I’ve been paying more attention to my morning and evening routines the past few months. This started as a outgrowth of my focus on fitness, but has since expanded. Originally, I set out to block out time during my day to ensure that I had time for fitness activities. This usually shows up as an “out of office” block on my Google Calendar (which automatically rejects meeting requests).
That typically happens in the mornings, especially for runs. I am a morning runner and the likelihood of me actually going out for a run decreases as the day goes along. I am more successful with yoga/HIIT/weight training at other times of the day, but running has to happen in the morning if it’s going to happen.
Recently, I have added meditation into my morning routine. Again, it started as an outgrowth of running. While not severe, my asthma has emerged as the biggest limiting factor in my running speed. Meditation is centered around controlled breathing, so it helps with my lung flexibility as well as the mental control over my breathing.
It didn’t take long for the other benefits of meditation to become evident to me. The mental exercise of focusing on my breathing helps to quiet the cacophony on the periphery of my mind. As an ardent “morning person,” my eyes snap open at the same time every morning and as my feet hit the floor, I am anxious to “get shit done.” Any shit will do: cleaning up stray dishes from the night before, mopping the floor, shredding old papers, starting some laundry, whatever. Often, I check my daily calendar to get prepared for my day, but that’s not a guarantee if some of the other shit presents itself first.
Meditation has helped me get control of that urge and focus it, so that I can be more productive at the outset of my day. This is important because it keeps my work day from bleeding into the evenings. It’s easier to set the edge if I focus on doing so at the beginning.
My wife has been meditating for some time and has helped me get started. I have recently been doing Davidji’s “30 Day Journey to Rebirth” on the Insight Timer app and have found it helpful. Insight Timer is a great app to gain access to lots of different teachers and meditation styles, but there are plenty of similar apps out there.
After meditating, I am able to proceed with my mornings in a more focused and diligent way. I will then typically follow with my morning exercise, coffee with my wife, and a light breakfast if I am hungry. I’ve become a fan of fasted running. There are lots of claims about its benefits, but I think most of them are overstated. I just feel better when I run lighter.
I don’t have a standard time to knock off of work in the evening, but I decide each morning what that time will be for that day. It’s rare that I let work extend beyond 6:00pm anymore, but there will be the occasional call with a co-worker in another time zone. There tends to be a give-and-take where they sometimes jump on a call early, so I’ll do a late one to balance out and maintain a mutual respect for each other’s time.
The evenings tend to be focused on making dinner, doing some household chores, giving the dogs some exercise, or some grad school work. The household chores are key because leaving the house in a tidy state when I go to bed reduces the amount of morning distractions. I am typically in bed between 9:00pm and 9:30pm and rarely see 10:00 on my clock before I fall asleep.
These routines on either end of the day are helping me be more focused and productive during my work day. In my old days of being “always on,” I came to realize I was being inefficient and undisciplined with my time and my mind. I greatly enjoy what I do for a living but I have come to understand that, to be the best I can be at it, I need to respect it and give it its time during my day and then put it away.
There are still things I need to get better at during my day. I need to focus on more consistent hydration. Currently, I drink coffee in the morning, go dormant, and then pound water at the end of the day. I also need to get better and keeping my desk neat as I go along. It’s a bit of a mess right now. I need to work in time for reading more books. That probably won’t be a daily thing, but it needs its space. Finally, I need to get better with using some sort of to-do list. I’ve tried many apps and most fall short in some fatal way. I can’t yet articulate what I’ve looking for, but I know I haven’t found it.