My morning routine has been the most powerful tool for me to go from wishful thinking to actually start making changes in my life.
So today I want to tell you how creating a morning routine will bring you closer to the life you want. And I want to share my personal morning routine and how I developed it.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are so-called provision links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
My morning routine: How it all started
At some point last year I was fed up with my life situation. I did not like going to work. I felt stuck personally and professionally. Why did nothing ever change?
I took three (!) weeks off from work to have some time to myself and figure out where this huge dissatisfaction was coming from. Or better even, how to do something about it.
I had been interested in personal development before, but this was the moment I really dove in. Listening to podcasts, reading blogs, watching countless TedTalks on Youtube.
Soon enough I noticed a recurring topic. Something that apparently all successful people had and every self-developing person was getting into.
You guessed it, everyone stressed the importance of a morning routine.
Creating your own morning routine
Creating a morning routine sounds like such a sophisticated undertaking.
You probably already have a lot on your plate and might feel like you do not want to add yet another thing to do to that never-ending list.
However, before we dive into why creating a morning routine will get you closer to the life you want, consider this one thing.
Everyone has a morning routine
You already have a morning routine. A routine, after all, is only “a sequence of actions regularly followed”.
If you get up every morning and brush your teeth, that is a morning routine.
Even if you never get up in the morning and always sleep till noon, that is a routine. A sleeping one, but still a routine.
So why is it so important what you do in the morning? I am glad you asked.
Creating a morning routine sets the tone for the day
Do you know the expression “Waking up on the wrong side of the bed”? How you wake up and spend the first minutes of your day has a huge impact on the rest of it.
If your morning routine consists of growling at your alarm and slowly doing the bare necessities, your brain learns that starting the day is a bad thing.
However, everyone wants to be happy and enjoy their time, right? So beginning your day with activities that you know are good for you and put you in a good mood will positively impact your life quality immensely.
By consciously choosing what to put in your mind right at the beginning of the day, you can influence your mood and be happier and more focused on the things that matter to you.
Creating a morning routine brings beneficial habits into your life
Everyone has areas in their life where they want to improve in some way.
Oftentimes those plans for self-improvement go on the back-burner because we feel like we have to do a huge effort to achieve them.
What we forget in those situations is, that improvement does not happen in one single step. Instead, it comes from the things we do every day – our habits.
Imagine you want to drop some weight. (I am using a bit of a cliché here, but stay with me for a moment.)
How are you gonna achieve that goal reliably? By doing a one-time HUGE effort and going for a whole week without anything else but carrots? Or by repeatedly integrating small, permanent changes to your diet and activity level? It’s obvious, isn’t it?
Let me tell you, the same is true for any goal you want to achieve. You have been wanting to learn a new language for ages? Get an app like Memrise and invest only 5 minutes daily into that goal. It can be done while brushing. Or on your way to work.
By integrating those habits into your morning routine, you can make sure those things really happen. We all know how hard it is to make ourselves do something useful after a long day of work. Life happens – so make sure you are set up in the best way possible.
Creating a morning routine gives you power over your life
By consciously setting the tone for your day and picking the habits you want to make part of your daily life, you are taking control over your life.
Creating a morning routine means deciding what you are working towards. And what you want to make part of your life. Like Will Durant famously said, “We are, what we repeatedly do”.
Do you want to be grumpy and controlled by outer circumstances? Or do you want to take control and decide which direction your life should go in?
I learned the difference myself when I actually started having a morning routine.
For years I had wanted to start my own business. I had tons of ideas in my notebooks, heaps of dreams and wishes. But life always got in the way, the time was never right. I seemed to never get closer to any of that.
All of this, because I made the mistake of waiting for “that one big change”. I didn’t need it. What I needed was to figure out what I actually want to do and how I want to live. And then break it down into the small steps and habits that would bring me closer to that life. One day at a time.
Now, a few months later, I am healthier, happier and closer to achieving my dreams than I have ever been. And I know that every day brings me another step closer.
Without any crazy efforts, because my morning routine has become a habit.
And we all know that habits just happen by themselves, no more effort required. This works for the good habits just as well as for the bad ones.
So make sure to decide for yourself: Which habits do you want to have?
The morning routine of successful people: Borrowing from the Magic Morning
Once you start reading about morning routines, you will inevitably come across Hal Elrod’s book “The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 AM)*“. Don’t worry, the essential idea is not as bulky as the title of the book.
Hal Elrods “Miracle Morning”: The morning routine checklist
Hal suggests five main ingredients for a true success inducing morning routine. He uses the acronym (life) SAVERS, which makes them easy to remember. The letters stand for:
S ilence: Get some quiet time in. No electronic devices, no TV, no chit-chat. Just you.
A ffirmations: Enough has been written about the transformative power of affirmations. Whatever your goals and dreams are, have some affirmations for them ready.
V isualization: Now it’s time to visualize what it’s gonna look and feel like to have achieved your goals. There is this video of Tony Robbins on Youtube, where he talks about the power of visualization. (If it’s too long for you to watch, skip to 10:29 where he shows the two guys how instant the effect can be.)
E xercise: Move your body in some way. Stretch a little, do some cardio or even go for a full-blown workout session. But do some kind of exercise for your physical body. Weak body, weak mind.
R eading: Read at least a few pages of a book. This is not referring to entertainment literature though. Hal talks about reading books that teach you something. Self-development books, for example. Something to educate yourself.
S cribing: Write down your thoughts, your to-dos or whatever comes to mind. Basically journaling in some form.
Building my own morning routine around it
As I could clearly see the advantages of each of these six habits and as they gave me a good starting point, I built my morning routine along those letters.
Luckily it is not as hard as it might sound. And it does not need to take 2 hours.
Actually, it usually only takes me half an hour most mornings. One hour if I have time and enjoy the process. 15 minutes if I am short on time and skip some steps.
Usually, I wake up with my alarm and simply sit up in bed for a few minutes of meditation.
Nothing complex, just following my breath while slowly waking up. If I feel motivated, I set a 10-minute timer. Otherwise, I just do the exercise as the whim takes me.
On those days when I feel really uninspired or have a bad case of monkey mindedness, I resort to videos of “The Honest Guys”. They are awesome!
(If you want to incorporate Meditation into your daily life while also becoming more resilient read my article about learning how to deal with uncertainty. In it, I review a program that helped me so much doing this. It’s free and does not take any crazy commitment from your side.)
Related: How to meditate for beginners
Looking forward to something
Another short thing I do before going any further is to find something I look forward to that day.
It can be something small and insignificant like my morning porridge. Or it can be something big like an important, possibly life-changing appointment.
However, I definitely find something to look forward to every single day before getting out of bed.
Afterward, I open my eyes and turn on the light. Depending on where I am in my cycle, I might opt for doing some affirmations here. Sometimes I skip it. When I do it, it takes just a couple of minutes.
Deciding for or against affirmations cycle related might sound weird to you. But if you are female with a cycle that actually might make a lot of sense for you, too. For further information let me refer you to the book “The optimized woman*“.
(Update: I wrote a review on “The optimized woman“, in case you are interested in more details. )
The visualization exercise happens sometimes, but I am not very consistent with it, to be honest. Definitely room for improvement there, as I can tell a huge difference in my mood when I do it.
Honestly, it is worth doing it just for that. Putting yourself mentally in the situation where everything is perfect, you reached your goals, feeling what it feels like…
It is like a mini vacation and a huge mood booster. I am also doing visualizations with some physical goals. Difficult Yoga poses, to be specific. Simply out of curiosity, if this will get me closer to the poses without actually physically practicing them. I just like experiments.
This happens pretty much every day.
I can already hear your objections. “Not enough time in the morning. I already get up super early. Don’t want to go to the gym before work.” Relax.
Sometimes my exercise is just a few gentle Yoga stretches in bed. Sometimes I do a real Yoga session on the mat. Most of the times I just go on my beloved stationary bike for ten minutes.
(My bike looks similar to this one*, just not as fancy. Seems like mine is not on Amazon anymore.)
Doing this wakes me up and helps me get into the shower, as even just ten short minutes on the bike* can get me sweating.
Because of the integrated mini-desk, I can even combine my exercise with reading, learning vocabulary on Memrise or doing some brain training with the Elevate app.
Ah, this has to be my favorite ritual of my morning routine.
Most of the times I already start doing it while still on the stationary bike. (So it mostly doesn’t even add to the time for the morning routine.) This happens reliably, every day.
Most of the days I will be reading some self-development book on my kindle. Sometimes I swap it out with the “Blink of the day” from Blinkist* if that happens to be a topic interesting to me.
Or I might be reading a blog article about a topic keeping me busy at the moment.
This one is usually quite quick, too. As I haven’t been much of a journal keeper before, I adopted bullet journaling around the time when I also built my morning routine.
If there was a really inspiring or note-worthy thought during the reading session, I will write it down now. Otherwise, this is mostly making a short to-do-list for the current day.
Additionally, I write down whatever I am looking forward to that day and one thing I am grateful for. This helps me focus on the things I want to achieve while approaching them with a positive mindset.
Obviously showering and a nice and healthy breakfast is also part of my morning. However, I don’t really count them as part of “my morning routine”. Should I? How do you do it? Do you have a morning routine? And has it helped you achieve your goals?