How to build a morning routine when you hate routines
If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I strongly dislike doing the same thing every day. I’m not a fan of routine.
I also basically can’t function without it. Because brains are weird.
We crave routine. Even when we detest it. If we aren’t intentional about the routines and habits we’re creating, our brains will unconsciously build routines out of little things we’re already doing, like scrolling our phones or flipping Netflix mindlessly.
The times in my life when I haven’t had a solid routine around my morning and my work day definitely weren’t the most productive. There was a whole lot of email checking and 'putting out fires’ instead of getting important work done.
Not that I'm perfect at this by any means, there are still days I struggle with doing the things I know I should. But when I have a solid routine my whole day flows better.
When you prioritize doing things that feed your body and soul you’re then able to be more present for your friends, family, and clients later on.
My morning routine is another tool I use to keep burnout at bay by making sure I’m taking care of myself first - a task that’s not always easy when you run a business. Or are a deeply feeling human.
Or just a human in general.
Sticking with healthy habits has not always been my forte though, as much as I hate to admit that.
For years I’ve wondered what the hell was wrong with me. It felt like I couldn’t stick with anything new for more than a few weeks (or days) without getting bored or burned out, then inevitably frustrated at my own lack of consistency. It seemed like everyone else had this self discipline thing down and I was just bouncing from one thing to the next.
It’s really only been in the last year or so that I’ve been able to build routines around my day that feel good, help me do my best work, and are flexible enough for me to stick with.
The thing that’s helped the most is the realization that there is no one-size-fits-all anything.
We are ridiculously complex beings. We have different body types, staminas, brains, default emotional states, pasts, traumas, goals, etc, etc, etc.
What’s healthy and right for you might not be what I need at all.
You have to look at what’s actually right for you, where you are, in this season of life. Your body and energy levels. Your particular needs and desires and goals.
It sounds stupidly simple, I know. But it wasn’t until I really started paying attention to what I actually needed that I was able to build a sustainable morning practice that helps me have the type of day I want.
For example, I tried for years to build a workout practice by doing different quick, usually high intensity workouts first thing in the morning. I’d go all in for a month or so, then burn out and not exercise at all for weeks. Rinse. Repeat.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that my body doesn’t want or need that level of intense movement first thing in the morning. I was only doing it because I saw other people running or doing HIIT workouts at 5am and thought I should too.
Now I start my morning with a 15-20 minute yoga flow, and it’s become a habit I really enjoy. I can feel myself getting stronger, I’m moving more, and I’m easing into my day instead of hitting it head on. I've recently added a gym workout in the evening after work when my body is ready to burn off some steam.
Maybe your mornings need to be about managing your anxious thoughts, boosting your confidence to manage employees, or just waking up and getting pumped.
The important part is figuring out what really feels good to YOU, deciding how you want your day to feel, and finding little habits you can implement to help craft that.
What my morning (usually) looks like
My mornings right now are all about creating mental space, getting my body and mind moving, and kick starting creativity. I feel like it’s my responsibility to do what I need to to bring my best work to my clients and my own content.
From the time I get up until the time I start work I’m trying to be super intentional about what I take in - no social media or email first thing. I’ll read a book instead of scrolling on my phone with my coffee. This was tough at first because the phone habit is strong, but it’s something I really enjoy now.
I’m meditating with my partner for ten or so minutes early on, then going to my yoga mat after he leaves for work.
After yoga I’ll usually listen to a podcast and let myself have time to get ready more slowly and intentionally. Some mornings this is a shower and makeup, others it’s just getting dressed and washing my face.
When I come into my office around 9 I start the day with free writing three pages to clear my head, then I spend a little time either drawing for my challenge or working on a watercolor piece just for fun. Once those are done I’ll start in on my work for the day.
Where I used to check email first thing I’m now either creating content or jumping into my most creative client work before anything else. This has made a huge difference in the creativity I can bring to the table, because I’m not letting any other noise in until I’ve done my creative stuff.
After lunch, when I’m starting to wear down a bit, I’ll move away from creative work and into the more technical/admin tasks or meetings, depending on the day. I try to have a little tea + meditation routine after lunch too, to help me recenter and focus for the afternoon.
How to create a routine that works for you
Your routine might look entirely different than mine. Maybe you need to wake yourself up in the morning with a jog and you do your best work in the afternoon.
The first key to creating something you'll actually stick to, that sets you up for a better day, is understanding yourself well enough to know what you need and where you'll trip up.
The second is patience. Don't try to overhaul your morning all at once. Find one or two very small habits you can implement at first, then slowly build from there.
Think "I'm going to get on my yoga mat every morning" instead of "I'm going to work out 30 minutes every day before breakfast!".
Ask yourself these questions to find little habits you can start adding into your morning:
What do I want more of in my day?
What do I want less of in my day?
What do I always say I want to do, but never make time for?
What is my current morning routine?
What type of movement feels good to me in the morning?
What type of food would feel nourishing in the morning?
What is the easiest baby goal I can set to start building my habit?
What's your morning routine look like? What would you like it to look like? What small adjustments can you make to get there?