Successful people start their days in different ways. According to Entrepreneur, Steve Jobs would start by asking himself an honest question in the mirror each morning. Arianna Huffington slows down for 30 minutes of meditation. Tory Burch rises at 5:45 a.m., wakes her sons, and exercises for 45 minutes.
These routines have started somewhat of a movement. Search for books about morning routines on Amazon, and you won’t be disappointed. YouTube, Instagram, and other social platforms have become flooded with videos touting the perfect way to start the day.
One YouTube creator takes her dog out, showers, and then does a full light therapy treatment on her skin. Another takes “a few hours” for herself every morning, which includes a face mask, a full coverage makeup look and a spin class, all before 8 a.m. A third makes a breakfast bowl with tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, spinach, fried eggs and potatoes, and a sprinkling of spring onions on top, all made fresh that morning.
After watching all of those, I have to admit I’m feeling some motivation to really change how I start my day. Has all of this left us scrambling to fit in more of what others are telling us is important?
My current routine involves a quick debate with myself about whether my hair can go another day with dry shampoo, an expertly timed 10-minute makeup look, and a splash of Coffee Mate in my mug before running out the door. My routine is far from perfect. I tend to find myself rushing, and I would be better served with a few extra moments to slow down in the morning.
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What I am trying to say is that morning routines are highly personal. For me, the 20 minutes I spend brewing coffee, putting on makeup, and having a quick cuddle with my cat are 20 minutes I’ve set aside for me and only me. They aren’t perfect, but they’re mine.
Still, a strong morning routine can be highly impactful. Behavioral scientist Jon Levy wrote an article for Inc. about the power of morning routines. “At their core, routines are a series of habits,” he claims. “Good ones propel us towards our goals, get us moving, and motivate us to go on with the rest of the day.”
But he knows how easily our routines can go south.
“In an effort to make our lives easier and more productive, we develop habits, but we rarely think about how they may be limiting us,” he explains.
What is his advice? First and foremost, do what is right for you and prioritize sleep. No one should feel like they need to wake up early and fit in a 15-step skincare routine. If you don’t have time to cook a perfect frittata before sitting down to your morning meditation hour, that’s okay. And guess what? There isn’t even a requirement to make your bed every morning.
Instead of silent meditation, try journaling for a few minutes on the train. Rather than cooking up a complicated breakfast, prep something healthy in advance that you can grab and go. If you’re close enough, walk to work, and your commute can become your daily exercise.
Your perfect routine might not look anything like any of these, and it might change over time. That brings me to Levy’s second piece of advice, which is to be sure your routine doesn’t become too rigid. Rigidity can stifle creativity, he warns.
Rigidity can also cause us to fail easily. I know I’ve had more than a few mornings where I’ve missed my first alarm, decided the day was ruined since I was already 15 minutes late, and proceeded to stay in bed, defeated, rather than change my routine slightly and make the most of the time I had.
Take some time to consider how your mornings go. How do you want to start your day? Start incorporating small daily rituals into your morning routine, and see if they positively influence your daily life and productivity. If they do, that’s great! If they don’t, try something else until you find the best way for you to start your day. Maybe you’ll be rising at 5 a.m. and have a dozen tasks done before the sun is up. Then again, that extra three hours of sleep might be just what you need to start your day right.
Remember, your morning routine is just that: yours.
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By Alyssa Huntley
Alyssa Huntley lives and works in Washington, D.C. She has written about a range of topics, from technology to real estate to women's issues. You can find her on Twitter @alyssajhuntley and at www.alyssajhuntley.com.