Morning Routines - The magic of starting your days off with intentionFeb 22, 2022
What do the first few hours of your day look like?
Do you wake up feeling like you’re already behind? Are they a mad dash to get everyone out the door? Are you already exhausted and defeated by the frantic chaos of getting everyone ready and out the door?
There has to be a better way right?
Today’s post is a love letter to all those who want their mornings to feel calmer, more intentional and more meaningful, and are curious about how changing up their mornings can pay off for the rest of their day.
What’s a morning routine?
A morning routine is essentially a set of actions and habits you consistently perform in the morning. The intention is to align your mornings with how you want the rest of your days to flow, and for these critical first few hours of the day to set you up for success.
In today’s post, we have outlined a five step process to help you define a morning routine you can test, and explore how to set yourself up for success. The goal isn’t to get it perfect, it’s to learn and make gradual progress. Let’s jump in!
Step 1: Set a clear intention.
The first goal is almost always to clarify what you’re solving for. What’s your goal?
How do you want your mornings to feel?
- Do you want them to feel peaceful and calm?
- Do you want them to feel productive and accomplished?
- Do you prefer a morning that is very active? Or one that is slower and more relaxed?
- Do you prefer mornings that feel predictable and run like clockwork? Or mornings that are more fluid?
It’s important to connect to what you actually want, not what you think you should want. That’s why our starting point is what you want your mornings to feel like.
Now that you have your target morning in mind, have you ever had a morning that felt that way?
If you have, what was it like? What did you do? What circumstances contributed to it going the way it did?
If you haven’t, no worries! Use your imagination and visualize your ideal morning.
Step 2: Design a test morning
With this clear picture of what you want your mornings to feel like, design an experiment: create your test morning!
Too often we jump to solutions, we change things and don’t evaluate whether they work as intended. Or we set expectations that are completely unrealistic. That’s why our goal is to design something to try out for a few weeks. There’s no pressure to get it right, to make it perfect. The goal is to learn.
Start with your consistent wake time, when will you get up? Make sure you are not short changing your sleep. When is the “end” of your morning (starting work, dropping off kids, breakfast…). What are the non-negotiables obligations you need to include (waking up kids, making lunches…)?
With the outline of your mornings defined, what habits and behaviors do you want to try out for a few weeks? Here’s a menu for inspiration:
- Set an intention - Set an intention for your day. This can be an attitude, a behavior or an aspiration. (Examples: be present, choose to be curious, do something fun)
- Meditate - Spend a few minutes in contemplation, either breathing on your own or following a guided meditation (we love Insight Timer)
- Move your body - Mornings can be a great time to sweat. Walking, jogging, spinning, yoga, at home HIIT workouts, there are tons of options. You can spend 10 minutes moving your body to a slow flow yoga class, or aim for a longer, more energetic workout.
- Listen to some energizing music - Music affects our mood and our mind. Starting your day to a song that puts you in a great mental space doesn’t have to take extra time, but it can add to your mornings.
- Hydrate - Commit to drinking a glass of water first thing, before you eat or drink anything else.
- Fuel your body - Change up what you eat for breakfast. What if you swapped to a smoothie? Or overnight oats? How do these small changes affect your energy?
- Set your daily priorities and goals - Defining your top goals for the day helps prioritize and stay focused on doing what matters most. There are many daily priority planners out there (like this one from BestSelf.Co) that can support you.
- Read or audiobook - What if you started your day by reading for pleasure or growth? Taking 15-20 minutes to read, or if that’s not possible, try an audiobook while you get ready (check out our favorite reads of 2021 for inspiration).
- Journal - Julia Cameron is a huge advocate of “morning pages” where you write three pages of free form continuously, first thing in the morning. This is a big time commitment to be sure, and there are plenty of quicker options. Journaling can be a great experiment to try, especially if you need to work through a cluttered mind or complex emotions.
- Practice gratitude - Identify three, specific things you are grateful for today. Anchoring in gratitude is linked to greater overall life satisfaction.
- This space left blank - There might be something on your mind or in your heart that would make your mornings awesome. What is that?
It is usually not realistic to change EVERYTHING at once. For your test morning, choose no more than three things that you want to try. Add them to your morning schedule, so you have a clear map from the time you wake up, to the time you get out the door, or sit down at work. What happens? In what order?
Then get ready to try it.
Step 3: Set yourself up for success
A word of caution: morning routines can be an instrument of torture. When some talk about morning routines, they mean getting up extra early and trying to produce even more through sheer effort and willpower. That is not the goal here. Our focus is on recalibrating our time through focus and intention.
What interventions can help you implement a new morning routine?
- Start small - Don’t change everything at once. Start with reasonable experiments, and aim to learn and iterate over time.
- Get enough sleep - Resist the temptation to cut into your all important sleep. If getting up earlier to establish a morning routine cuts into the minimum amount of sleep you need to be healthy, you are on the fast lane to burnout. If you are one of the many who experience “revenge bedtime procrastination”, focus on your evening routine first. If you’re unsure if you’re getting enough sleep, try a sleep tracker (we love Oura).
- Avoid distractions - Picking up your phone first thing in the morning can be way more time intensive than you’d think. Designate when you will look at it for the first time as part of your morning routine, and avoid getting sucked into email and social media instead of the habits that support you.
- Plan ahead - There are some things that come back every day. Packing school lunches. Getting the kids dressed. Getting yourself dressed. Getting everyone up. Making and eating breakfast. What can you do to streamline these? How might planning ahead make these steps easier? For example, choosing clothes in advance, planning lunches and breakfasts ahead of time. Leveraging a smoothie delivery box service (we love Daily Harvest, there are others). What can you work out ahead of time to leave your mental energy intact for these new things you want to try? Where can you free up some morning time for yourself?
- Automate - What can be automated in your morning? Could you kids be woken up by smart alarm clocks? Could you create a morning routine chart for your kids to follow?
- Use a tracker - We LOVE habit trackers, especially when trying to establish new routines.
The goal of this step is to work through how you can be successful in your experiment, and not to rely on sheer effort and willpower alone.
Step 4 - Practice Self Compassion
If you have tiny humans in your life, or share your household with literally anyone else, the actions of others can derail your good intentions. A well placed tantrum, a sick child or an unexpected pile of dog vomit can throw a wrench into your plans.
Remember it’s ok. Your best effort at any given time is good enough. Be kind to yourself on the days it doesn’t work, and get back to it tomorrow.
Step 5 - Reassess and recalibrate
Try running the experiment for at least two weeks (unless you realize it absolutely does not work for you, then by all means reassess earlier). Evaluate whether or not your routine is helping you feel as you intended. What worked well? What was a challenge?
Then adjust. Redesign a new experiment based on what you’ve learned. And remember that even if something works fantastically well for you for a period of time, circumstances change. Commit to revisiting your morning routine regularly, so you can continue to start your days with intention.
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