How often do you get out of bed knowing exactly what you need to do that morning?
Do your mornings feel calm and ordered, or are they usually more chaotic and stressful, or at the very least vague and lacking direction?
A well constructed morning routine is an amazing lifestyle tool for any musician. There are a few reasons for this:
It gives you a feeling of grounded-ness (maybe just invented a word there…) – even if you’re away on tour or moving around a lot – to be doing the same things each morning.
You can choose certain skills you want to improve by guaranteeing daily practice or focus as part of your routine.
You can flow seamlessly from your routine into your work for the day, whether it’s writing, recording, rehearsing or something else.
You get a feeling of accomplishment every single day by simply ticking off your routine tasks.
How can you construct this routine? And, the big question, how can you make sure you actually stick to it?
Step 1 – How to work out what your routine is
The first step involves identifying a list of things that would keep you healthy, happy and improving as a musician.
I break it down into three categories:
1 – Diet and Fitness (e.g. yoga, eating a healthy breakfast, a workout routine, drinking a jug of water, etc)
2 – Improving as a songwriter/creator (e.g. object writing for lyrics, listening to a new song in a new style, an online course module on songwriting, etc)
3 – Music practise/technique (e.g. singing practice, instrument practice, steaming for your voice etc)
Start by writing down a list of ALL the possible things you could be doing each day in each category.
Talk to other musicians and see what it is they do (or try to do) regularly to improve and stay healthy.
At this point, you should have a fairly long list of possible options – don’t worry, you’re not going to try to do ALL of them!
Now, pick 3 of these tasks and try doing them every day for a week.
The most important point here is not to beat yourself up if you don’t stick to it every day – just do your best to complete your 3 routine tasks each day.
Also, write down how you feel. You haven’t necessarily picked the best routine tasks yet so don’t worry if one of them doesn’t quite work for you – try something different instead.
For the next few weeks, keep trying different tasks and, super importantly, observe how they work for you. Which tasks made you feel better and have a more productive day?
Does yoga always make you feel great for the next few hours? Does listening to a new song each morning always inspire you to write yourself? Have you noticed an improvement in your singing after a few days of steaming your voice?
Whenever you find a routine task that works for you, add it to your final routine list – this is your final routine. Obviously it can still change over time, but by trying different things and observing how you feel, you should have a good idea of what to do!
Step 2 – How to make sure you stick to your routine?
I have a few GREAT tips to make sure you stick to your routine, if not every day then at least almost every day.
First – try to make each item something you can do in fifteen minutes or less. The best things are short things that have a big impact on you. A fifteen minute vocal warm up each morning will do wonders for your voice, as will a fifteen minute yoga session.
Ever feel like you don’t drink enough water? (Most people feel like that tbh…) – why not drink a pint of water when you get up? I started doing this three years ago and honestly it transformed how I felt overnight! And it takes about ten seconds!
Second – make each task as easy as possible to start.
A great example of this: if you want to do fifteen minutes of guitar practice each morning, don’t keep your guitar lockup in a case in a cupboard somewhere – have it out ready each morning. It seems like a tiny point, but just the act of having to get it out is a barrier that is making you less likely to stick to your practice.
Or, if your task is to listen to a new song every day, maybe you don’t know where to find a new song and spend several minutes frantically looking for possibilities… Solution? Create a long playlist in advance…
I wrote a whole article about this – it’s called Paths of Least Resistance – and how I used it to make an amazing vocal warm up that I now do every single day.
Third – I would recommend watching this TED Talk by Mel Robbins about motivation and getting things done. She talks about this thing called ‘Activation Energy’, the little kick of energy you need to give yourself to start something (or get out of bed).
If you’re trying to force yourself to do something, the first five seconds are crucial. Chances are, if you don’t push yourself to start in the first five seconds, you’re probably not going to do it at all. I’ve tried this logic with getting out of bed – counting myself down like a boxer who’s been knocked out in the ring – and it really works!
It takes practice, but these tricks will honestly make you so much more likely to stick to your routine.
Step 3 – How to keep track of your routine?
I am a massive spreadsheet nerd. A lot of my musician friends (and non-musician friends tbh) have seen my ‘Master Spreadsheet’. I use it to track my life, especially my days, to make sure I’m keeping on top of everything.
It looks like this:
(It’s basically a glorified ‘bullet diary’ where you tick off each day that you’ve done each task, but I also use it to track some other things and I don’t like using apps where I can help it… but if you prefer a shiny app then search ‘bullet diary’ in your app store…)
My friends have found it SO useful that we’ve created a blank version you can use for yourself – it’s all simply laid out and explained!
A Final Point – this stuff takes time, so be nice to yourself!
This point is really important – building a good, constant routine is not something that happens overnight. It takes time to work out what’s best for your body, mind and creativity, and you’ll have whole weeks (or months even) when you lose the thread a bit.
This is ok – it happens. Don’t beat yourself up, just reassess, reconnect with why you’re doing music and come back to your routine tasks, making sure you’re following the tips above (i.e. making them short, easy to start, etc).
But once you get into it and start having a good daily rhythm, you’ll notice the amazing effect it has on your workflow and creativity – plus your health of course!
Now go drink a pint of water…