You know that morning routines matter, but you may be questioning if they still matter right now. I felt the same way at first but quickly discovered how badly my non-routine was screwing up my life. So I recreated my morning routine, and think you should too. I’ll show you how I did it.
I’ve been pretty open on my Instagram with how much this pandemic has messed with my head. In March, I was finally getting into the swing of this whole blogging-and-business thing, and then everything changed overnight. In the midst of all the chaos, I stopped practicing my morning routine. That may seem insignificant, but it isn’t.
Now, I’m not here to tell you how you should be coping right now. I can only speak to my experience. I did not like the person I let myself become in the early weeks of the pandemic: I was addicted to news, eating total crap, drinking too much, and not working at all. And I let myself get away with it under the guise of “coping.” But if your coping mechanism makes you feel worse than before, it’s probably time to reevaluate.
Finally, I got so sick of myself that I had to make a change. The only thing I can control is how I manage myself — my time, my priorities, my health, and my emotions. Restarting my morning routine is how I got my well-being back.
Can you relate?
Maybe you’ve also let your morning routine slide since lockdown, and if so, I bet you’re feeling the chaos. Or, maybe you’ve never given much thought to a morning routine, but you’re working from home now and struggling to stay on track without the structure of the office. Either way, I hope sharing my story will help inspire you to take back your mornings for the sake of your own well-being.
Because my only goal in sharing my routine is to help you. If you’re feeling lost, stuck, anxious, and overwhelmed, I hope this will empower you to make positive changes. We likely have very different responsibilities and priorities, so what I do might not work for you. Just take what serves you and leave the rest.
It’s time to stop waiting. You can’t wait to change your habits until the world goes back to normal. Although we’re tiptoeing back toward some semblance of normalcy now, It’s incredibly likely that things are not going to be pre-pandemic normal for a long time. So take ownership of yourself in this season and adapt. Developing an effective morning routine is a great place to start.
My Morning Routine
Get out of bed: 6:30
I am SO not a morning person, and waking up is HARD. But I’ve also read a lot of personal development books, 95% of which tell you to get up early, so I caved. After months of pissing off my sleeping husband by snoozing my alarm 5 times every morning, I bought a wearable device that literally shocks me until I get out of bed. I hate that damn thing, but I love my morning routine, so here we are.
I’ve become addicted to quiet mornings, where I can move slowly, prepare for my day, and dedicate myself to the following practices without interruptions. And even now, when I have nowhere to be (ever), rising early is still a necessary part of my routine.
Yoga: 5 minutes (minimum)
Sometimes I go longer, but in the colder months, I can’t wait to snuggle in my reading chair with a blanket and hot tea, so I keep it short. One sun salutation vinyasa flow stretches out the whole body and wakes me up. If I wake up with a sore back or tight legs, I’ll do a ten-minute flexibility block using the Yoga Studio app on my phone. Since I’ll be sitting for the next hour or so, I want to make sure I don’t stiffen up.
Meditate: 5 minutes
I do a guided meditation using the Balance app on my phone. While I’ve practiced meditation for a while and love a longer, unguided practice, I find that I need guidance to stay alert in the mornings. This brief period of deep breathing and focusing my attention helps me start my day calm and centered.
Drink water and make tea: 5 minutes
Then, I head to the kitchen to boil water for morning tea. I prefer starting my day with the moderate amount of caffeine found in black or green tea. Coffee can make me feel jittery this early, so I save it for after breakfast.
While the kettle heats up, I drink a 12-ounce glass of water. I started doing this pretty recently, and wow it makes such a difference. We dehydrate like crazy overnight, so water is especially important first thing in the morning.
If I’m feeling hungry, I’ll slice up a banana and eat with almond butter while I journal.
Journal: 10-30 minutes
When my tea is ready, I return to the living room, snuggle into my reading chair under a big blanket, and pull out my journal. Not gonna lie, I don’t love the act of journaling. BUT it’s crazy beneficial, so I make myself write at least a page every morning.
The thing that convinced me to journal regularly was my business coach’s suggestion to re-read your journals at the end of the year. That may sound really painful, but it was so incredibly powerful and eye-opening. I was able to see how much I’ve evolved personally and professionally over the course of a year. Without dedicated reflection, it’s so easy to feel like you’re not making progress toward your goals. But going back and reading about my journey really helped me gain perspective on all I’ve accomplished. I want to have that experience again at the end of 2020, so I journal.
In the winter, I set up a little lightbox next to me while I write to help with light therapy — it makes me feel more awake and lifts my mood. Sometimes I light a candle or diffuse essential oil, as scents like peppermint or eucalyptus are very energizing.
Visualization: 5 minutes
Before I plan my day, I take time to realign myself with my goals. I’ve written my goals for business, relationships, finances, and life in general on index cards, which I flip through each morning. First, I read the goal. Then, I close my eyes and picture myself achieving the goal. I let myself feel the positive feelings of accomplishment.
Plan my day: 5-10 minutes
I recently watched a video in which Brendon Burchard, success coach and founder of the High Performance Institute, describes his morning routine. He asks himself a series of questions to help direct his attention for the day, so I’ve incorporated them into my morning practice as well. Here are a few of those questions:
- What can I get excited about today?
- How can I surprise someone today?
- Who needs me on my A-Game today?
- What situation might stress me out and how can I handle it?
- How can I demonstrate excellence today?
I also refer to my list of Core Desired Feelings, and I choose one feeling to focus on generating that day. For example, if I have a ton of content to write, I may write down “focused,” “authentic,” or “flow.” If I’m meeting up with friends in the evening (you know, back when that was a thing), I’ll write “connected” or “joyful.” If Bill and I have a date night planned, I’ll choose “engaged” or “loving.” When you deliberately decide how you want to feel, you’re more likely to make choices that generate and align with that feeling.
Then, I write down an hourly schedule for the day. If I don’t take time to do this, it really shows in how unfocused and unproductive the rest of my day is. Even though I usually don’t stick to the schedule 100%, knowing what I need to do in the morning, afternoon, and evening seriously helps me stay on track and avoid surprises. Plus, it ensures I’m working toward my goals, accomplishing my main priorities, and that I don’t forget about anything time-sensitive.
Inspiration: 10-30 minutes
Depending on how long I spend journaling and planning, the amount of time here varies. This is when I read a chapter of a personal development or business book. Occasionally, I’ll listen to an audio program by someone inspiring like Tony Robbins, or watch a TED talk. Lately, I’ve been trying to break my phone addiction, so I’m keeping it analog for the time being (also, I have a few more library books to get through before they reopen!)
Exercise: 30 minutes
Pre-pandemic, I wrapped things up by 7:45 so I could get ready for my 8:15 Orangetheory class. But since that’s not happening, I’ve been reading until 7:55 or 8. By this time Bill’s up and making his breakfast, so I head to the guest-room-turned-yoga-studio for a 25 minute HIIT yoga workout.
In the early days of lockdown, I tried exercising around noon. More days than not however, I found myself too focused on work or just not feeling like working out, so I didn’t. This is one reason why a morning practice is so effective — when you stack all these good daily habits on top of each other, you don’t have to think about whether you’ll work out that day, or when, or what you’ll do.
The act of pre-deciding helps conserve your decision-making energy for more important stuff. Also, when you knock out your daily must-do’s first thing in the morning, you lessen the chance that some surprise will pop up and derail your schedule.
Since I don’t leave the house and I’m not doing a super sweat-inducing workout, I skip this most mornings. I tend to prefer showering at night in the Summer anyway.
Breakfast: 30 minutes
I’ve gotten pretty good about meal prepping these last few months, so usually I just heat up a slice of frittata, or microwave some sweet potato hash and fry an egg to throw on top. But I still take 30 minutes for breakfast so I can sit down and enjoy my food.
I also let myself listen to a podcast while I cook and eat. I was listening to news podcasts for several weeks, but they tend to wreck my mood. So now I listen to something motivating, inspiring, or instructional. I also brew some coffee to drink after breakfast.
Clean up: 15 minutes
I wash all the breakfast dishes, wipe down the counters, then head to the bedroom to make the bed and change out of my workout yoga pants (spandex) and into my “work” yoga pants (cotton). We must keep it professional, friends.
Since the weather’s been so nice (and my husband has taken over the office), I’ve been working outside on the screened patio. So, I gather my laptop, notebooks, and coffee, and head outside.
Writing: 25 minutes
This has been a hard habit to establish, but it’s a must for anyone who creates content for their job. I use a website called 750 Words to, well, write 750 words. On anything. No editing, no spell check, no Grammarly, just write until it tells you to stop.
Sometimes I brainstorm for blog posts or Instagram captions, sometimes I write about something more personal. Sometimes I write about how I don’t feel like writing. Doesn’t matter. It’s about getting the juices flowing. I can usually bust out 750 words in 25 minutes or less, so then I can get on with my workday.
What’s not in my morning routine
What I don’t do during my morning practice is just as important as what I do include. I’m talking about email, news, and social media.
I use Downtime on my iPhone to keep these applications blocked until 9:30 am, and I’m not allowed to look at ‘em until I’ve completed my 750 Words (be sure to exclude your morning routine apps and other vital apps from being blocked). This is also a newer habit, but my goodness is it effective.
When you start your day on Gmail, Facebook, or CNN, you’re allowing other people’s priorities to supersede your own. You also let in a whole host of negative emotions, open yourself up to distractions, and feed your brain’s addiction to constant consumption. All of those things can wreck your day, so don’t give them the chance. Commit to doing at least one important task before you let the world into your day.
It starts the night before
It’s tough to get up early if you’re staying up late. I know I need at least 8 hours of sleep to feel my best. Sleep is the most important thing ever, so I would not advise sacrificing an hour of rest to get in a morning routine. Instead, I would challenge you to shift your behaviors at night to accommodate. Will you feel lame for going to bed at 10? Maybe, but you’re in good company.
Getting good quality sleep goes beyond how long you’re in bed. Some of your evening behaviors are impacting your quality of sleep. Try the following:
- No screens (phone, tv, tablet, computer) an hour before bedtime. Read, journal, meditate, or stretch instead.
- Stop working a few hours before bed (including reading books or articles on business). These stimulate your brain and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Optimize your bedroom for sleep.
Before you retire for the evening, make sure to prime your environment for your morning routine. Decide where you will do your morning practice, and gather up all the supplies you’ll need. I keep my journal, planner, and books next to my chair in the living room. My yoga mat lives in the storage ottoman by the couch. Anticipate what you’ll need and set it out the night before.
Technology can help you or hinder you
A quick note on apps. There are lots of apps that help you build habits, track your habits, remind you to do your habits, etc. Honestly, some are more trouble than they’re worth. But they can be super helpful in the beginning when you’re still crafting your routine and have trouble remembering what to do when you’re still foggy from sleep. But you can also use a pen and paper, the notes app on your phone, or a Google calendar recurring event if you’re not an app person.
I personally use an app called Fabulous, which I really love. It’s not the most intuitive app to learn, but it’s beautiful, robust, and the team that created it based on scientific research of habits and human behavior. In the early days of my routine, I used an app called Strides — which is a super basic tracker — so I could remember my daily routine goals.
I would recommend not buying any apps until you’ve done your routine for a while and actually know what you need (if you need one at all). Also, when you buy something that’s supposed to help you achieve a goal, your brain thinks you’re making legit progress toward your goal. Unfortunately, this can lessen your motivation to make actual progress (by, ya know, actually doing your routine). After all, the app only works if you use it.
No one’s keeping score
When I first started doing a morning routine, I would lose motivation if I missed one day. So a single slip up would lead to weeks of no progress. If you go in with this all-or-nothing mindset, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Remember, this isn’t a competition. No one’s keeping score.
Now, my goal is just to do my morning practice more days than not. This kind of mindset lessens the pressure to be perfect and allows you to be flexible as life demands. If I sleep super poorly one night, I turn off my alarm and do a much shorter morning practice, or skip it entirely. If I have an early appointment, I’ll condense my routine or skip it altogether. I’d rather miss one day than have to get up an hour earlier (which also impacts the evening before) or be in a bad mood all day because I forced myself to plow ahead on less sleep.
Some days I skip journaling and read for an hour. Sometimes I’m too cold to do yoga so I just don’t. Occasionally, I fall asleep in my chair. That doesn’t mean I’m “failing” at my routine; it just means I’m human. Try again tomorrow.
Make it your own
Use my examples as just that — examples. My life is not like your life and my brain is not like your brain, so you’ve got to figure out what works for you. I experimented (and continue to experiment) with different versions of my practice before I found a general flow that was sustainable, and I encourage you to do the same.
Love your mornings
Our physical and mental health are more important now than ever, and a morning routine consisting of healthy, nourishing habits is an essential first step to maintain your well-being. If you’re resistant, I get it (believe me, I get it.) It will suck a little at first, you will feel more tired for a while, and you will feel like you’re doing it wrong. But there really isn’t a wrong way to do it.
Just take it one step, one habit at a time. And at some point, if you stick with it, you will learn to embrace the magical power of mornings.