Why Your Morning Routine Sucks (+ How to Fix It)
A good morning routine sets you up for the day with confidence.
The alternative: simply rolling out of bed, hoping for the best.
Why leave your day up to chance, when science tells us that the first three hours of your day will make or break you?
You can transform your morning routine with the 9 tips below, and find out the science behind why they work.
Soon, you’ll rise and shine like the best of them.
Tight on time? Jump around to any section.
Remember: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
It takes two months (or 66 days) to turn a new behavior into a habit.
According to Neuroscientists, the brain starts working less and less as habits form. Habit-making behaviors can be traced to the basal ganglia, a part of the brain pivotal with our emotions. Decisions are made in the prefrontal cortex.
Once a new behavior becomes a habit (and no longer needs to go through the prefrontal cortex), the decision-making part of our brain goes into sleep mode.
In other words, it takes time to get into habits. But don’t get discouraged.
Actions to take: Try creating a habit loop. Here’s how it works:
It’s a three-part process that’ll help make your new habits stick:
- The trigger: Leave yourself a note or a reminder by your bed to ensure you commit to your new morning routine
- The behavior itself: Actually completing your new habit
- The reward: Celebrating your small wins. Treat yourself after each week you successfully complete your morning routine
Now onto the tips.
1. Free Yourself From Your Mental Checklist
The best morning routines start the night before.
Before you leave work, identify your tasks for the next day.
Enter: The Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
President Eisenhower believed in separating daily actions into four different categories:
- Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately)
- Important, but not urgent (tasks you will save for later)
- Urgent, but not important (tasks you’ll pass to someone else)
- Neither urgent nor important (tasks you’ll eliminate)
Before you leave work for the evening, identify the Urgent & Important tasks you’ll need to accomplish tomorrow and send Future You a list with Send Later:
Schedule the email to send at the time you’ll get to the office so it’s at the top of your inbox when you arrive. You should make it your goal to finish any of the urgent/important tasks by the end of the day:
2. Stop Hitting Snooze — It’s Making You More Tired
If you fall asleep after hitting snooze, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Research shows that returning to an interrupted sleep means starting an entirely new sleep cycle over again. When your alarm goes off the second time, it wakes you up in the middle of REM (opposed to at the end), leaving you more tired.
Instead of hitting snooze, try one of these alternate plans:
- Set one alarm for the time when you absolutely must get up. This lets you sleep more deeply and through the time you would have spent snoozing
- Try an app that helps you gradually wake up (like Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock)
- Use a dawn simulator to wake up naturally
3. Add Mindful Meditation to Your Morning Routine
We’re not all yogis.
Chaturanga’s aside, meditation doesn’t have to be difficult. And it has some serious rewards for your brain.
A 2014 study showed that meditation rewires your brain the same way lifting weights or exercising rebuilds muscles.
So you can stay calm & reach a higher level of awareness. The best part? It only takes a few minutes.
Here’s how you can get started with meditation (right from your bed):
- Set a quiet alarm for 2 minutes from your start time
- Lay (or sit) comfortably and close your eyes
- Start to breathe slowly; count silently in your head up to 10 — 1 as you breathe in, 2 as you breathe out, 3 as you breathe in, etc. When you reach 10, start from the beginning
If you need extra assistance: Try downloading an app like Headspace that’ll walk you through a guided meditation (for 10 minutes).
4. Drink 16oz of Water When You Wake Up
The average person sleeps 6-8 hours a night. That’s a long time to go without consuming water.
It might suit camels, but not us. 🐫
Humans are composed of over 70% water, which means that throughout a day you should drink an ounce of water for each pound you weigh.
There are plenty of other benefits to adding water to your morning routine:
- It increases your energy: while people automatically tie coffee to morning energy, having water actually brings the extra spring to your step. Make your first priority rehydration so that your energy levels stay up
- Jump starts your metabolism: When you don’t drink enough water, you mistake thirst with hunger. This causes you to eat more throughout the day
- Helps fight sickness: While you’re sleeping, the body repairs itself. The immune system fights hard to get rid of your toxins. Water speeds up the process
In other words, hydration = health.
5. Make Your Bed: It’s the Small-Win You Need to Get Started
Turns out, your parents were right when they nagged you to make your bed.
Hunch.com surveyed 68,000 people on whether or not they make their beds.
The results showed that 71% of bed makers consider themselves happy, while 62% of non-bed-makers were unhappy.
So what’s stopping you from getting that small sense of morning accomplishment?
After all, if you can make your bed, you can do anything. 💪
6. Avoid Falling Into the Social Media Abyss
Be honest: do you share the bed with your phone?
It rests next to me, ready to distract me the moment I wake up. The second I open my eyes, it’s there and I feel like I need to catch up.
And I’m not alone. 80% of smartphone users check their phones before even brushing their teeth.
Using social media can have major consequences on your emotional well-being.
A study of more than 1,000 people in Denmark revealed that Facebook browsing can bring down your mood.
Users who took a week-long break from it reported much higher levels of satisfaction.
What to do: Stay away from your phone or computer in the morning. Instead, focus your energy on getting out the door. Your phone will still be there later in the day.
7. Focus on the Good: How to Use Gratitude
We can all name at least one thing we’re grateful for.
Did you know that simply thinking of that thing is proven to increase your mental and physical health?
In a Harvard case study, psychologists divvied participants into three different groups.
Here’s what each group was asked to write down:
After 10 weeks, the results showed that those who wrote about positive things felt better about their life. They also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians.
How to practice gratitude: Keep a list (in a notebook or on the Notes app on your phone) of things you’re grateful for. The next time you’re bummed out, you can reflect on everything going well.
8. Don’t Know If You Heard, But Breakfast is Pretty Important
While there’s debate about whether or not breakfast is actually the most important meal of the day, there’s no debating that it has significance.
Skipping your morning meal is linked to overeating later in the day. Here’s why: eating in the morning stabilizes your blood sugar levels, which won’t happen if you wait to eat.
What to do: This one’s simple: Enjoy a nice breakfast.
It doesn’t have to be continental.
Nutritionist Ruth Frechman recommends a breakfast that contains protein, fruits, whole grains, or vegetables.
You could try eggs, oatmeal, whole grain toast, or a fruit cup.
9. Don’t Spend Time on Things You Can Do Ahead of Time
We all know the feeling. You wake up and are completely daunted by the simple task of picking out an outfit or putting the laptop into your backpack.
Eliminating these steps will simplify your morning routine.
How to do this: Do everything you can the night before. Future You will be grateful.
- Lay out your clothes, wallet, bags
- Pack additional materials: lunch, gym clothes, anything you need for the office
- Make sure your phone/other electronics are charging and ready to go for the morning
That’s A Wrap
Your morning routine doesn’t have to be a blur. And it shouldn’t.
It’s time to stop rushing through your morning and overwhelming yourself with tasks you’re unprepared for.
Are you ready?
Now over to you — what are your favorite morning routines? Feel free to send over any that you recommend (bonus points if you can find research to back it!).