If I can have an amazing morning routine (aka a Morning Rituals practice), so can you
My younger self cannot believe it. She simply cannot fathom that I have a morning routine, and the fact that I’m sharing it with you has left her flabbergasted. My younger self and I, you see, Dear Reader, are not Morning People. Far from it. She hated mornings. If Ollie Dog lets me, I continue to take my waking slow, as the poem goes. While I’ll never be a chipper early bird, my morning routine has become the best part of my day.
I call this time my Morning Rituals, and this practice helps me to start each day doing things I value the most. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that the “Live” in Wonder & Sundry’s tagline has a lot to say about Rituals & Habits, including a Morning Rituals practice. Since I know that starting these things can be tricky, I thought that I’d share my morning routine with you to take from it what would work for you in your morning routine.
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Create Your Morning Routine
Starting your day with what’s most important
By the time I get to the end of my Morning Rituals practice, I will have had a little time to think, create, get grounded, expand my mind, move my body, and have a plan for the day. This helps give me energy and a sense of accomplishment as I start my day.
It’s a valuable enough practice to me that I’ve kept it up for years, even when I was ridiculously busy and had a merciless commute. I didn’t necessarily do these activities for the same amount of time that I allot for them now, and you certainly should work within your schedule. But the elements have remained roughly consistent, even if I now have more time for them than I once did and have changed around the order as it suits me.
What would be part of your morning routine?
I’m sharing my morning routine to give you an idea of how one can work. If you’re a writer, this might work well for you, too. Maybe you paint or really like math problems. If so, yours would look different. The idea here is to do something that you value first thing each day. Our busy lives often leave us tending to the urgent tasks of the day, and, if we don’t make time for them, the things that we value most can just slip away.
If you’re starting from scratch, I recommend taking it slow at first, with one or two activities/rituals, including the basic get up and get dressed parts of this routine.
My typical morning routine
While no two mornings are exactly alike, this is my daily Morning Rituals practice. You’ll note as you read this that my Ollie Wally Doodlebug Good Boy figures into my morning rituals. He’s certainly made getting up earlier, if not easier, then more consistent. I love having a dog, but I had a solid morning routine before I had Ollie, and a canine companion is not essential to a successful Morning Rituals practice.
If you have a dog, you know that you don’t always need an alarm clock, so, while I might set an alarm for the latest I need to get up, Ollie Doodlebug tends to insist that I join him in his eagerness for breakfast before it goes off. He humors me, sometimes, for a minute or two while I remember my name and the day of the week, and then we head downstairs and out the door.
He does his business, and I take some deep breaths (not at the same time). In winter, the fresh air shakes the remaining sleepy guys away with particular effectiveness, though I’m usually still a bit bleary.
TIP! If you don’t need to rush out the door first thing in the morning (I do envy you), get some fresh air by opening the window and taking a few deep breaths.
I then give Ollie the first bit of his breakfast (he eats so fast that I break things up into First and Second Breakfast—my dog is a Hobbit). I get a glass of water and put water on to boil for coffee. Ollie gets a little treat and then his Second Breakfast, and I grind my beans and make my pour over. I do not have an economy of motion during this time, and moving around the kitchen and telling Ollie that he’s a good boy helps to wake me up a bit more.
I then get my ReMarkable tablet, book, and timer and head to the couch.
TIP: Leave your phone plugged in and out of sight. This practice is best done without your phone (I do use mine a bit at breakfast, but I’m trying to curtail that, too).
Unless I’m still zonked and in danger of falling back to sleep, I take a few minutes to do absolutely nothing but drink my coffee, pet Ollie, and stare out the window. There’s several maple trees in view, and I enjoy taking in the changing light on the bare branches this time of year, noticing how the colors change from charcoal to brown, and sometimes deep forest green, depending on the light, and how the branches stretch across the sky like pen strokes.
I let my mind wander. Sometimes it’s very boring, but other times, I think of something interesting. Mostly, though, I just enjoy a few minutes of calm. We lead such busy lives, and it helps to remember that we can just sit for a few minutes and not do anything productive.
TIP! If you’re really dragging, move this to later in your routine that day.
Next, I pick up my ReMarkable tablet (if you don’t know, this is a tablet that mimics the look and feel of writing on paper but has the benefit of syncing to the cloud. The tablet doesn’t have any other smart functionality, not even a clock, so you don’t get distracted. I am a superfan). I write the day, date, and place where I am. Then I begin my Daily Writing Practice.
Write what I sense
I’ve blogged about my Daily Writing Practice before, and I highly recommend it. It begins with setting a timer for ten minutes and writing what you sense. I take each of my five senses and write about my experience, trying to come up with new and creative ways to describe things as a challenge. Sometimes, I really like what I’ve come up with. Other times, I’m still tired and a bit distracted, and it’s a little flatter, but the point is to do it. In addition to a creative writing exercise, this practice can also help to calm an busy mind, as it has its roots in an exercise meant to help with panic.
Then, I turn the page, put “Write” at the top, and set my timer for thirty minutes. I write whatever pops into my head. Again, sometimes I love what I wrote, and it gives me ideas. Other times, I’m writing about my coffee or whatever is bothering me or what I’m going to do that day. While it’s hard not to, I do not place any expectations on this writing time. It’s practice. Like stretching before you do something strenuous. I didn’t always do this for thirty minutes or an hour—I started with ten—but the point is to just do it. Every day.
TIP! If you do this practice, and I hope you do, remember that consistency is more important than writing perfectly. Ten minutes a day, every day, is better than writing for an hour once and then never again.
After my Daily Writing practice, I check in with myself. How am I feeling (now that I’m hopefully awake)? What went well yesterday? What do I want, and what would be my first step to getting it? I take a little time to see myself doing the things I would need to do to get my wants.
I personally call this “Dream and Scheme,” but I got the idea from Mel Robbins and the High Five Habit, and I encourage you to check that book out. She’s a huge proponent of propelling yourself out of bed, and I will never, ever, do that, but I find this exercise really helpful. If something interesting comes up in this exercise, I make sure to tag it for addition to my Big List.
I’ve thought about what I want, now I express gratitude for what I have. I’m a big believer in gratitude journaling and have kept such a journal for years. We think an awful lot about what we lack, but, I’m guessing that if you’re reading a post about morning routines, you have more than most. I thank the Universe, but you can aim your thanks wherever you think it appropriate.
TIP! Include why you’re grateful for something to deepen your practice.
I draft an intention for the day next, using the Highlight Exercise from Make Time, which I can’t recommend enough. It helps. I’ll check this later against my calendar and adjust if I forgot that I have something else on (I am probably still a bit sleepy).
TIP! Setting an initial intention and then finalizing it a bit later gives you a chance to consider other options.
Having done my writing for the morning, I then set the timer for another 30 minutes and read. A number of years ago, I found that the number of actual books I’d read had dropped to a pitiful number—and I’d been a real reader—so I make time to read each day.
TIP! If you’re looking for something to read, check out the Wonder & Sundry Bookshop!
I’m someone who eats breakfast a bit later in her morning, so this is when I eat. In recent months, I’ve worked on having a healthier breakfast to start my day off strong.
I allow myself a little phone time, too, though I’m trying to stretch my reading time a bit more and to reduce my phone usage. Still, I do enjoy doing the Wordle and seeing how many words I can rack up in Spelling Bee, whilst catching up on the day and scrolling Instagram. I love my phone, but I am trying to curtail how much I use it.
After breakfast, I get ready for the day. I make my bed and stretch (this is something I’m particularly proud of getting into the habit of doing, and I talk about tracking it using the Big List, but I also mention it in the Books that Help post with Atomic Habits).
I get myself cleaned (sorry, no real skincare tips here, other than moisturize and use sunscreen) and dressed.
Ollie and I then take a good walk. As you know, I use my walks to catch little glimmers, or what I call my daily wonder, just a little something I’ve spied that makes me happy.
TIP! Wherever it fits in your morning, get some real exercise. It really helps.
Finally, I confirm my intention for the day against my calendar and get on with the day! Finalizing my intention helps to ensure that I have identified something achievable and that I didn’t miss anything. Checking my calendar earlier can be distracting to me, and I also like having a little time to mull it over as I walk.
TIP! Include your final intention in your calendar, so you can look back and reflect on your progress and celebrate wins
A good morning routine is worth the time
It can feel a bit indulgent, these Morning Rituals, and they are a bit, I suppose. I recently found myself rushing through them a bit to get on to important things. Here’s the thing—these things ARE important. They are important to me. Writing, reading, stretching my mind and looking out for small wonders—these things mean a lot to me. This practice helps me to do the things that are most important to me, and that makes this time important. That realization shook something loose in me, and I’m finding myself enjoying my morning rituals more than I have in a while.
If you start your day with what’s most important to YOU, you will keep it top of mind and atop of your priority list. If you don’t prioritize what’s important to you, no one else will.
A few more tips
Here’s a few more tips to help you get started.
- Start small—I’ve blogged about this before, but seriously think about ten minutes for an exercise, and you don’t need to do everything. Especially if you have a hard time waking up or have time challenges, you’re far more likely to have success with this if you start small and build up.
- If you aren’t a morning person, use being a little groggy to go on autopilot for a bit. I do the first bit of my routine through muscle memory, and I let it help guide me until I’m awake enough to think.
- Have grace with yourself—this isn’t an all-or-nothing practice, and you might need a little time to get consistent with this. Just keep going, and it will become second nature.
- Leave your phone somewhere you can’t see it. I highly recommend getting a timer for these exercises.
- If you can’t leave your phone, use the Forest app to keep you from accidental scrolling.
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