I’ve been all out of sorts lately and feeling out of my element. In one of life’s contradictions, while I love change and embrace the thought of it, with such change also comes feelings of anxiety and instability. As I began a new job last week, I realized that I had grown accustomed to my former morning routine, my established way of beginning my day. Now that I am commuting to work (in a car!) more frequently, figuring out a new job in a new role, and adjusting to the limited daylight, my body and mind are revolting.
Routine by definition means “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.”
So if you have kids, a job, a spouse, or anything else that gets you out of bed, chances are that you do the same thing every morning. Whether it’s brushing your teeth, drinking coffee, reading the newspaper, checking your emails, waking up the kids (or being woken up by the kids on a regular basis), taking a shower, these are all simple routines you have probably established and just do without thinking about it. But when I refer to a morning routine, I’m not talking about just performing these types of tasks.
I’m talking about the deliberate stringing of tasks (whether they are for hygienic purposes or not), that in the aggregate create a morning ritual. When completed, a morning routine empowers one to begin the day with purpose and intention. It means waking up at the same time every morning, doing the same things in the same order, on a daily basis. Obviously there is room for slip-ups or variation based on what is happening in reality, but for the most part, morning routines are performed to bring some calm, control and discipline to one’s life.
As luck would have it, as I’ve been floundering and trying to get my bearings after a week on the new job, the New York Times published this article about best practices for morning routines employed by highly successful people. Here is a summary (including some of my additional thoughts):
Set your wake-up time after experimenting with it. Figure out what time works for you. If you want to exercise and do other things in the morning before you need to wake up the kids or go to work, then you may need more time and to wake up earlier (see #2 below). Change your wake-up time gradually. I’ve read changing in 15-30 minute increments a couple of weeks at each new time until you get to your desired wake-up time works best. For example, if you wake up at 7AM now, for the next few weeks, wake up at 6:30AM. How do you feel? If you need more time, then in a couple of weeks, change your wake-up time to 6:00AM. And keep doing this until you’ve reached your ideal wake-up time.
Make time for what energizes you. It can be many different things including exercising, yoga, meditation, etc. For my husband, it’s making a cup of coffee and sipping it gingerly while reading the news and catching up on email. I’ve noticed that when he doesn’t do this, he is more frazzled. If you decide to wake up earlier (#1 above), then in the “extra” time you’ve gained, start doing the most rewarding things first to keep you motivated.
Create a sleep routine (or a night routine). The quote from Ben Franklin comes to mind- “Early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Try to go to bed at a reasonable hour and the same reasonable hour every night. There is a direct connection between your sleep routine and your morning routine.
Adapt your routine to different situations. If you travel frequently, create a morning routine that you can use while traveling. Or if your kids have a terrible night, adapt your morning routine enough to allow yourself to feel grounded for the rest of the day despite the disruption. Life happens, so there’s no need to be so rigid and dogmatic with your morning ritual. Know the different parts of your morning routine, how long the different tasks take and what is absolutely essential to help you have a better day.
It’s OK to miss your routine. It’s OK to not be perfect in establishing your routine. It’s like a diet. Just because you have one slip-up doesn’t mean you can’t get back on track the next day. Or the day after that. Remember why you want to create a morning routine and what the intent and purpose behind it is. And then give yourself a break when you miss it.
I’m looking forward to experimenting in the coming weeks in creating a new morning ritual to bring more harmony, peace and calm to my life.
Do you have a morning routine? Is there something that you do in the morning that is unique? I love that Marie Kondo, the author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” immediately opens the windows to let in fresh air.