Oil pulling - First thing in the morning, before putting anything else in your mouth, place anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of unrefined coconut oil (or pure oil of your liking) in your mouth. Swish it around and pull it through your teeth until the last step of your morning routine: exercise. Right before your exercise, spit the oil into a trashcan (not a sink!), rinse your mouth and brush your teeth.
Prayer - Spend a few minutes dedicating yourself and your day to the Lord. Be brief but specific. Just let the Lord know how much you love Him.
Thanksgiving - Pick one thing each day to be grateful for and spend a few moments thanking the Lord for that thing. Specify what it means to you, why you're thankful for it, etc. Again, be specific, but don't let it take up too much time. If you're specific, I guarantee you'll be thinking about it on and off all day long.
Illumination - Read a Bible verse, Bible passage or a short devotion based on a Bible verse.
Meditation - Chew on the verse, passage or devotion that you just read. Think about how it applies to your life in general. What can you take away from it?
Inscribe - Spend a few minutes journaling about anything that God has laid on your heart. You can write out your verse, jot down your meditation thoughts, lay out a burden on your heart or anything else. It doesn't matter what you write during this time as long as it is God-focused.
Zero in - Put together all the pieces of your morning routine and focus on how you can bring them into practice during your day. Think specifically about your schedule for that particular day and how you can serve God that day based on what He put on your heart that morning.
Exercise - Do 5-10 minutes of exercise--whether it be walking, strength training or merely stretching--to get your body moving, your blood flowing, and your oxygen levels up.
Now, just to make sure we're all on the same page, here's an example of one of my morning OPTIMIZE routines.
6:30 - Placed two oil pulling tablets (I make my own) in my mouth and began chewing and swishing. Turned on electric kettle so that it would be hot and ready for my morning hot tea when I finished my optimizing.
6:32 - Sat down in my office chair and prayed. While I didn't write down my exact prayer, it went something like this. "Good morning, Lord. I thank you for a good night's sleep and for another day to serve you. Today, I dedicate my life and everything about it to you. May everything that I do be pleasing in your sight. I choose to die to myself, my vain ambitions and my pride and to seek Your holy face all throughout the day. Help me, Lord, for I cannot do this alone. I love you! Amen."
6:35 - Thanked the Lord for the opportunity to begin a new writing project. Expressed my excitement about the process and my gratitude for having the health, time and ability to write another book that would spread the message of God's Word and ultimately bring glory to Him.
6:38 - Read Psalm 113:3 from my book, There's a Verse for That and a short devotion entitled "Faithfully Present" from Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado.
6:43 - Meditated on both the verse and the devotion, seeing how they went together and also how they applied to my life. The verse in Psalms talks about giving praise to the Lord all day long while the devotion was talking about God's continual presence in our lives. That presence is something that I can praise God for all day long no matter what may be happening because, no matter the trial, God is still with me.
6:46 - I jotted down the verse and my meditations on that verse just as I wrote it above. Then I went ahead and wrote down my zero in because I like to reflect on it later.
6:50 - Today I am running errands, so I reminded myself that no matter where I go today or what I do, the Lord will go with me. He has my back and is in control of all things; therefore, I can go about my day without worry or fear and, in the process, I can be a testimony to others by sharing God's promise with them.
6:54 - After spitting out my oil and brushing my teeth, I pulled up a YouTube video of a 5-minute morning yoga routine. I leave my yoga mat rolled out on my office floor (Mitch likes to sleep on it from time to time), so I rose from my desk chair, walked to the mat and there you have it.
7:00 - Left my office feeling revived and charged. Turned my tea kettle back on to warm the water again (it takes less time the second time) and began my day. That's it!
I know this post is running a little long, but I want to share with you one last thing: the bonus I told you about. To gain the most benefit from Optimize Your Day, do it first thing in the morning AND right before you go to bed. Huh? No, I'm serious. This is awesome. Do the entire routine (with just a couple of tweaks) right before you go to bed, but do it backward. If you're like me and have trouble remembering the steps in order let alone backward, you can make yourself a chart to keep beside your bed (or print off the one from the top of the page). Anyway, here's what the nightly routine looks like:
Exercise - Again, just a few minutes will do, and because you're getting ready for bed, you want soft, slow movements. This is not time for cardio. Think gentle stretches and deep breathing. Calm the body and get it ready for sleep.
Zero in - Reflect on how you served God today. Think of this as a time of accountability. I like to look back at my morning goal (I always write down my zero in) and see if I accomplished what I said I was going to do. It's very rewarding to see what I've done well and even helpful to see where I could do better.
Inscribe - Again, write down anything. What you're thankful for, how your day went, something that happened that blessed you. Whatever. The sky is the limit!
Meditation - Here again I pull out my journal and read my morning meditation and then allow myself to dwell on that again.
Illumination - You can read the same verse, passage or devotion that you read in the morning or choose another. It's completely up to you. Once again, we're trying to get our minds focused on the Lord.
Thanksgiving - Find at least one thing from the day for which to be thankful.
Prayer - Spend a few minutes talking to the Lord about your day. Try not to dwell too much on the negative things but give them over to God. Ask Him to calm your mind and heart as you lay down to rest.
Oil - Notice, I said oil and not oil pulling. Oil pulling is best done in the morning and isn't all that advantageous at night. What is beneficial, however, is essential oils. I personally diffuse essential oils while I sleep and find that I sleep better and wake more rested. Others place a few drops of lavender oil on their sheets and/or pillows while others rub a nice oil blend on the soles of their feet. I don't have time to go into all the benefits of essential oils and which oils are best for bedtime, but you can find tons of information online. So, go nuts, but I do recommend using essential oils.
I have discovered that following this practice before bed puts me in a much better state of mind and helps me fall asleep faster, sleep better and wake feeling more rested. Instead of lying in bed for hours with my mind tossing and turning about problems and schedules, I feel as if I'm falling asleep in the comforting arms of Jesus. It's so refreshing!
And to make the process as simple as possible, I place everything that I need for optimizing my day in a small tote bag. At bedtime, I carry the tote bag to bed and perform my optimization there. When I'm finished, I set the bag (with all its contents) next to my nightstand. When I get up in the morning, I grab the bag and head to my office. With everything in one place, I'm not scrambling around and feeling hectic trying to get everything ready. I'm not saying that you have to do it this way, but it certainly works well for me.
Well, there you have it. I hope you've learned something useful, and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below or email me personally. I'd love to help in any way I can.
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. - Psalm 118:24