For the past three years, every morning as I picked up my bag to start my commute, I have told myself that one day I would make the bed before heading to work. This week I finally started doing it.
It’s not that I don’t like making the bed; I actually find it relaxing because it cleans up the entire room in one action and makes it look much easier to navigate. What has stopped me thus far has been our schedules, specifically my partner’s sleeping schedule that allowed her to sleep until well after I had left for work. And you simply can’t make the bed while someone is in it. Trust me.
My partner started her new job this week, however, which moved her waking time up a few hours. Despite her new office and what sounds like a fantastic atmosphere, perhaps the most tangible change this week has been our change in morning schedules. Now we are up within 15 minutes of each other and, also much to my enjoyment, I can turn on any light I need and make as much noise as I want while getting ready. But a morning routine is still slightly jolted when another person is suddenly in the mix.
I should say here that I love routines. I am a planner by nature and being spontaneous is sometimes difficult for me. I prefer to know when, where, how long, who, and to what extent. And once that is settled, I don’t want to deviate. I’ve been working on my morning routine for a few months to figure out the best way to achieve what I want from it. However, a lot of blog posts that I’ve read on creating a calmer, more rewarding morning offer advice that simply doesn’t work for me. Suggestions have included tossing out alarms and waking naturally when my body wants to wake (if only I didn’t have a job with a start time), taking thirty minutes to read or journal or watch the sunrise (pushing my waking time to 4:10 AM – no thank you), fitting in a full workout before a shower (again, not getting up at 4:00 AM), or walking or biking to work for more outdoor time (my commute is 80 miles round trip). Some are good suggestions but they rarely ever fit into the time frame I have without causing me to lose more sleep. As someone who is already moving toward the bed around 8:30 PM and turning off her alarm at 4:30 AM, I need a routine that fits into my schedule, not the reverse.
So I felt slightly challenged when I realized my partner would be sharing our single bathroom with me every morning, making for a tighter fit as we each went about our grooming rituals. And while there have been a few bonuses with our new schedule this week – such as being able to get dressed in the closet with my clothes as opposed to bringing them into the bathroom the night before – I’ve had to evaluate what is most significant when it comes to my mornings and what could go. This helped me isolate the few solid habits that keep my mornings going smoother, even on days when I oversleep or wake up less than enthused about what’s ahead for the next twelve hours. They don’t include yoga or reading by sunlight for half an hour, but they do meet the goals that I’ve set to prepare myself for the extroverted world that is my job, including a full grooming routine, preparing my body to sit or stand most of the day, and leaving the apartment as I want it to be.
My morning routine is simple but effective; however, you might find that some aspects don’t work well for you. Everyone is different, so adjust it to fit your needs and preferences. The important thing is to try to keep it flexible so you can accommodate changes that might come my way.
Find the method that works best for the type of sleeper and waker that you are. Research has shown that mornings tend to go more smoothly when you wake up with your first alarm as opposed to hitting snooze several times. As a heavy sleeper, I have learned that I need multiple alarms because I do occasionally turn them off in my sleep. However, I do better without a sudden, loud noise; instead I have found that my Fitbit alarms, which vibrate on my wrist, wake me up more gradually as well as offering me a less jolting experience that doesn’t jump-start my morning with a rush of adrenaline. My backup alarms are on my phone , offering noise to ensure that I hear them as well as have to move to reach them in case I am struggling to fully wake up.
A Glass of Water
I once read a blog that recommended seeing the morning from your body’s point of view: it has been healing and recovering for 6-8 hours and hasn’t had any hydration in that time period. I believe this because I can usually feel a difference in how my muscles respond the morning after I workout or simply if I haven’t drunk much water the day before. Because I always bring a glass of water with me to bed, I always have one at least half full and ready to go when I get up. I take the glass with me to the bathroom and sip on it while I get ready. Adding at least one glass of water to your morning routine can help your body and mind wake up more fully during your routine as well as tell your body that you are preparing for the day. If water isn’t your preferred drink, try to drink something more hydrating than coffee such as juice with a low sugar content or milk. Save the coffee for a little later in the morning if you can.
I only have five habits that I do when it comes to grooming, and I know they are simpler than most women’s routines. But something I have found very helpful is the order in which I accomplish them. My grooming consists of putting in my contacts, brushing my teeth, doing a sinus rinse, showering, and blow drying my hair. I have learned after years of showering first that it is best if I do it toward the end of my morning when I am more awake and can move faster. Additionally, I do the other items beforehand because they take less thought and allow me to wake up my body before showering. I’ve tried them in several different orders and was pleased to find only recently that it does make a difference in how my body wakes up as well as how I feel that my morning develops. If you are stuck in a set routine when it comes to grooming, try switching up the order. This can also challenge your brain a little by pulling it out of thoughtless habit of what you’ve done before; give it a go in the shower and see what it does for you. Even the little changes can impact your routine – and you might make it a permanent change!
Simple, I know, but hear me out. Stretching is sometimes overlooked because it is so simple but often only associated with working out. What many of us don’t think about is that our bodies are constantly working in some fashion, whether we’re sitting all day or moving outside. Preparing your muscles for your activities is a necessary aspect of getting ready in the mornings. I only recently added stretching to my routine. Because I sit all day at the computer, my lower back can feel very tight. My neck and shoulders have also given me trouble, so I started stretching a few months ago with just a few positions every morning before I shower and every night before bed. This also helps wake up my body.
I stretch the following areas every time, giving additional focus to any areas that are bothering me: my back and hamstrings by touching my toes, lower back (this one is necessary at night to avoid pain when I lay down at night), calves and thighs, shoulders and arms, and neck (I do this throughout the day as needed when I feel my neck start to pull). That might look like a lot, but it only takes me a matter of minutes to complete my stretches, and the benefit is tenfold.
This one is new to my routine that I don’t always get to include, but I have more time most days now that I get up earlier. We used to eat breakfast on the go every morning. It worked, but I found that the distraction while I drove only added to what was occasionally hanger during traffic. It wasn’t a good scenario in Houston rush hour. Instead, I have started making breakfast on mornings when I have time. A good, healthy breakfast full of protein gives you energy for the day ahead, and I feel more awake when I hit the road. An example of my breakfast is one scrambled egg, two slices of bacon, a banana with raw cardamum spread, and raspberries or toast. I drink water with breakfast to hydrate even further as well, though coffee could easily jump in here if I’ve already made it through a glass. Even though it helps me physically, sometimes I choose to trade this step for something else if I have to choose with limited time.
Leaving the Apartment in Shape
I make the bed every morning, open the blinds for our cat and to let in more light, move the air purifier into the living room, and try to pick up anything small that can quickly be replaced such a glass, couch pillows, or dirty clothes from the night before. They are little things, but they help me feel like I keep the apartment in order. Plus the benefit of seeing some natural light filling our apartment when we walk in the door is refreshing.
I prepare for my commute before walking out the door because it can get tricky at times. Heavy traffic can easily add 20-40 minutes to my drive, so a more relaxing environment is key. I make a cup of hot tea to drink on my drive and download a few podcasts to listen to on the way to help with the boredom of driving for at least 50 minutes. Even if you have a short commute, consider how you can improve it by preparing aspects in advance: a good drink that you don’t have to wait in line to order, a favorite playlist or new podcast to listen to, someone you can call to brighten your day, a new route you can take to challenge your brain. There are lots of ways to help relax your drive. The key is figuring out the best ways to do that.
Crafting Your Own Morning Routine
If you are considering adjusting your morning routine to better fit your needs and lifestyle, here are a few questions that I asked myself before adjusting actions to consider how to best prepare myself for my day:
– How do I want to feel when I leave? Relaxed? Pumped up? Confident?
– What can I add that will help me feel this way, i.e. hot tea, favorite music, a hot breakfast?
– What process can I simplify that will still accomplish the same goal?
– Is there anything I can take away or do the night before?
– What type of environment helps me the most to focus, quiet or with noise?
– What can I do in the morning that makes my home more welcoming when I return?
Answering a few of these questions will help you figure out the best route to take in revamping your morning routine. If you can’t identify any changes to make, ask yourself why you are considering changing it at all. Are you not feeling up to speed when you leave? Perhaps you need to change your diet to give you more energy. Are you feeling unprepared mentally? Consider adding or taking away specific noise such as music or Netflix in the background. In some cases it might not be the process of adding or subtracting as much as honing in on the few aspects that could work better for you.
This all looks like too much to fit into a compressed time, but it works well for me. From start to finish, I’m rolling out of bed around 4:35 and walking out the door between 6:00 and 6:15, sometimes after preparing a full meal. I realize this won’t work for everyone, especially if you have less time, but that is why it is important to adjust your routine to what works best for you, for what helps you feel awake and prepared for your day. In the end, it’s all about you!
What aspects are most important for your morning routine? Is there something in particular that helps you prepare for your day? What does your morning routine look like?