My Ultimate Set of Morning Rituals

I have been told all my life about the importance of getting a jump start on the day, about how anything you really want to get done you must do first thing in the morning. But I didn’t listen until I was in my 40s.

There were a few times that I would get up early for a month, to write a series of blog posts or something similar, but that got old quick. Most of the time, I followed the same pattern I followed every morning.

Mornings for Most of My Life

I saw the morning as wasted time. All it was good for was to get ready for work in the quickest way possible. I didn’t eat breakfast either. Because that was just more time wasted waiting for the work day to start.

I wanted to get my work done, get home, and have a long evening that was my own. The morning was a sprint that involved getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and getting out the door as fast as I could, so I could stay up later the night before. No food. No coffee. Out the door in 15 minutes.

It Started with Meditation

I knew meditation was valuable and now that my latest daily streak is over 1000 days long, I know I had no idea what that value would be at the beginning. I thought I would eventually quiet my mind. I thought it would relax me.

It did, but in a different way than I originally thought. I started trying to meditate every night, which worked, partially. I ended up keeping the schedule Sunday through Thursday, but because I liked to stay up late Friday and Saturday, I always blew it off.

I Also Wanted to Write Daily

At the time, I wasn’t freelance writing. I have now written about around 850 articles in the last four years. But at the time, I just wanted to write one page in a journal a day. I didn’t care what it was. It could be freewriting, but I wanted to build the habit.

I did that at night too. It worked out about the same. There would be times I would write four or five pages on a Friday or Saturday, but the days I didn’t write were way more frequent.

I Ran Into Miracle Mornings

Which I don’t follow any more, but it got me started. And I hate these type of things that tend to have a cult following. To summarize, it consists of six things you do every morning, called Life S.A.V.E.R.S, which stands for:

  • Silence: Or meditation
  • Affirmations: Or Stuart Smalley
  • Visualization: Or The Secret
  • Exercise: Something I also wanted to build a habit of
  • Reading: Not a whole book or even chapter, but more like daily devotionals
  • Scribing: Or morning pages

I remember starting this way, and forgot about visualization until I looked it up writing this article. That one, I dropped. I do see the value sometimes, but I am so busy most of the time, I just do things instead of visualizing how I will do them. I also dropped affirmations. Though I have considered picking it back up at times more as something to re-center me, as a personal mission statement.

My Morning Ritual

I figured it would take an hour, so one day I started getting up an hour early. I didn’t go to bed any earlier, because the rest of my day was still full. But once Covid hit, my job became remote and I got 45 minutes back there and just slept longer. And, yes, that helped. Sometimes I wonder if my ability to remain calm increased from meditation or from sleeping longer.


I started by meditating five minutes a day with the goal of reaching 20 minutes by increasing it five minutes at a time. I have been at 15 minutes for about three years now, but that works. Maybe I’ll add that extra five some day.

When I started it made me anxious, almost in the way underwater ocean pictures do. I can’t really explain why. The fact that I had to sit there and concentrate on my breath made me want to get up and move around. This is the reason I went up in five minute increments.

At first, I thought I was going to get mystical powers. Well, not mystical, but maybe I would have a vision or something. And I spent a lot of time waiting for that. That did not happen.

What did happen is there is now a gap between an action and my reaction. It is not as big as it could be and I don’t use it well all the time, but I can sense things like anger and stop the results easier now.

And you know how they say, “The more you try not to think of something, the more you think of it.” Not so much. I have discovered I can put things completely out of my mind if I want to. I have also learned how to “not think” if I wake up in the middle of the night, so I can go back to sleep quicker.

Another thing I have been able to do is realize that the reason why I hate some things is just because I am prejudiced against them. The hate comes before the thing. I hated writing articles for three hours every night. But I have learned how to reframe these things and prevent my initial reaction from making everything harder.


When I was a kid, I would bring a stack of library books home and demolish them. I would cover whole ranges of Dewey Decimal numbers and run out of books on a topic. Once I got older and had a job, not so much. About the same time I started my morning rituals, I also started turning off the TV an hour before bed and read a book instead.

But the morning reading is different. I started hunting for devotional books or “daily” books. The first one was the Daily Stoic, for three years. I went through it until I stopped arguing with it in my writing that day. I called this “reconciling.”

The concepts had to have some value, but sometimes they rubbed me the wrong way. So I would write about them until they fit for me. And most of the time, I just didn’t want what I was reading to be true. I wanted an easy way.

Now I am going through the Daily Laws. This is the second year of that, because I haven’t found another book yet I want to work through. Well, not true. I want to go through the Harvard Classics, but that is going to take more than 5-10 minutes a day.


I usually write one page. I don’t time myself or push myself farther. Often it is about the entry I just read, especially when I really agree with it or completely disagree with it. But that gets old.

Sometimes I do writing prompts or Natalie Goldberg’s writing practice. What I have learned not to do though is just start writing. That may work for some people, but when I do that, as I have for years now, it usually ends in either self-pity or a motivational piece just for me. Sounds great, but after a few years, there is not much left in that vein to mine.


I’ve settled on 50 kettebell swings a day. I started at 25 pounds and am now at 45. In a row. No break.

I heard this could work miracles and I have to say, it does a lot.

And yes, I should be doing more. And yes, I should add some variety. But it works for me now.

Since I lost my balance doing squats with a barbell in my 20s, I have thrown my back out a few times a year every year. Then after I had a desk job for a few years, it became a once or twice a month and it affected me for 3-4 days. After the kettlebell swings, it has happened maybe twice a year and most of the time I can stand up straight and move around the next day.

And It Never Gets Old

Oh, but it does get old. There are times when I think, this takes an hour of my day and it never changes. What if I want to add more. I have heard of people meditating hours every day. At some point, there has to be diminishing returns.

And I’ve slacked. I’ve started the meditation app, let it go for a minute and then stopped. Hey, I kept my streak going. Yeah, that 1000 day streak is padded a little.

I have used my 15 minutes of meditation time as 15 minutes of daydreaming. That has lasted for quite a while at times, but then I pull myself back.

I have also thrown my back out and used that as an excuse to not exercise, for a couple days, a couple of weeks, over a month. But then I came back.

For around five years now I have always come back. That may change, but it hasn’t.

I don’t know if anything like this will work for anyone else, but it works for me. And I have found I slack off more when times are easy. When my schedule gets full and I barely have any time, I actually put more focus on it. I don’t spend any more time doing it, but I get stricter about it. And it usually shows in the rest of the day.

Still Not a Morning Person

If you bother me in the morning, before I turn my laptop on to get to work, there are chances I could rip your head off. More gently than before, but there is still that possibility. I am definitely not a morning person.

But when I go to sleep at night, I always wake up. There is always that same point in the day, no matter if it 6AM on the weekdays or noon on Saturday. It is a time I can set aside to accomplish these things every day.

Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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