The 3-Step Morning Routine That Sets You Up For A Great Day Every Day

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woman waking up happy

When you wake up, do you think about mastering your day? Creating a morning routine or ritual can help recharge your mindset, allowing you to approach the day feeling as positive and confident as possible.

I'm not talking about merely organizing your daily to-do list. I'm referring to consciously crafting your mindset for the day with care. A deliberate morning practice aligns what you do with how you do it and who you become in the process.

Consider the following questions about what tends to happen when you first wake up:

  • Do you think about all the annoying things you have to do, or do you focus on what you can appreciate?
  • Do you think about your upcoming meetings or calls as obligations or as opportunities to learn and grow?
  • Do you wait for your inbox to tell you what to pay attention to or do have a plan to align your work with what feels most authentic and productive to you?

These considerations make all the difference between living proactively rather than reactively. Don't let your day slip by — master it. All it takes is a well-designed morning routine.

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For years, I've experimented with different ways to optimize my morning routine. Gratitude journals, inspiring quotes, and uplifting visualizations have all been helpful in setting the tone for my day.

But after numerous iterations, I keep coming back to one simple format for making the most of my mornings: the ACE technique.

How to use the ACE technique (aka Dropping Anchor) to set yourself up for a great day

What is the ACE technique?

The ACE technique, also known as the Dropping Anchor technique, is a method developed by Dr. Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living. It serves as a simple way to master your day, transcending the shortcomings of regular to-do lists.

The three straightforward steps shift your perspective from viewing your day as something happening to you to an experience happening through you and for you.

  • A — Acknowledge (or accept) your thoughts and feelings. Then ask what you can be grateful for.
  • C — Come back into your body. Ask yourself what you can contribute today.
  • E — Engage in a productive activity. Ask yourself what experiences you want to create today.

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Here's how the ACE technique will help you master your day.

Acknowledge, accept and appreciate

Appreciation sets the frame to look for what’s good and positive in your life. We all need this reframe because, without conscious intervention, your brain will habitually seek and find problems.

It’s not your fault. Your brain is doing what it’s designed to do. It’s nervously searching for something to worry about. That’s why it is called a nervous system — it tends to be anxious.

To override this inherent bias wired into your neurobiology, ask yourself these questions:

  • What can I appreciate today?
  • Who can I appreciate today?
  • What or who might I take for granted that I can acknowledge?
  • How can I show that appreciation in words or actions?

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Come back into your body and contribute

Contribution gets you thinking about what you offer to the world. Even if you feel like you’ve got nothing, just being you is enough.

You can impact others in ways you never know. Plus, when you start to focus your energy on sharing your strengths and passions, you’ll find the day becomes more meaningful and satisfying.

  • What can I contribute today?
  • What can I offer that the world needs?
  • With whom can I share these contributions?

Your contributions do not need to be tangible. In fact, some of the most powerful contributions are simply nice gestures or warm-hearted presence.

Showing up for someone with a smile and a willingness to listen can be the most valuable part of their day. Try approaching your day with an attitude of "what I can give" rather than "what I can get." This shift can be magical.

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Engage and experience

Most days aren’t blank slates. You have activities and chores that need to get done. However, no matter how busy your calendar is, you still have a choice in how you show up and create these experiences.

Go beyond thinking of your day as items to check-off a list. Consider what you want to feel. Moreover, consider how each part of your day can help you evolve and become a better human.

Each experience of your day can be a springboard to another important “E” — evolution.

When you shift into this perspective, life starts happening for you — for your own learning, growth, and evolution — rather than at you (which is often scary and not very fun.)

Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to experience today?
  • What feelings and emotions characterize this experience?
  • Why is this experience important? (How will this experience help me evolve?)
  • Where does this experience take place? With whom?
  • What do I need to do to make sure this happens?

Remember, the exact way in which any given experience unfolds is less important than the overall meaning you give to that moment.

Don’t get overly attached to unimportant details. Focus on the quality of your desired experience and build from there. On the outside, the experience might look exactly the same, but on the inside, it can feel totally different.

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The beauty of the ACE technique is that it works as a stand-alone set of inquiries or as a way to master the activities you already have planned.

For example, if your daily to-do list looks like this:

  • 8 a.m.: Do the laundry and clean
  • 9 a.m.: Finish the retro document and email it to Brian
  • 1 p.m.: Meet with Whitney and Paul to discuss the new program
  • 5 p.m.: Go for a run

If you take each of these items and think about how they fit into the ACE framework, you can transform these to-dos into opportunities to appreciate, contribute, and experience the life you want.

I’ll walk you through an example of merging the ACE with daily tasks.

8 a.m.: Do the laundry and clean.

Appreciate that you have a washer and dryer and plenty of clean, if not fashionable, clothes to wear. It may help to remember those times when you had to walk down the street to the coin-op laundromat.

Instead of begrudging this task, be grateful for your material possessions. You bought them, after all. This could also be an opportunity for contribution.

If you are washing clothes for your partner or your family, you can turn it into an act of service rather than a chore. Think about how nice it will be for your loved ones to return home to clean clothes.

9 a.m.: Finish the retro document and email it.

You could frame this as an opportunity to contribute your knowledge, skills, and expertise to the project.

What comments or suggestions can you make that speak to your unique perspective? How can this showcase what you are good at?

You could also frame this in terms of the experience you want to have. Maybe you want to experience the joy of completing a task and shipping it off. When the moment comes, pause and really appreciate the work that you put in and the sense of accomplishment it brings.

1 p.m.: Meet with Whitney and Paul to discuss the new program.

Here is an obvious place for contribution.

How can you lend your unique talents and gifts to this meeting? What perspectives can you bring that nobody else can?

This is where contribution and connection link with each other. It isn’t about just what you can do alone. It‘s about what you can co-create together.

5 p.m.: Go for a run.

Think about your run in the light of the type of experience that you want to have.

Exercise can generate lots of uplifting and empowering emotions. Focus on these. Not the discomfort.

If you’re inside, pay attention to how good it feels to be in a body that can move. If you’re running outdoors, you may want to experience the scenery and fresh air. Tune into that sense of aliveness that arises through intentional movement and breath.

All together your annotated calendar might look like this:

  • Do the laundry (Appreciate clothes)
  • Finish the retro document and email it (Contribute thoughtful comments)
  • Meet with Whitney and Paul to discuss the new program (Contribute to co-create)
  • Go for a run (Experience embodied energy)

Most mornings are mindless unless you choose to make them otherwise.

The ACE technique is a simple way to make your mornings more conscious.

  • You have an opportunity to appreciate the good things in your life.
  • You have an opportunity to contribute to the lives of others.
  • You have an opportunity to experience emotions that bring you joy and fulfillment and moments that help you evolve as a human.

This opportunity awaits you every morning if you choose to pursue it. I’ve made my choice to ACE my day. Have you?

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Jeff Siegel is a holistic wellness coach, life coach, and author with expertise in the field of wellness and personal development. He holds a Masters in Mind and Brain Education from Harvard University.

This article was originally published at Jeff Siegel Wellness. Reprinted with permission from the author.