Do you have a morning routine?
Some of the most successful, productive, grounded, and happy people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting have morning routines that they regularly turn to in order to start their days off on the right foot.
The biggest difference I have noticed my morning routine make in my life is that it switches my morning/day/life from reactive and proactive.
The Difference Between A Reactive And A Proactive Morning
For many years, my morning routine consisted of being entirely reactive. I would wake up, roll over, check my phone, and immediately look at my email inbox or my Facebook inbox. Inevitably, both of these things were like little to-do lists for my time that were written out by other people.
My internal dialogue would quickly switch over to “Oh man, this person needs this from me and this other person needs this other thing! I better get on fulfilling those needs as soon as possible,” at which point I would get out of bed and start providing whatever those people needed. Even if it was something as simple as someone asking me if I’d ever written about a certain topic and me wanting to send them a few links to my best, most relevant articles on that subject matter… I would be starting the day off only with others in mind. And while doing things for others isn’t a bad intention to have, I would be taking no space for myself and this mindset bled over into other areas of my life.
After years of running my life this way, I was run ragged. I chronically felt like I was behind on life and like I could never catch up. As fate would have it, I was turned on to the magic of morning routines and decided that it was time to make a major shift in how I spent my mornings.
I became a man possessed. I tinkered, I toyed, and I experimented. I tried optimizing this and shifting that. And eventually landed on something that worked really well for me. More on that in a moment.
What Are The Major Benefits Of A Morning Routine?
Similar to the practices of exercise, hygiene, and gratitude, the benefits of having a dialled in morning routine are far-reaching and innumerable.
In my life and the lives of my clients who have implemented a regular morning routine, I have experienced/seen them to give you any and all of the following (depending on what your morning routine is primarily focused around):
– Feeling more grounded, content, patient, and emotionally stable throughout the day
– You’ll be more productive in less time
– A quieter, more confident, and less anxious mindset throughout the day
– Improved physical and emotional health
– Improved relationship (to self, partner, and others)
– More money, better sex life, and greater ability to spend more time spent with people you care about
The ‘Small, Medium, Large’ System For Your Morning Routine
I, like you, also live in the real world and understand that having a 30-60 minute morning routine simply isn’t realistic to be able to expect to do consistently.
Even if you have the best of intentions with your morning routine, it is inevitable that there will be days when you get woken up by your kids, or the fire alarm will be going off, or you’ll be travelling and won’t have access to some of the tools that you normally have where you’re staying. And that’s fine.
The point of the morning routine (similar to the point of regular exercise or a meditation practice) is to have it be a touch point that you frequently come back to. But it doesn’t need to be a rigid “Do this series of practices every morning, no matter what!” This expectation of perfection simply won’t hold up in the real world.
Knowing that life will sometimes get life-y, I highly recommend having a small, medium and large version of your morning routine to fall back on for different scenarios.
For example, maybe your large morning routine (your full-on, in-depth process) takes somewhere between 30-90 minutes to complete. That’s great! For the days that you’re able to carve out that much time for your self-care, you can absolutely dig into that entire process. But on the days when you get woken up and are in a hurry, maybe you have a 30 second morning routine that grounds you in a similar, miniature way. And for the in between days, you might have a 5-20 minute morning routine that allows you to take action on some more of the higher leverage activities, without doing a full-on deep dive.
I have this set up in my life. I’ll dig into what my full morning routine is momentarily, but there are some days where I just can’t be bothered to do it, and so I settle for steps #1 and 2 in my routine and call it a day.
You’re a human, not a robot. You don’t need to perfectly optimize everything in your life. There will be some times that simply being is the only morning routine that you will need.
Alright, on to the good stuff. Here is my morning routine in it’s entirety. This is my ‘large’ version and I tend to only do this version 3-5 days per week, depending on the week, whether or not I’m travelling, etc.
My Step By Step Morning Routine
Here are the ten things I do for my morning routine, as often as I am able to.
In my small, medium, and large morning routine, I always start off by connecting to my breath.
I lie on my back, put my hand on my stomach, and slowly and deliberately breathe in and out ten times. And I do my best to keep all of my mental focus on my breath. This is like my version of a bit-sized mindfulness meditation practice, and it immediately starts to ground me into myself.
2. Drink water
I have always set out a full glass of water on my bedside table the night before and, after completing my breathing exercise, I sit on the side of my bed and slowly drink the glass of water to wake up my internal organs and begin cleansing out some of the toxins that are swimming around in me.
Some people like adding lemon to their morning water for added health benefits, but it’s too intense of a taste for me first thing in the morning (HSP’s unite!). Try it out if it appeals to you.
Next, I go for a 30+ minute walk.
I have found a direct correlation in how many days out of the week I can put on my shoes and go for a walk as opposed to looking at any digital screens (computer, cell phone, TV, etc.) and how creative, productive, and grounded I feel. Also, with the water sloshing around in my tummy, and my hips shifting back and forth as I walk, it always sets me up to have a really great morning poop when I get home… which is always awesome.
The more I move my body and enjoy the nature in the area that I live, the better off I am physically, mentally, and emotionally.
4. Journalling on paper + gratitude journalling
After I get home and settle in, I bust out my journal and start jotting down any random thoughts I have/had during my walk.
Walking has been proven to boost creativity and I can 100% back this research from my personal experience. Many of my best ideas for articles, books, etc. have come to me while taking extended walks.
Sometimes I bring a pen and a pad with me on my walks, but I prefer to let my walking time just be my walking time and trust that whatever thoughts that I have that are strong enough to stay with me will stay with me for long enough until I can jot them down on paper.
After my random thoughts in my journal, I spend a few minutes filling out my copy of The Five Minute Journal. This book is great, and if you haven’t checked it out already, I’d highly recommend it.
5. Oil pulling
The next step in my morning routine is the only time that I allow myself to multi-task.
Have you heard of oil pulling? I wrote about it in my recent article on self-care. It is the practice of swishing around coconut oil in your mouth in order to deeply cleanse it (and apparently there’s a whole host of other health benefits from this practice).
I set a time and oil pull for twenty minutes as I start digging into my next task.
(I recommend using organic coconut oil, and make sure you spit it out in the garbage at the end because it can clog up sink/pipe drains over time)
6. Write (creative work)
It feels funny writing a work task as a part of my morning routine because most people think of morning routines as pure self-care… but for me writing is self-care. Much like exercise (or breathing), if I don’t write for a number of days in a row, it negatively impacts my mood. Case in point, as I write these words I am at the tail end of having written four articles in one sitting and I honestly feel like I have enough energy to stand up and run three miles. Writing/creating energizes me like nothing else. It also helps that I listen to upbeat electronic music the whole time that I write (I’ve been loving this guy’s music lately).
Depending on the day, I’ll write for somewhere between 30 minutes to two hours, and then move on to the next step in my process.
7. Nutrient-dense green smoothie
I write best on an empty stomach, and so, with my writing completed, I’ll start my prep for making my green smoothie. I aim to have this every day that I’m in a city where I can reliably get fresh, organic produce to blend up (which isn’t always the case when I’m in certain cities/countries).
Because my smoothie often doubles as my breakfast and lunch, it usually clocks in at well over 1,000 calories… but I wouldn’t know because I don’t count. I just know that it’s a large volume and it’s so thick that I could either eat it with a spoon or I could shake my cup a lot and wait for the green sludge to hit my mouth.
As for my ingredient list, here’s what I usually go with: spinach, black kale, green kale, rainbow chard, avocado, carrot, acai, cinnamon, cacao nibs, pumpkin seeds, almonds/pecans, nori (seaweed paper), himalayan pink salt, coconut oil, a greens powder, a vegan protein powder, and almond milk/coconut milk/water. And if that combination is too green/healthy tasting for you, you can add in banana, blackberries, and blueberries to taste.
(Update: see the deep dive post I wrote on my smoothie habit)
8. Coaching calls and interviews
Generally, after this many steps, it’s about 8 or 9 in the morning (I’m an early riser, usually getting most of my morning routine/writing done between 4-7am… I know, I’m a weirdo like that). This is when I start doing my calls for the day.
I tend to average two to three calls per day. I might do two coaching calls and a podcast interview, or none at all. It very much depends on the day. But yes, the vast majority of my calls tend to happen between 9am and noon.
(Want to become a client? Apply here)
After all of my very heady work (between writing & coaching), I like to get out of my head and into my body by moving around in some way.
This is also one of the biggest things that gets scaled up in my small/medium/large formatting.
At the very least, I dance around my apartment to one of my favourite songs or lie down on the carpet and stretch my body. Or if I’m dedicating more time to movement that day/doing a morning routine deep dive, I’ll go for a run, lift weights at the gym, or take a dance/spin/yoga class.
Regardless of whether I dance around my apartment or go to the gym, whichever course of action I choose I make sure that I start sweating. If I sweat (for anywhere from 90 seconds to 90 minutes) then this portion of my morning routine can be ticked off of the list.
To get the sweat off my body and to get even further out of my head into my body, I finish off my morning routine with a shower.
Et voila! After the full deep dive of my morning routine, the rest of my day is open for me to watch movies, write some more, see friends, play guitar, explore the city I’m in, and read.
Start Implementing Your Morning Routine Slowly
Hopefully reading my morning routine has further validated some things that you already do for yourself or has helped inspire your own personally calibrated version.
If you are in the purely 100% reactive mode that I mentioned off the top of the article, I highly recommend writing out your ideal morning routine list and starting by only incorporating things one at a time.
I understand the desire to go from nothing to everything overnight, but all behavioural change takes time.
Start with the simplest habits first and only focus on completing those for the first week. Let those tiny shifts be the seed that gets planted in your mind to remind you of how consistently great you feel at the end of your newly forming habits. But remember, you’re allowed to (and should) take your time. You have a lifetime to cultivate this habit.
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. If you enjoyed this post, you’ll most likely enjoy reading:
– 21 Of The Best Self Care Practices Ever
– 11 Easy Ways To Actually Love Yourself More
– 7 Simple Life Skills That Improve Everything