How to Create a Powerful Morning Routine (And the Surprising Reasons You’ll Want To)

woman sitting outside on a patio as part of her morning routineHow 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.

Sound familiar?

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?

About the Author

Erin Power is the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She also helps her clients regain a loving and trusting relationship with their bodies—while restoring their metabolic health, so they can lose fat and gain energy—via her own private health coaching practice, eat.simple.

If you have a passion for health and wellness and a desire to help people like Erin does every day for her clients, consider becoming a certified health coach yourself. Learn the 3 simple steps to building a successful health coaching business in 6 months or less in this special info session hosted by PHCI co-founder Mark Sisson.

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12 thoughts on “How to Create a Powerful Morning Routine (And the Surprising Reasons You’ll Want To)”

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  1. One thing that works extremely well for keeping me on track each day is not turning on the computer or phone first thing in the morning. In fact, I leave it off until I actually really need to use it. I find that it keeps me from getting distracted first thing in the morning, and keeps the computer where it belongs – just a tool, not a crutch.

    I get up (without an alarm), do my stuff, make a press of coffee, and pick up my written plan for today and tomorrow. No screens. It’s a quiet moment to get my head together and awake and remember where I was and where I’m going with the day, and how it aligns with longer term goals.

  2. The Tarheels medicine ball routine takes all of ten minutes if I’m not going very fast. It’s not hard exercise but a good morning wake-up. If I’m up early to use the SAD light in winter, I like to do a few lessons in Duolingo. My head feels all awake after that.

  3. Early on in my life (20-ish), I began doing a daily mat workout. It began as about 15 minutes of stretches and calisthenics. After the age of 50, it began to morph slowly into a blend of physical therapies mixed with the stretches and calisthenics… It is now some very targeted stretches before getting out of bed, as well as a half-hour mat workout. Three times a week, I add a 15-minute weight workout. These are all part of my morning workout.
    Sometimes I think this is a bit much!! But it helps me to start the day feeling strong and supple, and fully awake. Not to mention it keeps various problems in check… At 62, that means a lot. It helps me to live well.

  4. I’d like to work out/walk in the morning.

    However, what I do is: wake up around 4AM, get up at 4:30. Gently wake up, sometimes with a cup of warm water, read a bit of encouraging information. Take a warm shower, and start to wake up my husband around 5:30 (he’s not a morning person). Finish my make up and choose an outfit for work and make coffee for us. Sit and visit until about 6:45 when he leaves, I then brush my teeth (while I throw a ball for the dog who thinks I’m her morning work out coach, crawling on the floor 3 times this morning to retrieve the ball from under the dresser) and leave about 7:30.

    I figured out that doing a bit of exercise in the morning feels like sitting quietly and having a person come in and start yelling at me…… need to work that out of my head first. Maybe after I retire?

  5. I have always been an early riser. Love my morning routine that begins with self care, then outside with my dogs for the early and easy livestock chores that also include prayer while greeting the day. Back in for a relaxing cup of coffee and some reading. I love having everything arranged and set up the day before to smoothly go thru the early outside work. One other thing is I love to see the stars, moon, and sky in the morning! Thanks for all you do Mark!

  6. Erin Power I loved reading the entire article. It’s really an eye-opener and wonderfully crafted one. Superb work. We must include a morning routine to get the success we want to achieve.