Good morning motivation routines and daily habits can be the roadmap for a happier and healthier life. It took me years of working for myself to grasp this.
After quitting my 8-to-7 job six years ago to start working for myself, I felt allergic to routines. I’d wake up and let the day take me wherever it took me. I wanted to be a free spirit. Though I still think it’s important to have some days which are completely free and open to spontaneity, I’ve also learned that having a healthy routine and spontaneity are not mutually exclusive. I’ve also learned that my current routine would have been helpful when I had my previous job, too.
After feeling scattered and having issues with productivity, I decided to give a morning routine a try to get motivated in the mornings.
Since September of last year I’ve adhered to a routine and it has made a world of difference for me, both personally and professionally.
Here’s what my version of a good morning routine looks like:
Wake up Early in the Morning:
Some people are night owls and some people are early birds. I noticed that when I woke up early, I felt better and it set the tone for a more productive day. By the afternoon, I tend to get sluggish and focusing is difficult. If I can catch the sunrise, it’s going to be a more productive day almost guaranteed. After trial and error, my optimal wake up time is 6:30am.
Since I like to wake up naturally, this only works for me if I go to bed earlier, too. When I do need to set an alarm, these things help me:
- Sleep Cycle app: Records your sleep patterns and wakes you up within 30 minutes of a time you set the night before. In theory the app wakes you up when you’re not deep in an REM cycle so that you can feel more refreshed.
- No snooze button if I can help it: If I fall back into an REM cycle and get woken up in the middle of it, it’s harder to feel well-rested.
- Bedtime app on IOS: The bedtime app on my iPhone is great for when I want to wake up at a specific time and not a second earlier. The sounds are more pleasant than the normal phone alarm and increase gradually in volume.
Next I do a daily meditation of anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes immediately after waking up.
I’ve seen tangible and immediate benefits from this practice. It helps me tune in to what my mind is focusing on at the moment. It has also helped me to observe my thoughts a bit more and not always identify with them. I’ve become more aware of the negativity bias, can understand that my mind is not necessarily me.
Meditation also gives me just a little bit of extra reaction time throughout my day. Perhaps you’ll find the same.
When I’m at home I find sticking to my practice easier, however when I’m on the road it often falls by the wayside, and I’m trying to get back into it now. These things help me:
- Buddhify: Guided meditations for various moods ranging from 5-30 minutes with most in the 7-10 minute range.
- Sam Harris‘ guided meditations, like this one, for when I’m having trouble focusing on my own. If you’re new to meditation and want to give it a try, check out his blog on the topic.
- Loving Kindness: This is a Buddhist practice I learned from a Vipassana retreat in Thailand. Begin bathing yourself in a glowing light (whatever color you prefer), then expand outward gradually until you’ve encompassed the entire world or even the known universe, sending love out to individuals and groups of people.
- Breath: When the mind wanders, which it almost always does, focus on the breath. When it wanders again, just come back to the breath.
Sometimes my mind tries to talk me out of my meditation while I’m doing it. Sometimes it wins, but each time I stay the course I get more comfortable with the practice. I strive for progress here rather than perfection.
Journaling has become an essential part of a productive day for me. The hardest thing used to be sitting down without any real clue of what I was supposed to do, and then inevitably getting sucked into social media or emails. Now after my meditation as I’m sipping my morning coffee, I set up goals for the day so that when I do finally take my phone off of airplane mode and sit down at the computer, I know exactly what I want to get done. This has helped so much with my productivity!
For some structure with my journaling, I really like The Freedom Journal, which helps me achieve specific goals broken down into ten-day ‘sprints’. Each day you state 2-3 things you want to get done, and each evening you check in again to see how you did.
It took me about a year to really get into the rhythm of journaling, but once I got over the ‘dear diary’ aspect of it I realized it helps me not only for that day, but to look back on my past goals as well to see how far I’ve come, or what I may have forgotten was important.
I filmed a full ‘day in the life’ here if you want to see this routine in action, plus the rest of my daily habits:
Take My Phone off Airplane Mode:
Checking my phone after I’ve already sent my intentions for the day and done my meditation has been an important step towards better productivity for me. When you open up your phone and check your messages, that hands your day and your intentions over to someone else. When you start your own intentions first, then the other information comes in secondary.
When I’m at home I don’t sleep with my phone in the same room. The physical separation helps to reduce my urge to check it first thing in the morning.
Choose My First Morning Task Carefully:
If I can stand it, I don’t deep dive into email and social media before getting my #1 task done for the day.
This helps me to spend less time in the endless vortex of my inbox and more time actually doing the part that I do best, which is filming, photographing, and writing. Almost nothing is so urgent that it needs my attention first thing in the morning.
Usually I try to write or do my creative stuff in the early hours of the day. I’ve written about my process here in case you’re a blogger or writer too.
Another thing that made a huge difference for me was deleting the Facebook app off of my phone. Now I only have messenger and my Pages manager, but no more newsfeed. I can’t recommend this enough!
Now If I want to sign in, I have to type in my email address and password into the Internet browser on my phone or login using my computer. This stops me from mindlessly opening up my phone and scrolling. I don’t really need to look at my newsfeed, and there’s no benefit to looking at notifications more than once per day. This has saved me so much time and energy! Plus, social media can be such a fake place with only the good stuff showing, and comparing myself to others wasn’t healthy.
I’m not always perfect about this but I’ve become much, much better over the past year.
Exercise is another thing I have found I really need to involve in my daily routine. If I let a few days go by without movement, I find that yet again I get quite antsy and restless. If I want to save time or don’t feel like leaving the house (it happens) I just roll out my mat and do some Pilates from YouTube videos (You can check out the playlists here).
If I am on the road, as long as I can somehow move I am happy. Maybe that’s walking around the town wherever I am, going for a swim, going for a hike, or whatever is suitable.
Depending on the Day, a Call with My Life Coach:
I remember a friend of mine in Germany teasing me because I have a life coach. “That is so Californian!” he joked.
Honestly having a coach makes such a huge difference and checking in with her allows me to set the tone for my entire week. She helps me to stay accountable, to ask the questions that I should be asking myself in order to have a more successful and peaceful life. She has helped me deal with so many things, from my own negative self talk, to dealing with Internet trolls, and pursuing more healthy habits and even relationships. What I love about her is she never tells me what I should or should not do, she just gives me a new way of thinking about things without opinions or an emotional interest like friends and family members have. This is what a perfect life coach does.
Meal Prep on Sundays:
If I’m traveling eating is simple: I just go out and find something that looks good. However when I’m at home I enjoy cooking, but I can be incredibly lazy about it, too.
Something that has really helped me lately, and to be honest I’m quite new to, is prepping food ahead of time like a big batch of lentils, freezing veggie burgers or lentil ‘neatballs’, and making breakfast foods that don’t take much time like overnight oats or chia pudding. I’m less likely to let my blood sugar get low before eating if I make it easier on myself!
While I have found that these habits are a blueprint for success for me, I’m in no way saying that this is the only way to be a successful blogger or human being. I have also rarely been able to adhere perfectly to this routine, but when I do, I find that the structure does me good.
What works well for you? I’d love to read your comments!