Here we go again. It’s that time of the year when hope is high and resolutions are abound.
It’s the time when posts like ‘I’m On Track’ and ‘Achieving My Dreams’ litter the Reader, and I don’t blame anyone, because I too am feeling the promise of the New Year.
But before we go on seeking the perfect goals to commemorate 2022, let’s not forget the more important thing involved here—doing the actual work.
And you know what’s the most reliable way to launch you into a day’s worth of work? A solid morning routine.
Here, I quote Ryan Holiday, who in turn quoted the Stoics, which I’ll just paraphrase here: It’s important to have a morning routine that shakes the laziness out of your system.
Now isn’t that a peach of a quote?
So if you’ve never been a morning routine person, let’s talk about getting started.
Why should you care about morning routines?
Because it’s basically the same as setting resolutions for the New Year. The only difference is, you’re writing (or executing) a list of resolutions not for the year, but for the day.
And get this. It provides instant satisfaction too.
Finished your exercise? That’s one frog eaten. Done with writing? Hell yeah! Meditated? Sweet. And all that before your partner wakes up? You can’t tell me you’d go through all that without feeling the least bit of optimism.
But morning routines go beyond feeling good. It’s also the best time to pursue your actual resolutions, because when else are you going to have the energy to work on your dreams?
You think writing is going to be easier after work, when you’re all frazzled from staring at a screen all day? You think you’ll be in the mood for exercise after braving the rush-hour commute?
The other beauty of morning routines is being able to carve a sense of control into your day. No more will you be at the mercy of the life’s unpredictable challenges. With routines, you can build your own sanctuary where you control your destiny.
Provided you follow through, that is. And speaking of which…
How do you maintain your morning routine?
As much as you may hate routine, you already know what it feels like to maintain one. After all, you brush your teeth twice a day (hopefully). That what this is in a nutshell. A series of somewhat automated tasks that you just do.
But getting used to a routine isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do, especially if you haven’t started one yet, so here are a few quick tips to get you started on creating the best morning routine. For you.
Prep the night before
Weirdly enough, the more deliberate I am with my planning, the more I get done the following day.
Sure, I already do my morning pages, workouts, and meditation somewhat automatically, but if I don’t really lay things out as if I were a five-year-old, I’d end up scrolling through Instagram and losing one hour instead.
To combat this, I need to make sure I’ve prepped everything the night before.
This means having my workout routine ready to go so I don’t need to think one on the spot. Making sure my pens are filled and paper is ready for my morning pages. Putting the mat at my usual meditation spot instead of having it rolled up in the corner.
Sounds simple enough, but all it takes is one little excuse to derail your entire routine. For instance, one day I was looking for my socks to go run, and that ended up with me organising the storeroom for thirty minutes because it was much easier than exercising.
So make sure to set yourself up for success—way in advance.
Be tangible, be concrete
This isn’t just good advice for writing, but also for nailing your morning routine. If you want to blast through your tasks, they first need to be actionable.
‘Work out’ isn’t actionable. Neither is ‘learn something new’. Instead, replace them with ‘do as many burpees in 30 minutes’ or ‘memorise two new Chinese words’.
This is especially important for morning routines—as compared to the afternoon and evening counterparts—because you’ll still be dazed from sleep, and your mind will do anything to get you to skip your plan for the day.
I know because I’ve failed multiple times. And it’s all because I had vague tasks.
Give yourself enough time
Sure, your workout might last an hour tops. But what about mopping the floor? Sorting your sweaty clothes? Bathing and getting dressed?
There’s nothing more discouraging than feeling behind on your morning routine, so make sure that you either give yourself enough time to complete your peripheral duties, or cut down the amount of tasks you have.
This also applies to downtime between tasks. Are you the type to blast from one thing to the next? Or are you like me, and require a five-minute separator of sorts to reset? Factor all that in, especially if you have a job and are required to be punctual.
Alas, trouble could still beckon despite your best intentions.
You know the saying ‘fail to plan and you plan to fail’? Well, sometimes planning still involves failing, so here are some of the possible problems that could derail you from your morning routine.
You hate the mornings
No matter how much you’ve tried, you can never get over the fact that you feel like crap when it’s early out. In fact, you function best at night. This isn’t your fault. There’s a word for this too, and it’s called chronotype.
Apparently, it’s part of our evolution that has served as our species’ survival mechanism. The staggered bedtimes meant that we didn’t get eaten at night during our ancestors’ days.
Pretty cool trait, huh? Not as useful these days, I’d wager. Still, telling you to fight your genetics is like saying that your introversion is fake.
The good news is that you can still have a morning routine. You just need to do it a few hours later than the early birds.
You don’t feel rewarded
Let’s face it, most of our goals feel inspiring, but the paths we need to take are often riddled with Potholes of Procrastination or Cliffs of Crappiness (nouns capitalised for extra effect).
So it’s pretty common to dislike your routine a little. It is work, after all.
But if you find yourself regularly hating what you have to do and not feeling any sense of accomplishment after, then maybe you need to go back to the drawing board.
Honestly? I hate writing and exercising. Me, the self-proclaimed writer and fitness enthusiast. But at least I feel great once I’m done. That’s how I know they’re right for me.
Similarly, you’ll want to find the tasks that mean something to you, and not just force yourself to meditate just because science says so.
You fear a crappy day
Having a morning routine does give you a sense of control, and it allows you to attack the day first before it attacks you. But life can always find a way to kick your ass.
Maybe your cat dies, or a flood totally wrecks your home. We can control things a fair bit, but there’s so much more that we can’t.
This is exactly why we need to maintain a routine. How can we be prepared for the unexpected when we can’t even take care of the things we can control?
At the end of the day, a morning routine is a piece of spiritual armour you don before heading out into the world. But there’s no telling if life has packed some armour-piercing rounds for the day, so don’t be surprised to find an arrow in your chest (literally, even) on your best day.
What’s a good morning routine?
So you’re all excited and you want to control the things that you can. Or maybe you want to get a running start on your day, but you’re not sure exactly how to start. Well fret not, because I have a quick list here for you.
- Get moving. This is one of the best ways to start the day. It’s cliche for a reason, because it works. I find it hard though, as I’m often disoriented in the mornings. But exercising early instead of during the afternoon provides me with a much stronger boost, for some reason.
- Work out your thoughts. I’ve found Julia Cameron’s morning pages to be an indispensable tool for my creative mind. I don’t know if it’s woo-woo, but I write much more on the days I complete this practice than on the days I don’t.
- Calm your mind. Again, this is a tough one to do right after waking, because how do you not fall asleep, am I right? It’s a good practice to fit into your mornings though, as it grounds you and adds a barrier of protection against the stressors of the day.
- Read and learn. You can either open up a non-fiction book or slot in a Duolingo session here. I used to learn Chinese in the mornings, which I’ve now replaced with reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Either way, it’s a good way to ensure that you’re mentally progressing in life.
- Pursue your New Year’s resolutions. We’ve been through this, right? This is the best time to pursue your goals, when you’re still fresh and ignorant to the negativity of the world. I write 250 words for my novel. Feel free to break down your own goals.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should use this list as a guide, because who’s to say what does and doesn’t work for you?
But what I do know is that the only way you’re ever going to get things done is by actually getting them done. It’s just like a healthy diet or exercise—you can’t make someone else do them for you.
To have the best morning routine, you should optimally improve in three categories: your physical, mental, and spiritual health. You can add financial health to that too, but I believe that once you are in the right place, everything else will take care of themselves.
So here’s to being proactive and crushing your mornings! Or afternoons, because chronotype.
You know what else could be a cool morning routine? Reading my emails once I get around to sending exclusive content that you won’t find on this blog.