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How to create your ideal morning routine
I am NOT a morning person. I never have been…well, actually, that might not be entirely true…I do have vague memories of getting up before my mom to watch Transformers cartoons and steal marshmallows from the kitchen cabinet when I was about 6… But I haven’t been a morning person since then. (Maybe marshmallows are the answer? Probably not…)
But, as I’m learning these days, mornings are much more important than I give them credit for! And a morning routine is a crucial part of getting your day off to a positive start.
A good morning routine is so important because the way you spend the very first part of each day sets the tone for the rest of your day. When was the last time you overslept and had to rush to get somewhere on time? I bet the rest of the day felt a little frantic, even if the rest of the day was fairly normal.
Instead of feeling frantic, a calm and reliable morning routine can leave you feeling relaxed and on top of your day. It also has the added benefit of leaving you in a proactive mindset, instead of reactive. You’ll feel more organized and you’ll also feel like you have more time! Because you know that your day has just started, but you already have X,Y, and Z accomplished and out of the way. And who couldn’t use a little more time in their day?
What should your morning routine include?
This is a tricky question because the answer will likely be different for everyone, due to differing work, families, and households. But a good rule of thumb is that your morning routine should include whatever will make your day positive and productive.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Whether you just include some time to be grateful for the good in your life or you take 5 minutes to write down a few things, a focus on gratitude can change your mindset for the entire day ahead.
Meditation, mindfulness practice, or prayer
Along with a focus on gratitude, simply starting your day with a little bit of reflection can clear your mind and prepare you for your day.
Plan your day
Unless you’re new around here, you already know that I’m a BIG planner. But even if you’re not quite as thrilled about planning as I am, writing out a quick agenda for your day first thing in the morning is beneficial. You’ll start the day knowing what needs to happen, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll have everything listed out, so nothing important will slip through the cracks.
I can’t stress this one enough. Mainly, because I’m not much of a breakfast eater, but I’ve noticed a big difference in the quality of my days when I do make a point of eating breakfast. Mainly because when I settle into my workday, I’m not distracted by sudden hunger and clock watching until lunchtime. Instead, I get to use that time to be productive. Yay!
Who knew, all those cereal commercials in the ‘80s were right about breakfast….
This should be a no brainer, but it’s still worth mentioning: Include getting dressed and ready for the day in your morning routine. Why? Because it’s something you’re likely to do most mornings and it’s a chunk of time that needs to be accounted for in your day. Having that time planned out will help get your day off on the right note.
Coffee or tea
Drink your morning coffee or tea. Mindfully. Instead of rushing through it, and drinking it distractedly while you get ready or commute to work, dedicate a little time to enjoying it. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but take the opportunity to give your day a calm and mindful start, instead of beginning the morning multitasking. (Read this post to learn more about why multi-tasking doesn’t actually save you time.)
Move your body
Whether you run, hit the gym, or do a little yoga, moving your body first thing in the morning is a fantastic idea. Not only will it help you wake up (especially if mornings are NOT your favorite time of day – Cheers to my fellow non-morning-people!) but it also checks one thing off your to-do list for later. You don’t have to worry about having the energy for exercise after work, because you’ve already done it!
These are just a few options – feel free to include them all, but more importantly, include what is important to YOU.
Creating your ideal morning routine
Now that you have a few ideas to include in your morning routine, it’s time to design your personal routine and put it into practice! Here are 4 steps to get you there:
1. Decide what you’d like to include in your morning routine
Take the ideas above and add your own. Make a little list of things that will be helpful to you, that you’d like to get out of the way early each day, that you’d like to add to your day but can’t find time for… What will your morning routine consist of?
2. Decide when you need to wake up to make it work
Take the list you just made and write down how much time you’d LIKE to spend on each item. Be realistic, but also focus on quality time. Just because you can drink your coffee in 5 minutes doesn’t mean that you have to. The idea is to slow your mornings down and feel less rushed, not more, so give each item the ideal amount of time.
Now add everything up to decide what time you need to wake up. And, as much as I hate to say it, you may need to make some adjustments. In fact, you probably will. If you have to be at work at 6am, you probably don’t want to create a morning routine that is 3 hours long. (Unless, of course, you’re a natural morning person that likes waking up at 3am…) Decide what your priorities are and leave anything else behind…for now.
You can always begin to add to your routine once you have a good handle on it, but don’t overwhelm yourself from the start. More than likely, that will just end with throwing the whole idea out the window.
3. Start the night before
But wait, aren’t we talking about morning routines here? YES! But as I’ve been working on my own routine, I’ve learned that setting intentions for my morning the night before makes it exponentially more likely to happen! Mainly, because my brain doesn’t wake up when my body does. So each evening, plan your routine for the next morning. Decide what time you need to wake up, set your alarm, and prepare anything that can be done ahead of time. (Set the timer on the coffee maker, choose your clothes, anything that you can do to get a little head-start, do it!)
4. Keep it consistent
A morning routine is simply building a habit, so from the very beginning, try to keep it as consistent as you can. Decide whether you will include weekends or do weekdays only. (Don’t wait until a weekend comes around to make the decision.) Stick to your new routine as much as possible and give it a little time to become your new normal. After a while, your morning routine will become second nature!
What my morning routine looks like
I’ve been working on creating my ideal morning routine for a few months now and I think I have it nailed down. If you’d like an example of someone’s personalized morning routine, here’s what mine looks like:
I start the night before by using this journal to write down my plans and help stay consistent. (BTW, this little book is fantastic, especially if you’re not a natural morning person! It has great tips and tricks to help you stay motivated, even through the first – and hardest – weeks.)
I set my alarm for the next day. Lately, instead of using my phone alarm, I’ve been using the Alarmy Alarm Clock app. I will hit snooze over and over (and over) again before dragging myself out of bed, but this app has the option of making you take a picture before it will turn off! I used a picture of our coffee maker, so I not only have to get out of bed, but go all the way downstairs to the kitchen. It’s really helping to curb my snooze button habit!
Since I’m already down there, my next step is to make my coffee, feed the pets, and let our dog outside. (If she’s awake…she’s old and lazy and usually stays in bed!)
Then I enjoy my coffee, write down a few things I’m grateful for and fill out my planner for the day.
Next is breakfast, and after that, I take about 15 minutes to check my email, social media, and banking app, just to stay on top of things.
30 minutes of yoga, followed by a quick shower and I’m ready for the day!
My morning routine does take about 3 hours total. And that’s what works for me and it’s intentionally on the longer side for 2 reasons:
- It takes a while before my body and brain adjust to the idea of being awake. Taking that time makes me more productive when I start my workday, instead of battling through the morning brain fog for the first few hours of work.
- I have a pretty flexible schedule right now. My main job runs on Pacific time and I live in Eastern time, so there’s no big rush for me to get started any earlier than I do.
Your routine will probably look a lot different than mine. And that’s okay! Because creating your ideal morning routine is all about determining what is ideal for YOU!