Do you remember your state of mind when you got up this morning? Did you wake up with a sense of urgency to get ready, make food, hurry, etc.? Did you rush around with creaky joints, checking your email, turning the coffee pot on? Does it often feel as though the second your feet touch the ground, the day commences without any chance to pause?
This sense is prevalent in our competitive, achievement-based society. We want as many precious seconds of sleep as possible and hit the snooze button in an unconscious attempt to prolong the inevitable – when we could be waking up with purpose and taking charge of the day. The alternative is something I see (and have experienced) all too often – allowing the day to overtake us.
WHY WE NEED A MORNING ROUTINE
A morning routine sets the tone for our entire day. It gives us the opportunity to prepare ourselves for the hundreds of demands clambering for attention and ensures we can meet those demands with clarity of purpose.
I have been experimenting with a morning routine for years and found that when I decided to start simply (adding one activity or ritual), it became easier to graduate to a more consistent and upgraded routine over time. Remember: no start is too small.
MY (CURRENT) MORNING ROUTINE
I always make my bed. I used to get made fun of for this, but there is definitely something satisfying about having accomplished something first thing – plus, I love coming home to a neat room and pulling the covers back at night.
This is my current routine after years of trial and error and finally landing myself in a job with flexible hours:
- Wake up and get about 5min of cuddling and playing with pups who can creepily sense when my breathing changes and I am awake
- Sit up and perform a couple rounds of box breathing
- Light stretch at the foot of my bed
- Make bed
- Hit the heat button on my kettle & use the restroom
- Grab tea and journal and settle in my recliner or outside if the weather is good
- Read entry for the Daily Stoic
- Journal: Record thought from Daily Stoic or just AM prompts
- What are three things I’m happy about or that bring me joy right now?
- What will I accomplish today?
- (Time allowing) Read a few pages from current book
- Get dressed and go on a walk with the pups anywhere from 15-40min
- Throw breakfast in the oven to reheat and take a cold shower
- Get dressed and eat
Do I always nail these things? No. But if I hit a few of them (especially the journaling), my day is consistently better than the days I skip them all. I know many people don’t have the luxury of an hour before heading into work. This is what works for me – you can set up anything you like, the goal is to set up something.
Bri, I wake up hella early and there’s no way I can get up earlier.
For the last 8 or so years, I’ve had two different schedules: days where I woke up at an ungodly hour like 4:45a and days where it was more like 7:30a (fortunately I do not have to do that anymore, nor will I ever willingly ha). I know many of you have early days like this and it can seem unfathomable to get up even earlier. For you early birds, crushing your evening routine is a must. Automate as much as you can the night before – laying out clothes, prepping food and breakfast, etc. so you can wake up as relaxed as possible.
I absolutely am not recommending you set your alarm for 30-60min earlier tomorrow. But even something as simple as keeping your journal by your bedside and actually waking up at your first alarm, turning on the light and starting the day with intention can be a total game changer.
WHERE DO WE START?
As always, take assessment of where you are and what is realistic. Figure out how much time it will take to get everything you need done in the morning without feeling rushed (tip: preparation the night before is key such as laying out your clothes or prepping your meal). Having time to sip your coffee (or tea!) and move slowly from task to task will transfer into an overall sense of well-being for your work, training or whatever follows.
Reducing the number of decisions you need to make by learning how to go on “autopilot” will conserve much needed energy. There is an excellent article called “The Power of Routine” that discusses this…
“Routine sustains energy by reducing the time and effort that goes to making decisions. Everyone has a finite capacity for good decision-making and staying on your “A-game” before laziness, stress, and temptation kick in.
In order to increase productivity and make positive moves throughout the entire day, you need to automate as much of your life as you can. While this sounds like a boring life, the opposite it true. When you automate the predictable things in your day it allows you to react to the unpredictable and really take control with flexibility and poise.”
You can be as precise as you want: write down a specific routine or ease into a pattern over the course of the next couple weeks. There is no right or wrong way to go about it if it works for you and you can be consistent. And when you mess up or skip a day, which will happen, just keep going. It’s one day, and you’ve tons more to play with. Be prepared for a more balanced state of mind, increased productivity and the ability to give even more at the gym.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES TO INCLUDE
- Make your bed
- A light stretch like this one from SealFit Yoga (my favorite practice)
- Box breathing or some other version of breathing (which is extra helpful in waking us up thanks to the increased oxygen!)
- A quick movement routine – Something that gets blood pumping like 10 reps of squats, pushups or lunges will wake you up and give you a massive boost of energy.
- Visualize your day or “dirt dive” – If you try the SealFit Yoga Routine it includes a part at the end where you visualize how your day will progress which Mark Divine calls “dirt diving” and is awesome.
- Go for a walk – I cannot recommend this enough, whether it’s 5 minutes or 30 minutes. You’ll benefit from the increased blood flow to your joints, improved breathing and circulation, sunshine on your skin/eyelids first thing in the am (which will help you sleep that night!) and getting outdoors to set the tone of your day. Pop on a podcast and get pumped for the day.
- Drink tea – I love green teas with peppermint
- Journal – Keep it short and simple. My practice takes about 3-5 minutes because that’s what is realistic for me. Setting a couple intentions makes a world of difference.
- Pick a daily focus book like the Daily Stoic – The short entries take little time to read but have a powerful effect on our state of mind.
- Prep your lunch – Food is consistently something we struggle with. Making time to prep ahead of time is going to reduce the temptation to eat out and keep you aligned with your goals.
- STOP snoozing! The body operates on a crazy cool internal clock, and some processes (such as raising your internal body temp) start 1-2 hours before you normally wake up. When you are woken by the alarm but then go back to sleep it thinks, “oh, whoops didn’t need to wake up I’ll commence sleep processes again.” So the next time your alarm goes nutso, your body and brain are like “WTF bro!” That’s why we so often feel groggy and confused (this is called sleep inertia). The more your snooze and repeat the more you confuse your brain, so you’ll probably feel more out of it even though you actually spent extra time in bed. What’s more, this type of sleep inertia can persist for up to two to four hours, research has found. It is HARD at first to break this habit – it gets easier the more you do it!
- Crush your bedtime routine so you’re refreshed and ready for the day – For more deets check my recent post on Creating a Bedtime Routine
- Get a Phillips Sunrise Simulating Clock – It sets to a gradually building light and/or sounds that will start your day off WAY better than those cortisol-inducing phone alarms. And those phones are getting out of the room anyway right??
- Don’t touch your phone until you’ve completed your morning routine – What a difference this one makes! Allowing ourselves time to wake up without being flooded with messaging and to-do’s is such a gift. My monkey brain has always been pretty strong, so I keep my phone in the other room out of sight to avoid the temptation of checking “just one thing.” The Do Not Disturb setting is a godsend (and emergency contacts can still reach you!).
- Avoid coffee before you eat – I know, I know #sacrilege. Coffee on an empty stomach is like throwing kerosene on a fire and can also damage our stomach/esophageal lining. If the thought of waiting until brekkie to drink your joe gives you anxiety, it might be worth looking into and seeing if this is an area to improve.
I have a tendency to include a lot of information in these posts – but that doesn’t mean I suggest doing everything! As always, pick 1-3 things that really click with you and nail the sh*t out of them. Then you can earn more upgrades (instead of starting out big and then falling off consistency because it wasn’t sustainable).
I really hope this gives you some ideas on starting your day out better. I’d love to hear if you have any favorite routine activities that I didn’t include!