Crafting a morning routine that works for you is a key step in successful goal setting, whether you use a digital app or a physical notebook. Most successful people have some sort of morning routine that aligns with their life goals, so they can start their day off right. Even a night owl like me knows that what happens in the morning tends to carry over into the rest of my day - good mornings mean more productive afternoons and better evenings, whereas stressful mornings leave me primed to be on edge when things get stressful.
Different routines work for different people - even the morning routines of very successful people can vary widely, from famous boxer and entrepreneur George Foreman III's who has an intense routine starting at 5:30am, to New York Times food blogger Melissa Clark's 6:16am more relaxed morning routine with yoga and designer Kate Nafisi’s routine with a gratitude ritual.
Designing a routine specific to your needs and your life goals is paramount to your success and sticking with your routine. Consistency is the only thing that will lead to results you desire.
Before I figured out a routine that worked for me, I’d either do the bare minimum to get ready in the morning, or try to get into the habit of getting up way earlier than my body wanted to. If your morning routine involves scrambling to get ready and a coffee to go, here are five key components I’ve discovered (with data to back them up) that have turned my morning ritual into something that energizes me.
Regardless of when you go to sleep, your morning routine should follow a solid 8 hours’ rest - I’ve learned this the hard way! As a person who is productive late into the evening, I find it hard to get up at 6am every day, so I don’t even try anymore. Instead, I set my alarm for 8am to make sure I get enough sleep. Although we don’t all have the luxury of choosing when to get up, the time you are usually able to fall asleep should inform when you plan to wake up. If you’re naturally a night owl but have to get up early for work, it might be unrealistic to plan to wake up at 5am every morning to get an hour of gym time in, so your morning routine may need to be shorter.
Alternatively, if you’re a morning person that tends to go to bed early, 5am might be the perfect time for you! Research shows that quality sleep improves problem solving skills, learning and recall, as well as emotion regulation, so it’s important to get enough of it to perform your best throughout the day and acheive the life goals you’ve set for yourself. If you can, try not to hit the snooze button - if you find you’re hitting the snooze button several times each morning and can’t shake the habit, it’s time to re-evaluate your sleep habits.
A significant part of my morning routine is the ritual of making coffee - I strive to make the best possible pour over coffee I can, and the process of grinding the beans, waiting for the water to boil, and brewing that perfect cup can be an exercise in mindfulness. I don’t open my laptop until after I’m finished drinking it. The time it takes to drink that first cup of coffee is time I let my mind wander, whether it’s thinking about the day ahead, a problem I’m facing, or just patting myself on the back for making a fantastic cup of coffee! Studies have shown that coffee has some health benefits like protecting against type 2 diabetes, and is full of antioxidants.
If you drink coffee before your workout, it can help boost your performance and make exercise in the morning more enjoyable. Just make sure you have some water on hand too, so you don’t get dehydrated while working out. I find it hard to jump out of bed and start working out right away, and sitting with my morning coffee first thing helps me muster up the energy to get started exercising. So if you’re a coffee drinker like me, go ahead and make yourself a cup - and take the time to enjoy it if you can!
Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain both your mental and physical health. It helps your brain keep its old connections in good shape and form new ones, and cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow to the brain. I like to incorporate 20 minutes of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) exercise into my morning routine, since it leaves me feeling energized and ready to take on the day. It doesn’t have to be complicated - even if you don’t have much time to spare in the morning, just 10 minutes of exercise can make the difference between feeling alert and feeling sluggish. Although some successful people may swear by their extensive morning workouts, you don’t have to do all of your exercise in the morning if it doesn’t work for you; you can just do a little bit to help you get going, and a more thorough workout later. The World Health Organization recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, which translates to roughly 20 minutes a day - and even if that’s all you can do, it’s a lot better than nothing. If you’ve fallen off the wagon (or the exercise bike), making a commitment to incorporate exercise into your morning routine is a great way to get back in shape and to maintain focus throughout the day.
If you haven’t heard of the Headspace app, it’s a great app that helps people meditate, with guided relaxation exercises that you can customize. I use it all the time, and find that I feel much more clear headed and ready to take on the day afterward. Taking 10 minutes of your morning to meditate with Headspace will help you not only to acheive a sense of inner calm in the moment, but over time will help you learn to focus and improve your productivity.
I like to meditate after my workout and morning shower, since the intense burst of physical activity leaves me with an endorphin high, but also leaves me wanting to sit and relax for a minute. There’s a lot of research on meditation suggesting it helps with emotional regulation and cognitive function when practiced on a regular basis. It’s easy to start to forget how to reflect when we spend every day trying to think two steps ahead, but it’s important to slow down and give ourselves the opportunity to enjoy the moment when we can. Meditation is a powerful way to bring you back to center.
An often-overlooked but important part of any morning routine should be taking time to reflect on what’s important to you. Too often, it’s easy to forget that your life is only a series of days, and it’s what you do with those days that sets you on a trajectory. Making time for the things that matter to you means you’ll be doing a little bit every day to give your life its own meaning.
When I was building Angstrom to help people achieve their life goals, I knew that morning routines would need to be an important part of the equation. If you’re not thinking about how you’re spending your time and planning your day in the morning, someone else will decide for you - so spend your days wisely by planning a little first!
We don’t always have the luxury of spending all of our time pursuing our dreams, but that doesn’t mean there’s no time for them. Instead, it’s all the more reason to be careful with the free time you do have. When you review your life goals, make sure you decide what the most important things you can acheive today are, work on those first.
Whatever your morning routine is, make sure to customize it so it works for you, and is realistic for your life situation. If you don’t have a routine at all right now, don’t make it too complicated! And iterate it. You will not get right on the first go.
Mornings set the tone for the rest of our day, and our days collectively set the tone for our lives. If you’re thinking about using a goal setting app to lay out your morning routine, take some time to do some general goal setting first so you can align your morning with your life goals. Choose wisely and you’ll find a routine that sets both your life and your morning in order.