It’s 6 o’clock in the morning. Your alarm is screaming at you, and you think to yourself, WTF, already!?
SLAM. Your hand hits the nightstand as you reach to find the snooze button just so you can twist n’ turn for nine more minutes. It’s your average Monday morning.
Just the thought of Betty telling you what to do when you roll into work and the monotony of daily tasks that lay ahead make you want to curl up in a ball and cry.
Ring, snooze. Twist n’ turn. Ring, snooze. Finally, with one eye open, you grab your phone to turn that freaking alarm off.
Do I need to tell you what happens next? The force is strong with this one.
Your finger slowly drifts to Instagram, followed by Facebook (or maybe Twitter) to get your updates, and lastly to your email to see if anything important landed in your inbox.
On Instagram, you notice a couple friends had a fun-filled Sunday, and you wonder why you and your partner wasted that same day on the couch. But, you think to yourself, at least my photo got...wait a minute, only 13 likes? Whattt! That was an amazing shot of me standing by a lake with my dog.
Over on Facebook, you notice Donald Trump has made the headlines again. And you likely wonder one of three questions: Why? How? What? Yes, no matter what camp you’re in, you’ve been moved by the “news.” It’s okay, it’s natural (that’s why they do it, but that’s another topic for another day.)
On to the inbox. Noooo, there’s Betty again. “When you get in this morning, do you mind…”
Each week moves along, every morning the same as the next.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. We all fall victim to this vicious cycle with slightly different characters, varying components—kids, spouses, moms, dads, pets. I’m with you. I know this weight all too well. It sucks. You’re reacting instead of acting. You’re starting your day on someone else’s terms.
In a recent podcast interview featuring Dr. Oz, he brought up morning routines. What’s a morning routine? In short, it’s a process of actions designed by you, for you, to automate your morning.
He said one of the biggest benefits of automating your morning is that it reduces the amount of early morning decisions you have to make. Instead of picking up your phone to see what you missed, what you need to respond to, and how high your cortisol (stress) levels should be before you get out of bed, a morning routine is consistent from day to day, allowing you to step into a day that you’ve pre-designed to work for you.
Dr. Oz goes on to say you want to store your energy to make quality decisions when you need them most, later in the day. Decision making exhausts the brain and body. We confuse exhaustion with low energy. And the majority of our exhaustion stems from brain fatigue.
Or perhaps we can pull from the wisdom of behavioral psychologist Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice, where he reminds us that more choice actually creates decision paralysis. This means that with unlimited morning choices waiting for us in our inboxes and on social media, we default to doing nothing. Hitting snooze. Delaying the start of the day as much as possible. Wondering why our lake/dog photo only got 13 likes.
For me, morning routines are more than just science—they’re personal. I started taking back control in late 2015 by changing the way I woke up. No more first-thing social media checks, no more Facebook, no more news, and no more snooze buttons. Okay, maybe one snooze button. But after that, I was committed to start treating my mornings intentionally.
When I first started taking control back, it was like pulling teeth. I tried working out immediately upon waking, but realized I’d never be able to keep up that pace. Then, I said maybe just push-ups (not a full blown work-out), but that didn’t work either. I needed slower pace. I tried meditating, but my mind would wander. I tried full-blown journaling, and that felt like too much work. There were definitely times I thought screw this.
But everything changed when I recognized something essential: it must be for me, by me. My morning routine couldn’t be a carbon copy of something I read somewhere once.
It took almost a year to settle into a routine that made sense. Today, I begin every single day by waking up at 5am, making my bed, drinking my coffee, writing in my gratitude journal, reading for 30 minutes, reviewing my pre-planned day ahead, and finally sending out emails (then send responses.) Action over reaction.
I’ve seen increased productivity, less stress, and reduced pressure. As it turns out, I’m not the only one. Oh, and better digestion, too. Quite honestly this might be reason enough alone. Fast forward 30 months, and I don’t know how I lived so long without a morning routine.
Okay, so you might be saying, “That’s great for you or Dr. Oz. But, my life isn’t set-up to make this possible.”
I get it, I’m practical. Start small.
Pick a time you can consistently wake up. Yes, control your wake-up time.
Follow it with one activity for you.
Do that every day until you’re able to stack another activity on top. (Or, maybe you decide to switch it up.)
Keep testing and tweaking, stacking and subtracting.
Remember, more activities = more automation = fewer decisions = less exhaustion.
A winning morning routine will consistently get you 90 minutes into your day on your terms.
Your morning might end up looking similar to mine, or it might not. That’s okay—it’s got to be for you, or it won’t stick. For you, it might be singing, exercising, or cooking. For someone else, it might be organizing, meditating, or planning. In fact, I really don’t care what it is. Nor does it matter. Just make it something for you.
That’s my only rule: no reacting to the outside world first thing in the morning. It’s gotta be for you, by you.
Maybe you’ve read somewhere about morning routines. You probably thought it was silly. Maybe it is.
But I don’t think so. Try it out. You’ve got nothing to lose except exhaustion.