Morning Rituals for the Win: The 20-20-20 Formula

There’s something tranquil about waking up before sunrise. It gives you a chance to enjoy the silence of the morning without distraction. The phrase “the early bird gets the worm” also appears to be true. Think about how much you can do before most of the population even rolls out of bed.

Reading the book The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma totally changed my outlook on being early to rise. DISCLAIMER: I call myself a member of the 6 AM club, but aspire to someday make it 5 AM as the book implies. I’ve never been one to enjoy waking up early, but since reading this book I’ve felt happier and more energized.

One of my main takeaways from this book is to leverage the first hour of the day using the 20-20-20 formula. The 20-20-20 formula breaks the first hour of your day into 3 parts:

Exercise

I start every day by doing 25 push-ups, 25 crunches, and 10 pull-ups. This wakes me up and gets my blood flow circulating. Although I’m not a morning person by design, this has helped me feel better about waking up early.

There are also obvious health benefits to exercising. According to Robin Sharma, “sweating releases BDNF, a brain chemical that actually grows neural connections. Working out also releases dopamine (the neurotransmitter of motivation) and serotonin, which makes you feel happy.” Having all of these added benefits right when you wake up helps build momentum. Even if this is all the exercise you do, you’ve accomplished more than most people do in an entire day within 20 minutes of waking up.

In addition to the aforementioned morning burst of energy, I make sure to set aside two hours a day to work out. Exercise is an integral part of my own personal happiness, it truly soothes me. I can feel a difference in my energy on days when I don’t workout versus when I do. It helps me relieve my stress and also helps me stay “in the moment.” When exercising, I never worry about what I need to do afterwards because I’m too busy counting my reps and making sure I don’t drop the weight. If you have a problem staying present or marinading on things in your day that make you mad, there’s no better way to blow off steam.

Planning and Reflection

There’s nothing more stressful than rushing out of bed and going to work right away without any semblance of a plan. Having time at the start of the day to do this puts you in charge from the start rather than letting the day rule you. In previous posts, I’ve written about how I use the Best Self journal to organize my day and increase productivity. Within the journal, there’s space to express gratitude, organize my hourly schedule, go over goals, and determine my 3 main tasks. By planning my day, I feel in control right from the start.

Affirmations are another powerful reflection tool that I employ during this part of the day. By affirming something specific about yourself, it is believed that you can bring it into existence. Napoleon Hill talks about this concept in The Law of Success, but I first heard about it from Scott Adams, the infamous cartoonist who makes the Dilbert comics and wrote How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. He used this power of the mind to manifest his great cartooning career. An affirmation is a powerful statement about yourself in the present tense, as if you are currently doing what it is you desire to accomplish. Write it out 15 times, say it out loud in the morning, and again before bed. It sounds silly, but if you try it, you will be amazed at what starts to happen. Give it a shot!

Learning

For the final 20 minutes, focus on personal growth by learning something new. How you execute this really comes down to personal preference. I’ve tried podcasts and audiobooks during this time, but felt bombarded with information when I just wanted to relax. Consequently, I’ve experimented with reading a physical book or newspaper as well. At this point in the day, books never hold my attention–I need really long blocks of time to read deeper content. Instead, I enjoy reading about real estate and responding to forum posts on BiggerPockets. This expands my knowledge base and also enables me to help others on their journey. It always makes me feel happy when I get a chance to help someone else, so why not start the day with this?

Know yourself and you will find the right way to spend your last 20 minutes. However you choose to use your learning block, make sure that you can take something away from it. 

Final Thoughts

Morning rituals are a great way to increase focus and energy at the start of your day. If you want to have a productive day, set the tone early and let your morning rituals build momentum that lasts the entire day.