A morning routine. It’s the hottest trend right now.
It’s also a source of great angst.
It seems like every productivity guru will be quick to tell you that the key to a successful life is to commit to a morning routine that starts at 5 AM with meditation, exercise, a protein-heavy breakfast, some reading, some journaling, and… oh god, when are you supposed to get anything done?
While it’s true that a solid morning routine can set the right tone for the rest of the day, you’re a unique person. You need to create a morning routine that works well for you.
Here are three steps to creating an effective morning routine that fits your lifestyle (or drives you to take on a new lifestyle altogether).
Step 1: What should go in your morning routine?
There are a million things you could do. But what sounds the best to you?
This is an opportunity to dream about the kind of person you want to be. Are you someone who loves the idea of sipping coffee in the early hours as you get down to business, or do you want just enough time to eat a healthy breakfast before you head out the door? Maybe you’ve been wanting to prioritize a good skincare routine, or a few minutes of yoga.
Your new morning habits don’t have to be extreme. In fact, smaller changes over time are generally easier to stick to, and you can always push yourself further as you get more comfortable. Think about what’s most appealing to you.
If you’re having trouble thinking of healthy habits you want to incorporate, here are some ideas:
- Drink a full glass of water
- Write a list of things you’re grateful for
- Set your 3 main to-do’s for the day
- Lift weights, do yoga, or run around the block
- Make a nutritious breakfast
- Write morning pages
- Meditate for 15 minutes (I’m a fan of the Headspace App)
- Make your bed
- Take care of your skin
The key here is that a morning routine should be enjoyable. If you hate cooking, committing to making an elaborate breakfast every morning isn’t going to be something you look forward to.
Step 2: How much time do you have for a morning routine?
Okay, reality check. How much earlier are you willing to wake up to make your morning routine a viable part of your life?
It’s no secret that waking up early is good for you:
- Early morning performance is linked with being more proactive and having higher career success.
- Morning people are associated with more stable personalities (while staying up late is linked with depression)
- Hitting that snooze button over and over might feel like you’re getting more sleep, but it’s actually making you more exhausted
But how early is realistic?
If you’ve been a run-out-the-door-at-the-last-minute type your whole life, suddenly implementing a 4 AM alarm is probably going to make you a very unhappy camper. And that’s the opposite of what we’re going for.
Choose a time that feels good. If you love the idea of rising with the sun, look up what time the sun rises in your area. If you just want some time to go through a normal morning without feeling like you’re running behind, plan on waking up 20 minutes earlier.
Step 3: Write down your morning routine
The real secret to a morning routine that sticks? Writing it down!
Recording your morning routine helps you figure out what exactly you have time for. By plotting out your morning, you can prioritize which new habits you really want to implement, and which ones will just end up robbing your of sleep.
My advice? Stick to the habits that sound the most important or exciting to you. Don’t do 10 different things just because some thought leader said you should. Remember: You can always add on more habits later on if you want.
Here’s an example:
My morning routine
7:00am-7:10am: Wake up, get dressed
7:10am-7:30am: Drink water, eat breakfast (toast and coffee), journal
9:30am-10:30am: Yoga and shower
Making your morning routine a reality
Let’s be real—starting any new habit takes time. A morning routine is no exception. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track during those crucial first weeks.
How to be an early riser
If you aspire to be an early riser, here’s a system that I’ve used that gets good results:
On the first day, wake up at the exact time that you want to start your morning routine at. This is a jolt to the system, but make it fun. There’s got to be a good reason for waking up so early. So wake up early and go through your new routine to get a taste of what your mornings could be like.
Now, you can choose to just stick with that wake-up time. However, I’ve found that this will likely leave you exhausted, and you’re more likely to fall back into your own sleep pattern. Instead, the next morning, let yourself sleep ‘til 20 minutes before your old time. So if you usually wake up at 9, set your alarm for 8:40. And don’t hit snooze. (Tip: Don’t let yourself turn off the alarm until you’re sitting upright.)
When you wake, do whatever piece of your morning routine that you have time for. Try to do the fun stuff first—this will keep you motivated to crawl out of bed.
Each morning, set the alarm 20 minutes earlier until you arrive back at your desired time. This will train you to not only wake up earlier, but also to go to bed earlier. You’ll still be a little tired, but it’s a much more sustainable way to switch to a new schedule.
Your morning routine starts with the night before
A really successful morning routine is often paired with a really successful nighttime routine.
A lot of people find it useful to make a short to-do list of their most important tasks for the next day. Maybe you prepare for your morning by laying out the gym clothes you’ll wear, or even deciding what to make for breakfast so you’re not waffling around in the early hours.
And this should go without saying, but make sure you have a set bedtime that corresponds with your wakeup time. You don’t necessarily need 8 hours, but you should get enough sleep that you don’t wake up with murder in your eyes.
In my personal opinion, a solid bedtime is the hardest part of having a morning routine. But it’s what makes the whole thing possible.
Experiment to make it fit
An effective morning routine will look different for everyone. But instead of focusing on what you do or don’t do, I encourage you to analyze how each new habit makes you feel. When you complete your routine, do you feel like you wasted the morning? Then you need to switch to habits that make you feel more productive. Do you feel like you’re still running short on time? Maybe you need to cut out a practice, or commit to an earlier wake-up time.
As you try out different habits, you might find that some take longer than others, or some just don’t bring you the benefits you thought they would. Feel free to drop or add habits to create a morning routine that fits you.
However, remember that a morning routine should be exactly that—a routine. You may have days where breaking routine is unavoidable, but the longer you stick with it, the more your routine will become a part of you.
Do you have a morning routine?
Tell me—what does a good morning look like for you? Share your routine in the comments!