/ #Self-care 

How to get started with a morning routine

Why I’m going back to morning routines and how I’m building the habit

I’ve always considered myself as an “ in the flow ” kind of person.

I don’t like habits, routines or structures. I just like moving with the flow and seeing where things go.

That worked quite well when I was single. I had work deadlines and deliverables but, for the most part, I was free to manage my time as I wanted.

Bed at 2am. Wake up at 10. Sometimes I’d work almost 24 hours straight then head to the mall to "celebrate" a job well done.

So I guess you can say when I had my girls, I was kind of prepared to be “up all night, no sleep”. (Cue The Vamps.)

What I wasn’t prepared for was the one-two punch of physical exhaustion and emotional frustration.

Where did it all go?

I love my kids. And the whole point of me being a stay at home mom was to spend time with them.

But when the novelty of new motherhood wore off, I became increasingly frustrated about not having time for myself and “all the things I want to do.”

Every day, I’d wake up and get swept by everybody’s needs and demands for my attention and time.

At the end of the day, I’d find myself wondering where all the hours had gone and feeling like I had done nothing.

The need for structure

When the kids started school, my days had some semblance of regularity.

That meant I had at least 4 hours of free time daily while they were at school.

But if my husband is home from work or if there are errands to be done, that free window gets reduced to two, sometimes one (other times, none).

So as much as I resisted structuring my hours and days, I realized it was the only way.

Be pleasant until ten o’ clock in the morning and the rest of the day will take care of itself. Elbert Hubbard

I remember reading that quote back in high school when I was first discovering self-help and personal development.

Conceptually, I’ve always known that starting your morning with intention would set in motion a domino effect of one good thing after the other.

I just never felt an urgent need to do it.

But once when I found myself at midnight, eyes refusing to shut and brain rewinding the same “Where did my day go?” dialogue in my head, I decided to take Mr. Hubbard’s wisdom to heart.

It’s time to establish a mindful morning routine.

Oh how my free flowing self flinched at that R word. But I knew I had to do it.

Change, now. But how?

Normally, this is one of those things I’d put off for the New Year. You know that magical time when setting resolutions and goals feel so perfect because you’ve got a clean slate.

But I knew this desire for perfection leads to more procrastination and that is never a good thing.

The best time to initiate change is always now.

Once you’ve made that decision, the most important question that remains is “how?”

Putting things off is easy. Creating a new habit? Not always so.

Sometimes, it seems best to just dive in. And if that's how you roll, go for it.

But if you're like me and you tend to resist change, here's one thing to try that may help you get over that initial resistance: set an intention before taking action.

I'd take out my journal, put the discussion up in my head down on paper and answer all the nagging questions that come up.

When you do this, more often than not, you’ll find a hundred million reasons excuses why you can’t do something. But remember, you only need one reason why you can.

Notes to self: How to build a new habit

If you’ve struggled to build your morning routine but you’re determined to do it, here are some of my “ notes to self ” that helped me build new habits and break the status quo.

Know your why.

Why do you want to do this?

Ah the most important question of all. And no, the answer “Because I have to…”just won’t cut it.

Dig deep.

  • What’s in it for you?
  • Who else will benefit from it?
  • What else is possible if you actually follow through?

Initially, I thought having a morning routine seemed so selfish. I wasn’t used to “putting myself first” because I thought good moms were supposed to “put everyone’s needs above their own.”

But I wanted to do it because when I take time out for myself first thing in the morning…

  • I feel so much more peaceful. I can quiet the thoughts racing in my head. My mind is more centered and that helps me to focus more on the things that matter and to rise above distractions or irritations. I am more patient which is always, always a good thing.
  • I feel nourished. When I spend even just an hour to deliberately calm my mind and my body, I feel so much more rested than when I get a full 6 hours of sleep.
  • I feel more productive. When I accomplish my most important tasks first thing in the morning, I am more confident in handling whatever else the day will bring.

This is always phrased in the negative, so let me say it this way:

You can only give what you do have.

Ultimately, when I give first to myself, I feel even more generous to the people around me.

The positive effects of my “me time” cascades to the rest of my family so it’s a win-win situation for all.

Set yourself up for your version of success.

When I set a goal for myself or when I want to build a new routine, I used to set arbitrary rules, expectations or standards I think I should adhere to.

Oftentimes, they are too ideal or unrealistic (hello, waking up before sunrise and mile-long morning routine checklists).

And when I am not able to meet these standards, I feel disappointed and “prove” to myself that I just couldn’t change.

Here’s something to remember:

Your success is yours and you get to define what that means for you.

What would it take for your morning routine to be a success for you?

Define your own rules and standards. And remember to get really specific so you can follow through.

  • What does a successful morning routine look like for you?
  • What do you intend to accomplish with it?
  • What time will you do it? Where will you do it?
  • How will you do it? What habits do you need and want to include in your routine?

Then compile your answers into a doable plan of action.

A note on “successful morning routines”:

It's common advice to wake up at 5am or even earlier before the sun is up, just like most successful people / millionaires / CEOs do.

And it’s cool if that resonates with you and you actually can get up at that hour.

I used to be able to do that. But for this particular season of my life, I am now among those who can’t.

Not because I don’t want to but because my current sleep schedule makes a 5am wake up call counterproductive. I’d be too sleepy to get anything done.

So on most days, I wake up at 7am, sometimes 6. When I am able to wake anywhere between those hours, that’s a win for me.

Start with a minimum viable morning routine

Then build from there.

When you’ve listed down the habits you want to adopt for your morning routine, it’s tempting to want to do them all at once.

I know I did.

Based on morning routines I read from successful people, I made a list of 7 habits I wanted to do every morning. I even drew a tracker in my bullet journal to record my progress.

You’d probably guess what happened next: I grew frustrated because I couldn’t manage to do all of them. When I saw too many blank grids than checks on my tracker, I gave up on the whole morning routine because it was too exhausting!

So if you want to establish a solid foundation for your morning routine, it’s perfectly okay to start simple and small.

Even just one habit for a few minutes a day will do for starters. Then once you’ve mastered that first habit, gradually add a second if you want or need to.

Mix and match your habits until you find a combination that works for you and helps you achieve the intention you set for your morning routine.

In the next post, I’ll share with you the morning routine I’m doing now and the tools I’m using to help me follow through with it.

How did you get started with your morning routine? Let me know in the comments below and would love to hear your story.

Here's to beautiful mindful mornings,