Your morning routine sets you up for success — for the rest of the day, week and year!
We only have 25,000 mornings in our adult life.
So we need to make each morning count. And chances are, we’ve already wasted quite a few…
In order to kick-start our mornings with the best possible routine, let’s look at the science behind routines and some famous examples to inspire us:
- Jane Austen would wake up and immediately play the piano, make breakfast with her family, then write.
- President Obama always does his cardio and weight routine, followed by breakfast with his daughters.
- Arianna Huffington begins each day with yoga and meditation.
- Steve Jobs would contemplate this philosophical question, “If today were my last day on earth what would I do differently?”
10 Ways to Make Your Morning Routine Awesome
#1 What’s your intention?
Not all morning routines are created equal. You see so many articles about morning routines circulating through social media, many of them arguing that “every morning you should drink lemon water!” or “every morning you should work out!”
These may be great ideas for some, but before you start buying lemons and dumbbells, you should actually set your intention first: What do you want more of in your day? More productivity? Better health? Happiness? Figure out what your goals are, and move from there.
Think about what you want out of your morning routine. Here are some ideas we will discuss:
- Choose a time to wake up at every day. This helps your body establish rhythm so it’s easier to get up in the morning.
- Have a set of easy breakfast options so you’re not wondering what to eat.
- Create a hierarchy for getting ready. This eliminates mundane decisions like whether you should brush your teeth before or after getting dressed and when you should take the dog out.
- Leave at the same time every day. This, combined with waking up at the same time, gives your morning routine a set time frame.
#2 What’s on your NOT To Do List?
This may seem a little counter-intuitive, but your next step is to create a NOT To Do List. We all have our normal To Do Lists for the day, but it’s important to check off what you should not be doing as well. After all, it’s easier to stop doing things, than to start doing new ones.
Riddle me this: what are the things that you do that take away from your goals or intentions for the day?
Whether you want to stop checking email first thing, not eat right away, keep off social media, stay away from mindless busy work, make sure this NOT list aligns with your intentions from #1.
#3 Set-Up Barriers
Now that you have your intentions and your work to avoid, it’s time to reinforce those things you shouldn’t be doing. Set up time or space barriers to keep you from those items on your Not To Do List.
- Charge your phone across the room, so getting out of your warm and snuggly bed to check social media seems too daunting a task to complete.
- Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” so those pesky app and messaging notifications won’t keep disrupting your otherwise peaceful morning.
- Set a timer for answering emails so you can give yourself a break and maintain your sanity.
- Sleep in your gym clothes, or keep them next to your bed so you wake up and are immediately on the go.
The options and barriers are endless — and I promise, they’re not as scary as they seem.
#4 Choose Replacements
Let’s replace the bad, boring, draining things you no longer want to do with some that can be helpful ways to start your day! What do you want to do instead, what kind of tasks would help you reach your goals? Some ideas that you may benefit from:
- Bed Yoga Stretches
- Reading a chapter of a book
- Drinking Tea or Coffee
- Family Time
- Walking your dog
- Listening to Music/Podcasts
- Painting or Coloring
Make a list of the things you’d like to try and slowly start incorporating them into your morning routine!
And I hate to be the bearer of bad news….but if you’re addicted to coffee and rely on a caffeine boost (or several) to get you through your day, you should postpone your morning cup until after you get to work.
Try to postpone your morning cup of coffee if you can!
Research shows that your cortisol levels are naturally higher for the first one-two hours after you wake up. Higher cortisol levels increase your alertness already and minimize some of the effects of the caffeine. By the time you get to work, your cortisol will usually drop to normal levels, making it the perfect time for an energy boost.
#5 Stop Snoozing
Don’t you hit that snooze button. Board-certified sleep medicine physician W. Christopher Winter says that every time you wake up, hit snooze and then roll back over, you enter a brand-new new sleep cycle. And the extra sleep you do get from snoozing is light and fragmented, which could actually leave you feeling more tired.
You’ll feel much more rested if you just get up with your first alarm — so either intentionally sleep later, or use an alarm with no snooze button.
Success begins the moment you step out of bed.
Before you groggily drag yourself out of bed, spend a few moments making sure you get off on the right foot. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that when athletes win a race, the more expansive their body language and when athletes lose a race, the more defeated their body language.
Instead of hitting the snooze button – try to stretch out in your bed. The expansiveness might give you a jolt of energy. Then when you step out of bed, put your body in the right position by stretching. The cartoon of someone lifting their arms up above their head is actually a GREAT idea for a morning routine!
#6 Get Your Mind Right
Here are three things you should try to get first thing (nope not coffee!) breath, sun and stretching. Why should you add these to your morning routine? Here’s the science:
Sun: Living in Portland, Oregon where we are under almost constant cloud cover all winter, I understand that this step isn’t always possible but, when the sun is shining, take advantage. Before electricity and alarm clocks, the sun was our body’s natural wake up call. Just fifteen minutes of sunlight on your skin in the morning can eliminate your sleep hormones and leave you feeling awake and refreshed.
Water: We usually don’t think about drinking water until way later in the day, but one of the best things you can do is make sure you’re drinking water first thing in the morning!
Oxygen: Do you take a BIG deep breath as a part of your morning routine? Yes this may sound crazy, but researchers have looked at breathing patterns and found that our bodies are actually running low on oxygen first thing in the morning. So if you take a few deep breaths, it can be like a ‘semi-coffee’ for your soul — getting you up, keeping you more awake, and oxygenating your blood.
#7 Get Your Back Right
Roll over right! Chiropractors have found that when people get out of bed without rolling over first, they are at risk of straining their neck or back.
To prevent this, roll over onto your right side, then push yourself up into a sitting position before standing with a straight back (no hunching). It’s the gentlest way to get up, takes the pressure off your heart and back, and is a great, easy ritual to start your morning right.
#8 Get Your Eyes Right
Be gentle on your eyes. Have you ever tried looking at your phone first thing in the morning and found yourself squinting in pain? In those early hours, our eyes haven’t quite adjusted to the light, and phone screens are far too bright to stare at when first waking up. It’s recommended that you wait 20 minutes before subjecting your eyes to screen time.
In the meantime, ease this transition by opening up your curtains to let some soothing, natural light in!
#9 Multi-Task Your Mornings
Hit two birds with one stone in your mornings by working out while catching up on podcasts, meditating while cooking, or even catching up with a friend on your commute. This will leave you feeling both happier and more productive — and who doesn’t want that?
And if you can…wake up packed or pack while you chat.
Research shows that stress is detrimental to your productivity and overall well-being. From making it almost impossible to fully focus on the day’s tasks to leaving you feeling emotionally weary, having stressful mornings is the worst way to start your day. The easiest way to have stress-free mornings is to prepare everything the night before. When you have all of your day’s supplies ready and lunches made, you can get ready and leave without hastily running through your to-do list.
- Need even more ideas? Science of People friend, Craig Kulyk has created a list of 127 morning ritual ideas you can peruse!
It’s important to develop a morning routine that also works on weekends. Set your routine in stone for 7 days a week, so you’ll be able to get the most out of it and keep it up! Routines can be an excellent balance of both work and play, as long as they are congruent with what your goals and intentions are.
Cheers to the best year, and the best YOU, yet!
Perfected your morning routine? Next up…examine your evening routine to ensure you get a great night’s rest every day.
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.
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