Mornings are the perfect time to head into life with a fresh start.
A new chance to change directions. A new opportunity to think differently than you did yesterday. It means more room to see life from a different (and more empowering) perspective. A fresh chapter for you to write about where you want to go, who you want to be and how you want to live. A new day to be healthier.
But even though I love the feeling of waking up to a new day, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the A.M chaos that so many of us don’t have the luxury of avoiding. And as someone who’s more productive after the sun goes down, I tend to work way past midnight, which means that getting a full seven to eight hours of snooze time each night isn’t possible if I also want to get started not-so-bright and super early the next day.
So I’ve decided that I’m OK with not being an early morning person.
But…I still want to make my mornings work for, not against (read: frantic and frazzled) me, so I followed my intuition and simplified, simplified, simplified.
It was also was easier than I thought, thanks to the inspiration I got from the following morning routines that I’d discovered during my quest to start my day calm, focused and motivated:
1. De-clutter the night before.
Mornings have the potential to energize or drain you, says Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist and as such, deserve some time and attention so you head into your 24 hours on a stress- and anxiety-free foot.
His remedy for accomplishing this? De-cluttering your living space the night before. Worried about not having enough time to get your life in order every single night, let alone sleep? Take a deep breath and relax because Becker’s exercise should take no more than 10 minutes from start to finish, to do.
It simply involves ten, 60-second bouts of putting away or organizing your: Shoes and coats, mail and newspapers, clothing, electronics, loose change and receipts, bathroom counters, kids’ homework (if applicable), kitchen dishes, utensils and food, kids’ toys (if applicable) and paperwork.
Plus, says Becker: The more often you make this simple ritual a part of your evenings, the more efficient you’ll become at getting it done and the better your mornings will turn out.
2. PUT YOURSELF FIRST.
Courtney Carver’s life changed when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006.
But instead of letting her diagnosis control her life, the author of the blog Be More With Less used it as an opportunity to change how she lived.
One of the changes she made was to put herself first, starting with a morning routine that revolves around caring for her health and well-being: She’s up by 5:30A.M and spends the first part of her morning writing. Then, she goes inward by turning her attention to her body and mind with stretches, yoga or walking before wrapping up with a little more quiet time, breakfast and reading.
A big plus of finally giving herself permission to put herself first, says Carver, is that it has allowed her to better serve the people and projects she cares about the most.
If the thought of making space in your morning for you feels overwhelming, know this: Carver started out with just 15 minutes and was gradually able to expand it to what it is now by downsizing her life and quitting her job in 2011. While you don’t have to quit your job to find your A.M. zen, you can carve out more time for yourself by reducing the clutter in your home and simplifying your meals and wardrobe to start with.
3. KEEP THINGS SIMPLE.
Leo Babauta’s idea of a perfect morning is starting his day slowly, mindfully and peacefully.
How does he achieve this blissful state of being? By keeping everything he does in the A.M as simple as possible. And for him, it meant whittling down his morning activity to just three things that he loves: Sitting still, reading and writing.
While Babauta, who is the author of The Power Of Less and runs the blog Zen Habits, acknowledges that this exact routine won’t work for everyone, he recommends using it as a template for your own morning. The goal? To find your own place of calm and intention before the chaos of life starts to seep into your day.
4. EDIT YOUR LIFE.
Aja Edmond’s morning isn’t complete without a little bit of editing…of her life, that is.
This means focusing less on having a fixed routine and more on taking the steps necessary to make her mornings as efficient as well as hassle- and anxiety-free as possible.
Edmond, a minimalist and entrepreneur, accomplishes this by identifying her morning bottlenecks (such as putting together an outfit or drawing up a to-do list) that take up the most time. Then, she tackles them the evening before so that she’s able to wake up with a clear sense of purpose and minimize any disruption to her morning flow.
Her other morning ease-creating steps include:
- Doing away with an alarm so she wakes up gently and pleasantly (not recommended if you struggle to wake up or have time-sensitive commitments).
- Having a daily uniform by paring down her wardrobe to a set of easy-to-mix-and-match essentials.
- Investing only in items that she loves and needs to look and feel her best (see Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up and Carver’s Project 333 to get started with this concept).
Whether you’re working full time or self-employed, there’s always a thing or two you can do to make how you start your day as easy and calming as possible, says Edmond.
5. meditate, hydrate and nourish
Despite not being much of a morning person, Anthony Ongaro makes sure that he starts his day on the right note with a handful of activities that make the biggest possible positive impact physically and mentally.
For Ongaro, who runs Break The Twitch—a blog where he shares his life as a minimalist and helps others (like me) who are interested in living with less ease into the process—a good morning starts with 10 deep breaths while he’s still in bed to help wake up his body and mind.
This gentle process of waking up continues in the kitchen, where he downs a big glass of ice-cold water to re-hydrate. The most enjoyable part of Ongaro’s routine? Saying “yes” to coffee on most mornings but going for half cups at a time to keep his caffeine buzz to a moderate, jitter-free level and him, focused.
More of a lunch kind of guy, Ongaro will occasionally opt to for nourishment in the A.M with a simple combination of peanut butter and banana, eggs or an avocado before heading into the rest of his day.
While this routine isn’t carved in stone, Ongaro’s formula for a calm, stress-free-morning is to simply focus on the handful of things that will help him get going in a positive way.
6. slow down. waaaay down.
Cait Flanders’ first morning routine comprised waking up at 5.30a.m, opening her laptop and diving straight into work.
For six months, this arrangement felt fine…until it triggered a panic attack. This is when Flanders, who blogs about mindful budgeting and living, realized that she craved for a healthier routine.
So for a couple of years, she experimented with different routines, leading her to realize that she didn’t want to make her morning about forcing herself to stick to a rigid routine or aim for specific, measurable outcomes like waking up at a certain time, starting her day with exercise or eating only certain foods.
Flander’s goal? To enjoy the first part of her day to the fullest, and for her, this meant slowing down so that she could wake up naturally, not check her phone first thing in the morning, and make her morning hers, all hers.
This is what I wanted for myself too.
Once upon a time, my mornings looked like this: I’d be jolted awake as my alarm went off. Three snoozes later, I’d still be rolling around in bed, putting off sitting upright and getting on my feet as long as I possibly could. But when I finally did, my body and mind felt like they’d been asleep for a hundred years—slow and heavy. My spirit? Down. Not surprisingly, my bad days outnumbered the good, and something had to change.
As I realized how important my mornings were in setting the tone for my entire day, I set about experimenting with small habits that would help turn my sluggish, gloomy mornings around.
Three years later, my A.M routine has evolved into this:
7. GRATITUDE, SELF-CARE AND INTENTION.
The old me would wake up and immediately be flooded with negativity and dread.
Why? Because the first thing that would come to mind was everything that went wrong the day before (and with this mindset, what didn’t go wrong?). Now, I deliberately focus my attention on three things or people that I’m grateful for. Today, it was my legs, amazing mom and the handy little MacBook Air I’m writing this blog post with.
I don’t aim to wake up as early as possible, since I’m often known to work as late as possible, but I make sure that I wake as gently as I can. This meant giving my shrill, 80-decibel alarm clock away and welcoming one that simulates the sunrise into my life.
The next thing on my morning agenda: Hydrating my body with a big, icy-cold glass of water and my A.M grooming routine, even if I’m working from home that day. While I could very well work with bed hair in my pajamas within the privacy of my home office, I choose not to because I tend to feel lazier when I do.
And because it’s so easy to go about my day on autopilot when life gets in the way, I set an intention before I start working or head out the door. This way, I’ll be less likely to drift aimlessly throughout the day, waste my time scrolling through my social media feeds, eat mindlessly or say “yes” to things when I really mean “no, thanks”.
What about you? What’s your morning routine like?
Struggling to get started with a healthy morning or daily routine? Use my free, Daily Self-Care Ritual Workbook to take better care of you and add more calm into your day:
Photo credit: Unsplash/Tyssul Patel