Morning Ritual

My Current Morning Routine

Creating Joyful and Productive Mornings

As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of mornings. I'm most productive in the morning, I'm happiest in the morning, and there are few things I love more than the early, quiet moments of the day. 

Last month, I led a talk at a Rising Tide Society Tuesday's Together event and received a mix of loving giggles and groans from girlfriends in the audience when I referenced my love of mornings and morning rituals and routines. 

While my love of mornings may be a little over the top, I stand firmly behind my feelings. I've found with 100% correlation that if I give myself the gift of a few reflective moments in the morning, my day is more productive, easeful, and joyful. And if I don't, my day feels more chaotic, more rushed, and out of control. And I'm not alone. If we look at the schedules of successful CEOs, presidents, actors, writers, and great thinkers, many of them follow(ed) a consistent morning routine. 

When I talk about morning routines, the most frequent questions I receive are, "what do you actually do?" and, "how do you avoid checking your phone first thing in the morning?" 

Here are the answers, in hopes that they're helpful for you as you experiment with your own morning structure. 

Wake Up.

Many people ask me if I use my cell phone for my alarm. I do! The trick: shut off the alarm, and then set the phone down. No checking Instagram, no looking at email, no checking Facebook, no checking messages, and no checking the news. I know, I  know - just trust me on this one....

If you have a hard time not "checking things" first thing in the morning, I recommend:

  • Turning off notifications for all of your apps 
  • Putting your phone on airplane mode
  • Deleting highly addictive apps from your phone, at least for a couple days
  • Turning your phone to black and white to make the pretty pictures less seductive (On the iPhone: settings >> accessibility >> accessibility shortcut >> color filters. Selecting this option will allow you to turn your phone to black and white by pressing the home button three times in a row, and return the display to color by pressing it again three times.)
  • Turning your phone to "night shift" so that the colors are more subtle right before you go to bed and when you wake up (On the iPhone: settings >> display and brightness >> night shift.)

Lemon Water.

Hot water with lemon in the winter, and room temperature water with lemon in the warmer months. Confession: I'm a little inconsistent with this - I'd say my percentage is typically around 50-60%. There are many suggested benefits of drinking lemon water in the morning related to inflammation, digestion, and overall wellbeing. Some celebrities claim that lemon water is the secret to their flawless, glowing skin. My conclusion: they must be drinking a lot of lemon water, or have some magical lemons. 

While "flawlessness" is a benefit I'll leave for the celebrities, my own finding related to lemon water is that I simply feel a bit better when I drink it. Preparing lemon water in the morning feels as though it adds a little extra boost of intention that then flows into the rest of my day. 

Coffee.

Okay, now for the good stuff. Preparing and drinking a cup of coffee in the morning is without exaggeration one of my single favorite moments of the day. The smell, the warmth, the pause it creates while drinking it....I could go on and on. 

Alongside my fierce love of coffee is awareness of the correlation that is often made between coffee and adrenal fatigue. While western medicine doesn't recognize adrenal fatigue as an accepted diagnosis, I can feel the direct impact of too much coffee, and I'm pretty good at creating stress in my life in other ways, so I've been working to cut back a bit. One cup of the real stuff, and then a switch to a caffeine-free alternative. 

My single favorite local roast is True Coffee Dark Roasted Sumatra

For coffee substitutes, I've tried many. Most haven't even come close to replacing the dark deliciousness of coffee and instead result in a hot cup of sadness. The only one I've found that comes close is Dandy Blend. It's dark, smooth, delicious, and almost tastes like real coffee. It comes in single packs, too, which are great for traveling. 

Reflection

Once all of the beverages are ready (a very important part of the morning), I spend a few minutes in quiet reflection. Sometimes this is a brief seated meditation, or sometimes it's just quietly sitting in my breakfast nook enjoying the sunshine (or today, the sound of the rain). These few precious quiet moments are sacred and grounding and create a bit of spaciousness and stillness that flows into the rest of the day. 

Typically, after this reflection time, avocado toast also makes an entrance. 

Planning and Intention Setting

Next, I take a few minutes to think about my day to set both intentions and priorities. My two favorite tools for this are:

While I'm a sucker for a great planner, a regular old notebook works just as well. 

The key questions I ask during this part of my morning are:

  • What are my intentions for the day?
  • What are the 3-5 things I most want to accomplish?

Here, I also look at my schedule for the day and plan out meetings and logistics. 

Writing, Creative Projects, and Strategic Work 

If I'm going to get something important done, it will almost certainly be completed in the morning. When it comes to independent work that involves writing, creativity, and/or strategy, I do it first thing in the morning, before I do anything else. I do this before I check email, before I log into social media, and before I start checking off less-important-but-more-urgent tasks from my list. I do this for a number of reasons, including:

  • I'm way more productive in the morning
  • I believe in "creation before intake." This means that I like to give myself the time and space to think my own thoughts and have my own ideas before consuming any thoughts or ideas from other people. I believe that this ultimately leads to more authentic, joyful, and original work. 
  • It's easy for the "urgent" list of tasks to take over our days and ultimately our lives. If we don't create time for the "low urgency, high importance" tasks, they rarely get done. 

On a really good day, I've completed my most important task for the day by 8 am. This doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's awesome. 

Tips for Making Mornings Easier 

On the surface this can look like a lot of time and a lot of effort. I often hear from people who say they don't have time for an hour-long morning routine. The good news is that this can all be done in as little as a few minutes. Often if I'm traveling for work, this routine is condensed into 5 minutes and involves a cup of coffee, some quick reflection, and jotting down a few thoughts before heading onsite. But even those five minutes have a massive positive impact on my day. 

Some tips for making mornings easier, and making a powerful morning routine more accessible, include:

  • Prep everything you need the  night before. This means that you might grind your coffee beans, fill the water kettle with water, and set your journal out on the dining room table. 
  • Turn off your notifications before bed. There is nothing more seductive than an iPhone screen full of people who have SO MUCH AMAZING NEWS AND SO MANY BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS TO SHARE WITH YOU FIRST THING IN THE MORNING! Reduce the temptation by turning of your notifications. If you're feeling especially courageous, delete the apps altogether - at least for your first couple days of your new routine. 
  • Go analog. Many of us are on our computers all day long. For me, having a paper-based system for morning reflection and planning has helped me stay away from email first thing in the morning.
  • Allow it to be fun. Morning routines don't have to be serious and heavy. They can be (and should be) fun. Think about what would bring you joy in the morning, and do that.
  • Make it your own.  The above system is what works for me. This might not work for you, and that's great. Give yourself permission to experiment and find the flow that feels right for you. 

I'd love to hear from you as you experiment with your own morning routine - what works, what doesn't, and the things you find most impactful. 

The 5 Essentials of a Great Morning Routine (or, how to have an awesome morning, every morning)

 

If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know that I’m a big fan of morning routines. I find that starting the morning in an intentional, reflective, and mindful way leads to a better day - with almost 100% correlation. Similarly, I find that skipping my morning routine leads to more chaos, more running around, and a less productive, less easeful day - again, with almost 100% correlation.

Lots of people have written about morning routines. Hal Elrod talks about the 6-Minute Miracle Morning. Alex and Mimi Ikonn have this so-cute-it-might-make-you-throw-up version on YouTube, and it’s one of their most-viewed videos of all time. I recently found this website - which brings us a new morning routine every Wednesday. And, many of us have heard about incredibly successful and famous people who swear by their morning routines.

Different people swear by different types of morning routines. Based on personal experience, client feedback, and research, I’ve found that these are the essential elements of a great morning routine.

Creation over Intake.

This might mean drawing, writing, journaling, or planning for the day. The most important thing is that the first part of the day is free of intake - meaning no emails, no Facebook, no Twitter, and I even say, no news (online or otherwise) first thing. This allows us time to connect with ourselves, our thoughts, and our deepest desires - rather than starting the day with requests, updates, and information coming at us from various directions. For me, this involves journaling and writing. For one of my clients, her new morning routine was as simple as “not checking email on my phone until after I get ready” and picking out her outfits the night before. While these things sound small, they were large shifts for her (she was used to checking email on her phone while still in bed each morning and a very chaotic morning, every morning), and they were transformational in reducing the chaos and putting her back in the driver’s seat for the start of her day.

Reflection.

Reflection can look however you want it to. For some people, this means meditating for 10 minutes each day. For others, it means a peaceful walk around the neighborhood before others are awake.  For one of my friends, it’s quietly sipping a cup of coffee. For me, it’s quiet sitting, journaling, and writing. The important thing is that you have at least a few minutes to be alone with your thoughts, before the chaos of the day takes over. We spend a lot of time throughout each day getting in touch with other people’s thoughts and requests - the morning provides a chance to connect with our own.

Solitude (at least for part of it).

Some of us are lucky enough to share parts of our morning routine with another person. When we’re organized enough, Jake and I like to share our Five Minute Journal entries with each other. Several friends of mine have morning workout buddies. And, well, you saw Alex and Mimi. Sharing parts of your morning routine with another person can be a great way to make it enjoyable and to hold yourself accountable. And, I strongly recommend that at least part of your morning is spent alone - even if for just a couple minutes. Most of us spend a lot of time each day on the phone, in conversation, and surrounded by others. Thoreau said, “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” While we may not agree entirely with Thoreau, we start to uncover the magic within us by slowing down, tuning in, and listening.

Movement.

This doesn’t mean you have to run 6 miles or do an hour-long yoga class each morning. It can, however, be helpful to get your body moving and your blood flowing first thing in the morning, even just for a few minutes. This can be as simple as some gentle stretching, a bit of breathing, or perhaps a walk around the block. It can also be fun; a couple years ago, my friend Vicky took early morning daily walks to the lake near her house, and snapped a photo each day. Through her morning walks we were able to view the freezing lake, the falling snow, the spring thaw, and the different colors emerging. I’m a firm believer that movement of any kind should be fun - so find something that works for you and that you find enjoyable.

Simplicity.

This is, I’ll argue, perhaps the most important component of a great morning routine. It must be simple and easy to do first thing in the morning, every morning. I highly recommend that it’s also portable, so that your morning routine can go with you wherever you are. When I’m traveling, my morning routine helps to ground me even during the busiest weeks onsite with clients. I also enjoy the challenge of making time for my morning routine during jam-packed days - this might mean waking up extra early or taking my morning routine “supplies” with me while grabbing breakfast. Inspired by my friend Lisa’s blog post, I recently created a morning “basket” to house all my favorite items for the start of the day. In addition to keeping things organized, this basket brings me joy, because it contains some of the things I love most for the beginning and end of the day.

This is my list of essentials for a great morning (and therefore a more productive and easeful day), formulated based on personal experience, feedback from my clients, and ongoing research on this topic that I love dearly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts - what is your favorite way to start your day?