I think everyone should have a morning routine. Why? Oh, let me count the reasons why (there are five).
Why you need to have a morning routine
1. It sets the tone for the rest of the day
If you wake up late, rush to get ready, and sprint out the door, you’ll start the day on a frenzied note and harm your productivity for the rest of the day. On the other hand, if you start out cool, calm, and collected, AND get some important things done before you’ve even left the house, you’ll feel pretty freaking confident as you head into your day.
2. It wakes you up
Pretty much everyone feels sleepy in the morning. I’m not sure how much sleep you would have to get to always feel alert in the morning, but I’m guessing it’s a number that’s pretty unattainable in modern society. You don’t want to slog off to school or work when you’re still in a daze, and your morning routine helps you snap out of that.
3. It gives you a quiet space to see what’s ahead of you
It’s like setting out all of your ingredients and reading the recipe before you start cooking. Instead of jumping into your day with no awareness of what you actually need to accomplish, your morning routine allows you not only to figure out exactly what needs to be done, but when you’ll be able to do it.
4. It maximizes the effects of habit stacking
Allow me to explain what “habit stacking” is. Say you want to introduce a new habit - meditation. If you resolve merely to meditate at some point during the day, you’re less likely to actually follow through with that intention than if you connect the meditation habit to an already existing habit. Perhaps you already brush your teeth every morning (hopefully you do). Schedule your meditation every morning right after you brush your teeth, and your chances of success skyrocket. That’s habit stacking.
When you create your morning routine, you are essentially stacking and stacking a bunch of different positive habits, each habit being the foundation for the subsequent one.
5. It minimizes the amount of decisions you need to make
That doesn’t mean that you’re not mindful or aware of what you’re doing, it just means that you have a crystal-clear plan and all you have to do when you wake up is follow those steps on auto-pilot mode. It is said that we all have a limited amount of decision-making energy to use throughout the day, and you don’t want to waste that right away on silly morning problems.
What should your morning routine be?
There are so many ideas for habits that you can incorporate into your morning routine and it really just depends on what YOU personally feel you need in the morning.
That’s why instead of sharing with you the “ideal” morning routine and promising that “the most successful billionaires in the world” all follow this routine, I’m going to be real with you and just give you a long list of morning routine elements to pick and choose from. Sound good? Let’s get on with it.
P.S. I highly recommend writing out your morning routine, which is why I put together a worksheet you can print out so that you can actually circle your favorite elements, write out your routine, and commit to it! Grab it at the bottom of this post!
*INSERT GRAPHIC FOR WORKSHEET HERE*
A successful morning routine should set you up for a productive day. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your day goes as smoothly as possible.
Take a look at your plan for the day
Sometimes it’s just as simple as reminding yourself of what has to be done. Making to-do lists is all fine and good as long as you actually look at those to-do lists. The to-do list won’t magically do your tasks for you!
Set 3 priorities for the day
I think defining your priorities is so dang important that I dedicated two days of the Build Productive Habits in 30 Days challenge to it. We’re not superhuman; we can’t do absolutely everything. The only way you can ensure that you get the most important things done is to declare what the most important things are and schedule them in FIRST.
Spend some time reading a book
I think non-fiction and fiction books are both great, but I prefer non-fiction in the morning. Starting your day by learning something or picking up a bit of inspiration just starts your day on a productive note and gives you some ideas for how you can improve your day.
Choose “the one thing”
So you’ve graduated from setting 3 daily priorities. You might be ready to move on to the ultimate in productivity - “the one thing”. The ONE Thing is a book by Gary Keller that is all about the idea of choosing the one most important task. I haven’t personally read the book but it has received rave reviews and you might want to adopt this strategy.
Take care of one task that you’re dreading
I don’t recommend this for everyone. Personally, I like to completely finish my morning routine before I move on to doing any actual work. But for others, scheduling a bit of time into their morning routine that is dedicated to getting a head start on a dreaded project is a very valuable use of their time. Try it and see if it works for you.
Review your goals
Just like to-do lists, goals don’t work unless you keep looking at them, find ways to work towards them, and adjust them regularly. I like to look at my 3 goals for the month as I plan out my day.
Your morning routine also has to include the steps you need to take care of yourself
Brush your teeth
Wash your face
There’s no need to go all “10-step Korean skincare routine” - unless you want to! Find what works for your skin, budget, and time constraints. At the very least, splash your face with some cold water to wake yourself up.
While I recommend a short cold shower, you might want to (especially if you work out in the morning) do the whole soap and shampoo thing.
Drink some water.
Ah, refreshing. Opinions vary on whether you should drink it warm or cold, with lemon or without, but really, just drink some water.
Make your morning drink
Most of us have that drink we always start our day with. Whether it’s coffee, tea, matcha, or an adaptogenic latte (choose your level of extra-ness). You might depend on it for a dose of caffeine, or perhaps it’s just a comforting part of your routine. Either way, make sure to write down this step so that you can figure out the most efficient time to prepare it. This is my personal matcha recipe.
Your morning routine should be a quiet space that you can use to sort out your thoughts and get in the right state of mind.
You can incorporate Julia Cameron’s morning pages technique to dump all of your thoughts out, follow a journaling prompt to give you some direction, or simply write a few sentences to give yourself a pep talk.
This is a great way to practice focus before you start the day. Having that control over your thoughts will serve you in situations where your mind is racing. Just sit still and breathe for a few minutes or find a guided meditation you like (I like to use an app).
Take deep breaths
If you’re not quite sold on the whole meditation things, just take a couple of deep breaths. The extra dose of oxygen will do your mind and body good. (Deep breaths are also a great thing to do throughout the day).
Write down 3 things you’re grateful for
Gratitude is everything. Personally, I have reframed this as a list of 3 things that I’m excited about for that day, but it’s the same idea. Focus on the positives, and your day will instantly brighten up.
Listen to music
Music is incredibly powerful, I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of that. I like Spotify’s “Wake Up Happy” playlist. Whether you prefer nature sounds or heavy metal in the morning, or anything in between, choose something that brings you joy.
Repeat your affirmations
Got affirmations? Your morning routine is a great time to say them.
This reminds of me of Adriene (Yoga with Adriene). She often tricks you into smiling by asking you to “lift the corners of your mouth”, and it’s amazing how much of an impact it has on your practice. Try smiling at yourself in the mirror, and see how it affects your state of mind.
Your morning routine should wake you up and energize you.
Whether you’re a morning workout person or not (I most certainly am not), I highly recommend doing at least a little bit of exercise. Try doing a set number of push-ups or jumping jacks or crunches or anything and then increase that number as it gets easy. Getting your blood pumping and your muscles burning will feel amazing, and you’ll work your self-discipline muscle.
Stretch or do yoga
In addition to more intense exercise, you should stretch out your muscles and get yourself warmed up for the day. You can create a little stretching routine for yourself, or just do what I do and do the stretches that feel good ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Take a cold shower
I talked about why I started doing this in this video. It’s quite a challenge, and not the most pleasant thing to do on a winter morning. But you step out feeling alive and energized and putting on warm socks right after is the best.
Go on a walk
Preferably outdoors, if your environment allows for it. Try doing it without your music/podcast/audiobook and just give your mind some space. Focus on the sounds and sights around you.
Wake up without snoozing
The very first step to any morning routine is, obviously, waking up. If you want to maximize your day, though, you should challenge yourself to wake up without pressing that oh-so-tempting snooze button. Slipping back into a light sleep will only leave you feeling drowsier during the day.
Get as much light as you can
Open the curtains, if you’re lucky enough to have natural light. Otherwise, turn on the good old-fashioned electric lights. The dose of light will help you feel awake.
Your morning routine should include the tasks you have to do to ensure you have a successful day
That’s a given
Pack your bags
Or do this the night before to save time and stress!
[Insert whatever else you have to do in the morning]
This is definitely one of the longest blog posts I’ve ever written! I hope it convinced you that you should have a morning routine and gave you plenty of ideas to either build or improve your own.
To make the process easier, I created this free printable worksheet that you can use to plan out the morning routine that will make YOUR life better. All you have to do to get it is use the form below. I hope you find it helpful!
What’s the most essential part of your morning routine?