So you’ve decided it’s time for a morning routine, or maybe just a better one. Maybe someone you know has been raving about how much they love their morning routine; maybe you’ve heard it will make you more productive; or maybe you just want a better, more controlled start to your day.
Whatever the reason , you’re ready to figure this thing out. First, let’s understand what a routine is and what it’s not.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A ROUTINE AND A HABIT?
A routine is not a habit, though it might be made up of multiple habits. Habits are instinctual. They happen almost automatically, without much conscious effort. A routine is a series of actions that you consciously decide to do, every single time.
For example, checking your phone as soon as you wake up in the morning is probably a habit (albeit not a great one). You do it without really thinking about it. In fact, you’d have to make the conscious decision NOT to check your phone.
Waking up early, having a glass of water, doing some morning stretches and making a breakfast smoothie is more than likely a routine. Every (or almost every) step is the result of a conscious decision of how to use your time, and if you don’t think about it, it probably won’t happen.
SO WHY DO ROUTINES MATTER?
A good morning routine:
- Gets you in a good mindset for the rest of your day – By starting your day your way and on your terms you begin with a healthier, happier mindset that will carry over into the rest of your day.
- Boosts productivity – the morning can be a great time to get things done with less distractions, before the chaos of the day has begun. Plus, the achievement of having completed a morning routine boosts your motivation for completing the rest of your tasks for the day.
- Reduces stress – Starting your day with a pre-determined routine immediately removes the pressure of decisions when you wake up. It also gives you a greater sense of control, reducing stress and promoting a greater sense of calm to start your day.
- Gets you warmed up for the day – Rather than jumping straight into the demands of the day, you can start slow and give your mind and body a chance to warm up, so you have a clearer, more relaxed mindset.
The benefits go on, but I will stop there. All-in-all, it makes you feel better about your day and yourself, and the benefits of those are hard to beat.
Before we go into making the routines, we have one more section to cover.
TWO TYPES OF ROUTINES
We’re going to talk about two different types of morning routines:
- Fixed routines
- Flexible routines
Think of a fixed routine as a strict schedule of activities that you follow every day, with little variation from one day to the next. A flexible routine utilises open-ended activities and may look different from one day to the next.
Here’s a very basic example of a fixed routine:
6:30 – Wake up, drink water, make bed and stretch
6:45 – Make and eat breakfast
7:15 – Shower and get dressed
7:45 – 15 minutes of reading for pleasure
8:00 – Leave for work
Here’s a basic example of an open-ended routine:
6:30 – Wake up, drink water, and make bed
6:35 – Do something physically healthy (i.e. yoga, run, walk, make a breakfast smoothie, etc.)
6:50 – Make and eat breakfast
7:15 – Shower and get dressed
7:45 – Something productive (i.e. dishes, tidy, something simple from your to-do list, etc.)
8:00 – Leave for work
One isn’t necessarily better than the other – that’s really for you to decide. Many people love the idea of a morning routine, but feel stifled when they think about doing the same thing every single day. If that’s you, a flexible routine might just be your answer.
If you enjoy structure, routine, and not having to decide what to do with yourself in the morning, a fixed routine might be better for you.
You might even find that the routine that works for you changes from one stage of life to the next – that’s ok! Just try them out and find what’s best for you.
MAKING A MORNING ROUTINE
So let’s get down to business:
1. Write down your possible ‘activities’
Start by writing down everything you might like to include in your morning routine. Need some ideas? Try thinking about the tone you want to set for your day and your life, for that matter.
Trying to be healthier? Make time for exercise and a healthy breakfast. Do you want to be better read and more educated? Take some time to read a book, study, or catch up on the latest science & tech news. If you’re like me (an Achiever according to StrengthsFinder), checking things off of your to-do list gives you energy, in which case, choose something quick and easy to do in the morning to give you that motivational boost.
- Make your bed
- Drink some water
- Sit quietly & stare out the window
- Spend time with pets or loved ones
- Review your to-do list for the day
- Tidy up or clean around the house
- Take a cold shower to wake you up
- Read (books, articles, magazines, encouraging quotes, anything!)
- Jot down 5 things your thankful for
- Sit and listen to music
The list goes on and on. Just think about what sorts of things give you life and will get you prepared and in the best mindset for your day.
2. List them in order of priority
Start with anything that you must do or know that you definitely want to do every morning (i.e. drink water, getting dressed, eat breakfast, etc.).
3. Write down how long each will take you
Next to each item on your list, write down how long it will take you to complete this activity. If there are longer and shorter versions of some of the items, feel free to write a range of time. Make sure to be realistic and consider adding buffer time to your estimates.
It’s much better to over than under estimate. The last thing you want is to have a morning routine that is so jam-packed and tight for time that you’re rushing to get through it all.
4. Consider how much time you have
Think about what time you normally get up in the morning and how much time you have for the items you’ve written down. You almost certainly won’t be able to include everything in your morning routine. More than likely, you will need to either wake up earlier, cut some things off of your list, or both.
This is also where flexible routines come in. Consider grouping some of your items together for open-ended activities. For example, you could group yoga, journaling, reading, and meditation into a ‘Quiet Time’ portion of your morning. Each day, block out 10 minutes for quiet time, and choose a different one to spend time on each day.
Cross off any activities that you don’t have time for.
5. Plan your morning
Now that you’ve decided what you’ll spend your time on, you can create a schedule for your morning, including the time and order that you’ll do each activity.
6. Test & revise
Try out your morning routine for a few days to a week and revise as needed. It usually takes some time to find a routine that you like and to settle into it, so don’t be afraid to adjust as needed and try again until you’ve found what works for you.
REMEMBER: As life changes, sometimes your routines need to change with it. Routines are in place for you, not the other way around!
TAKE IT SLOW
Last but not least, if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by this whole thing, try starting small. Just change one or two things about your morning and see how you like it. When you’re ready, you can start waking up earlier and expanding your morning routine.
There’s no need to make a ton of drastic changes overnight, especially if that is so off-putting that it keeps you from doing anything at all. It’s ok to take it slow and go at your own pace!
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!
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