In 2014, Forbes published an article detailing the morning routines of 12 successful women. The women come from different backgrounds and thrive in their respective fields. Interestingly, almost all their morning routines include breakfast and some form of exercise. None of them seem to hit the ‘snooze’ button either. I found this very fascinating; is there really an ideal morning routine that can gear us up for a successful life?
Of course, a morning routine alone didn’t bring these women success. Hard work, determination, and grit probably played a far more important role in their stories. However, as an old saying goes, “For the first thirty years of your life, you make your habits. For the last thirty years of your life, your habits make you.” Hence, it could be beneficial to inculcate good habits, starting from the early hours of the morning.
So here are 3 simple ways to improve your morning routine:
1. Prepare the night before
Setting yourself up for success is really important when it comes to achieving your goals. Whether your goal is acing a test or creating an awesome morning routine, preparation is key. There are a few things you can do the evening before to ensure that your morning runs smoothly without any hiccups. These include:
If you’re working from home, clean and set up your workstation.
If you work in an office, pack your bag and pick out your clothes the night before. Even better, iron the clothes as well.
Prepare breakfast. You can try a make-ahead breakfast that you simply heat up. Otherwise, just ensure that you have the ingredients necessary to whip up a quick breakfast. This often gives me something to look forward to in the morning and motivates me to get out of bed.
Spend 5 minutes the night before to draw up a to-do list. Include 4 to 5 things you want to accomplish the next day. Derek Franklin, in his Skillshare course entitled How to Create an Awesome Morning Routine, stresses that without a plan, we may act on impulse without clear intention. Without a clear plan, my coffee time in the morning may morph into some Netflix time with my writing placed on the back-burner. A simple to-do list ensures that I wake up in the morning with a clear vision of what needs to get done.
2. Get sufficient, quality sleep
7 to 8 hours of quality sleep is important so you feel rested and energetic to tackle your day. To get quality sleep, it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene basically refers to your actions and environment before going to bed. Good sleep hygiene practices include:
Avoid bright lights after sundown. Opt for warm, dimmer lights if possible.
The bright light from phone screens can disturb sleep so opt to switch on the night mode or blue light filter on your phone after sundown.
Make your sleeping environment comfortable with minimal noise.
Get some sunlight during the day to improve melatonin release that helps you to sleep at night. As Alex Korb suggests in his book, The Upward Spiral, take a walk outside in the sunshine for a few minutes. This has the added benefit of boosting serotonin and improving your mood. These days, we can’t go out much, so whenever possible draw back the curtains and open the window to let some sunshine in.
Practice a relaxing night routine that could include a warm shower, brushing your teeth, moisturising, and reading a book for 15 to 20 minutes to get yourself ready for sleep.
Adopt a regular sleep schedule where you sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Eventually, your body will adapt to the timing and get you prepared for sleep at your bedtime. Also, your biological clock may naturally start to wake you up in the morning without an alarm (but you should still set your alarm, it’s never wise to tempt fate).
Avoid snoozing. Snoozing in the morning, however tempting it may be, can leave us feeling tired and groggy when we wake up. This is known as sleep inertia (click here to learn more). Fun fact: In 2019, Eve Sleep, a sleep wellness company, actually urged Apple to delete the snooze button from its Clock app, yikes!
3. Exercise or movement
According to Travis Bradberry, an expert on emotional intelligence, "Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses." Personally, I prefer to exercise in the evening with my husband. He’s my accountability partner and I’m his. But I figured it may be worthwhile to incorporate a little movement or exercise in the morning to enjoy some of this neurotransmitter action.
Recently, I’ve been stretching and doing some lunges and squats in the morning. It certainly helps to wake me up. Yep, nothing screams “WAKE UP NOW!” like a deep, glute-burning lunge. There are some interesting 10-minute workout videos online that I hope to try out in the days to come, including:
The last two are quite ambitious for me, especially in the morning before my coffee, but I’ll give them a try.
Having said all this, it’s important to keep in mind that, yes, there are some good elements that you can incorporate into your morning routine such as having a hearty breakfast, but ultimately there’s no one specific routine that fits all. To each their own. What works for you may not work for your friends or family. Some people may like the same breakfast every day while others may prefer some variety. Early birds may be up at 5 am while night owls may sleep in until 8 am. There are those who want a little quiet time as they enjoy their morning coffee and then there are those who prefer family-style breakfasts and conversation.
There’s no right or wrong here. Explore different practices and figure out what works best for you. If something feels good and motivates you to get out of bed in the morning, whether that’s a new coffee trend or breakfast with your family or reading a book, go for it! I’ll leave you with a quote by writer and traveller William C. Hannan, “The day will be what you make it, so rise, like the sun, and burn."