Organization and Productivity

How to create a successful morning routine

Typical morning routine suggestions are useless. “How to be a morning person” articles are usually written by people who never had to try. And advice like “put your alarm on the other side of the room” is about as useful the “How to save money” listicles that tell you it’s cheaper to make coffee at home instead of buying it at Starbucks, even though you wouldn’t be reading those articles if you could afford Starbucks.

I am not a morning person. Nor do I believe that people can easily shift their habits to become a morning person. Your chronotype can put you at odds with society itself, which caters to and celebrates the early riser. We’re beginning to learn that it’s not a matter of will power (or lack thereof) to turn Night Owls into Morning Birds. Night owls are night owls and even when set to an early schedule, they perform best in the afternoon and evening. However, until the world appreciates and caters to those of us who dread morning, we must adapt. (Try John Medina’s Brain Rules for more on owls, larks, and those of us in between.)

Evaluate your routine

Want a successful a.m. routine? Figure out what you don’t find successful about your current habits. What don’t you like about your routine? Rushing out the door with seconds to spare? Eating your lunch at 10 am because you skipped breakfast?

Start your morning the night before

I posit, for night people, your morning routine begins before bed time.

Look at the parts of your routine that you want to change, and see what you can do the night before to facilitate that.

Take a shower at night. I take fairly quick showers. However, taking a shower at night ensures my hair is dry, making it easier to style, even if that’s just clipping it up into a somewhat messy up do. Showering the night before saves me the 5-10 minutes in the shower in the morning as well as any time I would spend blow drying my waist-length hair. That’s a good 15-30 minutes of extra sleep.

Plan your outfit the night before. Knowing if I feel confident enough to wear a skirt or if I’m hiding my furry legs in pants saves me the time and frustration of trying to find different outfits in the morning. That question is the cornerstone in any outfit I wear. Knowing what you’re wearing makes it simple to get dressed without staring half-asleep at your closet.

Pack your lunch the night before. I primarily eat leftovers for lunch. So when I’m packing up my leftovers, I make sure to include a couple in lunch-size tupperware that I can grab for my lunchbox on the run.

Find a fast breakfast option. I hardboil eggs once a week and make a low-carb tortilla roll up with canadian bacon, a hard boiled egg, and a piece of cheese. It’s fairly nutritious and low calorie. It also takes approximately 1 minute to make each morning. I can roll it up in a napkin and eat it on the go.

Think ahead. If you need to bring canned food for a fundraising drive, put it in your car the night before. If you’re low on gas, fill up the night before or make sure you have enough that you can get gas after work.

Find your stumbling blocks

In the morning, evaluate what other stumbling blocks you have. I hate running late, and the only time I’m ever late is in the morning.

A key thing that would push me to be late was that I would leave essential tasks for last. I used to brush my teeth last. I loved having minty breath as I walked out the door, but leaving an essential morning routine until the end also meant I couldn’t skip it if I was running late. Brush your teeth, get dressed, put on deodorant. Do the essentials first. Then if you’re delayed by a non-essential item, you can cut corners. For example, if your shoe lace breaks, you’ll know if you have time to replace it or if you should wear different shoes and replace it that night.

Another stumbling block I used to have was my hair. As it got longer, the curly under layers would go crazy, resulting in tangles no matter what I did. I would slowly brush through my hair, holding back tears of pain. After using a bad dye product one month, my hair was in worse shape than normal. I spent 15 minutes combing through the tangles, each time I thought I’d finished, my brush would get stuck on the next comb through. I was late to work that day. Then I bought a new brush specifically for detangling hair and better detangling spray, meaning I can now brush my hair in two minutes.

Build in extra time

It’s easy to get your timing down to the minute, knowing that if you leave your house at 7:37, you can usually walk in to the office right on time. The days I attempt that are frequently the days my dog throws up on me, I spill toothpaste on my shirt and have to change (another reason to brush your teeth while you’re still in your pajamas), your neighbor blocks you into your driveway accidentally, etc.

I don’t have a problem with checking your phone in the morning. But once you put down your phone to get ready, don’t go back to it. The second you put your feet on the ground, you should focus on getting ready for your day. It not only helps you get your morning routine done faster, but it also gets you in the mood to be more productive throughout your day.

My routine is something like the following:

6:20. First alarm. Turn it off. Snooze.
6:25. Second alarm. Reluctantly get out of bed or use the next 20 minutes to check email.
6:45. Third alarm. Tells me I have to let the dog out now or I’ll be running late. Has a particularly obnoxious song as a ringtone.
Let the dog out
Make breakfast roll up and put lunch in lunchbox
Let the dog in
7:00. Brush teeth (Shower very fast if you didn’t the night before)
Get dressed
Feed dog
7:15. Fourth alarm goes off with the warning that I need to leave right now. Really, I have another 15 minutes. I can hit two snooze cycles to keep me on track and aware of time.
Do makeup.
Time to catch up on any of the above that I’m behind on.
Give the dog a treat.
7:30. Out the door
Eat breakfast in the car.

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