SMDS Book Review: The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

No convinced this is book worth buying. That said, you don’t have to believe me: if you’re feeling contrary, click on this picture to buy the book, and send a slice of that cheddar my way!  To read about my approach to affiliate marketing, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Not convinced this is book worth buying. That said, you don’t have to believe me: if you’re feeling contrary, click on this picture to buy the book, and send a slice of that cheddar my way!
To read about my approach to affiliate marketing, scroll to the bottom of this post.

I write this blog post while wearing a thick coat of shame, for I woke up almost three hours later than I intended this morning. Normally I’d laugh it off—no harm, no foul—but, today? The day I’m reviewing The Miracle Morning? That’s pretty embarrassing.

While my morning was, admittedly, something short of miraculous, I am making a concerted effort to wake up earlier and be more productive. My energy levels tend to be cyclical. At the beginning of the academic year I’m up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, at the exact same time every morning (usually 8 AM); by the end of the year, not so much.

I don’t want to sound unappreciative, but being on a research fellowship can really mess up your biorhythms. I’m falling asleep way too late at night, waking up correspondingly late the next day, and, as a result, missing out on the uniquely happy dance I do when I accomplish a lot before noon. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I bought myself a much-lauded book about developing a successful morning routine: Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life before 8 AM.

My quick n’ dirty synopsis of this book: Elrod does six very specific things every morning immediately upon waking up, and credits this routine with helping him turn his life around. You should do them too! That’s almost the whole story, minus a lot of personal branding. Seriously. As a freshman writing instructor, I wade through filler on a regular basis; this book is jam-packed with the stuff. Is there some worthwhile content hiding in there? Yes. Is it worth spending your money to find it? No. Elrod—who seems like a genuinely good person—makes a lot of this content available online. If I had it to do over again, I’d read the free stuff, try his method, and—if I started seeing results—buy the book as thanks for a job well done.

So what does Elrod do? He (1) meditates, (2) recites affirmations, (3) visualizes success and the path to said success, (4) exercises, (5) reads from a book that inspires him, and (6) writes in a journal. This process is supposed to take an hour, but can go longer or shorter based on your needs.

All of these activities make sense, and clumping them together into a morning routine does too. I tried it for a couple days, and yes, after an hour, I felt pretty good about myself. Then again, I also needed a nap later in the day, because waking up early (sadly) didn’t translate into falling asleep at a reasonable hour. I also found myself quickly lulled into a false sense of security: “look! I’ve already scratched six things off my to-do list and it isn’t even 8 AM! I’m so productive! I’ve definitely earned a break.”

I’m going to give the morning routine another try, starting tomorrow, because three days is hardly a fair shake. I will update you all if/when my life changes. Until then, here’s my analysis: if you’re the type of person who can convince yourself to wake up an hour early to do things like meditate and exercise, you have the motivation necessary to wake up and be successful without The Miracle Morning. So why bother buying the book? If you aren’t motivated enough to do the six things I listed above every morning, reading this book isn’t going to get you there. It’s not that inspirational.

In fact, if you’re like me, this book will inspire more frustration than productivity. Elrod seems like a decent guy with good intentions, and indeed, his personal story is pretty darned miraculous. That said, he really should have invested in a ghostwriter, and if he paid his copy editors, he should ask for his money back. I would call him a victim of the self-publishing boom, but my understanding is he’s made a very tidy profit off of this book… which doesn’t depress me at all. Nope. Not a bit.

There you have it: I think this book failed to live up to its potential. But then again, who the hell am I to throw stones? As I mentioned at the start of this post, I woke up three hours later than I planned to this morning. I am living in the thinnest of glass houses here, people. If that fact alone is not enough motivation to pull myself together tomorrow, I honestly don’t know what is.

 

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

To read about my philosophy re: affiliate marketing, click here.

A Bedtime Story for Adults

Sleep like a baby

Last night, I read Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life before 8 AM (review to come), and it got me thinking about the importance of routine in my life. Specifically, it got me thinking about how much happier I’ve become since developing a nighttime routine.

If there is one thing that graduate students need, and almost ever have, it’s stability. Uncertainty is built into our lives: classes and teaching schedules change, funding fluctuates (or disappears entirely), deadlines come and go, and few people hold us accountable for our use of time. Being your own boss is as liberating as it is frustrating, and academics rarely walk away from a hard day’s work with something tangible to show for their day. My nighttime routine adds a little structure to my life, gives me the opportunity to reflect as I wind down for the evening, and—perhaps most important—instructs my stress-addled brain that it is officially okay to be tired.

So what does a nighttime routine look like? It looks however you want it to look, though I’ve found that I get the greatest satisfaction from combining activities that involve different kinds of sensory stimulation. Basically, it’s a grown-up version of the routine my parents shepherded me through as a child.

Here’s what my night looks like:

  • Mood lighting. I have a very bright floor lamp on one side of my room, and a much dimmer lamp on each bedside table. During the day, the floor lamp is on. When I’m ready to wind down, the bedside lamps go on.
  • Scented candles. A bajillion years ago, I read that one of the most addictive parts of smoking (besides the whole nicotine thing) is the act of lighting a cigarette. Staring into a flame is that fun. It’s not news that fire is a fantastic meditative aid, but I think we underestimate how helpful it can be outside of standard-issue mindfulness practices. I don’t have a fireplace, so instead I light two scented candles on either side of my bed. The light bouncing off the walls and the aroma of “midnight orchid” is a quick signal to my brain that it’s time to get sleepy.
  • Pre-beauty rest beauty routine. A couple years ago, I discovered—to my horror—that lines had begun to appear on my face. I’m told that this is part of a larger process called “aging,” and that it’s something of a human universal. Well, it sucks. On the bright side, my new-found anxiety about the youthfulness of my complexion has led me to adopt a fairly rigorous face cleansing routine in the evenings. This is, of course, great news for my skin, but it’s also super helpful as part of my larger power-down process. The combination of cold water, and (the texture and smell of) the various lotions and potions I apply to my face, are great signposts for the end of my day.
  • Pro-level oral hygiene. This past summer, I found out I had a cavity. Three cavities, actually. The first twenty-seven years of my life were cavity-free, so this news was very upsetting, and the subject of another post, which you can read here. I used to brush my teeth before bed. Now I brush, floss (most of the time), and rinse with mouthwash… like an adult. My next visit to the dentist is going to be awesome.
  • Podcast-induced giggling. While all of this is going on, I’m usually listening to a podcast. They aren’t as all-consuming as television, they’re portable, and—if you listen to the right shows—they are tremendously entertaining. I normally listen to comedy podcasts while I wind down at night; “My Brother My Brother and Me,” “Throwing Shade,” “Sawbones,” and “The Adventure Zone” are among my favorite end-of-day jams.
  • Journaling. A daily writing practice is incredibly rewarding, and a surprisingly easy habit to pick up (I did it in August—you can read about it here). I usually only devote about ten minutes to journaling each night, but it’s enough to get me reflecting on my day, and thinking about the kind of tomorrow I want to have.
  • Body lotion marathon. I know, I know. All I can say is that I live in the desert, and I have really dry skin. I also hate this kind of maintenance unless I see it as part of a larger production.
  • Reading or Knitting. More often than not I finish my nighttime routine by curling up in bed with a good book, or a pair of knitting needles. Sometimes the rest of my routine is a little too effective, and I’m officially too tired to make this last step happen, but it hardly feels like a sacrifice, since I know I’m making the time to indulge my hobbies on a regular basis.

I’m hoping to make one addition to my nighttime routine in the near future: a to-do list for the following day. I used to write up lists and schedules every evening, but fell out of the practice for reasons that, honestly, aren’t entirely clear to me.

I realize that my nighttime routine is time-consuming, and (correctly) implies that I spend very few evenings out late with friends. Certainly that isn’t going to work for everyone. Maybe your routine can be counted in minutes, not hours. That’s fine, as long as you treasure that time. Make it non-negotiable. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.

It’s your turn. What’s your nighttime routine? If you don’t have one, are you down to give it a try? I’d love to hear if it works out!

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.