Your day depends on your morning, and your morning depends on your routine.
Your morning can be the most stressful part of your day or the calmest. It can steer you toward a productive and fulfilling day, or a frenzied and hectic one.
It all depends on your morning routine.
What’s your routine like now? You have one, and follow it, whether you intend to or not. If you don’t purposely design a routine, you’ll fall back on your default habits. Chances are, those default habits add up to a routine that’s, well…
Less than ideal.
The Reactive Routine
You wake up exhausted to an insistent alarm clock.
You’re inwardly grumbling about the demands of the day and resisting what’s ahead. Before you even care for yourself physically, you’re checking email and scrolling social media.
There’s already a crisis or conversation that needs you; you jump in headfirst. Before you know it, it’s lunch time. You’ve lost your entire morning reacting and responding.
The Overwhelmed Routine
You drag yourself out of bed at the last possible minute.
You’re unfocused and unsure, hesitantly flitting from one task to another. Your mental to-do list from the day before starts screaming at you, your calendar is uncomfortably full, and you’re leaving a trail of half-done tasks behind you.
You don’t finish anything in the morning; so many things need to be done that you don’t know where to start.
How about a better routine?
Yes. That would be good.
What a Morning Routine Can Be
First, let’s clear up some misconceptions about a morning routine.
It can be simple
A morning routine does not have to be a complex, ten-step, mapped out, personal-productivity list of check marks and data points. It can be, if that’s what you love. But it can also be a simple, flowing process that matches the rhythm of your day.
It can be enjoyable
A morning routine does not have to be about willpower, self-discipline, or proving your merit. It does not have to be intensive and demanding. It can be, if that’s what you love. But it can also be a relaxing, soul-feeding process that eases you into a joyful day.
It can be flexible
A morning routine does not have to be a rigid, unchanging, unquestionable legalistic set of rules and time limits and must-do items that you have to follow. It can be, if that’s what you love. But it can also be an adaptable, energizing process that matches the needs of the moment.
To build a routine you love, start with these three important concepts.
Personalize Your Routine
There are plenty of sample routines, ideas, how-to articles, books, courses, and so on. In short, there’s a wealth of information you can consume on this topic. Super. Some of it can be helpful.
But the idea here is not to emulate a morning routine that works for someone else; it’s to think about what works for you.
- What matters to you? How can you put some time and energy toward what matters most to you, first thing in the morning?
- What do you need? How can you care for yourself — body, mind, and soul — before you begin caring for others?
- What do you value? How can you do less of what you don’t value and more of what you do value in the morning?
And finally, this important question:
- What causes stress, conflict, and pain in the morning?
If there are too many decisions to make, you get stress.
If there are too many options — and no standard set for which option to choose — you get conflict, both internal and external.
If there is no focus, no internal rhythm, no understood value, you get confusion and self-doubt and hesitancy, and that adds up to a heavy load of psychic pain.
If you’re not caring for yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally, that neglect will turn into physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion and pain.
To develop a morning routine that serves you, think about what you want and what you don’t want. It doesn’t matter if your routine looks like anybody else’s. It’s yours.
Keep It Simple
Don’t turn a simple task into a process. Don’t include steps you don’t need.
Several years ago, reading a forum on productivity, someone shared their morning routine. It was over 30 steps long. I was confused: what was this person doing in the morning that required 30 steps?
I read the routine to find out. It included the following tasks: moisturize face, moisturize elbows, moisturize hands, moisturize legs.
A simple task — putting lotion on one’s body — became a multi-step process. Complexity is only useful when it’s necessary. Otherwise, it’s deadweight. It will suck the energy right out of you and your morning.
Apply the same concept to how you remember and, if desired, track your morning routine. You can put together a spreadsheet and chart and so on, but you don’t have to. Maybe those tools distract you from your morning, instead of adding to it. Question the necessity of everything you include in your morning. Only keep the things which add value and enjoyment.
Go with the Flow
Don’t impose unrealistic expectations on your morning. This will only cause stress.
Keep your eyes wide open and look at your life. Appreciate what it contains, right now, and think about how to honor yourself, your values, and your current reality in your mornings.
Don’t design a morning routine of extended silence, solitude, and meditative work if you have a herd of energetic dogs or children. (Or both.)
Don’t ask yourself to wake up at 5 a.m. and be Zen if you’re a night person and do your best work after 11 p.m.
In other words, don’t fight what you have, where you are, and who you are in your present reality. Certainly you can use your morning routine to grow (yourself) and to improve (your life). But do so with gratitude and acceptance as your starting point. You’ll have more success that way, too.
Morning is going to happen, no matter how you meet it.
Why not meet it on your own terms, in your own rhythm, according to your own values? Start the day with joy and energy, focused on what matters most to you. You’ll make the most of your morning time, which in turn helps you make the most of your entire day.
P.S. And that trend of good morning — > good day continues on the macro level, leading to a good week —> good month —> good year —> good life. So, yes: it’s worth the effort.