Design the Best Morning Routine (And What You Need to Stick With It)
Is it just us or does it seem like everyone and their mother is talking about their super special and effective morning routine these days? We listen to a lot of podcasts featuring successful entrepreneurs and public figures, and sure enough, everyone from Tim Ferriss to Oprah is crediting their morning routine with improving their quality of life and potential for success. And it makes sense! Why not start your day off on the right foot with healthy habits to nurture your mind, body and soul? Easier said than done.
However, both of us notice a huge difference in how our entire day unfolds when we skip certain things in the morning. So we’ve been discussing and experimenting with our morning routines for a while now - to find what really works. We both agree that if the world’s most successful people are all doing it, it’s probably something we should do. But again - it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Being consistent and building healthy habits is really difficult sometimes. Being self-disciplined is a practice that requires consistency. It’s like a muscle that you have to keep using, and in order for it to get better or “bigger,” you have to lift a little heavier. It sounds daunting, but we started small and you can, too.
One thing we have found helpful is getting ideas and encouragement from other people who are doing it and seeing great results. One resource we highly recommend is the book, My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired, by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander. The book highlights morning habits of entrepreneurs and provides insights from a number of highly successful people. They dedicate whole chapters to topics like getting up, focus and productivity, morning meditation, and morning workouts. They also dedicate a whole chapter to parents and how you can incorporate a routine into your hectic life even with kids. We don’t have kids, but we have a dog who needs to be walked and fed every morning, so the tips are helpful. Definitely check this one out if you’re looking for inspiration and morning routine ideas. It gave us a lot of great insights as we were designing ours.
So, where do you even begin? In this post, we’ll walk you through the process we used to design our perfect morning routines. We’ll share each of our daily morning routines and let you in on the struggles we encountered implementing them. We’ll also include tips that have helped us stay on track and get the most out of our mornings so that we feel good, energized, and ready to tackle whatever the day has for us. Are you ready to design your ideal morning routine? Let’s do it.
Start Here - Crafting Your Morning Routine Blueprint
Ask yourself what do you hope to gain from a consistent morning routine. What do you need that you’re currently not getting? When we started this process, we figured this was the best place to start. After all, what’s the sense in putting together a list of things to do if it doesn’t align with how you want to feel or what you want to accomplish? It’s important to note that we want you to think about what needs you have - NOT what others say is important. Every person has a unique chronotype (you can find out what that is here) and so not everyone needs to have a hefty breakfast right away. Or maybe you couldn’t possibly start your day without watching the news. That’s not for us, but maybe it’s for you and that’s important. So, take some time to think about and write down your needs and goals. Think about how you want to feel throughout your day and therefore, what you want to get out of your mornings. You’ll use this as the blueprint for designing your perfect routine. Here are each of our thoughts when we did this practice ourselves.
I’ve never considered myself a morning person. I’m not the type that springs out of bed at the first sound of my alarm (more like the type that sets five different alarms knowing I’ll hit snooze). Ideally, I would like to feel excited about waking up. I would like to start my day feeling grateful that I’m alive and grateful for all the wonderful things in my life.
I struggle with getting started and taking action sometimes, so one goal is to increase my motivation and productivity. I want to feel focused, driven, and ready to work towards my business goals. I also want to start the day off with a calm mind and awakened body. I want to feel centered and in touch with myself, who I am, and what my intentions are for the day.
I crave sunlight and nature (especially in the mornings), so maybe I could incorporate some outdoor time. I like the idea of some exercise in the morning to wake me up and make me feel healthy and accomplished going into the day. I also really enjoy my morning coffee and a nice breakfast.
The most important thing I’m going to share in this post is that I am a recovering perfectionist. My perfectionism used to permeate every single part of my life including what I thought I needed to do in the mornings in order to be “successful” or “on top of things.” The problem is that I would take on too much all at once - things that were not natural to me and were definitely outside of my physical and mental capabilities. It was impossible to actually achieve. But my perfectionism said, “If I can just do these things every day, I’ll be more fit, have more energy, be more creative, be happier, and more successful.” What I also wasn’t admitting was that I thought following a morning routine perfectly and (suddenly) for forever would make me more valuable. That never happened though. It would last three days tops and I would feel like I failed and scrap the whole routine.
So this time around, when I was thinking about my goals and needs, I knew I wanted to feel healthy and have energy. It was also a top priority for me to work on my mindset right when I wake up. As I mentioned in a previous post about sleep, I am NOT a morning person. For as long as I can remember, waking up made me angry, which turned into irritability and a pretty poor outlook on the rest of the day. YIKES. Part of this was because I didn’t accept certain things about myself. I tried to fight my chronotype and force my body into a routine that was not natural to it. What I know now is that I like to wake up slow and take my time getting out of bed. However, if I wake up too slow, I could hang out in bed all day and never get dressed or accomplish anything. I love my bed, but it’s a relationship that needs boundaries.
I also really enjoy having a cup of coffee with a little bit of breakfast, but I’m not usually hungry right when I wake up and I don’t always feel like cooking anything so I need to have easy, healthy, “on-the-go” type breakfast items (even if I’m not going anywhere). I also know that my body needs a little extra movement to wake up. (I don’t like using the word exercise. I talk about that here.) I used to think I needed to do a whole rigorous regimen or an entire hour of yoga to satisfy this need, but I learned that just 10 minutes of Qi-Gong or taking my dog on a little longer walk is all I need. Knowing and accepting these things about my body helped me to not stress in the morning, which ultimately influenced my mindset. The two go hand-in-hand really. When I set myself up to get what my body needs, my mind follows. Perhaps some day I’ll increase my movement time or I’ll add a lengthy meditation time, but for now it’s these little things that are making me feel really successful. And again, as a recovering perfectionist, I don’t beat myself up if these things don’t happen. I keep it moving and choose my attitude every step of the way.
Designing the Best Morning Routine to Reach Your Goals
Once you’ve identified your needs and set your goals, it’s time to begin designing. Go point-by-point using your “blueprint” and write down a practice you could try to help you reach each goal. You might end up with a long list, and that’s okay. Don’t let it freak you out. This is just the starting point - try adding two or three things at a time. You can always experiment with different practices, the length of time you spend on things, and the order you do things. Remember, the point is to set yourself up for a successful day of crushing your goals - not just to follow the routine for the sake of the routine. Here are the morning routines we designed from our “blueprint” session.
Adrian’s Morning Routine for Success:
Waking Up With Gratitude - By thinking about all the things I’m grateful for before I ever even get out of bed I’m beginning with total positivity and setting myself up to be motivated to make the most of the day.
5-10 Minutes of Journaling - I want to set my intentions for the day by writing them out (still from bed). The physical act of writing my intentions helps solidify them in my mind and body. If you don’t know where to start with journaling, I recommend Morning Mindset: A Daily Journal to Get You in the Best Headspace Every Day. Change Your Mornings, Change Your Life. It helps you begin each day with gratitude and focused on your goals.
Getting up and Dressed - By getting up and ready immediately, I don’t leave room to laze around and stare at my phone. It also makes me feel productive and ready to go.
Morning Walk & Affirmations - I know outside time makes me feel great and connected to the Earth. By starting my day off walking in the sunlight and going over affirmations I’ve laid out for myself, I’m preparing my body and mind for a successful work day.
Coffee and Breakfast - I love good coffee and good food. My morning coffee gives me the final KICK I need to get working.
Tackle the Hardest Thing First - Once my coffee kicks in, I choose the hardest task of my workday and complete it first. I’m great at procrastinating, so this last “trick” helps me move past the hurdles I’ve built up in my head so I can be most productive and feel great about what I’ve accomplished throughout the day.
Anika’s Healthy Morning Routine for Body and Mind:
Cuddle Time - Yes, cuddle time is actually in my routine and Adrian may not include it in their official routine, but it’s in theirs, too. I love starting my day with hugs and sweet morning, bad breath kisses. And if my dog-child, Winston isn’t still sleeping on the bed, I pull him up onto the bed for more cuddles. I also say a few statements of love and gratitude. Whether it’s being grateful that I get to wake up to someone I love or simply that I have a roof over my head. And the love and gratitude is the important part. NOTE: I didn’t always have someone to cuddle with! And I still wanted to practice love and gratitude so I used to give myself a hug, kiss my own shoulder, and tell myself, “Good morning. Love you.” Trust me, I know this sounds crazy, but it worked. It helped me start my day with a good, loving feeling.
Brewing Coffee and Getting Ready - When I start the coffee right away, it feels like the start button to my day. And while it’s brewing, I wash my face and get dressed. Once I have regular clothes on, I definitely can’t get back in bed. I also make the bed during this time so I’m not tempted to jump back in anyways.
Breakfast - This is when I like to take my time and relax a little. I like variety in what I eat so I let myself pick whatever sounds satisfying or if I’m eager to start work, I’ll choose one of my quick breakfasts. This is also when I drink my coffee and think about my to-do list for the day. I sort of create what order I might do things in as well. It helps to ease any anxiety I might have when I have some foresight into how my day will go.
Morning Walk and Caring For Winston - Now I get my movement in. I like getting in some sunshine and taking care of Winston feels good. He’s my pet and my friend and he deserves good care. If I have time, I also do a short (and easy) movement regimen program that I love. Check it out.
Water and Affirmations and Rant of Appreciation - Finally, before I start my work, I make sure I get some water. It seems simple, but having it as a part of my routine makes sure that I start drinking some in the morning and continue the rest of the day. This is also when I say out loud my affirmations. This is deliberate mindset work. This is creating neural pathways in my brain so that the affirmations become ingrained into my beliefs and nervous system. I finish with a “rant” of appreciation. I say out loud all the things I can think of that I’m grateful for. I don’t force anything or fake something. It’s important that whatever I say feels good. Additionally, it helps leave my brain open for freeform creativity and not just routine and repetition.
Reminder: One Size Does Not Fit All
Because we all have different goals, and needs, and circumstances, everyone’s ideal morning routine will look different. Maybe you only have five minutes to yourself before you have to be hurrying the kids to school and your goal is to begin the day with a calmer mind. Maybe you have lots of time to devote to reading, and exercise, and self-care. What we learned and had to adapt to in our own experimentation is that you have to tailor your routine to your own personal needs and lifestyle. For example, we stopped trying to wake up super early (like 6am early). It was NOT working and in fact, it made our days WORSE because we hit the snooze button a hundred times and then didn’t get good rest and felt terrible and ended up being completely unproductive, anxious, and some days even depressed. That’s why taking time to come up with your “blueprint” is so important.
Additionally, your morning routine will not always fit the schedule of the day. Maybe you have to take your car to the mechanic super early. Maybe you have to pick something up or drop something off before work. Whatever might interrupt your routine, make sure your flexible enough to not give up on the whole routine.
Let’s Get Real: Our Morning Routine Struggles & How We Combat Them
Putting together a morning routine feels really good. It feels great to write down all the things you’re going to do and think about how amazing it’s going to feel to wake up and do them every morning. You feel like you’ve really accomplished something and are ready to tackle the world with your new plan. For us, putting together the “ideal” morning routine was the easy part. The hard part was actually following it. There always seem to be a multitude of things that can get in the way and derail us from our routines. Why is it so difficult to follow through with things we know will make us healthier and happier?! It doesn’t make sense, but the struggle is real. Here are some of the obstacles we’ve come across in implementing our routines and how we’re learning to deal with them.
Sleep is monumental to our health. (Read about just how monumental in Anika’s sleep post here.) It’s also a huge factor in the effectiveness of our morning routines. We’ve found that when we don’t prioritize sleep, everything else in our lives gets out of whack. We don’t want to get up when we planned, our brains are fuzzy, and we’re in a bad mood right out of the gate. If you’re not getting great sleep, or want to learn more about chronotypes and how important they are, go read the post! There’s some life-changing info in there. We’ve found that working with our chronotype has totally changed how productive we are, how happy we are, and how much better we feel every day.
“I can do it all!” We’ve been there, and we’ve thought that. And we’ve found ourselves not living up to our expectations and feeling defeated. It’s not fun to let yourself down, so why set your morning up for failure? It’s important to take into account how much time you can spend on your routine each day, and keep that in mind as you’re going through this whole process. Be practical and realistic. This is about progress not perfection. Most people can’t fit in a full meditation session, elaborate breakfast, and 2-hour bike ride each morning. It’s all about finding the balance between working towards your goals and keeping it manageable. Sometimes it helps to start simple - with one daily practice - and work up from there.
Travel or Special Occasions
Everything’s going great. You’re in your groove. And then you have to leave for a 3-day work trip. We’ve found that special occasions and travel can really throw us off and leave us feeling like all our hard work is for naught. Give yourself some grace when it comes to things you can’t control. Some days you can’t incorporate your whole routine. Some days you’ll skip it altogether. That’s okay! The point is you’re doing your best and working towards making your life better. Modify your routine when you need to, and get back on it when you can. You do NOT need to create a new routine or start all over so that you can be perfect or give up because you weren’t.
Being Sucked Into Our Phones
Do you ever wake up, roll over, and immediately reach for your phone? Guilty. We have found that when we let ourselves gaze into our phones first thing in the morning it becomes a time-suck. It totally distracts us from our intentions, and can put us in a not-so-great mood. What’s worked best for us is implementing a no social media rule for the mornings. We can check our texts, make sure there are no emergencies, and then we move on with our morning - avoiding the black hole of Instagram memes.
Morning Routine Takeaways
Starting a new morning routine isn’t always easy, but we think it’s worth the effort and dedication to give it a shot. The idea is that over time it gets easier and eventually becomes second nature so be patient. Then, as you begin following your routine, you should start reaping some of the benefits you hoped for, which will give you more encouragement to stick with it.
We’ve found that trying to make someone else’s whole routine fit your life doesn’t always work. We even have our own separate practices as a couple. Accept what your needs are and you’ll find it much easier to stick with your routine if you design it around your life and your goals. Be gentle with yourself, and remember that the whole purpose of a solid morning routine is to make you feel great and set yourself up for success in your day and in life. Lastly, be persistent. Don’t scrap the whole thing if you mess a day up or don’t do it for a whole week. Practice progress, not perfection.
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