Talk to any personal development or self-improvement guru, and they’ll tell you the importance of the morning routine.
And everyone, from top athletes, musicians, and celebrities, to successful CEOs and entrepreneurs, has their version of what that routine should include:
Meditation. Exercise. Visualization. Journaling. Creating a task list. Checking email. Juicing. Bulletproof coffee-ing. Prioritizing. Doing yoga. Being creative. Going for a walk. Gratitude lists. Lymphatic brushing. Ayurvedic scalp massage. Japanese tea ceremony.
Ok, I’m getting a little carried away, but you see my point.
It can feel just a little intimidating. And that’s all before showering, grooming, dressing, and commuting. Add kids, or a dog that needs to be walked into the mix, and we’re looking at waking up at 1:00 in the morning just to get it all done before the workday begins.
There’s no question that creating a routine for that most important time of the day is vital, and that doing so will almost certainly improve your life and your productivity. But first and foremost, it needs to be something that works for you, and that you’ll actually maintain.
Which means it needs to be real. Let’s face it. Most of us live remarkably average lives, and don’t have access to personal trainers, chefs, and masseuses to help get us on track in the mornings.
So how do you create a workable, realistic morning routine? Here are some key principles to follow when getting your AM groove on:
Wake Up Earlier
This is going to be pretty much universally applicable for anyone who is trying to come up with a morning schedule. If you’re currently waking up at 7:30, stumbling out of bed, and grabbing a muffin and coffee on your way out the door for an 8:00 workday, you’re going to need to give yourself additional time.
Start slowly by setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier each week, until you get to your desired wake up time.
Wake Up Smiling
If you’re not a morning person, this one might be challenging. But the effort is well worth it.
Try to wake up with the first alarm, rather than hitting the snooze button. You’re not benefiting from those interrupted six minute micro-naps, and you’re sending the message to your brain that you’re really not looking forward to starting your day.
Find some way to create a feeling of enthusiasm and eagerness about the day ahead. Prep a feel-good song to play upon waking. Post an inspiring picture or message so that it’s the first thing you see when you open your eyes. Go through a list of all the reasons you’re lucky to be alive. Keep a bottle of peppermint, lemon balm, or cinnamon essential oil next to your bed and take a sniff to perk you up.
Make a List
Come up with a list of the things you’d really like to accomplish in the mornings, in order of priority.
Start with those tasks that need to get done, such as dressing and grooming, eating breakfast, getting the kids ready, walking the dog etc..
Then choose just two or three additional activities or tasks that you’d like to accomplish. Choose only those things that make you feel relaxed, energized, and motivated, and that you mostly enjoy doing. The extra time you’re creating in the mornings should be used to set the right tone for the rest of your day.
Now assign time chunks to each task and activity, and work backwards to arrive at your required wake up time. Check to make sure it’s reasonable (are you really going to wake up at 4:30?); it’s also a good idea to work in an additional 15 minutes to accommodate the unexpected.
Take It for a Test Drive
Now it’s time to test your new routine and make sure it goes according to plan. You may want to try it first on a weekend so that any scheduling issues don’t impact your workday.
Give it a couple of weeks, tweaking as you go. Be alert to how you feel, and make adjustments as needed, but remember that developing new habits takes a bit of time and willpower. Initially, your new routine may not feel easy or relaxing, but once you adjust to the earlier wake up, and the strangeness of new activities, you’ll be able to judge whether your routine truly works for you.
Be Flexible, Adaptable and Realistic
There will be days when it’s just not possible to stick to your morning routine exactly. Perhaps you’re traveling and staying in a hotel, or your child is sick, or the dog throws up on the bed. Life happens.
Remember that the overarching reason for establishing a morning routine is to make your day, and your life, better, happier and less-stressful. Freaking out because you can’t do yoga on account of the dog vomiting on your mat kind of defeats that purpose. Be prepared to adjust your schedule as the need arises.
Stick To It
The benefits of creating and establishing a workable, relaxing, and motivating morning routine are immeasurable. The effort you initially need to put into making your routine a habit will be well worth it.
Stick to it, allowing for the occasional interruption, delay or conflict without giving up and trashing the whole thing before it has a chance to succeed. Be kind to yourself when you slip up, but always get back to your routine as quickly as possible.
There’s a reason every successful CEO, entrepreneur, athlete, and celebrity chats up their morning routine – they are an extremely effective tool for enhancing productivity, energy, and motivation, and can have a profoundly positive effect on your life. You have the potential to achieve any outcome you desire, and with a little time and effort, your new morning routine will help get you there.