How you might want to fix your morning routine

A question I am frequently asked is “How do I optimize my morning routine?” Some ask because they want to struggle less with their children and get out the door in peace (or in one piece–which is what I wanted when my daughters were younger.)

Others are motivated to start their days right–even though they might not even be “morning people.”

The promise of a good routine is so appealing but getting one isn’t always easy.

a warm drink as part of your morning routine
Photo by Tim Foster

How not to approach your morning routine

Perhaps the biggest mistake I see is women being hard on themselves when their good intentions don’t bring results. Mornings don’t go as planned. One good execution is followed by botched attempts.

They have clear expectations of how things should be. They put pressure on themselves to create “good mornings” not just for themselves but for others.

Does this sound familiar?

Given that you are taking care of other people, you have to expect that there are more variables in play that can go wrong. When so many people rely on you, you’re likely to experience more disruptions and interruptions. Your day is easily hijacked.

It’s not something you can control–yet you probably think you should be able to.

Setting such high standards won’t make you more successful or motivate you to do more. Unreasonable expectations are the hallmark of perfectionism. So when routines don’t work out for you, and you’re hard on yourself, you’re likely to just feel worse.

What works instead

According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones (affiliate link*), establishing good habits starts with tying them back to your desired identity–the kind of person you want to be.

So instead of starting with “I should meditate every day,” you need first truly want to be a person who meditates. Then, each time you do a little meditation, you prove to yourself you are that person. And, that further helps you establish the habit.

Likewise, when the motivation is intrinsic or coming from deep with you, it’s easier. The initial joy or relief that external rewards bring is usually not long-lasting. For example, researchers have shown that money does improve the quality of life, but only up to a certain point. After covering basic needs, and then providing for comfort and ease, the additional amount of money gained doesn’t bring more happiness.

In other words, the reward you get from becoming the person you want to be should itself be your reward.

This is also why enjoying the process not just the end result is important when we think about what we spend our time on. This is why rewarding children for the number of books they read, won’t make them readers. They need to feel for themselves the joy of experiencing a really good story.

Good questions to ask yourself

So, let’s start by considering the answers to these questions:

  • What do you want to be?
  • How do you know when someone has that particular identity? What does that person do or practice?
  • How can I make that practice small? How can I start out in a tiny but frequent way?
  • What am I already doing that I can tack that on to?

An example of a morning routine

For example, let’s say you dream of starting your own business. You want to be an entrepreneur. And, let’s say you drink coffee every morning. You could start by setting aside 5-10 minutes while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew to enact something that a person with a start-up (or a start-up idea) might do:

  • brainstorm your ideas on an aspect of your business and write them down on a piece of paper,
  • read an article in your industry,
  • find out if you need to set up an LLC, LLP, or incorporate in your state,
  • compose an email to a person you know who could introduce you to someone who could answer some questions you have,
  • make a list of questions the questions you have,
  • brainstorm business names,
  • check to see if the URL of your favorite business name is taken,
  • play around in Canva.com to create a logo, letterhead, or business card,
  • Search for font pairings, colors to use for branding,
  • outline your main service/product,
  • draft copy for an ad you might place, etc.

Perhaps on some mornings, you won’t be able to do much because your child/parent gets sick or your employer or partner needs something right away. Other mornings, you may find yourself extending the 5 minutes to half an hour.

Remember, after you do your small 5-10 minute activity, don’t minimize it because it felt small, or say “Oh, that was nothing.” Rather, pat yourself on the back for the progress you made, and remind yourself, “I’m someone who can get things done” or “These little steps I do each day will add up to something.”

And, this is why I always say…

Baby steps are better than leaps not taken.

Your turn

What were your answers to the questions above?

Maybe mornings aren’t your thing. Then, perhaps, is there something else you do nearly every afternoon or evening drinking? Could you do a little something then?

Feel free to contact me and share your thoughts or questions.

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