This One Simple Routine Will Destroy Your Soul
Sure, you'll be healthy and productive, but at what cost?
I remember feeling enraged when I read this book back in 2014, and not just because at the time I was living with a woman who got on my ass for closing the living room curtains to make the room dark while I watched a movie, which, if you’re not familiar, is one of the primary purposes of curtains.
This book was all about starting your day off perfectly by getting up an hour earlier than usual and spending that hour doing six different practices for ten minutes each. Meditation, exercise, reading, journalling… I forget the others. And I’m not sure if those four are correct either. I assume they are, because that’s the same old shit everyone was spouting in the mid-2010s.
Okay, I just checked, and I was right, those things are included, but the author rebranded ‘meditation’ to ‘silence’, and ‘journalling’ to ‘scribing’, purely so he could invent his own acronym, and now I’m enraged all over again. Just make your acronym MAVERJ, coward. He also includes the words ‘Not-So-Obvious Secret’ in the tagline, which is just fu—
What does this guy think a secret is, exactly? I’m getting off-track. I haven’t mentioned the title for a reason but if you’re really curious, I’m sure you can find it. It’s still popular. It has over 20,000 five-star reviews. Let me tell you why I’m mad about it first, though. Oh, and the other two things are visualisation and affirmation. Now you don’t even need to read the book, because that’s it. I could summarise the whole thing in less words than this newsletter.
You can’t convince me that even 1% of the people who gave that book five stars are still performing this hour-long routine every morning. If they ever did it in the first place. Inspiration’s powerful enough to make someone bash out a 100-word review on Goodreads, but is it enough to make them get out of bed at 5am every day for the rest of their existence? I give the lot of ‘em six weeks before life happens and they realise it’s unsustainable. Six months for the truly pig-headed.
And what good is doing any of these things for only ten minutes? How do you even get those ten minutes of each in? Like, all this stuff is meant to be done within the same hour. You can’t space them out, it would defeat the point. So should I do them all in my workout clothes? Do I include the time it takes to squeeze into my compression leggings or should I do that in advance? Can I sit in silence with my journal in hand so I can simultaneously be wri—scribing? Can I do all the other things silently too? Why does silence even need to be here if we’re going to be silent for the rest of the time anyway? Oh, that’s right. Because it’s not silence, it’s meditation. But you just had to go and create an acronym that sounds like a discount high-street chain, didn’t you?
You know why it sounds like that? Because that’s what it is.
Also, do I have to read something that will help me ‘acquire knowledge and expand [my] abilities by learning from experts’ or can I squeeze in some Project Hail Mary instead? Please, I’ve been trying to finish it since it came out and I think five pages at a time might be my only hope.
It’s not just me, is it? Are people really able to do this day-in, day-out for months, years? The rest of their lives? Even if I thought the whole thing was a good idea in the first place, the idea of doing it every day forever, or even for a couple of months, sets me on edge. Nowadays, the thought of doing almost anything so ceaselessly has that effect on me. A visceral discomfort, like someone’s dropped a cage or a bell jar over my head. But it would take me a long time to realise that. Not until I’d experienced it first hand.
After I’d escaped my control-freak flatmate (what possesses a person to text someone who’s just left for London for the weekend an admonishment about the dirty bowl they’ve left on their desk in their bedroom, by the way?) and moved into a place on my own, I was still interested in the concept of starting my days off in the most ideal way. The perfect morning routine… it had to exist, right? Everyone talked about it. If I just nailed this, all my problems would be over.
I got a little too obsessed with it. To the point it made me feel frustrated and agitated that I couldn’t get it right. Why wasn’t this working? Why couldn’t I do it, this thing pretty much everyone claims will improve your life? Why did none of it feel natural? I wasn’t even trying to do the dumb 6-things-in-1-hour shtick. I just wanted to do normal, healthy first-thing-in-the-morning stuff, like read for half an hour, make a nice breakfast without scrolling through Twitter as I scrambled my eggs, and brush my teeth before, say, 9am. And you know what? For a while, I actually did it. And it went really well.
And I hated it.
For one brief time of my life, I truly felt like I had my shit together. This was in 2016. It lasted for, hmm, three or four months? Maybe a little longer if we’re not talking about executing everything perfectly. But for those few months I had this daily routine – yes, the whole day, not just the morning or the first hour – down to a science: