I love morning routine videos on YouTube, but also, they drive me nuts. I have literally seen someone pull out WATERCOLORS in her morning routine video and start painting. There’s no way she does that every day. NO WAY. There’s no way she even does that once a week. Then there are the many morning routines that are a good four and a half hours long, and somehow the person doing them claims that this is what their life looks like every day. No it isn’t, because she lives in the same society as we do, and real people don’t have time do go for a run and do yoga on the beach, then get brunch with their friends every day. Get real. Here’s how to create a realistic morning routine that actually works for you.
Before we set out to create a routine, let’s talk about why morning routines are important. Mornings set the tone for your day. Getting things done in an efficient manner leaves you ready to tackle the world. Having a relaxed but productive morning slides you right into a relaxed and productive day. And that’s what we’d all love, right? Without a good morning routine, you’re left running frazzled around the house trying to get everything done before heading out the door. But if everything is set up so you just have to go through the steps without making any early morning decisions, you’ll glide out of the house and into the world with everything you need to nail your day. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Successful people have morning routines. Successful people have routines everywhere, but they especially have morning routines. Our daily obligations typically have a set start time, usually around 8 or 9. This doesn’t leave much time beforehand to get things done while still waking up at a reasonable hour. Hence, the routine. With a routine in place, you can get. shit. done. before you have to go do things for other people. Mornings are prime time for personal work, since your mind and body are fresh, not drained from the day. Having time for personal work is immensely important to driving your life in the direction you’d like it to go. Create a routine.
Morning routines start the night before. A key part of a good morning routine is that it’s efficient. Only the things that have to be done in the morning are actually done in the morning. Any food prep, like packing lunches or setting things out for breakfast, that can be done the night before, should be. Pack bags, decide on outfits, and set out clothes the night before. Think through what you currently do in the morning. Which of those steps would work just as well if done before getting into bed the previous night?
Now that everything that needs to be done the night before is out of the way, start building your routine with the things that absolutely have to be done in the morning. The basics are things like brushing your teeth and getting dressed. Consider other steps like taking medication, drinking coffee, and eating breakfast if you’re someone who has to do those things. Building these non-negotiables into your routine is the most important, so start there. I suggest writing them down so as your routine builds, you can reorder them in a way that makes sense for you.
Next, decide what else you’d like to add to your routine because you want to do it every morning. What is the purpose of your morning routine? Want do you want to accomplish? If looking your absolute best is a priority, build in time to do your hair and makeup. If, like me, you wear makeup about twice a year and put your hair in a bun most days, no extra time is needed for that. If you want a relaxing morning routine, build in some time to do morning pages or read a chapter of your current book while drinking tea.
It’s important to remember not to go too crazy though. Think about how much time you have. If you have to leave for work at 8:30 and aren’t willing to get up before 6:30, you have two hours to work with. It’s also not a bad idea to build in fifteen minutes of wiggle room for when things don’t go perfectly. This leaves you with an hour and forty-five minutes to work with. Assess how long each item in your routine typically takes (be honest!), and make sure not to go past the amount of time you’ll realistically have each morning.
Consider items that you can add to your morning routine that will have the most positive impact on your day without taking up too much time. Things like meditation, reading, journaling, and stretching can be done in ten or fifteen minutes and will help to put you in a good headspace for the rest of the day. Morning routines are about creating as much impact as possible in a short time.
Decide if you’d benefit from getting personal work done in the morning. Are you trying to accomplish something big? Maybe you’re starting a side hustle, writing a book, or learning a new skill. These things can be major factors in moving you where you want to go in life, but they take time and dedication. If you can, build an hour or two into your morning to work on them before the rest of the day leaves you exhausted. If you end the rest of your day still feeling energized enough to work on these things, then that time in the morning is just a bonus! Mornings are great for quiet time to work alone. Most of the world is asleep and won’t be looking for your attention (unless you’ve got kids), allowing you time to really focus and get a good flow going.
Streamline your routine. Do things in an order that makes sense. Do everything that happens in the bathroom at once, then move to the kitchen, then the bedroom. Don’t spend extra time running back and forth between rooms. Think about the order you want to do things in. Personally, I can’t work out immediately after I’ve eaten, so it doesn’t make sense for me to eat first thing in the morning, since then I’d have to wait before going to the gym. Consider what you need to get done, how long each step takes, and where it happens. Arrange everything in a way that makes sense and feels good to you.
Write down each thing you intend to do and how long it takes, working forward from the time you get up. If all the tasks are finished before you need to start your day, good. Otherwise, either something needs to go, or you’ll need to get up earlier.
Morning routines don’t need to be glamorous to work. They need to be efficient and work for you. All of those “morning routines” that include a face mask, an hour of journaling, fresh juice and pancakes from scratch, and a three mile hike with the dog may be relaxing, but they do little to move someone forward in life. Take advantage of the solitude and peacefulness of mornings to focus on the things that will benefit you the most.
Don’t expect to stick to your new routine immediately, especially if it involves a significant change in what time you’re waking up. Implement the routine a bit at a time. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve likely developed something of a routine already. It’s probably simple and a bit rushed, but it’s there. Evaluate what you currently do when you wake up, and over a period of months (or even years), make incremental changes to your current routine to move you toward your ideal routine. Start by taking out the hour of scrolling through your phone in bed, and instead get out of bed. Maybe you don’t immediately start using that time productively, but at least get out of bed and stop scrolling. Pet your cat or something.
Make changes one small step at a time. Again, big changes don’t stick. Small, consistent steps are where it’s at. It took me years of slowly changing my routine before I landed on one that stuck, and even now I still make changes occasionally. As you change your routine a bit at a time, evaluate what is working and what isn’t. If you’ve been trying for three weeks to start eating breakfast in the morning but consistently find yourself repulsed by the thought of food, don’t force it. It wasn’t meant to be, and there’s nothing wrong with skipping breakfast if you aren’t hungry in the morning. Don’t cling to routines that aren’t working.
Routines may even change over time. What works in the summer may not work in the winter, when it’s freezing and dark outside. If something stops working for you, take it out. Maybe your priorities or interests changed over time. Modify the routine so it works for you. As much as it might be nice to do the same routine forever, that’s typically not realistic. Routines evolve.
What does my morning routine look like?
My routine isn’t exactly the same day to day. Some days I’m just super tired and barely get out of bed in time. Other days I’m excited and ready to go before my alarm goes off. I also unsurprisingly have different routines for weekdays vs weekends. But without further ado, here are my morning routines:
Wake up around 5:45
Actually wake up around 6
Scroll on my phone for 15 minutes
Get up, brush my teeth, wash my face, put on the gym clothes that I set out in the bathroom the night before
Put my lunch that I made the night before into my lunchbox
Make my protein powder + soylent breakfast shake
Snuggle with Bennett for a couple minutes
Leave for the gym around 6:45, grabbing my already packed gym bag on the way out the door
Get to work
Weekdays that I’m not going to the gym:
Wake up at 6:45
Get out of bed around 7
Make tea and something to eat
Watch YouTube for a bit
Work on something blog related until 8:15
Brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed
Pack my lunch
Snuggle with Bennett for a bit
Head to work