Morning Routine Ideas for Getting the Day Started Right

The Morning Routine That Has Served Me Best.

I am a firm believer in the power of a morning routine. How we start the day has a huge impact on how the rest of the day will go. If we keep hitting the snooze button, wake up at the last possible second, rush to get dressed and get the kids off to school, skip breakfast, gulp down a cup of coffee and barely get to work on time, the chances that we’re going to be our best for the day are slim. On the other hand, waking up early enough to start the day in an intentional way stands a much better chance of setting us up for success as well as boosting our overall health and wellness. In this article, I’m looking at what a morning routine is, why it’s important and some of my tried-and-true morning routine ideas for getting the day started off right. 

Photos of a woman doing yoga and of journals with a colored pencil on them as examples of morning routine ideas.

What is a Morning Routine?

By definition, a routine is regularly doing things in a fixed order, usually at a particular time. A morning routine is any type of routine that happens as you’re starting your day – whether that day begins at 8am or 11pm for shift workers. According to Northwestern Medicine, “routines offer a way to promote health and wellness through structure and organization.” While we don’t want to have every minute of our day scheduled, it is beneficial to have some structure, otherwise it’s easy to be unorganized, distracted and not accomplish the things that we want to. 

While there can be many different views on what a morning routine is, I look at it as what I do before my workday starts. It is what helps to get me in the right place physically and mentally for the day ahead. Depending on your stage in life and whether you work from home or have a commute, a morning routine can take 30 minutes or two hours. It’s whatever works best for you. Some days, you may have to adjust it a bit, but for the most part, your morning routine is how you regularly start the day. 

Photo of a calendar with exercise written on it as an example of morning routine ideas.

Morning Routine Ideas

If you listen to interviews with some of the world’s most successful people, you’ll find that most rely on a morning routine of some type. Even before I learned this, it was simply something that came naturally to me. I knew that I felt better when I started my day in a more structured way and that I felt worse when I didn’t. It wasn’t too hard to figure out which I preferred. Here are some morning routine ideas that I can highly recommend. 

Set your alarm

If you have to be somewhere at a set time, get kids off to school or have any other morning obligations, you’re probably going to need to set an alarm in order to get your morning routine in. This may mean moving your bedtime forward a bit so that you get the sleep you need, but I can promise that this habit will be worth it. After you’ve conditioned your body to your new routine, setting an alarm may not even be necessary. 

Write in a gratitude journal

This doesn’t have to take long. Just list 5-10 things, people or experiences that you’re grateful for. An article in Greater Good Magazine cites gratitude expert Robert Emmons as saying that gratitude affirms “that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.” This can be powerful if we’re struggling to see past our own problems or are feeling down or stressed. 

Write in a free writing journal or do a brain dump

A free writing journal gives us a chance to reflect on our experiences or anything that we’re feeling. A brain dump offers the opportunity to clear mental space by getting all the thoughts running through our mind onto a piece of paper. Both exercises help to acknowledge and process extraneous thoughts and feelings that may be causing us anxiety or taking up mental energy. 

Do some kind of exercise or movement

While at least 150 minutes a week is what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends, any amount is going to give you some health benefits. Even if you usually get your main exercise in during the afternoon, stretching or moving your body in some way in the morning will help to wake you up and get your body going after a night of sleeping. 

Read

If finding time to read is tough, carving out a few minutes in the morning can be a relaxing way to ease into the day. 

Get dressed for the day

While this may be a bit obvious, I include it as part of a morning routine because that makes it an intentional activity that I have to set aside time to do as part of my preparation for the day. If I don’t look at it in that way, I rush through the process, already feeling frazzled and as if I should be doing something else.

Fix breakfast

If you don’t take the time to fix breakfast for yourself because you simply don’t need it, then skip this. If you don’t fix breakfast for yourself because you don’t think you have time, then making it part of your morning routine will do wonders for your health and your pocketbook. Even if you don’t have time to eat it before you leave the house, take something with you to eat on the way or when you arrive at work.

Update your budget

What?? You might ask if you haven’t read my post on Creating a Budget for a Healthier You. As I mention there, taking 5 minutes to update your budget (what used to be known as balancing your checkbook) every day makes it so that it’s not an overwhelming task at one time. It also helps to guide your decisions throughout the day. 

Read or watch local news

Keeping on top of what’s happening in your local community is just as important as keeping up with national and international news. With all of the online resources available these days, it’s fairly easy to stay on top of national news. Local news, on the other hand, is easy to lose sight of. Setting aside a few minutes each morning to do this will keep you on top of what is happening in your own backyard.

Reattach to work

I love this one! If we’re successfully detaching from work at the end of the day, it only stands to reason that reattaching at the beginning of the day would make sense. Researchers found that reattaching, or rebuilding a mental connection to work, is important for staying engaged and focused during the day. 

This article in Greater Good Magazine suggests that in preparation for your workday, you ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Why does the work I do matter to me? How does my work impact the lives of others?
  2. Who are the people—both at work and in my personal life—who support me and my professional success?
  3. What would I like to focus on today?

While you won’t be able to fit all of the above ideas into your morning routine, I recommend picking 2-4 that resonate with you and see how they work. 

Photo of pen on top of pink journal.

The Morning Routine That Has Served Me Best

Depending on what phase of life you’re in, you’ll probably need to switch up your morning routine to accommodate your other obligations. You may also need to adjust the time that you wake up. When my boys were younger, having a little quiet time to myself was so important to me that I woke up at 5am just to fit it in. While that was definitely early, it would have been much harder on me not to fit it in at all. Now that I don’t have to do everything for my one son still at home, I get to sleep until 5:45am or 6am. 

Here’s a look at the most recent version of my morning routine that has served me best. 

5:45am = wake-up and get dressed in workout clothes

6 – 6:15am = meditation

6:15 – 6:30am = journaling

6:30 – 7:15am = exercise/stretching and listen to local and national news

7:15 – 7:45am = get dressed/fix breakfast

7:45 – 8am = eat breakfast, update budget, reattach for work

8am = start work

** This has been my best pandemic routine. In “normal” times, I would allow for the five-minute drive to and from the gym.

Clearly, life happens. If I need to go for a stretch of letting myself sleep a little later, I do. But if I let myself go for long periods of time without making room for my morning routine, I definitely start feeling off and know that I need to get back on track.

Bottom Line on Morning Routines

The point in all of this has been to give you plenty of morning routine ideas to choose from that might work for you. The key is being realistic about the kind of time that you have or are willing to make in the mornings to fit it in. Even if you can only sit quietly and then exercise for a few minutes, those are things that will help you start the day feeling better than if you had slept late and rushed out the door.

Do you have a morning routine? If so, let us know in the comments what it is so that we can all get ideas.

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