OLW 2014 | Morning Routines

by | Productivity Advice | 33 comments

For me, a spacious life includes less rushing and more slowness. It is only in slowness that you can really breathe and be present.

I’ve worked hard over the past few months on reducing obligations to create space during my day and to reduce my technology use to create space in my mind.

I’m even slowly working on creating space in my home. I just completed a huge overhaul of my office closet, which has left me feeling lighter and more ready to tackle the next challenge.

I see this more spacious life on the horizon, but know I am not there yet. I have more work to do.

One Little Word 2014 | Morning Routines

To find this freedom I crave, I need more control. I believe I need to regiment certain aspects of life to have even more opportunities to choose how I spend others. I believe I need to create solid routines, especially in the morning.

My Current Morning Routine

Routines have always been difficult for me and it became exponentially harder when I became a mother. I embraced the uncertainty of each day and am now more “go with the flow” than ever before.

This is difficult to admit, but I get up about 2 minutes before my daughter. My husband tells me it’s time. I pop out of bed and start trying to rouse the princess from her slumber. It’s go-go-go until they get out the door.

Then it’s time to work. More often than I prefer, I’m still in pajamas at lunch time because I went straight to my office. But there’s a huge contradiction here.

I know my most productive time is the morning and that being un-showered kills my productivity.

So why do I do this? I’m just trying to get enough sleep.

The problem originates on the other end. We stay up too late, often spending time together with our favorite shows and sometimes spending time alone on our computers.

Unfortunately, it sets the stage for a cycle of getting up just in the nick of time and losing any sense of focus on my own self-care.

To find more space, this has to change.

My Ideal Morning Routine

I’ve thought a lot about what needs to happen and am frankly intimidated by it. It needs to start the night before with a 10:30pm bedtime. I’d love to be in bed reading by 10, to unwind from the day.

This would help me realize the wake-up time of 5:30am that I believe would create the space I need.

I want to be able to wake up more slowly with a shower, coffee, and reading from my favorite blogs. I want to exchange pleasantries rather than half-asleep grumpies with my husband. I want to feel ready to face the day when it’s time to wake up my daughter, so I can do the best that I can to send her off ready too.

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this, but I’ve never taken action. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m ready.

Learning the Ropes

I can’t pretend this will be easy, but it’s not complicated.

My natural inclination is to spend a lot of time reading about morning routines. However, I know that research can be a crutch to avoid taking action.

I feel it’s more important to develop any morning routine that has me actually getting up at 5:30am before I learn how to make the most of it. In fact, iteration almost always creates better results than trying to create perfection from scratch.

I will begin though by asking to hear about you. Have you ever made a change like this? Have you successfully implemented a new routine? What does your morning look like?

Did you find this post helpful?

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  1. Marina @ Heartmix

    I also have put creating a morning routine on my OLW action list. Why is it so hard??? I love the idea of plotting out your ideal. I need to do that. Maybe writing it out would help me envision and therefore make it more of a priority.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Just look at how hard it is for our kids to adjust to a time change. Add in the freedom of being an adult and it’s a recipe for reacting to the situations we create.

      I know that one aspect that is difficult for me is being able to complete a series of tasks in order if Emily is awake. So I end up forgetting or getting off-track. They are all little things, like taking medicine, but getting those basics taken care of before she gets up I think will do wonders.

  2. Meg

    I am right there with you on getting up at the last minute in an attempt to get more sleep, and then feeling rushed. While we only live about 7 miles from work, we use public transportation so that 7 mile trip typically eats up over an hour of our mornings. I usually do go to bed early enough, but sleep poorly, so my goal is to create both a better morning routine and a better night time routine to hopefully help me sleep better. I hope you’ll continue sharing your progress, I’d love to follow along!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      I think an added benefit will be more clarity to take advantage of that commute time too! I will keep sharing as it helps with accountability.

  3. Karen G

    I am a huge proponent of a set morning time. I was always the night owl, thinking I did my best after everyone went to bed. But mornings were a nightmare and I hated how I felt every single morning. I finally got a timer that had no snooze. I couldn’t find a clock without one so I got a timer and figured out the time every night. This was important to me. I knew that I would have to get out of bed if I didn’t have a snooze. The snooze was too easy for me to hit. I chose 6 because that gave me 15 min with my husband before he leaves for work. An additional motivation was to give him a hug before he left. I was amazed at the benefits after 30 days. It took me 3 months to feel like it was a habit, but I waited 11 months before going back to a clock with a snooze. Now I usually am awake before my alarm. I don’t feel groggy or out of sorts. I see my husband every morning. I have time to pray, read my blogs or do anything else before the boys get up. Our days go so much more smoothly. I can now, get up later once in a while and it does effect my habit. But really I get up at 6 almost exclusively everyday of the week. No sleeping in on weekends and I love it. Yes I go to bed earlier, but can even stay up later here and there and not find it a problem. Oh, I am a stay at home, homeschooling Mom. What also helped was that I could tell myself that if I get up and really need to I can always take a quick 15 min snooze sometime after lunch. Sometimes I do, and those too are helpful…quick snoozes that are easy to wake up from. Life is good and I wish you the best in moving toward a solid morning routine.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Thank you for sharing this. It’s inspiring to hear success stories, especially how good you feel!

  4. Tina Campell

    I try to get up by 6:30/7:30 the latest, have a cup of coffee or 2 reading my email, checking out blogs and then a shower. cereal then off to work for the day. Most of my crafting comes at night or the weekends, I am a night person and can stay up till midnight 1:00 AM (the need for the alarm clock in the AM) about the only thing that I need to change is I should be reading my Bible study at some point before hitting the shower

  5. Cheri Stine

    I did have a morning routine. I would get up early so that I would have plenty of time to exercise and shower before the official start of my day. It was wonderful and it worked! Gradually I became lazy, sleeping later and rushing around to start my day. That’s how my life is now. I miss the feeling of accomplishment and being in control that I had before. But I understand your fear of change. Even knowing that I will feel better, I am so reluctant to put myself back on a strict wake up schedule. Maybe knowing that you are working on this too, will be the impetus I need. Good luck to both of us and making a positive change!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      A sense of control is a good word for this. There are so many things in life that we can’t control that having routines is a strong and healthy coping mechanism. Good luck – I know we can do this!

  6. Alissa W

    I need to do this too. I have done it before and just need to get back into – I agree that it totally starts the night before with a good evening routine or just a firm bedtime. I am fairly self-motivated when I make a to do list with box for a check mark, so I’m going to try adding that to my new daily to-do list. I find it hard to be motivated since there are really only 2 mornings a week I need to be up at a certain time, however I know the benefit of getting up before my girls would be huge so I should probably do it. I like the idea of an alarm with no snooze.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      If you just got up the same time every day as those two days, what might that change for you?

  7. Kim McKelvey-Smith

    In dealing with my ongoing migraine (12+yrs and counting), I’ve tried going to bed early (9ish), normal time (11ish) and late (1ish). Nothing works. I just lay there tossing and turning. Have tried listening to the tv, the radio or stereo, even the ‘nature’ sound from my clock. I have come to the conclusion that when my brain shuts down for the day is when I’ll fall asleep. Most times that’s not until after 3am. Unless I take half an Ambien and then I’m like a zombie the next day if I do. So I deal with 4-6 hours of sleep each night on average. Sometimes I don’t sleep for 2-3 days straight except for catnaps of a half hour or so. “Sighs”……

    Mornings have always been a sore point with me as I’m naturally a night-owl. But I try to be up by 9, take my turn in the bathroom after making sure Dad is up and ok. Then I’m downstairs turning on my Keurig and thinking about my chore schedule and what I actually feel I can accomplish that day.

    After my first cup of coffee or tea (depending on my nausea level) I make sure Dad has had his breakfast and meds, then see to the first chore. Sometime shortly before noon I have my first meal – I try 5-6 small feedings daily due to my new Diabetes regimen. Once I’ve accomplished this I can get down to my other daily things.

    Since re-focusing on what is most important to me, I’m working through formulating a schedule that is doable, not just staring at it wondering why I’m not motivated lol. Your site and insight, Jennifer, have given me hope that I can pull it all together again and be more productive with my scrapping as well as getting things done around the house. Big project this year is to finally create a room for all of my crafting out of our spare bedroom and I’m really excited about the project even though I know it will probably take me until the end of the year.

    Baby steps will get me there. 🙂 Great article my friend!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      I’m so glad you’re embracing baby steps as part of focus on a bigger vision. Even if the late and early parts of your day are never easy, I can see that you will reach your goals!

  8. Dawn Farias

    So… yes to everything. 🙂

    This post resonated with me very much. So much that I can’t really comment because it may become the Comment That Never Ends. I’ll just address the morning routine question.

    My morning routine is waking up about 20-30 minutes before my kids so I can have coffee and wake up slowly before getting the kids up. If I’m feeling sprightly then I make up the bed, empty the dishwasher, and start a load of laundry. Once the school-aged kids are off I settle into the day with my toddler by cooking my breakfast and getting dressed while she roams about.

    A really big change I’ve made lately is making sure the kitchen is cleaned before I go to bed. The dishes are done, the coffee is prepped, the floors are swept, and the counters/tables are wiped down. I’ve known for a long time that having these chores unfinished means that my yesterday is stealing from my today. Waking up to functionally cleaned kitchen and dining areas makes a huge difference in how my day begins – whether I feel overwhelmed or hopeful.

    My creative energy is highest in the morning. It’s hard to take advantage of that time when there is a young child at home, but I am trying to take advantage of nap times (now that they’re regular, LOL).

    Thanks for this post. 🙂

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. You raised some really important points about ending a day well in order to start another.

  9. Alissa W

    I like the idea of consistency as for what it might change for me – I’d need to figure out something that would motivate me to get up, like if I got up so I could scrapbook for 30 minutes or be creative? I’m not sure to the answer to that question but thanks for posing.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      I’m not sure I could scrapbook first thing in the morning, but getting up could create an opportunity later in the day.

  10. Mary Livingston

    I too have come to the (grim) realization that the morning is the last frontier of truly unused space in my life. I can wring minutes out here and there in the evenings–my job is demanding and when I exercise or have another commitment I am not home until about 8.30 or 9 PM. And then I’m trying to fit everything in and sometimes don’t feel good about anything. I’m actually hoping that by doing stuff in the morning that is more indulgent–like having some TV time in the morning before starting my regular getting ready routine–I’ll get myself awake and feel less like my entire day is always consumed by work and obligations. You’re renewing my desire to see if I can really make this happen…

    • Jennifer Wilson

      That’s a great idea. I always feel guilty for reading blogs during the day, so that’s why it is definitely on my list for morning “me” time.

  11. Edie Banks

    I am a morning person- but I realized I was rushing off to work because I was on line or playing candy crush. I made a rule I had to brush my teeth by 7:15. I quit playing candy crush- and actually feel calmer before work. Sometimes it’s just one thing that helps us with a new habit. I also eat the same breakfast almost everyday.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Small things can be so so powerful. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Laura

    I have to leave for work by 6am, and I am not a morning person. I’m up at 5:30, just enough time to dress (I shower at night), hair and make-up, pack my lunch, and get out the door. I use my 1 hour + commute time to wake up fully and be ready for the day. I collect my thoughts, listen to podcasts to stimulate my brain, and when I arrive at work I’m ready to be civil, even friendly, to coworkers and students and tackle my day.

    At night I shower, lay out my clothes, shoes and jewelry, get my lunch ready and put in the fridge, and make sure everything I need is in my backpack. This expedites my morning and reduces stress.

    Where I need to work is going to bed earlier. I’m not naturally tired until 11 or later, even when I’ve gotten up at 5:30. I like having time to spend with my husband after the kids go to bed, so no bed for me until after 9:30, when the 13-year-old goes to bed. This means I don’t get nearly enough sleep, and generally need at least one nap during the week to make it up. Not the healthiest sleep habits.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      I first discovered podcasts during the days of my own commute. You are so right about them waking up your brain.

  13. SaBineK.

    I try to write a few words in the morning in a document called my `morning pages`. I write a review about the day before (you also can do a reflection before you go to bed, but the morning works better for me.) So I reflect the things from the day before and it often reminds me to put some things on my todo list for today. I get up before my family to make coffee and lunch and sit down to read my blogs or workshops after family leaves home and get my `magic moment` with a cup of coffee to get ready for the day.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Love this idea of a ‘magic moment’.

  14. Dani

    I have just been through a routine change in my house, too. My daughter has always studied in the afternoon and this year her school changed to the morning. I had been working in the afternoons and evenings for almost 5 years and due to my daughter’s school change I changed my work shift also so I could spend more time with her and I was really worried about this change since we have always been nocturnal people in our house. However it ended up being the best. I think we’ve been having the best time, I can have time with my daughter in the evenings, I can prepare her to school and I also have time to spend with my husband because she’s going to bed earlier. Today I woke up a litlle bit earlier then the rest of the family and I also liked the idea of having more time for me before all the movement starts. So I’m thinking of going to bed earlier so I can get up earlier to have some time for me.

  15. Tammy W

    I am a night owl and revert back to that in the summers when I make my own work schedule. I have been working full-time for about three years now and I am in bed by 10:30 – 11 or earlier depending on the week. I love sleep but wanted to try out a routine of getting up a hour earlier to do my workout DVD before my two kids got up, so I did it for 6 weeks and hated it.

    I am not an athlete, but as a health professor I know that exercise takes energy but should give you energy back to get through the rest of the day. It didn’t for me. I needed my sleep more to function and exercising at lunch or after work even though it took time way from my day, still works best for me. To try to rise before my internal clock wants me to is tough.

    As a health professor a large part of my job is teaching others how to set realistic goals. I always suggest starting small – 2-3 nights early to bed, early to rise for one-two weeks, then 3-4, etc . . .I know there is research that says go all in but in my experience in helping others and my own journey I have found that easing in is more likely to lead to longer term results.

    Good luck Jennifer – I look forward to hearing how it goes.

  16. Jennifer Wilson

    I’ve done the up-early-for-exercise too and also hated it tons. When I lived in DC I went through a long stretch of getting on the metro at 4:30am, to get to the gym by 5:30, to work out until 6:30 and get to my office by 7:30. I drank a lot of coffee that year!

    Thanks for your tips!

  17. amanda wilder

    Ah I love this topic! I could talk about it all day! Actually I do. As a an optimal living coach one of the primary areas that I coach people on is creating daily rituals. I believe that what we do in our mornings and evenings can shape everything in our lives from our relationships, and income levels, to happiness and soul connection.
    I try to see my mornings as sacred- one of my meditation teachers said the morning is like the “childhood of your day” and the health of your morning effects the rest of your day. I have learned to actually get excited about getting out of bed in the morning. My gratitude practice is essential for this + having something to look forward to like yoga, reading, creating, an amazing cup of coffee with my husband as the sunrises…. this is what gets me- a life long night owl- out of bed at 5am. I now do more in morning than I used to do all day and I love it! Evenings of course are an essential part of having good mornings, so I have found it important to build rituals and special routines around night and sleep as well.

    Ariana Huffington talks about about the sacredness of sleep in her new book. I also just heard about “spiritual bathing” which sounds kind “woo woo” but also relaxing if you are into that kind of thing.

    I think their is something to listening to your own natural rhythms thought as well. If you thrive and feel the way you want to feel as a night owl, then maybe cultivating that strength is the way to go.

    I find myself shifting a bit with the seasons for sure, and needing lots of days to just “flow” without a strict routine. (However I can go too far to that side and get nothing done ever if I don’t watch it!)

    Right now I am working on increasing my 30 minutes of yoga every morning to 45 minutes, and also being fully present to breakfast with hubs, because wow my mind wants to start in on my to-do list and emails as soon as I hold still. Mindfulness and simplicity is on ongoing practice!

    Thanks for this post and great topic- and If anyone else actually read this far and is also super interested in sharing optimal living morning and evening juice feel free to find my on skype at urbanartistenfp or amanda at mythirstylife.com. Light and simple scrapping;)

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Thanks so much for adding to this discussion Amanda. I just checked out your blog and noticed where you live. I used to live in College Park – you could see my house from the Greenbelt metro. I have a former coworker at EPA who lives in Mount Rainier too. I miss that area!

  18. amanda wilder

    Also I love what you said about reducing technology use to create space in the mind. Love. IT. I am also working on this (no more sleeping with cell phone!) It’s amazing how plugged in we can be and don’t really notice…. My OLW is Balance, and I am trying to balance screen and non-screen time, and sitting and moving time as part of that… it’s been a positive challenge.

  19. Honore

    You owe it to yourself! Nearly 20 years ago, I was facing a similar situation: late nights -and I am definitely a morning person – and not much morning time before I headed off to work, Most weeks, I worked 10-12 hour days and weekends – those were the demands of my job.

    One day it occurred to me that I had no or very little time for myself and as I looked over my agenda, determined that the best time for “me” time would be the early morning. So, I started getting up at 5:45 – 6 am. I used that time to journal, read, plan my day and/or week’s agenda, learn. After several months, early rising before my family awoke became not only my new routine but also my salvation. The long workdays continued but it didn’t really matter, because I had my mornings – what I refer to as MSQT – “morning solitude and quiet time.”

    To this day, it does not matter what time I have to leave home – 6:30 am to catch a plane or 9:30 am for a medical appointment or even if there is nothing on the agenda, no place for me to go, I still enjoy MSQT even though I am now retired. I thrive on MSQT, look forward to it every single day and I suppose I could easily let my entire day become MSQT – well, not really, but some days it is tempting ;-)).

    I think you will find that your days will go smoother, you will be more productive and rested – ’cause you’ll also go to bed at a reasonable hour and get your 7-8 hours sleep. As I said when I began this rather lengthy comment, you owe it to yourself. Try it, you’ll like it; I guarantee!

    You’re already awesome, Jennifer. Can’t wait to see what you’ll be like when you give yourself all that “space.”


    • Jennifer Wilson

      I love your MSQT concept – so beautiful. And thank you Honore! You are so sweet.



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