How often do you find yourself mashing the alarm clock, desperately longing for a few more glorious minutes of shut eye? A couple days a week? Every day? Not sure why you’d ever NOT want to mash the alarm?
For a lot of us, working from home has allowed for a much more relaxed morning routine. And by relaxed, I mean sleeping right up until the last minute, throwing the covers off, throwing a decent-looking top on, and scarfing down a bar or several cups of coffee as you scramble to log on to your first Zoom call.
When you start your morning like a fire drill, guess what happens? The whole day follows suit. Every minute feels like you’re playing catch up. Things tend to fall through the cracks with zero chance of regaining control. And all of your good intentions – you know, preparing a healthy protein-forward breakfast and getting outside for some fresh air quickly become a task for another day when it’s less busy.
Why a Morning Routine Helps You Crush It
Besides the obvious reason (see above), having a solid morning routine sets the tone for your entire day. No matter what happened yesterday or what’s on your schedule for today, a morning routine is a constant you can rely on — something that allows you to assert your authority over the day. It’s a ritual you’ve consciously carved out time to do in the name of self-care and sanity, because you value your health, happiness, and general wellbeing.
Take a look at people who are known for totally crushing it. You’ll notice they all have something in common:
Tim Ferriss starts every day by making his bed, because it’s a simple action he can take that gives him a feeling of pride and accomplishment. Plus, it’s something he can do that’s totally within his control.
Julianne Hough swears by her morning gratitude ritual, which includes thinking of five things she’s grateful for and setting small spiritual goals for the next 24 hours.
Even former president Obama has a routine, beginning each day with a workout, followed by breakfast with his kids.
It’s not just the entrepreneurial, celebrity, and political set who are privy to creating such a routine. In fact, that’s one of the first things I recommend my clients do when we start working together. When you take the time to create a morning routine that means something to you, you decide that you’re worth putting yourself first.
You decide that you’d rather be proactive about your day instead of reactive. What do I mean by proactive vs. reactive?
What being proactive looks like:
Staying actively engaged
Feeling a sense of clarity and control
Knowing what’s important to you
Looking ahead and anticipating your needs
What being reactive looks like:
Letting circumstances control you
Feeling helpless or threatened
Neglecting your own needs
Taking action without thinking things through
Too Busy to Get Up Early? Read This
If you’re someone who works the early shift or can’t bear to make extra time in the pre-dawn hours, I get it. But here’s the thing. No one said your routine had to take up a major chunk of your morning. Some of the best routines require no more than 5 minutes and can seriously transform your day from feeling like you’re running on empty to feeling strong and fulfilled.
There’s plenty of scientific evidence to back it up too. According to this study published in The Journal of General Psychology, early-risers are known to procrastinate less than their snooze-button-pushing cohorts.1 And routines that include meditation can lead to improved brain function as seen in this study, where researchers from Canada and Germany analyzed 21 studies and found that people who meditated regularly had changes in regions of the brain associated with things like self-control, emotion regulation, and memory.2
What’s the Best Morning Routine?
I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve seen arguing that warm lemon water or a cold shower is the best way to start the day. Everyone is different with different biological rhythms, preferences, and styles. That being said, the most effective morning routine you can do is one that’s tailored specifically to you – one that delivers results you personally find meaningful.
Here are the exact questions and strategies I use with my clients to help them create a morning routine that’s practical, beneficial, and most importantly, makes them want to jump out of bed in the morning (yes, it’s possible).
1. Ask: What do I want more of in my day?
Honestly, when I pose that question, I usually get a blank stare in return. A lot of people operate on autopilot the minute they crack open their eyes. But you actually have a say in how you want to feel throughout your day. And your morning routine is the best time to set the tone for that feeling. Your routine could include one thing or a series of things, depending on how much time you want to devote to it.
Examples: If you want to feel more energized, include some form of movement in the morning: yoga, stretching, going for a run; to feel more grounded, try meditation, reading, or journaling; to feel more organized, make your bed, cook up a quality breakfast, or tidy up your workspace. For more morning routine ideas, check out this list.
2. Ask: What might get in the way?
If there was nothing currently standing in your way, you wouldn’t still be here reading this article (note: these *things* sound a lot like excuses). Take a minute to look at your mornings right now and get a clear picture of any obstacles that might prevent you from your new routine, then take steps to address them.
Examples: If your kids need help getting ready for school, start your morning routine earlier or ask your spouse to take on that task; if the alarm clock is within smashing distance, find a better place for it like in the bathroom.
3. Ask: What drains me?
Think about the activities that cause you stress or make you feel drained. You know, checking emails, reading news headlines, scrolling through social media. These are the LAST things you’d want to include in your morning routine. You always have a choice, and if certain behaviors make your day start off on the wrong foot, ditch ‘em.
Examples: Save your emails for when your workday officially begins; delete Instagram and TikTok from your phone; and become aware of the habits you have that are chronically working against you.
4. Ask: What leaves me feeling inspired?
Remember, this is YOUR time to do the things that light you up. Things that are worth infusing into your mornings so that you feel more focused, more energized, or even get you closer to your health goals. This is the time to be selfish. It’s not a to-do list, so please no “folding laundry” or “washing dishes” unless that excites you.
Examples: You might find that you love the quiet hours of the morning to draft a few pages of that book you’ve been dreaming about writing; or maybe you can’t get enough of the clarity you experience when you meditate. Whatever that is, do it. And do it regularly.
5. Ask: What’s my schedule like?
This question is more logistical, but I’d argue that it’s just as important as the other four questions on this list. If you have a schedule that’s pretty consistent, like a 9 to 5 job, figure out how long your morning routine will take you, then back it out from your hard stop. If your schedule is more organic, commit to a timeframe that will work for you regardless of when you need to be somewhere.
Examples: Say your first call is always at 9am. Decide what time you’d need to get up to be ready for your day, and how long your morning routine will comfortably take you, then set your alarm for that time – without pressing snooze.
5 Questions to Kick Start Your Morning Routine
You always have a choice how you start your morning, no matter how much time and how many responsibilities you have. It’s the difference between feeling a sense of peace and control (even if it is for just a few minutes) and letting your circumstances rule your day. Ready to create your solid morning routine? Get started by asking yourself these questions:
What do I want more of in my day?
What might get in the way?
What drains me?
What leaves me feeling inspired?
What’s my schedule like?
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what does yours look like?
Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.