It seems like everywhere you look — blogs, articles, self-help books, your social media feed — people are extolling the benefits of having a morning routine.
When I first got on board with having a morning routine, I was in a job I disliked. I didn’t feel self-confident. I didn’t love the environment. I didn’t enjoy the work I was doing.
To keep going, I needed something. Incorporating a morning routine to start the day positively and powerfully seemed the right solution.
So I set the alarm for half an hour earlier than I was already waking up for my long commute. I followed Hal Elrod’s SAVERS (Silence, Affirmation, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading, Scribing) routine from his book Miracle Morning.
I got immediate results.
On the two days of the week when I didn’t have to work and on the weekends, I continued to wake up early and do my routine. After which, I even had some extra time to do things while my husband and kids slept.
It was like being handed extra time, precious when you are a working mother of two small children.
For the scribing part, I started writing in a journal. Writing my thoughts down helped me articulate to myself what I was feeling about my job and myself. And it prompted me to seize the opportunity to become a novelist, my dream job.
When I was transitioning from working to being a writer, the affirmations, in which I told my reflection in the the mirror every morning that “I am a writer” and my reading about the creative life and visualising myself as a successful author were invaluable for helping me get into the writing mindset .
Practicing meditation regularly is also something I’ve been wanting to do for years, and we all know the importance of regular exercise. Getting it out of the way feels wonderful and sets the tone for the rest of the day.
But, as with everything, life has a tendency of getting in the way.
I would go through a spell of staying up late and not being able to wake up before the rest of the household. Or after a burst of a lot of activity and productivity, I would ease up a bit, and before you know it, my routine and motivation had disappeared. Or we would go on vacation, and then my whole schedule would get thrown off, and it would often be weeks and months before I got back into an early morning rhythm again.
And this definitely had a knock-on effect: I was less productive during the rest of my day. I felt I was wasting way too much time on unimportant things. I got frustrated at myself and harried. I had less patience with the kids.
This was the case again for us recently, with Easter, spring break, vacation, and out-of-town visitors. Even before that, I hadn’t been following a morning routine for a while.
When things calmed down last week, I was determined to hit the ground running.
Sometimes when you’ve been off the wagon for too long or not used to waking up early, even something as easy to follow as SAVERS can be too unspecific. So the night before, I wrote on the back of a receipt every little action I was going to take the next morning.
I predicted I would be able to wake up when my Fitbit vibrated at 6:30. I would give myself five minutes to wake up, get a sip of water and go to the bathroom. I wrote this all down. From roughly 6:35 to 6:45, I would meditate. At 6:45 I would put on the tea kettle, go into the bathroom and do 5 minutes of affirmations and a quick visualization while the water boiled. Then I would make a cup of tea and reread Chapter 3 of You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, which I cued up on my Kindle. From 7:00 to however long I had until my husband and kids woke up, I would work on posts for this blog — something I hadn’t done in two years.
For the next three days, I did the same thing: I wrote down on a scrap of paper exactly what I would do the next morning.
And you know what? Having that detailed, written-down plan makes being “good” the next morning super easy. You wake up with a purpose. You don’t automatically reach for your smartphone because that’s what you’ve become accustomed to doing. You know exactly what you need to do, and if you forget, you refer to your scrap of paper.
By the end of last week, I’d ditched the scraps of paper because I’d reestablished my routine. I’d meditated and did affirmations every morning and written two blog posts. During my normal writing time, I started a short story, worked on the outline of a new novel, and taken some steps toward marketing my as-yet-unpublished first novel. Overall I felt more in control of my time.
So you don’t need to have an established morning routine. You just need to make a plan for what you’ll do the next morning.
Maybe tomorrow, your plan is that instead of reaching for your phone first thing in the morning, you do 5 minutes of push-ups and crunches before your shower — no waking up earlier than usual necessary. But make sure you write it down. The act of doing that is a commitment and a reminder. Better yet, write it on a Post-it note and stick it on your phone, so in case you forget and reach for it tomorrow morning, you’ll have a reminder of what you should be doing instead.
If there are certain things, no matter how big or small, you want to build into your life — a few moments of gratitude, a glass of lemon water, a daily yoga practice, time to pursue a creative passion, or some time to clear up the junk that’s piled up in your guest room-cum-storage room — you can make it a priority by writing it down and giving yourself a set amount of time to do it first thing.
Just make a plan tonight and buy yourself some time tomorrow morning to start your day on the right foot.
From there, you can experiment, add on, tweak things each day until you’ve built yourself a powerful and effective morning routine that fits your needs.
Try it, and let me know how it’s working for you!