The First 15 Minutes: 10 Steps to a Better Day

The First 15 Minutes: 10 Steps to a Better Day February 1, 2020

morning practice
Jen Theodore via Unsplash

How do you start your day upon waking up? After you hit the alarm, do you immediately reach for your phone and start scrolling through email or social media posts? Or do you ease into your day, making sure your head is clear and you’re spiritually centered before facing the world?

Tim Ferriss, the author and podcaster, is a big proponent of a regular morning practice and has found that if he can do five specific activities each morning, he can practically guarantee he’ll have a great day. Here are four of his five activities below (I’ve left off his use of an inversion table), my comments follow the bold words:

  1. Make your bed. It may sound silly, but it sets the tone for the day. Ferriss believes this small accomplishment can lead to bigger ones.
  2. Meditate. While he recommends the Headspace meditation app, my personal favorite is the Waking Up app from Sam Harris. His intro course includes 50 10-minute sessions and you can try the first five lessons for free.
  3. Enjoy a cup of good, brewed tea. I prefer a good cup of coffee and preset my coffeemaker the night before. There’s nothing like sitting in a comfortable chair, when the house is still dark and quiet, and enjoying that first sip.
  4. Write in a journal, including making a “to do” list. Interestingly, on his list, Ferriss includes all the people he needs to give thanks to that day.

Ferriss points out that due to his busy schedule, he often finds he can’t do all five activities. But he has found that if he can check off at least three items from his list, the whole day seems to go better. While I use two of the four activities listed above, I add two additional activities to my routine:

  1. Stretch. I’ve found that as I age, my body feels stiffer upon waking up. That’s why the first thing I do is lie down on a yoga mat and stretch my back, arms and legs.
  2. Spiritual Reading. This activity always seems to put my head in a good place for the day ahead. I’ve most recently been reading The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr, though I often return to what for me are the classics.

A recent story at also provided 5 steps to get your day off to a good start, suggesting they be done in the first 5 minutes of your day. To avoid repetition, I’ve listed three here:

  1. Wake up to music. Your alarm clock or smartphone’s ringtone can jolt you out of a sound sleep. Try setting your phone or alarm to something more soothing that eases you into the day.
  2. Find a saying that resonates. You may have a favorite quote that reflects your personal hopes and ambitions. As a reminder, put in on a stickie near your bed and silently say it two or three times upon waking.  The AARP story says it can be as simple as “breathe in love, breathe out hate.”
  3. Have an attitude of gratitude. Always be giving thanks. According to the story, a recent study suggested listing three things you are grateful for every morning can have the same effect on you neurologically as taking an antidepressant.

Finally, a recent story in the New York Times details the morning activities of ex-NFL football player and current Fox Sports analyst Tony Gonzalez. His morning ritual covers some of the same ground above, including stretching and a morning meditation where he feeds “gratitude and love into his heart,” thereby opening it. (He also engages in spiritual reading and by chance is also reading Rohr’s new book.) He also stresses one additional point:

  1. Sleep as much as you need. This is something you’ll need to get a head start on by getting to bed at a good hour the night before. Gonzalez believes proper sleep is “the number one thing you can do to create a better life.” I find 7½ hours a night is good for me (when I can get it), Gonzalez prefers 9 hours.

Consider developing your own list of morning activities, based on what feels right to you. If you consider yourself a spiritual person, you can also replace meditation with a prayer. A morning practice is easy to start, and easy to follow through on, and by devoting 15 minutes to your practice each morning, you may feel the positive effects all day.

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