Morning is my most productive time. It is when I get the most done and feel the most accomplished. But there are too many things I want to do in the mornings – write, exercise, journal – and I can’t do them all first thing. I have to choose what is the most important, and they are all important.
The problem I always have with the morning routines I found on the internet that promised the most productive days and will make you feel like a boss, were that they are unrealistic for me and probably most people.
- Most people do not have the luxury of spending 2-3 hours on a morning routine. People have places they need to be at a certain time. Sure, in theory, they could get up earlier, but that is not helpful when you already get up as early as your body will allow. When I worked in banking, I had to be at work by 6:45 am every morning. There was absolutely no way I was getting up any earlier to make sure I journaled, meditated, and exercised before work. This idea is even more absurd if I had kids to take care of or a aging parent to tend to. Right now, I am incredibly lucky to work for myself, but my schedule still shifts around.
- It doesn’t consider what works for the reader. Sure, we all want quick fixes, decisions made for us, and out-of-the-box routines that we can implement. Believe me, I’ve tried them all – well a lot of them anyway. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to morning routines.
With those two points in mind, I am going to share my morning routine on the perfect day. The most important thing is that a morning routine must be flexible. I can change it when something causes me to rearrange my entire day, which is often. I have appointments and meetings that cause this routine to shift. On a perfect day, my morning looks like this:
7 am: This time varies because I rarely set an alarm now. My body tends to wake up with the sun, so as my room brightens, my eyes open, which for a while was around 5:45 am. I don’t like to sleep past 7, so as the days get shorter, I will set an alarm. I often wake up in the night for an hour or more, and if that’s the case, and I have nowhere I need to be in the morning, I will turn off the alarm and allow myself to sleep in a bit. Sleep is vital to my entire well-being.
That’s where the scheduled time ends, and you can already see it is pretty flexible. After waking, I take my dog outside and we step into the morning air, whatever that brings, and we take in the first, quiet moments of the day.
Tea – Maybe Breakfast
When I wake up, I make tea. I boil the water in a pan on the stove because I love the intention of making tea this way. Plus, I like the sound the burner makes when I turn it off. If I decide not to eat at this time, I will stand and watch the water until it starts to boil. I can assure you that a watched pot will boil when the temperature is right and enough time has passed. And while I watch the steam rise and the bubbles start to form, my brain is already forming thoughts for the next item on the routine.
I write at least ten things I am grateful for every day. Sometimes I will wake up with them on my mind. Finding things to be grateful for, especially on days that there seems to be nothing, is a powerful practice that I never gave enough credit to until I started doing it. I used to think it was kind of woo-woo, but it does create a mind shift that I cannot deny.
I am an avid journaler with a daily practice. That is not to say that I haven’t missed a day here and there, but for the most part, I sit down with my notebook every day, sometimes more than once, to write it out. This practice allows me to explore my internal narratives and change how I talk to myself. Journaling is such a gift, and I love to share this gift with others.
I have a three-day journaling challenge that walks through some of the barriers we put up around journaling. Some of the barriers I was putting up before I developed a well-established habit were kind of silly and easily avoidable. I highly recommend a journaling habit, not only for the mental health benefits but also for the benefits of sitting with ideas and thinking them through.
I write a minimum of 500 words a day on any given project, but no more than 1000. This limitation allows me to stay in the project and excited about it each day. The last thing I want is to dread writing. Writing is one of the most important activities in my day, so I want to do whatever I can to avoid burnout. It is possible to burn out doing something you love, which is why preventative, daily self-care is vital.
However, I cannot have this luxury if I am on a deadline. I will push myself to exhaustion sometimes to meet a deadline. I am still working on incorporating rest when I have a deliverable due.
Now it’s time to move my body (part of my preventative self-care routine). Running and walking are my go-tos. I wrote a mini memoir about how running allowed me to own being a writer and helped me improve my craft. When I ran six days a week, I didn’t like any other type of movement because I didn’t sweat or feel exhausted afterward. If I wasn’t a tired puddle of water, then I wasn’t working hard enough. Now, I enjoy doing other things besides running and walking. I’ve noticed how the variety has improved my running. I’m seeing a pattern here: everything feeds into something else.
Once, I’ve purged my mind and body of stress and negative thoughts, it is time to wash it all away in the shower. Then I eat lunch, which concludes my morning routine.
If my schedule does not allow me to do my routine in the morning, it gets pushed into the afternoon or even evening on some occasions. My routine has to be flexible, while providing me structure. My routine is not scheduled, they are activities I do in the morning, or throughout the day.
What does your routine look like? Is your routine flexible or rigid?