I love routine, and all the more so as I get older. The problem is my days rarely turn out the way I want, and never the way I plan them. I can’t even get them to devolve the same way each time. I refuse to concede defeat to the chaos, however, and have instead fortified a good fallback position. Specifically, I exert maximum control over what surrounds the two things that define each waking period: getting up, and going to bed.

The first thing I do to foster a proactive mindset for the day is setting my alarm for 5:30 every day. I very rarely need to get up earlier that this in order to make my first meeting or daily requirement, so this means my day starts when I say so the vast majority of the time, and not when my first meeting would otherwise dictate. I’m okay with the illusion of control.

After waking, I make the bed, pray, make coffee, read the bible, make and eat breakfast, shave, shower, dress, and walk out the door. Doing everything on this list takes about two hours, so any time I need to leave the house earlier than 7:30 I cut items out of the middle, leaving: making the bed, praying, dressing, and heading out the door.

Strictly speaking, it’s only those last two tasks which are mandatory (Public nudity is frowned upon in my neighborhood, and I have job outside of the house), but I choose to make the first two also mandatory. I want to stress this point. What you make mandatory is not the important part, making something mandatory is.

That being said, I think you should consider putting prayer or meditation on this list. I think you can maximize the control benefits of a good morning routine by trying to control your unruly thoughts. If prayer is not for you, meditation might be. The manager of the world’s largest hedge fund, Ray Dalio, went on record that transcendental meditation is, “more than any other factor, [the] reason for what success I’ve had.”

One final note on how I let my mornings degrade: if I have an early meeting, or anything else that constrains my normal plan, I move the “middle items” to other parts of the day. For example, I might listen to the Bible while commuting, grab coffee on the go, and throw some sort of portable breakfast in my bag. I try to make a fallback plan, rather than winging it, in order to maintain control as long as possible.

Because the end of the day varies much more than my mornings, my nightly routine is simpler, but I will save that for tomorrow. I’m getting a little tired, and I have a busy Tuesday ahead of me.