Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Recently, I wrote about the three essential steps for an intentional and productive morning routine. To give you just a bit more morning routine inspiration, I figured I could show you how I incorporate these things into my routine and what they could look like in real life.
Throughout the #5amwakeupchallenge I did quite a lot of experimenting with my morning routine since I had a lot of mornings to experiment with. With the challenge starting, then ending, and other changes that have happened in my life recently, my morning routine isn’t what it used to be.
I’ve kept the most important elements, but the old routine no longer served me, so I took the time to plan out—yes, on paper—a new routine. It takes a bit of thought to find a good one.
I’ve recently come to accept that it’s okay when routines change. A big part of me has always wanted to find “perfect” routines and then do them exactly the same way every day for the rest of forever, but that’s just not going to happen. Rather than feeling frustrated by this, I’m embracing it.
As much as I want my routines to be a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing, life changes. What worked in college probably won’t work after college. What worked in January may not work in June.
Changing up your routine doesn’t mean you’ve failed. In fact, noticing that your routine has changed can be a great prompt to take the time to intentionally design a new routine that works better than the old one. If we never changed our routines, we’d be stuck doing things that no longer work, even when we have better ways of doing it now.
Rather than aiming for a routine that never changes, aim to consciously decide when and how your routine changes. Decide your routines with intention so that they can serve you and make the most of your limited morning time. Our lives change and it’s okay if our routines change often because of it.
Even though my routine changes sometimes, and I’ve come to accept that, there are some steps that I do no matter what. Your routine may evolve and grow with you, but some things never change—like the fact that you’re dehydrated in the morning. Morning routines need water. You probably need water. Drink some water.
Anyway, enough philosophical crap. To offer inspiration—or just satisfy your curiosity—here’s my morning routine as of late. And let me tell you, I’m loving this one. I hope I get to keep it for a while.
My alarm goes off.
Waking up at 5:15 is early enough to give me the time I need in the morning, but I can still stay up til 10 the previous night if I want to without hating myself in the morning.
Sometimes I get up when the alarm goes off, sometimes I stay in bed for a few minutes and cuddle with my fiance. I planned my routine so that I have a little wiggle room here because the first few minutes of my day tend to vary.
Within ten minutes of my alarm going off, I get up, put on my robe, and boil some water for tea or coffee. I also make myself some lemon water. Most of the time I’m a plain-water person, but occasionally I go on lemon water kicks. I use True Lemon* to make lemon water, and it’s so convenient and tastes just like real lemon.
During this time, I try to stay off of my phone, but I’ve gotta be honest, I’m terrible at that. I’ve recently been putting my phone on airplane mode overnight so I don’t wake up to a ton of notifications which helps to limit the impulsive app checking, but I don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be to stay off your phone.
By 5:45, my lemon water and I head to the couch, enrobed and ready for a good sit. At this point, I’m like 80% awake, and it’s starting to get light outside.
Once I’m on the couch, the first real step in my morning routine is writing my morning pages. Morning pages are from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way which I’ve been reading recently. All it is is three, hand-written, stream-of-consciousness journal pages written every morning.
They don’t have to say anything important or be well-written. I just let my mind ramble for a while. Whatever comes out comes out.
I love writing my morning pages because they start to get my mind moving, and they clear out anything that’s bothering me so I can handle it instead of bringing it with me into the day.
Along with my morning pages, I also set three goals or intentions for the day and plan out my Pomodoros. I’ve recently been using Pomodoros a bit more than calendar blocking because they work better for me when it comes to creative work like writing.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love calendar blocking, but I can’t just sit down and power through four hours of writing at once. I wish I could, but I can’t, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that of myself, so I break it up using pomodoros.
The pomodoro method is a strategy for productivity where twenty-five minutes are spent working, followed by a short break. A longer break follows every fourth pom.
Most days, I aim to finish twelve poms of work. I draw twelve little squares in my journal and divide them up depending on what I need to do that day. For instance, today I have one pom for cleaning, eight for writing, two for reading, and one set aside for anything else that I decide to do, as long as it’s productive.
I like to start my day with journaling and goal setting because it clears my mind, and there’s something really satisfying about sitting down with a pen and notebook before touching a keyboard. It gives me a chance to sit with my own thoughts before I run off and distract myself with other people’s content.
Around 6:15, I finish my journaling. Next in the routine is meditation. Recently, I’ve been using the Daily Calm meditations from the Calm app. I love the Calm app.
It’s often recommended to meditate in the morning, but I’ve always been an evening meditator because it helps me sleep. However, the kind of meditation I do before bed and the kind of meditation that happens earlier in the day are pretty different, so I’m aiming to find a way to fit in into my mornings that works for me. So far, meditating at this point in my morning routine seems to be working well.
Journaling before I meditate in the morning is helping me to stick with morning meditation. The journaling clears out my mind, which helps my meditation sessions go more smoothly.
You aren’t a “bad” meditator if your mind wanders off while you’re meditating; that happens to everyone. That said, there are still things you can do to set yourself up for success. When there’s less stuff going on in my head, it’s easier to focus on the breath. Being in a still, quiet place also helps quite a bit.
Journaling, setting intentions, and then meditating leaves me feeling grounded and centered. I feel connected with myself and aware of the world and the way my thoughts and actions impact what happens in my life. It’s refreshing to start each day with a clear, focused, intentional mind.
After I meditate, it’s finally time to crack open the ol’ laptop and do a bit of personal creative work. I had said during the #5amwakeupchallenge that I was considering getting up even earlier than 5 so I’d have more time to get focused work done in the morning. The thing is, I said this at a time that Bennett was away for several days for work.
If I lived alone and was the only person impacted by my schedule, I would probably wake up earlier than 5 to get some focused work done early in the morning.
Realistically, though, it’s not an option. The best time for Bennett and me to hang out is in the evenings after he gets home from work, which is around 8:30 most days. I can’t hang out until 10 and then get up before 5. I need more sleep than that.
I’ve sacrificed that extra focused morning time for more time with my fiance, and that’s okay with me. Instead of two hours of focused work, I do twenty minutes of something that is productive and gets my mind moving but won't suck me in for hours.
With my new morning routine, I’m awake for at least an hour before I touch my laptop. I used to open my laptop first thing in the morning, within minutes of waking up, but I find that I’m better able to focus throughout the day if I take some time to collect myself in the morning before I look at a Google doc. I'm still working on less phone time though.
Doing twenty minutes or so of light work before I head to the gym gets the gears turning and gives me something to think about while I’m working out. I don’t know if it’s the increased blood flow or what, but some of my best ideas happen at the gym. This bit of work also sets a productive tone for the rest of the day.
I always say that the secret to becoming a morning person is doing something that you love when you wake up. Admittedly, I deeply enjoy this entire routine, but my favorite part is treating myself to a bit of YouTube while I finish my coffee.
One of my favorite YouTubers, Kalyn Nicholson, has been doing little "coffee talks" every morning this month, so before I head to the gym, I watch her latest video. When May ends, I’ll switch it up and find someone else to watch or do some reading instead.
Sometimes I can get a little too strict with my routines. Building a bit of intentional relaxation into my morning assures that I take breaks and prevent myself from burning out.
Around seven, I brush my teeth, throw on some real clothes, and head to the gym. Most days, I get to the gym around 7:20 or so, which gives me enough time to lift, stretch, and be home before 9 to shower and start my day.
Unlike the other steps in this routine, I doubt I need to explain why working out is important. Personally, I choose to work out in the morning because that’s when I feel most energized. If I tried to go to the gym in the evening, I’d probably fall asleep on a bench. Plus, the evening gym rush is still too much for my anxiety to handle.
There you have it: my current morning routine. It works well for me, and I absolutely love it. I see this one sticking around for a while. Between the warm drink, the writing, and the clear mind, it’s an all around great experience and I thoroughly enjoy my mornings.
Which step in your morning routine can you not afford to miss?