanted to share my morning rituals. I focused on making them alphabetical so they were easy to remember, and fun to execute. So with further ado:
- Alarm goes off – This is the trigger that starts my morning ritual. As soon as this happens, I instinctively roll out of bed, turn off my alarm and drink a …
- Bottle of water – This sits next to my phone. I chug it. Your body, which is mostly water has not gotten any of this precious resource all night, and the first step you can do towards reaping the benefits of being well hydrated is to actually drink water.
- Cold shower – This shocks my body into gear, and forces me to do something uncomfortable first thing in the morning. If you can’t stand to do something uncomfortable for even 5 minutes, how do you expect to achieve your most daunting goals?
- Dress for success – This is wrapped up with brushing teeth, flossing, and making myself smell nice. The longer I sit in pajamas in the morning, the more tempted I am to adopt the “today is a pajama sort of day” mentality. In general, the better dressed up I am, the better I perform, and I like to do a good job. Taking care of body image is an important part to starting out my days.
- Establish room in order – A clean living environment is really awesome. I tried cleaning my room in the evenings before going to bed, but what ends up happening is that I sleep in my bed which requires it to be made again, and I also have a tendency to leave clothes on the floor. With most of my getting ready done at this point, I can clean my room and have everything squared away, so that any time I come back to my room throughout the day, everything is spic and span and I am motivated to get work done.
- Feed on the word – Equipped now to do anything I want, I now spend time in Scripture. More on this in a future post.
- Give thanks – After reading, I write down what I’m thankful for in a prayer journal. Writing helps me be focused, and I don’t drift off or fall asleep, or get distracted with what’s happening today.
- Hone in on goals – I’m going to get a whiteboard soon, that I’m going to put yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals on, and this will be a place I keep going back to to get focused. Currently I do this in Evernote, and that gives me a bit of flexibility. I also check my calendar to make sure I don’t forget any appointments. After this step is done, my mind is free and I know exactly what is due today, and what is important.
- Invite Jesus to help me with my goals – I do my best to align my goals with what I feel God is guiding me to do with my life, and I know that on my own, I cannot fully achieve these goals, nor should I even try to. A friend of mine summed this up in one of his favorite quotes from a book called Testimonies to Southern Africa:
“I see the work of God is so sacred, that I dare not touch it without the presence of Jesus by my side. All might, all power and all glory Ibelong to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.”
- Just do it – This is the last step of my morning ritual, which is actually the first step I want the rest of the world to see. It’s the part where I step out of my dorm room, and start doing the most important task of the day. By getting this done, I know that if I don’t finish anything else all day, that I will have still made progress toward my goals.
In between my morning ritual and my evening ritual, I have an intermediate step called
- Kick butt all day – I’m not sure if I’ll keep this one here, but right now it serves as a great catch-all for the things that happen between my most important task, and my evening ritual.
My evening ritual is as follows.
- Learn from a book – I’ve lately been reading more, and this is only because I try to get a little reading in every night, enough to read through one book per month.
- Make notes from reading – I want to capture the highlights from what I just read, usually in Evernote. It helps me solidify what I learned, and also quickly reference it later if I want to refer to it.
- Note daily progress in Evernote – This is where my journaling happens. I answer the same few questions every day, and they help me reflect on how I did on my goals, what I learned, and how I can be more focused, and how I can grow closer to Jesus. These are the material that I reference when I’m doing my weekly reviews, which are referenced for monthly reviews, which are referenced for quarterly reviews, etc…
- Organize what tomorrow will look like – Comparing my long term goals with what I have time with tomorrow, I make a specific action plan for what the next 24 hours will look like. Which projects will I forward, and what resources will I use, who will I email, what is my most important task, etc…. The more decisions I can make in this step, the better I can avoid things like decision fatigue the next day.
- Prepare for bed – This involves brushing teeth, changing lighting, changing clothes, all the necessary things for getting ready physically to go vertical for 7 hours.
- Quiet time in prayer – Before actually falling asleep, I spend a few minutes reviewing how the day went with God. I ask forgiveness for times that I fell short, and pray for people on my prayer list.
- Refill water bottle – I intentionally put a step between prayer and sleep so that I wouldn’t be tempted to fall asleep while praying. I walk over to the sink, refill my water bottle, and put it by my phone. I set an alarm for about 7 hours and 45 minutes in the future, and go to
So that’s my morning and evening rituals. It’s what I do to make sure life is progressing the way I want it to do, and everything that needs to be taken care of, gets taken care of. The reviews are really important to me to make sure that I continue to be focused on getting what’s important done, and unless I put that in a check list, the reviews, as well as other things, often will get overlooked.
Let me know what you think. This is the routine that I’m using now, but I’m sure as time changes, so will the routine.