my easy-like-sunday-morning morning routine
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been experimenting with morning routines specifically designed to help me start my day in the best way possible — both as a way to practice a little self-care, but also to structure my day so that it’s as productive as possible. It’s only been a few weeks, but cementing this routine has had a really lovely ripple effect on the rest of my day: I’m able to focus more, get more done, and work more efficiently. So I thought I’d share what I’ve come up with.
That said, I’m sharing this with a huge caveat.
Whenever I read someone else’s morning routine, I’m often cowed by how crazy-aspirational the routines some people’s routines seem to be. As I started thinking about how I wanted to structure the beginning of my days, I decided that it had to (a) be simple enough that it didn’t require a huge new effort of me, and (b) work with the way that my body naturally wants to work. For example, I admit that I’m a morning person, but I’m also a person who loves my sleep: I’m not getting up at 4:30 a.m. for anyone, if the fact is that my usual bedtime is around 10:30 p.m. Also, I wanted my routine specifically tailored to how my days work. So, what works for me might not necessarily work for you. I’m sharing this mostly in case something I mention sparks an idea for a practice that could easily be incorporated in your life.
To that end:
I decided to shift my working hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.. This allows me to wake up at a reasonable time (for me) and do the things I want to do in the morning before work. I also find these work hours make sense for my natural working rhythms: I tend to get hyper-focused around 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. Also, Marcus is the cook in our family, so when we sit down to eat dinner at 7p.m. each night, I can fully walk away from my computer and be completely present to my family for the rest of the evening. Also, Marcus’ working hours are from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., so I take Alex to school and he picks her up. These hours ensure that I pretty much have a solid working day to myself without too many interruptions.
In developing this morning routine, I decided to stop “shoulding” all over myself. You know how it goes: I should enroll in a fitness bootcamp. I should make a smoothie filled with kale and protein powder every day. But I won’t. Because the truth is that while I do naturally wake up early, I’m an introvert and don’t necessarily want to be social early — so bootcamp is not for me. And kale smoothies feel like way more work in the kitchen than I want to do first thing in the morning. Instead, I decided to really listen to how my body likes to wake up in the morning — slowly, peacefully, and with as much ease as possible.
What I’m about to share is a purely Monday-Friday routine. All bets are off on the weekends, when I might want to laze in bed with a cup of coffee until 10, followed by a big pancake breakfast with my family. I’m not a monster.
Okay. So here’s what my weekday mornings look like these days:
6:20 a.m. — My alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button. When it goes of again at 6:29, I turn it off for good.
6:30 a.m. — I sit up in bed without turning off the lights, and I set my timer on my phone for 15 minutes of meditation. I looked into meditation apps, but honestly, I didn’t find any that I liked, so I just picked the least annoying alarm tone on my phone so that when it goes off at the end of 15 minutes, it’s not a jarring noise. This seems to work for me.
As far as how I meditate, I just do the usual: I sit up criss-cross applesauce (if I try to do this lying down, I’ll just fall back asleep!), relax my hands in my lap and slow my breathing, paying close attention to my breath. If my mind wanders, I bring my attention back to my breath, and I just keep doing this until the alarm goes off. When I first began doing this, I started at 10 minutes, and have recently increased it to 15. Ideally, I’d like to get to 30 minutes. But baby steps.
6:45 a.m. — I drink water — it’s waiting in an insulated tumbler on my bedside table, put there the night before. I’m horrible about drinking enough water, but I found this to be a good way to get 16 oz in early. Then I get out of the bed and open the drapes in my bedroom. Note that the lights are still off. By this time, the sun is beginning to come over the horizon, and I like seeing the sunrise in my bedroom without the jarring light from the lamp. In the dim light, I make my bed, and I make it as perfectly as I can. A couple of weeks ago, I shared this video where the speaker said that making your bed in the morning is a way to “start your day off with excellence,” and the phrase stuck with me. After thinking about it and doing it for a while, i find making up my bed feels like an extension of that meditation and presence, so I make the bed with intention.
6:50 a.m. — I go to my office and turn on the desk lamp — the first artificial light of the day — and I journal for two pages. I know this sounds like I’m capturing all sorts of lofty thoughts, but I promise you I’m totally not: I just write, stream-of-consciousness, for two pages. Sometimes a profound insight might come up, but more than like a grocery list, or a memory of a snippet of the previous night’s dream, or something equally mundane might show up in the pages. But regardless, I push myself to write for two solid pages. I find that just spilling on the page helps me feel more focused when I finally do sit down to work later.
7:15 a.m. — I go upstairs and make sure that Alex has woken up, and is starting to get ready for school. Then I come back downstairs and open all of the rest of the drapes. By now, the sun is up, and it’s a nice way to welcome the morning into the house.
7:20 a.m. — 8:10 a.m. — I get dressed (usually workout clothes), then I get my breakfast (usually cereal or toast), and return to my office and turn on my computer. During this time, I answer any emails that I can answer quickly. I might start drinking my second glass of water as I check email, and more likely than not I’ll check social media during this time, too. At 8:10, I grab my car keys and take Alex to school.
8:45 a.m. — 10:00 a.m. — After Alex is dropped off at school, I work out. How I work out depends on the day. Sometimes I might go to the gym. Sometimes I might go for a hike. Sometimes I’ll just do some exercises at home, using an app or weights, or a yoga mat that I own. I usually make the decision about how I want to move that morning, because feeling like I have to make it to a pre-scheduled class or am obligated to hit the weight floor at the gym a certain number of times a week felt too restrictive. Doing it this way feels more freeing, and ironically, I’m more likely to make movement happen. Then I shower, and by 10 a.m., I’m dressed (as if I’m going to be out and about during the day, even on days when I know I’m going to be in all day — it helps me feel like I’m ready or work), and I’m back in front of my desk again, ready to start my day. (Note: I’ve started doing my to-do list at the end of the day, so the following mornings, I can just dive right in.)
So that’s it. Again, this is what works for me — as an introvert, I like easing myself into my day in as reflective and introspective a way as possible, before working out or being out in the world interacting with other people. Also, even though I enjoy a coffee, I’m more of a tea drinker, and I’ve never been a person who drinks caffeine to wake up, so this might not work for someone who relies on that first cuppa to get moving in the morning. (I tend to have my first cup of tea or coffee at 10, when I finally sit down to work.)
I guess my biggest takeaway is this: I’m beginning to believe that a morning routine is essential for setting the tone for how I’m going to face my day. And creating an effective routine had more to do with thinking about what my body actually craves, over and above the yoga rituals or daily bootcamps or elaborate breakfasts that seem to work so well for other folks. I believe each of us is wired completely differently, and so creating a morning routine that works specifically for our own rhythms is paramount. Also important; being flexible enough to change what’s working and what isn’t as time passes.
So, I’d love to hear your morning routines — is there anything that you do that feels like an indispensable part of your mornings? Please share in the comments — I’m always looking for additional ways to make the start of my day more awesome.