Is your morning routine actually dragging you down? Here’s how to assess what you’re doing right and wrong first thing in the AM.
The weather forecast called for 3-6 inches of snow and freezing rain. The wintery mix wasn’t allegedly going to hit the area around 9 am, and when I woke up that morning, the ground was clearer than my urine back when I was drinking a gallon of water a day.
My scheduled workout for the day involved hitting the back and biceps, two body parts that aren’t the easiest to train at home with only a 45-pound kettlebell.
I decided to call an audible on my typical morning routine and workout earlier in the day.
My morning routine before the snow day went like this:
- Wake up at 5:30 am and allow for ten minutes to clear the cobwebs. I’d fill the time with making my bed, picking up any clothes from the night before, cleaning up any mess left in the kitchen, and occasionally cleaning up cat vomit because he likes to leave me special gifts while I sleep. One morning I stepped barefoot on a pile of cat puke. That morning I learned to walk with my head down in the early AM.
- I’ll chug some water with my vitamins and make a hot drink (I don’t drink coffee. I’ll talk about that another time), and sit down with a book. I read at least ten pages. It’s one of my daily goals and why I was able to read 24 books last year.
- I hit my back with a foam roller for about five minutes, hit my legs with a massage gun for another five minutes, and stretch my body out from sleeping.
- Ten minutes of personal journaling.
At this point, I’d typically work on one of my own projects until the time came to start remote work for a company. At the end of last year, I decided to end those relationships, and I’m now working for myself full-time.
Before that happened, I’d work on projects for other people from 9 am until about 4 pm, typically taking a break to work out and eat lunch around 11:30.
Now, let’s go back to the snow morning. I’ve finished up my typical morning routine, and I’m dressed and out the door to the gym. I crank out the workout, go home, shower, eat breakfast and settle down at my desk by 9:30 am, ready to work.
I stopped working around 11:30 am, thinking its time to workout and eat lunch, except…well, I’d already worked out, and I wasn’t that hungry because I’d just eaten a few hours earlier. On top of all that, I was actually in a zone doing work and didn’t want to break concentration to go and exercise.
I thought about my morning routine when I finally stopped to eat lunch and asked myself this question, “Why was I sticking to a morning routine that no longer worked for my life?”
The only answer I could come up with was that the routine worked, and produced results, so why screw with success?
I didn’t realize the issue until that snowy morning – for once, the forecasters were correct – but my morning routine was getting a little too routine.
How To Change Your Morning Routine
We all have a morning routine. At least, we should, and if you don’t, I recommend reading Atomic Habits by James Clear to better understand why morning routines are crucial for success.
A morning routine puts people in the right frame of mind, and some people will stick by this routine come hell or high water or random cat vomit.
What if some parts of your morning routine are actually detrimental to your success?
What if just a few tweaks, pokes, pulls, and changes could kick the day into high gear?
If you believe your morning routine needs a kick between the ass cheeks, or you’re just not sure if you’re doing everything to set up your day for success, give some of these ideas a try.
Write down everything you do.
Everything. Every single moment of the morning needs to be written down.
From sipping hot coffee from a “BING BONG! FUCK YOUR LIFE!” mug to standing out on your porch in a Joe Exotic thong, chronicle every step and detail of your morning routine.
I even want you to write down the stuff you know you shouldn’t do first thing in the morning, like check your phone and..really, that’s the only “bad” thing to do first thing in the morning besides a line of coke. Checking your phone first thing in the morning is just ASKING to have a bad day. Knock it off.
Review everything you do.
Review your routine and ask yourself what each specific activity does for you and ask yourself, “why do I do this activity at this specific time?” I’ll use myself as an example because this is my damn website.
I’ve recently stopped journaling in the morning and now write in my journal before bed. I made this change for a few different reasons, not just because my thoughts bore me to sleep.
The original intention behind the morning journaling was to write about myself since my days were filled with writing content for other people. Now that I work for myself and on my own projects, well, I talk about myself all damn day.
My journaling routine moved to nighttime to avoid being on my phone after 9 pm. There are numerous reasons why using your phone at night can screw with your head and sleep, so I’m opting to write about my day and screw with my head in completely different ways.
Think of a morning without doing each habit.
Next, ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t do the typical right after waking up. How would this change your day either positively or negatively?
“If I didn’t read ten pages of a book in the morning, I wouldn’t have time to read during the day. I wouldn’t read as many books and wouldn’t hit my reading goal for the year.”
“If I didn’t stretch out my back first thing in the morning…”
“If I didn’t stand outside in my Joe Exotic banana hammock, then I wouldn’t…”
You get the idea.
If you come to a habit that serves no real purpose, it might need to go in the “knock that off” pile along with checking your phone first thing.
Think of habits that might need to return.
The next step is to ask which old habits or routines have fallen by the wayside that might serve you now. Again, since this website is mostly about me, I will use myself as an example. You’ll get used to all the attention I give to me.
Remember earlier in the article when I mentioned that the first ten minutes of my day are spent just clearing out cobwebs and doing general home upkeep? I also spend that time listening to motivational content on YouTube.
This is part of my morning routine for two reasons – it puts me in the right frame of mind going into the day, and it drowns out all the negativity that tends to swirl around the head in the early morning.
For about six months, I stopped listening to YouTube first thing in the morning. I’m not sure why. It just kinda slowly found its way out of my morning routine. One day I noticed that falling into a bad mood early in the morning was becoming easier and easier. I couldn’t figure out why until I went back and retraced all the morning habits that fell by the wayside. The YouTube habit quickly became a part of my morning again.
Things To Remember About Your New Morning Routine
Remember, this experiment of changing up your morning routine isn’t necessarily about eliminating but more about rearranging. If a specific habit was utterly useless, there’s a strong chance you’ve stopped it by now.
This deep dive into your morning routine examines why you do the things you do, keep what works, dump the rest, and add in some new habits.
When adding new habits to your morning routine, keep these suggestions in mind:
- Don’t add things you know you’ll hate. Just because an expert or friend suggested adding a specific habit, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. You’ll hate doing it and start to dread the morning and feel like a failure when you give it up. For example, many experts suggest adding meditation to a morning routine. I’m sure morning meditation is beneficial for some people. In fact, I believe meditation should be a daily habit for everyone, but I just can’t shut my eyes, sit still, and focus for ten minutes when I just spent the last 6 or 7 hours sitting still with my eyes closed.
- Don’t try and make a ton of changes in one day. Gradually add and subtract new habits to your morning.
- It’s OK to write it all down. Don’t try to remember every new habit and say, “OK, today I’m going to do this, but I’m going to stop doing this.” Make yourself a morning to-do list of new habits until they just become second nature.
- Don’t be afraid to tinker. Tinker as much as possible. You’re not going to land on the perfect morning routine from the start.
And finally, reassess the morning every six months.
A New Way To Tackle The Morning
For once, I was thankful for the snow.
Switching my workout from the middle of the day to first thing in the morning has turned out to be a massive shift in my day. One simple minor adjustment to my morning routine has made all the difference and puts me in the right frame of mind before starting my creative work.
If you change your morning routine, I want to hear about it, so shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need help developing a morning routine or wish to discuss one-on-one coaching, let’s talk!