By Julie Nguyen, Methodology CEO & Founder
I'm a creature of habit, and I worship at the altar of routines. I don't care how boring or predictable that makes me. I have routines for my morning, my evening, my day, my month. Everything's prioritized, compartmentalized, and planned. I never leave anything to luck or hard work. I know exactly what my top goals are at any given time. If I come across as intense, it's because I AM INTENSE.
I'm gonna share my Morning Ritual framework because of all my routines this one is the most important. Because consistently starting off your days on the right foot is key to achieving your goals. Also, I've noticed that a lot of people who find their way to Methodology are struggling with self-love. Creating a morning routine that puts yourself first every day is a great way to nourish your mind, body, and spirit. You deserve to be taken care of every morning, so why not give it to yourself?
Morning Ritual Framework
I always approach things with frameworks. This forces me to be results-oriented and strategic as opposed to tactically doing a bunch of random shit. I tend to naturally operate tactically as a get-shit-done-insanely-fast kind of person, and frameworks force me out of that to a higher level of operating.
Anyone who's worked with me is pretty familiar with the general framework I apply to all my projects: goals, background research, strategies, tactics.
I've noticed that a lot of people are naturally good at thinking this way. One sign you're one of these people is if you're someone who's good at winning games. Or, if you've lost pretty much every chess or Monopoly game you've ever played, you probably need to consciously force yourself to operate with a framework.
Setting clear goals for what you want to get out of your morning ritual will keep you true to what you really need. So you won't get distracted by chasing crazy trends that have nothing to do with what really matters to you. For example, if you read somewhere that you should "lift every morning" but you're at a time in your life when you need to relieve stress and the idea of lifting stresses you out, then maybe you should be doing something else, like yoga.
Take a few moments to write down 3-4 goals that are really important to you right now. Really think about why each goal is important to you, so that it's clear why these goals really matter.
My current goals for my morning ritual:
- Goal 1: Go into the day feeling loving and energized to give to others
- Goal 2: Feel energetic and able to focus until my next feeding ie lunch
- Goal 3: Maintain body fat
These goals are based on where I am in my life right now. I'm trying to get Methodology off the ground. I think of it as a business based on nurturing others, so I want to be in touch with my loving side so that I can give love to my team who can in turn give love to our clients. I also need to be able to focus on work for hours at a time, so I need to feel energized and alert. Lastly, I'm really happy with my body right now. Having more muscle or less fat doesn't really matter to me as much as just generally feeling energetic and happy, so I just want to make sure that my body composition stays about the same.
Note that your goals can change over time. My personal goals right now are different from what they were a few months ago. There have been times in my life where I really wanted to get physically stronger by building muscle. There have been other times when I wanted to get lean for an event. There have been times when I needed to grieve because of a really challenging life event.
Whatever your goals are, remember that you should think of goals that are meaningful to you right now and know that you can change them whenever you need to. After all, this morning ritual is for you and no one else.
Before you set your strategies, do some background research to learn about all the different things you could do to accomplish my goals.
This is a time to reflect about your personal needs and what's worked or hasn't worked for you in the past.
Look at your goals and create a list of questions you need to answer for yourself.
Examples of the questions I asked myself that were related to my goals:
- What makes me feel loving?
- What gives me energy?
- What helps me focus better?
- What hurts my focus?
- What makes me feel tired?
- What keeps me lean?
- What makes me gain weight?
Based on your answers to your background research questions, decide on some strategies that guide your decision-making about which tactics would be best for your.
Basically, you want to come up with over-arching strategies that help you come up with tactics and decide which tactics to try, prioritize, or ignore.
I decided on this strategy for myself: love yourself first so you have more love to give to others. In other words, I really wanted my morning ritual to become a self-love and self-care routine that put me in touch with my loving and empathetic side.
Based on your strategy and the answers to all of your research questions, pick tactics targeted toward each of your goals.
Here's what this process looked like for me.
Goal 1: Go into the day feeling loving and energized to give to others
- Journal every morning. Try writing by hand vs. typing and see which feels better. Write about things you're grateful for. Express your feelings. Figure out the ideal number of pages to write, enough to feel like I've let it all out but not so much that I'm rambling about stupid shit.
- Wake up without an alarm clock. Wake up when my body tells me I've had enough sleep. Build a life where this is possible, whether that means going to bed earlier or creating a work schedule that's flexible.
- Find products that make me feel nourished. Like organic products that I know are good for me.
Goal 2: Feel energetic and able to focus until my next feeding ie lunch
- Avoid eating too many carbs. Too many carbs make me feel lethargic.
- Avoid sugar. I always crash after eating sugar.
- Eat lots of protein and fat. Eating both together always keeps me satisfied for a long time.
- Avoid caffeine. It makes me jittery, anxious, and unable to focus.
- Eat foods that maximize nutrients.
- Eat something that's fast and easy to prepare so I can prep it no matter how busy I am.
- If possible, choose products with good shelf life so I can stock up and make sure I always have my necessary supplies on hand.
Goal 3: Maintain or decrease body fat
- I've experimented with every macro ratio under the sun and found that for me personally keeping my carbs for the day at around 20-30 grams is ideal, along with 1-2 meals a week where I'll spike my carbs.
- Keep carbs at zero in the morning to give myself cushion to have carbs at night. Because often I have to eat carbs at night for social or work reasons. Also, I've found that eating carbs at night helps me sleep better, which in turn helps me maintain a healthier weight.
- Eat enough protein to not lose muscle mass. Find high-quality, clean protein sources.
Based on that process above, here's the Morning Ritual that I created for myself and currently use.
My Morning Ritual (the first 2 hours of my day)
Remember: I'm not telling you you should do any of these things. If you've read everything or at least reasonably skimmed what I've said above, it should be clear how my ritual relates back to my goals and my personal needs. Your goals and personal needs are different, so your morning ritual should be different as well.
1 - Wake up naturally (5 minutes)
Waking up without an alarm clock is one way I know I've gotten enough sleep. So I never set an alarm or schedule anything in the morning that would require me to set an alarm. I know most of us don't have the luxury of doing this, but I do and I take full advantage of it because it ensures I wake up feeling vibrant and energized every day.
After waking, I quickly check my phone, but only to see if any emergencies have come up. My team knows how to flag these for me, so it's not like I have to skim every email. Generally I check my SMS, not my email. And they know to only SMS me about TRUE emergencies. Something I would personally absolutely have to deal with immediately, not shit that can wait until it's the right time. That stuff goes in an email for me to deal with during the blocks of my day when I check email. Fortunately, 99.9% of the time there are no true emergencies, so I put my phone away pretty quickly.
2 - Make my hygiene routine a nourishing experience (20 minutes)
Using products like these are one of the ways I nourish myself. It's like starting every morning with a spa treatment. I find it soothes and comforts me to feel, touch, and smell these products. And I love knowing that there's nothing in them that could be harming my health without my knowing it. For example, you don't have to eat gluten for gluten to get into your body. If your shampoo contains gluten, then you'll absorb gluten into your body. Things that you put on your skin eventually make their way into your body, so choose products that only contain ingredients that are not only safe but nourishing to your body. Like essential oils. There are websites that specialize in doing this research for you, like ewg.org.
3 - Make and drink a Bulletproof cacao (20 minutes)
It takes me only 5 minutes to make this drink every morning, then I spend about 15 minutes savoring it. And all I need is a Vitamix and a handful of ingredients, all of which are non-perishable so I can always keep them in stock.
I love Bulletproof cacao because it keeps me feeling full, focused, and energized until lunch. Since I'm super sensitive to and can't have caffeine, I opt for ultra-nourishing cacao rather than use coffee in the conventional Bulletproof coffee. Cacao is a true superfood if you're willing to let go of your fear of fat and embrace a world where you maximize nutrients and minerals. All chocolate is made from cacao beans, and all the antioxidant value, mineral benefits, and neurotransmitter rejuvenating properties are found in original cacao. No need for the sugar, dairy, soy lecithin, and other bullshit that's usually found in chocolate. Bulletproof makes an awesome cacao that I occasionally use, but right now I'm shaving down bricks of cacao that I purchased from a shaman in Guatemala. I find that this cacao gives me a spiritual boost that I don't feel in other cacao. Whether this is true or placebo, I don't care because I'm feeling amazing, folks!
I add a bunch of things to my cacao to spruce it up, including organic cayenne pepper and organic Saigon cinnamon, so that my drink gives me a feeling of warmth. Also, these spices have their own health benefits and don't detract from the healthiness of the drink at all.
I also add pastured ghee and Bulletproof's Brain Octane as a source of healthy fats. You can read more about this on the Bulletproof blog, but, in short, grass-fed ghee and MCT oil are loaded with saturated fatty acids that are ideal for satiating you and reducing food cravings. But you don't have to believe me. Just try it for yourself one day if you're curious. I used to eat huge breakfasts and be hungry again by 10 or 11, but now I can just make myself a Bulletproof cacao at around 8 AM and not eat again until 12 PM. Getting enough high-quality fat is key to this. Also, the cacao is primarily fat, so the drink would be almost completely composed of fat except that I add collagen. Which brings me to my last step.
I add Bulletproof or grass-fed collagen as a clean source of protein because I've tested my drink with and without collagen and found that unless I add collagen I'm hungry again after about 3 hours. The collagen helps me make it through to lunch. Also, we just don't eat enough collagen. Collagen is what's released when you simmer bones for several hours, but I don't get around to drinking broth every day (even though we brew it freshly here in the Methodology kitchen). So adding this boost of collagen helps me make sure I'm getting the amino acids and nutrients I need for my muscles, bone, skin, teeth, hair, and joints. I usually use the Bulletproof collagen, but if I'm feeling extra poor (startup founder, remember?) I'll get Great Lakes gelatin because they source from cows grass fed in Argentina.
Anyway, here are the steps for how I make my Bulletproof cacao!
Boil 1.25 cups of filtered water. While water is boiling, prepare other ingredients.
Shave 1 ounce of cacao and add to blender.
Measure 1 teaspoon of organic cayenne and add to blender.
Measure 1 teaspoon of organic Saigon cinnamon and add to blender.
Measure 1 tablespoon of pastured ghee and add to blender. If I'm feeling very hungry add an additional tablespoon.
Measure 1 tablespoon of Brain Octane and add to blender.
Blend on low and slowly increase to blending on high until ghee is totally broken down. Then lower speed and add 2 tablespoons of grass-fed collagen.
Pour and serve. Enjoy hot. For those of you who are new to cacao without sugar, be forewarned that it's quite bitter, but this taste will grow on you!
4 - Journal by hand (35 minutes)
When I journal, I write 2-3 pages about anything. Whatever I want. I'm pretty much doing Morning Pages, which you may have read about elsewhere. Except I often try to include two things in my entries: (1) make a list, however short, of the things I feel grateful for at the moment and (2) write out positive affirmations.
When I first started journaling it felt like a pain in the ass. My hand was cramping like crazy because I wasn't used to writing by hand. I didn't know what to say, so it took me two hours just to fill two pages. I kept doing other shit like checking my iPhone to distract myself from the boredom, which only made the whole thing take longer.
Then, after about a week, I started to look forward to it.
I found that making lists of what I was grateful for made me feel more loving and happy. It was worth it to spend ten minutes of my day thinking deeply about what I was grateful for that day. And often when I was grateful for a person, I'd make sure to email, text, or call that person to express to them that I felt grateful for them and why. I do this so regularly now that if I died today I'd have no regrets about my communication with the people I care about. They all know how much they mean to me and why.
I also found that my thoughts became more organized. My days used to be scattered with random anxious thoughts that would interrupt me throughout the day. With journaling, through the process of writing them out, these thoughts end up getting organized and I come up with a conclusion or action item. Sometimes it's "this isn't important, so I'm going to forget about this." Other times it's "this is important, and I'm going to add this to my to do list for next week."
For positive affirmations, the practice of writing them out religiously reminded me that I should not only think about my affirmations but visualize myself doing them. My affirmations change over time depending on what I want to develop. They're always stated in the present tense as positive statements so that my subconscious can understand them. In other words "I am an inspiring, empathetic leader" and not "I'll become an inspiring, empathetic leader." And, as advised in the book 59 Seconds: Change your Life in Under a Minute, my affirmations involve specific plans and actions I want to take.
The overall journaling experience helps me go into my day feeling focused, organized, thoughtful, loving, and happy.
5 - Make a "top 3 priorities" list (10 minutes)
I review my To Do List, which I keep in Evernote, and look at what's on it for the next week.
Based on what's coming up and what's important, I make a list of the 3 things I ABSOLUTELY must accomplish today.
Then I move other To Do's back if I think they won't get touched based on my top 3 priorities. Moving things back or deciding not to do them helps me manage my stress and feel optimistic about what's ahead. I know going into each day that I have enough time to tackle the 3 things I need to tackle and that I'm okay with not touching the other things on my list if I can't get to them.
6 - Try not to look like ass (30 minutes)
Before I started Methodology, I used to love getting dressed up every day. I lived for it. It was my favorite part of my morning.
Then when I started Methodology and got slammed with 120+ hour work weeks, I let a lot of self-care fall to the wayside. I went from Rouland Mouret sheath dresses to baggy sweatpants every day.
Eventually I realized that looking like ass made me feel like ass. So now I make it a point to wear something that's comfortable but cute enough to look put together. You know, look like I give a fuck. Because whether we like it or not people will judge us based on how we look, and if I look like I can't take care of myself, why would anyone believe I can take care of a business?
Now go forth and create your own Morning Ritual
I hope you're feeling inspired to create your own morning ritual. Take your time on it and evolve it as your needs change. It's a beautiful and easy way to start each day with self-love.
Remember that the most important person for you to love and ensure feels loved is yourself. It's okay to spend an hour every morning (or 2 hours in my case) saying, "Screw everyone else. I'm gonna do me." Because when you feel loved and energized, you can accomplish anything.
P.S. I was not paid by any of these brands to write about them. Though that would have been sweet.