We love to label ourselves as either a morning person or a night owl – and it’s true, some people just work better in the mornings, some in the evenings.
But as we’ve all adapted to working and socialising from home a lot more since Covid,–19 that line has got a lot blurrier as beds become offices and lounges become café’s, and the impetuous of ‘get up, get ready, get out’ has gone.
Well, it’s something I’ve been struggling with, anyway. Full disclosure, I am a ‘morning person’ usually. I like getting up and going, that first coffee is one of the best parts of the day and I do my best creative thinking – a la writing – in the morning.
But lately I’m finding it tough. Motivation has been a struggle, as working from home now means there’s no deadline for me to leave the house, and us journalists, my goodness – we love a deadline!
So I started looking at where my day began – my morning routine – and it clicked. I was literally not starting my day on the right side of the bed!
The science proves it, with multiple studies finding having a set routine increases productivity, helps you feel in control, lowers stress, boosts energy and can even improve your relationships (I guess that tracks if you’re less of a crabby Sally in the mornings).
Hal Elrod, the author of The Miracle Morning, says “Focused, productive and successful mornings generate focused, productive and successful days – which inevitably create a successful life.”
Makes sense. Your mornings set the tone of your day and they also serve as the start of your daily do-over – no matter how crap yesterday was, it’s your chance to turn things around and have a cracker today.
But it’s all good to say – how are you actually supposed to figure out what you’re supposed to do in the mornings?
Designing your own super routine The first thing to note – no one routine works for everyone, so there are no shoulds here.
To begin, you need to figure out what is important to you, and what you need to start your day on the right foot because that’s essentially the entire point of the routine.
It’s called setting an intention but it’s just a fancy way of saying you need to look at what you want out of your mornings. Do you want to feel more peaceful? More energised? More organised? Healthier? Happier? Write down your goals or you intended feelings and go from there.
It’s also important to note that you don’t have to be a morning person to have a routine – carve out some time whenever wake up – and routines don’t have to be intense or demanding. Again, it’s about feeling what’s right for you.
There are so many different things you can incorporate into your mornings and the internet is littered with ideas – indeed Craig Kulyk from The Morning Effect has done the hard work for all of us and pulled 127 different ones from all corners of the web into one easy document here but if that’s overwhelming, here’s a framework for figuring out your own personal routine.
Thing about your hauora
If you’re not familiar with the idea of hauora, it’s the Māori concept of health and well-being, and it’s a great way to think about and frame your overall health. It’s a concept that’s stuck with me since getting taught it in P.E at school because it just makes sense.
Think of the four walls of a whare (house) with each representing the four pillars of health – physical, mental and emotional, social and spiritual. All are equally necessary to keep the whare upright, and it’s the same as you. So, if we’re thinking about mornings being the start of a successful day, consider serving the four walls in your routine and you’ve already got a great start.
What the experts say
While I said there are no shoulds, there are tips that pop up more than others from the experts, and can form a good base for designing your morning ritual.
- Make your bed – pretty much EVERYONE insists on this. Success breeds success – even the tiny little wins help shape your further successes throughout the day, and you’ve already ticked off the first task of the day.
- Sunlight is key – it helps your body’s natural circadian rhythms (i.e it’ll help wake you up) if you get outside and get some sunshine (or just general light if you’re living in Wellington in the winter!).
- Drink water – it’s a no brainer really. We all know water is good, but it’s especially in the morning to replenish your dehydrated body and it really couldn’t be simpler.
- Gratitude – it’s both a spiritual and mental exercise that’ll help frame the day in positive way right from the get-go.
- Don’t start scrolling straight away – it’s easier said than done, but even 10 minutes at the beginning of your day without mindless scrolling on your phone or tablet is good for the soul.
- Don’t hit the snooze button – it just messes with your body’s ability to wake up. Once you’re up, you’re up kid.
After consulting the experts, here’s the new and improved me
For me, my morning routine is all about feeling in control of the day ahead of me, and giving myself the best possible start because then, even if everything else turns to custard, at least I’ve ticked off some good stuff in the mornings. So taking into account what I love, what I need and what I want out of the day as well as my overall hauora, my idea routine now looks a little something like this:
- Wake up – you have to start somewhere, right?
- 10 minutes of silence – ignore the temptation to grab my phone straight away and just spend a few minutes breathing and lying in silence. I hate meditation, so this is about as mind-calming as I’m going to get in the mornings and it does help to collect my thoughts before I start the day.
- Gratitude – I don’t write them down – I do enough writing throughout the day – but I’ll think of three things I’m grateful for on that particular day. It sounds super cliché but it actually does help frame everything in a positive way and I’m actually really loving it.
- Check headlines – here’s where I start going off script. I’m a journalist and I need to check what’s going on in the world pretty early in the day, but instead of checking social media or emails, I’ve limited my phone to just looking at the news of the day. It’s something I enjoy, and it helps me think about what I might need to cover throughout the day.
- Make bed – remind me when I rent my next place to choose a bedroom big enough so that my bed doesn’t have to be up against a wall. The FRUSTRATION of trying to make the bed sometimes is annoying, but there is something magical of ticking off the bed making and I’m sticking with it. It really does help me feel put-together and in control of the day. Well, so far.
- 30-minute walk – I live right on the beach so there’s really no excuse for getting some nature in every morning, even if the weather isn’t great. Plus I see so many dogs and it really does make me happy. I’m not a runner, and I’ve realised my morning walks are as much about seeing the water and being on the beach as much as it is exercise.
- Turn on morning playlist or radio – Depending on my mood I’ll chuck on Spotify’s Morning Motivation playlist, or turn to my favourite radio station.
- Smoothie – Potentially the best thing I do for myself in the morning – I chuck as many of my 5+ a day in the Nutribullet (at the moment it’s spinach, mango, raspberry, almonds and turmeric with water) and I know I’ve given my body some good stuff, even if that turns to rubbish in the afternoon when the wine and snacks come out.
- Shower – Because, of course.
- Skincare routine – I always used to scoff at people who had a ‘skincare routine’ because it sounded so snobby and I just used whatever free things my old beauty editor used to give me. But now, my skincare routine has become like a little slice of luxury in the mornings, time carved out just for me that’s easy to do and helps my face look a little more presentable to the general public. My go-to is Dermalogica – a double cleanse, serum and moisturise with some under-eye attention is perfect for me, with a mask at the weekends.
- Light candle – Appreciation of the little things is something hugely important to me, as is my love of the Danish concept hygge – essentially, cosiness. Scent is a way in which both of those things manifest, and at last count in my tiny apartment, I had upwards of 20 different candles. As well as the smell, there’s something about the flame that calms me a little as I go about my morning, and I love arriving at my desk with my candle going, ready for the workday. My favourite at the moment? Glasshouse’s A Taaha Affair because who wouldn’t want their desk to smell like the inside of Peter Alexander?
- Hair/makeup/get dressed – Again, because I’m a functional member of society.
- Five-minute house tidy – Classic Virgo, I hate mess. I can’t be truly productive working from home if the place is a pigsty, so I tidy a little before starting my day and it really helps.
- Coffee – God bless Nespresso.
- Settle at desk, check email and write to-do list for the day – finally, it’s time to crack in! The first thing I always do is clear my inbox as much as I can, and from that write my prioritised to-do list. And them, I’m away!
I’ve been doing this routine for two weeks now and I can honestly say it’s changed EVERYTHING. I’m getting through SO much more work, I’m more cheerful and I can feel my old morning self coming back. It works for me – now it’s time to figure out what you need. Good luck!