I could only sum it up in one word: peace.
I used to have a very hectic morning routine: Get up at 6 a.m. Brush my teeth. Wolf down 5-minute breakfast. Listen to motivational videos for half an hour. Then make a to-do list and get right into work.
For a while, I felt proud of this immense productivity. I got so many things accomplished in such a short amount of time.
Little did I know I was slowly falling off the edge. Instead of finding peace, I got caught in the hamster wheel of busy-work. My stress level accumulated. My health deteriorated. I also felt much less passionate about my favorite projects.
So one day, I decided to take a break.
I went to bed early the night before and had a full 8-hour sleep. I didn’t listen to any motivational video upon wake-up. I didn’t freewrite for half an hour before breakfast. I didn’t even try to work on the first item on my to-do list.
Instead, I took my morning at a much slower pace. Treated myself to a fulfilling breakfast. Then spent the next half an hour or so savoring a steamy cup of coffee while enjoying the beautiful scenery outside.
Never had I been more relaxed and peaceful. A stream of profound happiness rushed through my entire body. No stress or hurry. I simply took joy in my morning.
A lot of changes also take place as I continue this new-found routine…
I am in a better mood for the rest of the day. I feel more positive towards life and give less energy to negative thoughts. I also find myself more committed to good habits: exercise, eat healthily, read books, less screen time and TV binge-watch.
A slow start of the day also enhances my focus and alertness. I find myself less drawn to distractions and daydreaming. I could concentrate on a task much longer and complete it in less time.
And since I’m in no hurry, I can actually find joy in what I do and come up with the best result. Instead of doing more, I do less but with greater depth and quality. I come to understand the key to productivity is not to fill your day with as many tasks as possible but to be deeply engaged in a few tasks that matter.
Another benefit I notice as I slow down my morning is greater endurance. I could work on my important tasks for hours on end without feeling tired.
I used to force myself to do many things in the morning: listen to motivation videos, exercise, then write non-stop for 2 hours after having breakfast. The result was severe mental burnout. I gave up on the writing task in just one hour.
Only when I loosen the rein and take my morning slowly is the weight on my shoulder lifted. I feel more relaxed to work on my task. I can write the entire morning and still feel exuberant for the rest of the day.
In one recent study, a team of athletes was split up. One group was asked to watch a documentary that didn’t cause mental strain while the other was asked to perform a mentally demanding computer task. After that, both groups were required to cycle at high intensity until exhaustion. At the end of the experiment, the researchers found out that the latter group performed 15% more poorly on the workout.
When you drive yourself to mental exhaustion, your endurance diminishes. To maintain stamina, you need to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
But that’s not all, as I slow down my morning routine, I find myself much more creative. Writing is my daily routine but there were days when I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t come up with anything I write about. I got all tensed up and grumpy.
When I live more slowly and mindfully, my creativity flows more smoothly. Ideas now show up much faster than I could write them down. My hands seem to type themselves on the keyboard.
I feel like “slow living” allows me to see more of the world. I start to appreciate the wonderful things that I used to ignore: the beautiful scenery outside my apartment, the scent of coffee, the food I eat every day, my loving family and friends, etc.
So here’s my advice for you: Take your time after wake-up.
Don’t rush into work right away. Don’t dive into any morning routine that you only want to rush through. Enjoy the fantastic morning hours at your own pace. Savour a cup of coffee. Treat yourself to a satisfying breakfast. Cook an entire breakfast before your loved ones. Then, when you’re ready, start working on your most important task. You’ll be amazed at how productive you can get.