Benjamin Spall & Michael Xander, My Morning Routine
London: Portfolio Penguin, 2018
This is a fascinating and easy-to-read book which has caused me to reflect carefully on what I do in the mornings. In the last few months I’ve been working with Michael Hyatt’s ideas on ordering your life so that you achieve the things you believe to be important to achieve, and one of his themes is about structuring your morning routine (he calls it ‘morning ritual’) so that you make a good start to the day and are set up to succeed with what you’re doing that day. I’m not naturally a ‘morning person’, so that’s a challenge for me, and that’s what led me to read this book.
The book comes out of research by the authors (one a Brit, one an American) on lots of different people’s morning routines in a variety of roles and from a variety of perspectives. They’ve been running a website about morning routines for a while (here) which repays visiting, and the draw here on interviews with many folk. They’ve then organised the material into chapters around themes: getting up, focus and productivity, morning workouts, morning meditation, evening routines (which I increasingly find are key to getting going in the morning), sleep, parents (for those who are), self-care, different environments (for those who travel quite a bit), and adaptation (as life changes). Each chapter ends with an ‘Over to You’ section where the authors reflect on the stories they’ve told and identify things to think about and act upon if you want to make a difference to your own morning routine in one of these areas.
I found engaging with the issues through real people’s stories very helpful, for it earths the ‘Over to You’ sections at the ends of chapters (which could otherwise seem a bit like a bad self-help book), and I was already starting to ask the questions they raise there because of the stories.
A few notes on some light bulb moments for me: Jenny Blake’s use of ‘wind down questions’ at the end of the day to clear her mind and reflect on the day with thankfulness (which fits well with my evening prayer time); Jon Gold’s observation that we find it easy to make bad decisions when we’re low on energy; the comment that ‘[w]ithout a routine you’re a ship without a rudder, veering this way and that but never truly serving the course you’ve set’ (p. 231); the idea of looking at your morning routine ‘from above’ to see where it takes you and gets you by its end; Sonia Ray’s ‘butt in chair’ method of moving her songwriting forward: ‘I like showing up to write or practice each day. I think that’s what keeps me moving forward, both in terms of my productivity and creativity’ (p. 262); the author Austin Kleon’s comment that keeping his headspace clear from being ‘invaded by the outside world’ is the most important thing he does in the morning, since it then allows him to focus his mind on what he wants/needs to accomplish; the columnist Ana Marie Cox (whom I discovered is a Christian through her comments) writing that prayer reminds her that the day is a gift.
I’m sure others would find different highlights or striking insights—these are what struck me. I’d love to know what others learn from this book. Please comment below!