What is your morning routine?
I endeavour to keep my bedtime and wake-up time regular. Currently, I’m in bed by 10:00pm and awake by 5:00am. The essential elements I include in my morning routine are exercise, meditation, journaling, and both expression and learning.
I refer to expression as one’s ability to “creatively” express oneself. For me, this is through writing and speaking (podcasting). I recommend that everyone practices art, whatever it may be, as I believe it’s a healing and healthy exploration of one’s self.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I would say 90 percent of the time I’m very consistent with my routine. It has not always been this way; I’ve taken several years to develop and grow into it.
I only disrupt my morning routine when there is another important event that takes precedence. For example, when there is a nighttime event that forces me to go to bed later than my regular bedtime, I still try to get sufficient rest so I can operate efficiently the following day. This means I wake up later and my morning routine is thrown off a bit. Alternatively, when I have an appointment in the morning between the hours of 5:00am and 10:00am, my morning is also impacted because I have to amend or miss some or all aspects of my typical routine.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
It has changed because I am all for trying new things. Some things have stuck and some have vanished. The critical three for me are exercise, meditation, and creative expression. I feel less accomplished at the end of the day when I miss any one of those. On top of that, I journal. Sometimes it’s a separate practice on its own, and sometimes it forms part of my creative expression and blogging for The Hidden Why.
One change I’ve made is altering the amount of time dedicated to each part of my routine. For example, I’ve tried adjusting the time I wake up. Six months into 2016, I experimented with waking up at 4:30am and exercising (yoga and walking or jogging) for an hour. This practice was good, but it impacted the amount of sleep I got and, therefore, my productivity.
I try other things that come and go depending on the time of the year, my mood, and how my body feels. Cold showers used to be a big part of the routine until I moved to a colder climate and couldn’t or didn’t want to tolerate a one-minute cold blast in what was already a cold environment.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I reflect on my day. I try to think about what went well and what could have gone better. I reflect on what I am grateful for. I visualise what I have mapped out for the next day. I also try to reflect on these things in the morning before I jump out of bed.
Recently I have gotten into a relatively solid nightly routine (not as consistent as my morning routine) of meditating for about fifteen minutes and then sitting in a hot bath for about thirty minutes while reading a book and sipping herbal tea. I also try not to eat during the four hours before bedtime. Currently, at least four out of seven days a week, I eat dinner at 4:00pm.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I’ve used an alarm clock for as long as I can remember. I used to hit the snooze button all the time, repeatedly. Now I don’t. I either get out of bed or I don’t, but now I have enough motivation and passion for what I do that I rarely struggle to get up.
I feel bad when I sleep in, and nowadays sleeping in for me is getting up at 6:00am. I often wake up before the alarm clock—sometimes at strange hours like 4:00am. When this happens, I usually get up and get into my routine early.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
From 5:00am to 7:30am I do my morning routine. I then dedicate 7:30am to 9:00am to my family and the regular household duties that aren’t a great deal. I wash the dishes while listening to an audiobook or podcast. I then make breakfast for my kids and sit to eat with them. I have two girls of ages five and two. My breakfast is a Japanese standard, and it is the same every day except Sunday. It includes rice, miso soup, and pickled or non-pickled vegetables. Delicious!
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Yes, it is usually the very first thing I do, depending on the time the sun rises and any interrupting priorities. It includes either yoga or jogging for about thirty minutes. I also love to swim and try to get four swims in during the week. I currently swim in the afternoon, at around 1:00pm.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I leave it until later in the day. I have conditioned myself to only check email once or twice a day, and to sometimes not touch it at all for a few days at a time. This works well for me, because it means I can do more important things, but it can also be frustrating because I really dislike seeing a full inbox.
I schedule an hour every day or every other day to respond and clear out my inbox. It is an improving practice with work still to be done.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
Not really. My main apps are Google Calendar for scheduling, and sometimes a guided meditation app.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
I usually check it first thing for the weather forecast, but other than that I leave it until my morning routine and other priorities are taken care of. Like email, I only check it when I am waiting for something that is critical to my morning or day, and therefore cannot wait.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Exercising and meditating. After that, expressing myself through my creative work. Oh, and I always have a shower right before I eat breakfast.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
I drink 500 milliliters (16,91 fl oz) of water as soon as I stand up. I believe it hydrates the body and gets the digestion working. I then usually drink a few cups of tea (green or black) while I do my creative work.
How does your partner fit into your morning routine?
My family members typically get out of bed at 7:30am or later, so I have two and a half hours to do my thing.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I’d like to say that on Sundays I keep to my routine, but it’s probably fifty-fifty. I dedicate Sundays to switching off and connecting with friends and family. On Saturdays I am more consistent with my routine, but perhaps not as disciplined as I am during the week.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
In my experience, when my environment changes my routine changes. I try to accept this and not put pressure on myself to be as consistent or disciplined. Usually, this only happens on holidays or when visitors come to stay.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
When I fail to follow my routine I never feel as active or emotionally pleased as when I follow it. That is why I have become better at sticking with it—I know it works.
When, for any reason, my morning is interrupted, I still try to fit in the exercise and meditation later in the day, usually at the first chance I get. Sometimes, however, I just have to let go and accept that it won’t get done. When I miss my routine for a couple days in a row, I really start to notice the effect this has on my mental health, clarity, and overall state of happiness.
Anything else you would like to add?
The advice I would give anyone regarding forming and keeping a morning routine is to experiment and try different things that make you feel good. Often when we feel good, our life is enhanced in all aspects, so why not do the things that make us feel good as soon as possible every day?
I also encourage you to keep trying. It is hard to turn a healthy morning routine into a disciplined practice, and it takes time. However, it does get easier and more natural as you awaken to the real benefits of this process.