5 Things I Learned From my Morning Routine

Here are a few of my thoughts on morning routines and how you might start one in your own life.


Joelle Mumley

3 years ago | 5 min read

And how you can start yours.

Whether done consciously or not, you do have a morning routine. It may not happen in the same order each day, it may not be restorative or meaningful, and you may not even realize you’re doing it — but it’s there. So it’s not a question of whether we have one or not, but whether we’re thinking about what is included in it.

What I have always liked about the idea of choosing a morning routine is that it means that life isn’t just happening to me, but that I’m actively living out my day. I’m not passively responding to stimuli but creating a pattern that lines up with my values.

Of course, this is going to look different for everyone. Morning routines need to have enough flexibility to be sustainable over long periods of time. They need to be designed to fit into our life and, although it might take extra work to incorporate it, they shouldn’t require us to create a whole new way of doing things. As a single person, living alone with no dependents (other than a few potted plants), my morning routine is going to look vastly different from a married person with kids — and I acknowledge that I have fewer obstacles than most. But more obstacles doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Here are a few of my thoughts on morning routines and how you might start one in your own life.

1. It can take time to decide what to include.

It’s an iterative process — you may start with what’s currently trendy and then eventually decide that it’s not for you. If it’s going to be sustainable, you have to choose activities that give you life, that line up with your values, and that are reasonable in your context. Maybe you like the idea of going for an hour-long run, but the reality is that you don’t have the time and need to stick to a short at-home workout instead (maybe saving the long runs for the weekend). Take the time to refine this list, choosing to do them not for the sake of doing them, but because they actually accomplish some purpose.

My list currently includes:

  1. Morning pages (with coffee, usually out on my apartment balcony)
  2. Yoga with Adriene
  3. Meditation
  4. Watering my plants (sometimes while listening to the meditation, which I realize is sort of cheating…)
  5. Breakfast while listening to the news
  6. Writing (on a personal project, not for work)

2. It needs some structure.

My morning routine took off when I went to a workshop on bullet journaling. I love using analog planners but had never found one that quite fit exactly what I needed. Bullet journaling gave me the ideas and tools to design my own planner and structure it exactly the way that works for me. This included having a habit tracker — where I could see what I wanted to make sure to do each day and check it off when I completed each one. My morning routine and other daily priorities are included. Along with recording what I have done, it also helps me visualize how my daily activities fit into the overall vision for my life. Do my daily activities contribute somehow to my weekly and monthly goals? If not, then something is off.

3. Getting legalistic can take all the joy out of it.

I’m a perfectionist, a one on the enneagram, and I like to follow through with what I’ve committed to. So sometimes my morning routine gets a little strict and I can be really hard on myself.

One way I combat this legalism is to make weekends freebies. I don’t have to do any of my regular habits, and it’s totally guilt-free. However, if I happen to do any of them on the weekend, they can count as a make-up day for any weekday that I missed. This means that if I don’t write on a Monday, I’m not beating myself up about it all week, I just tell myself that I can write for a few minutes on Saturday and it will be all good.

Another way I try to keep from being too hard on myself is by organizing my planner so that the past is in the past and I don’t ever see it again. Once the week/month is over, what’s done is done. Every Monday or first day of the month is a new beginning, a clean slate, and I don’t need to worry at all about how well I did before.

I also, every once in awhile, throw out the morning routine altogether. Just for a few days, or maybe a week — just to remind myself that I’m still me even if I take a break. Then I can start back up feeling refreshed and ready to get back into it.

4. It doesn’t have to happen at the crack of dawn.

Not all people are morning people. I am 100% a morning person — I love going to bed early and waking up early. It’s my favorite. But I’m aware that this rhythm is not for everyone. And that doesn’t mean you can’t still have the equivalent of a morning routine — it just may not be at 6 AM. Maybe it’s at 9 or 10 AM… or 9 PM. Just as the other features of our morning routine need to fit into the specific context of our life, the timing needs to do the same. Regardless of when it happens, you can still establish a routine that incorporates things you value as a daily habit.

5. It can make a significant impact on your life.

Once your list of morning activities has been refined and you’ve figured out when and how to do them, it’s important to actually start doing them. Every day. And it really does make a difference. Choosing to ignore the busyness and noise of the world for a portion of your day means that your mind and body get a chance to be refreshed and reset.

It matters on a day-to-day basis, of course, but what I have found most valuable is the difference it makes in the long term — to my month, to my year. Our life is made up of lots of tiny, seemingly insignificant decisions. When we take the time to do a few specific things every day that communicate, establish, and reinforce our values, the most significant impact is seen in the long run.


Created by

Joelle Mumley







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