“Win the morning and you win the day.” It’s less motivational wisdom than it is an eye-roll-inducing phrase.
Whoever first coined that term is clearly a “morning person”.
But there’s no denying that the quest to Win the Morning is a rising trend in North America. Resources like “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast” dissect the morning routines of the rich and famous in an attempt to reveal their secrets to success.
Barack Obama is up at 6:30 a.m. for cardio and weight training.
Oprah Winfrey wakes at 6:02 a.m. sans alarm and gives thanks to the universe for being alive.
Meanwhile, I was waking up after the eighth slap of the snooze button and happy if I managed to get out the door in matching socks.
Well, not exactly happy. Matching wardrobe or not, I was typically a frazzled mess by the time I got to work each day.
So I made a change. And although I haven’t achieved the transcendent, miracle-morning routine of billionaires, I now maintain a simple, stress-free regime. It has become a part of the day I actually look forward to.
If you dread the alarm clock and all the stress it brings, here are some simple strategies to make mornings work for you instead of against you.
Prep For Mornings In Advance
A little strategic prep work can do wonders for facilitating a smooth morning. Start with taking steps the night before to help you achieve your a.m. goals.
For example, two or three times a week, I hit the gym before work. I pack my gym bag the night before with all my makeup, work clothes, gym shoes, and toiletries. Then I put that gym bag downstairs by the front door.
I lay out my gym clothes in the washroom so I can get changed in the morning without waking my spouse.
There’s nothing to think about or to do when I wake up. I simply get up, pull on the clothes, grab the bag, and walk out the door.
Weekends are also a good time to prep for the week ahead.
And I’m not talking about spending all day Sunday making freezer meals. (Who actually has time for that?) I know better than anyone how precious weekends are!
I’m talking more about simple things that can still have a big impact on your mornings, such as:
- Getting your laundry done and planning your outfits for the week
- Buying groceries for the whole week, especially everything you’ll need for breakfast and lunches
- Planning some fun things throughout the week to give yourself something to look forward to when that alarm goes off!
Go to Bed Earlier and Get Up Earlier
An earlier wake-up time is often the biggest hurdle in forming a stress-free morning routine, and yet it’s the most important one. Because you can’t have a stress-free morning routine without creating space for one.
But a successful morning routine cannot be achieved by sacrificing sleep. In order to get up earlier, you need to go to bed earlier too. If you are resistant to this idea, take some time to reflect on why.
Then find a solution.
When I grappled this question, I found I didn’t like to go to bed earlier because the evenings felt like the only time I had for myself. But I realized that by getting up earlier, I’m creating time for myself in a different way.
If evenings are your time for self-care, maximize this time for yourself by being mindful. Don’t just flake out on the couch in front of the TV all night.
Take a bath, read a book for half an hour. A mindful 90 minutes can feel a lot longer than three hours zoning out in front of Netflix. And then it doesn’t feel like you’re short-changing yourself when you to turn in for bed a little earlier.
Make it a gradual change. Start by going to bed and waking up 15 minutes earlier for a week, then by another 15 minutes earlier the week after. Continue this pattern until you’ve created enough time to get through those first hours of the day without rushing.
It may be tempting to skip breakfast as an easy way to de-stress your morning routine, but take it from me; this is not a corner you want to cut.
Skip breakfast and I either succumb to a throbbing headache or the Krispy Kreme donuts in the break room by mid-morning.
Breakfast is proven to help keep your cognitive functions humming. And those who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight and consume unhealthy snacks.
That doesn’t mean you need to spend time and energy making eggs royale every morning. Simplify your morning meal with healthy, zero-prep foods like greek yogurt, precooked hardboiled eggs, or a banana.
Start the Morning with Mindfulness
When you wake up in the morning, take a few minutes to be present with yourself before getting on with the day.
There is mounting scientific evidence that mindfulness can physically change how your brain reacts to stress. Practicing mindfulness can help to tame your amygdala, the brain’s emotional control center which is responsible for your “fight or flight” response.
Meditation is perhaps the most obvious way to practice mindfulness. Tim Ferris spends each morning meditating for twenty minutes to decrease his “emotional reactivity” which helps him be more proactive about how he handles day-to-day challenges.
If meditation isn’t your thing, you can still practice mindfulness in the morning by taking a few moments to be aware of your surroundings. Take in the morning light coming through the window, or focus on an object in the room.
Practicing gratitude or journalling your intentions for the day are also good ways to kick off the morning with mindfulness.
Make Time for Something You Enjoy in the Morning
I have come to actually enjoy exercise and the feeling of accomplishment it lends me for the whole day. (Exercise is also great at keeping your stress levels low!)
I have learned there is great empowerment and motivation that comes from doing something you love!
Give yourself something that motivates you to get up when your alarm goes off instead of hitting the snooze button.
It could be anything from reading your favorite section of the newspaper, walking your dog, watching breakfast TV, or a few minutes of yoga.
Even if its only for fifteen minutes, indulging in an activity you enjoy will boost your mood and help keep the stress-monster at bay.
Find Inspiration for Your Morning Routine
While you might be more focused on just getting out the door with your sanity intact, it’s not going to happen without a plan. Draw from other people’s morning routines to find elements you would like to add to your own.
I have a Pinterest Board called “Daily Routines” where I collect tips on healthy morning habits for inspiration.
I also read the book, “My Morning Routine” by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander, who run a website by the same name.
The book interviews a number of famous and successful people about their morning routines. You can read the book beginning to end or hop around different chapters which each center around how the person’s morning routine impacts things like productivity, fitness, sleep, parenting, and self-care.
Your Morning Routine as an Art Form
A stress-free routine starts with shifting your perspective away from the negativity that you’ve come to associate with mornings. Give them a new narrative!
I’m forever tweaking my own morning routine as the years go by. But no matter how it changes, it’s an integral part of my life that helps me bring my best self forward each day. I’ve come to love routines and the powerful way they can positively impact our lives!
Not everyone’s morning routine will look the same, and what is the perfect routine for one person might not be for you. But with some experimentation and time, you can craft a unique morning routine that becomes a stress-free – and even gratifying – part of your day.