Nailing your ideal morning routine is a polarizing process. Take it from someone who has tried and fallen off The 5 AM Club wagon time and time again. There is a lot of truth in the idea that morning routines are the key to getting your day off to a good start. That being said, they aren’t always #goals and they are certainly not perfect. After reassessing some of my own habits that had contributed to significant burnout, I went about establishing a 6 a.m. morning routine that works not only when I’m at my best but also when I’m feeling my worst.
The goal of a routine is that even when things go off the rails, it’s easier to hold on to a semblance of it. I’ve been doing the weekday routine below for thirteen weeks and it’s stuck. How can I tell? I feel no shame about having it go awry from time to time, remembering I can always start fresh the next day.
My 6 a.m. morning routine is possible because I prioritize sleep. Full stop. I don’t mean I am “perfect” about sleep, but I will cancel plans or move a deadline in advance to make it a priority (something I would have NEVER DONE pre-burnout). I tend to fall asleep between 9:45 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. If I’m asleep at this time, I’ll usually wake up before 6 a.m. and if I fall asleep a little later, I’ll wake up at 6 a.m. I don’t really compromise sleep anymore. I’ve learned it’s one of the best things I can do for myself.
I have a very gentle crescendo alarm on my phone. Sometimes I’ll sleep a little more if I didn’t sleep well during the night. I’m generally out of bed somewhere between 6 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. I’ll change into my workout clothes (these leggings from JoyLab at Target are my current favorite) and leave our bedroom.
Winnie and Pearl sleep together on these dog beds in the kitchen. I feed them and then watch them run around for a bit in the backyard while I have water and an Americano.
I walk over to our workout room (which is also Joe’s office) and sit on the bike. For about thirty minutes, I pedal and wake up a bit more in the process. Sometimes it’s an intense workout and other times I simply casually pedal and look outside, depending on what my body needs on any given day. Afterward, I’ll sometimes stretch for a few minutes as well.
I find it’s easier to meditate after I move my body. I’ll sit next to my bike, still in my workout clothes, and meditate for ten minutes. I use the FitMind app to do this. (You can read my thoughts on the app in this post.) I don’t view meditation as something to be “good” at or do correctly. It’s more about the gentle act of bringing my mind back to awareness. Learning to do this intentionally is why I practice meditation daily. I find it’s easier to maintain this practice when I’m not beating myself up about doing it “perfectly” each time.
I go to the kitchen, get a cup of coffee, and make my kids’ lunches. (I’m the lunch person and Joe’s the breakfast person.) Usually, the kids are getting up around this time. We’ll spend a bit of family time together, I’ll help the kids get ready for the day, and I’ll help them get out the door with the nanny around 8 or 8:15 a.m.
I’ll tidy up the house with a podcast on. Sometimes this takes a few minutes and sometimes it takes thirty minutes.
If the house wasn’t a disaster, I’ll have time to get ready for the day. I’ll shower and put on skin-care products and some makeup. (For curious minds, my current skin-care routine is written out in this post!) I’ll usually just do my bangs at this time and style my hair later. Sometimes, if I woke up earlier than 6 a.m., I’ll have time to shower before the kids get up, but this doesn’t always happen.
I’ll sit down at my desk and do morning pages first thing. I used to use pen and paper for this process but now I use an app, aptly called Morning Pages. I’ve found that this is very important for me to do before getting started with work. Afterward, I’ll take out my planner, look at what I need to do for the day, and begin my workday.
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Kate is currently learning to play the Ukulele, much to the despair of her husband, kids, and dogs. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.
BY Kate Arends - April 25, 2022
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Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
Thank you for speaking frankly about how, to have a lengthy, semi-luxuriant morning routine, most of us have to go to bed early and wake up early! There’s a prevalent notion that there’s a “hack” for everything, and it’s refreshing to hear that often, if you want to experience the benefits of a healthy routine, you have to sacrifice something- in this case, late nights, plans, etc.
YES. This is so true. There always has to be some sort of give and take!
Solid advice! I too meditate in the morning. It is a great way to start your day with a positive mindset.
And sleep needs to be a priority. There are so many health benefits. Here’s an example https://sensiblyshelley.com/7-compelling-reasons-to-get-adequate-sleep/
Thank you for sharing this 🤗
Thank you for taking the time to read the post!
My problem is I never know what time I’m going to fall asleep. #teaminsomnia over here. I’ve learned to just get on the train whatever time it arrives. Some nights I fall asleep at 8:30 but some nights it’s as late at 3am. When I fall asleep early it’s pretty easy to get up and do my morning routine. But on those nights I barely get any sleep good luck getting me up when my alarm goes off. Thank you for sharing your morning routine and sharing your tricks and tips.
Thank you for sharing this perspective! Morning routines can definitely be trickier after nights when sleep doesn’t come easily.
I love the color of the living room walls. On the other hand, I have to be at work between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m., and it takes 35 minutes to get there (I’m an “essential worker” so have never worked from home), so when I get up at 6:00, I have to eat breakfast, shower and dress, and get out the door.
Thanks for sharing this perspective!
I’m glad to know I’m not the only one!!!! To start with, I’m a morning person and it’s the best time of my day. I love tidying up the apt. early enough to get started, as the tidier and cleaner everything becomes, the better I can focus on myself as soon as I’m done with this stage. Taking a spa like shower, working out, walking my dog and having a delicious breakfast (I always make sure that I have everything I need to prepare it), this routine is the best way of starting my day!
Thanks for your comment, Laura! It sounds like you have a great morning routine in place!
For the last year I’ve been trying to get back to my 6am routine I had before the pandemic. Reading this was a reminder that I have not been honest about my bedtimes- I need to start my wind down earlier. A tip, especially for those starting out – alarms aren’t just for wake up! I have multiple bedtime alarms on my phone to trigger me to get ready.
YES. Bedtime alarms can be so helpful. I hope you can get back to your routine!
I wake up at 6:30 no matter what time I go to bed but use an alarm just in case. I have found doing a lot the night before helps me get out the door to tennis (I’m retired but active) on time.I lay out my clothes, get coffee ready, make breakfast in a big batch for my tennis days (keto bread- just warm up), get my water bottle all set, and clean up before I go to bed. First thing in the morn (6:30)I put away dried dishes, have coffee, check email, eat, get dressed and away I go.… Read more »
Before daylight savings time I had my 3:00am routine down, including leisurely gradually getting up with plenty of time for coffee, shower, dressing, hair without being late to work. Since the time change I am struggling to get up on time and am scrambling to get to work on time. Now I hate getting up and sleep too late. Yuck. I have to leave at 6:30 am to get in the groove. Your routine sounds great tho. Thanks for the article. I will keep trying.
Ah yes, the nanny to take the kids to school and bring them home again, and do other tasks for you in between. And husband home to prepare breakfast. No wonder you have time for yourself for a long morning routine. Lucky you. When I had a school aged child and worked outside the home in high tech with a 20 minute driving commute, it was getting myself showered, dressed, hair styled and makeup on plus assisting her to get ready to leave plus prepare and eat breakfast, walk the dog and feed the cat was all I had time… Read more »
Wow, you work out BEFORE your morning coffee?