I’ve been working to have a good morning routine for years, and what I’ve found is that I tend to go in cycles. I start with a simple list of three or fewer things that I must do before I leave the house or get on with my day. These items have varied from doing a one minute plank to sitting still for five minutes and breathing. As I get better at finishing my list, I add items on. I do a plank, breath, and add a short stretching routine. The next day or week I’ll add a five minute session at the piano and maybe a few pages of scripture.
After a few weeks I will have built up a solid workout routine of up to 30 minutes, set goals for ten to fifteen minutes at the piano, commit to so many pages of the Bible per day, and a twenty minute meditation session.
Then something will happen. It can be as dramatic as getting sick and lying in bed, having a bad night, getting to bed too late (seems like lack of sleep is my biggest saboteur) or having a few rushed mornings because of a special social or work commitment.
Or, I just get lazy.
So I know that I need a few things in place to support a good morning routine.
- Limit the number of items. I’m currently at 11 items that take between .5 and ten minutes. That is pushing it!
- Items must line up with over all life goals. I want to learn more music and be better at Spanish. I used to waste time in the morning also working on some French and Russian, but I didn’t have anywhere to apply what I learned later in the day. I use music everyday and I live in Salt Lake City, so Spanish is for sure going to be useful.
- Accomplishing the list must be viewed as flexible. This means I either need to be OK with only having a percentage of my items checked off each day (maybe on Fridays I don’t have time to meditate) OR I’m OK with doing some of the items later in the day. I’ll get my (only ten minutes of) Spanish study done no matter what, but it might not be strictly part of the morning routine.
Something that has helped me IMMENSELY is checking of the boxes. I know there is good intention behind the advice to not live by To Do lists, but there is something that helps me feel grounded when I can check items off.
If you don’t like reading my rambling writes, you can watch and listen to my rambling rambles:
I like being able to see how the morning and the weeks progress. When the chart is full I can see how far I’ve come, along with counting the pages read in my Spanish reading book or noting how much easier some music is to play. With items like “Take a five minute cold shower” I can see how much easier its got, and I can gloat about how many illnesses I’ve probably dodged with this boost to my immune system.
So here is the break down of my current routine with thoughts on each item and how I’ve been able to stick to it.
Item One: Pray and be Grateful.
I am a religious person, so I kneel down (the physical position is important for my focus) and pray about a small list of personal things, like my marriage and self development. I also add periodically to this little running list. It has everything from my parents to my old slow cooker. Anything that makes my life better gets written down with a nice pen in my personal journal. I pray every morning, but I add to this list only every few days…or weeks.
Item Two: Five Minute Cold Shower
I did a whole post on why I do this. I’m pretty sure this daily shock to my immune system has helped me avoid some of the bugs that have come my way this winter. My husband got a really bad cold in January, obviously infectious and debilitating. Sore throat, congestion, aches and pains, all the stuff.
I didn’t get a sniffle. I can’t say I was the best with sleep or diet, and in fact I was working out A LOT and not sleeping enough during that time, but I was taking this cold dunk every morning, so for now, I’ll say that’s why and I’ll keep doing it. A special note, since its winter here, these morning showers are very cold. In the summer this is hardly a challenge, because the water just doesn’t get as cold and I can step out into a scorching Utah summer any time.
Item Three: Piano and/or Vibraphone Practice
I don’t currently have vibraphone music I’m working on, but I do have an arraignment I need to get written….something for the weekend To Do list…. However, I do play the piano and people give me money for it. At this point I can mostly get away with not practicing, but I want to make myself more useful, so there is harder music I need to be working on. I don’t always have time to do a solid hour every day, or even more than once a week. So I try to do between five and ten minutes every morning.
That’s it. Five to ten minutes. If I feel like doing more and have the leisure time, I do. But I keep the pressure low so I can be consistent. If I worked myself up to expecting thirty minutes every day, I know from experience that I would soon be skipping it all together. I have to commit to keeping it short, then when I can go longer, its a welcome luxury, not a grind.
daily short practice is also much more useful than intermittent long practice any how. If I want a piece of music to feel solid, I’ll work on it for months, daily, instead of for hours the week before I need it.
Item Four: Scripture and Language Study
I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and like a lot of religious groups, we are encouraged to read from our Holy Writ every day. I have a vague system of alternating between this specifically LDS book and the Bible. And here I’ll admit to cheating a little on my morning routine. I have been reading this book in Spanish for about ten minutes every day and counting it as both my Spanish study and scripture study. This will work till I finish the book I guess, but I’ve been thinking of getting some easy reading in Spanish, like the harry Potter books maybe? and reading a bit fro those each day. Probably wouldn’t be hard to get my hands on a Spanish Bible though.
This helps because I am pretty familiar with The Book of Mormon in English, so I can fill in the gaps and learn new words more easily from context.
Item Five: Meditation
I have been trying to meditate consistently for years. It has always been so sporadic. What I have finally hit on is to have two acceptable kinds of meditation session. The longer and ideal session is still only ten minutes, but I did a twenty minute session the other day because I had time and it just felt so great. For mornings or days where that just isn’t going to happen, I take ten deep breaths, which takes maybe two minutes, and I can check of the box for meditation without guilt.
For a longer session I select a ten minute music track or YouTube video of sound and music (I usually don not use a guided meditation), I settle down o this couch with a lap quilt for my cat, and I just sit and listen. Sometimes I do a tapping exercise (just google that) or repeat some phrase to help me focus. My phrase lately has been “I have plenty of time.” Because who ever feels like they have enough time?
Item Six: Business Post
I take five minutes, sometimes less, to post something for Cheval Dancewear’s social media. Anything from a photo to Instagram to sharing an article with my own thoughts on the Facebook page. I try to make a significant but not annoying bit of noise, just incase my next reader or customer is listening. Yes, I do other things for my blog and business, but this is a little something I do every day to make sure I don’t get too distracted from it when I don’t have a big order to fill.
Item Seven (getting to be almost too many, but hang on): Play with the Cats
These are my girls! Mira on top and Clair on the bottom. My husband and I are both gone for big chunks of the day. These ladies are about two years old, but they still need stimulation and play time. I try to give them a solid ten minutes in the morning, so that they at least get something (the birds from our feeder outside the window aren’t always reliable) and any extra play we do later in the day is bonus time. I’ve found playing with them also helps me chill out. When you watch a kitty kick the snot out of a piece of ribbon its hard to take yourself to seriously.
Item Eight: Log Weight and Measurements
You already know I’m always working on my fat loss and body composition. What get’s measured get’s managed. This is a new chart, so its blank, but it is pinned up in my bathroom. This task takes less than 20 seconds.
Item Nine :
Item Nine is another measuring/ accountability item. i have a couple of “thin” items of clothing. Depending on how they fit I can feel as well as see how I’m coming on my goals. If something is snug it might just be the time of month, but it could mean something needs to change in my eating, fasting, and workout habits. This also takes a negligible amount of time.
Item Ten is to update my personal blog and vlog. This was really important when i was doing daily updates. For February I’ve been taking a step back. This is an example of something I want to keep on my radar but that doesn’t necessarily get acted upon every day.
Item Eleven: Jaw and Tongue Workout:
Yup. Weird, but just take a second and look up Orthotropics. I don’t know how new this is, but its got big enough on the internet for me to find it. I’ll post more on this project of mine later, but basically I’m trying to improve my face shape but working out my tongue, jaws, and neck posture. if it works O\I’ll have a post on it in a few months.
I’ve also been chewing this very hard non flavored gum:
This is a great example of something I’m interested in enough to spend time on, but that take calendar time not just a few intense sessions, like I could do with learning a piece of music. After all, a huge reason for a morning routine is to acquire habits and skill that need time to effect the body and mind.
Item Twelve and Final: Work Out
For January this meant doing my personal workout every day, and doing it twice if I missed a day. I didn’t count going to ballet class, taking a long walk, or biking up Hallelujah Hill from work. But iam just now beginning to feel fully rested from that awesome but intense month of exercise. So for February, checking the workout box means I went to class, taught class, or even just did a short stretch routine. I still have days where I do all those things, then bike home at night, but i’m being more generous here.
Getting it done:
I try to get the hardest things done first. I get the cold shower done first thing. Even if I’ve slept in and its almost noon, I get in that icy water and set the timer. After that, everything else I have to do in the day is easy.
I also try to group things. For example, after i’ve iced and reheated, I sit on the couch with my books, my phone and headphones, and one or both cats. While I sit there I can do my reading, then my meditation, post for my business and play with the kitties, all from one spot.
Before or after that I take a minute a the piano. I try to focus on the hardest spots in a piece but not stress about getting them jsut right. Everyday some element is a little easier. The music I’m working on right now I don’t “need” till September, so I’m taking my time of the rough patches. Everything will come together easily when I’m ready to spend more time on it in a few months.
Here is another huge thing. If I don’t get something done in the morning, it is totally OK for me to do it later. Last Saturday I went on an extended day date with my husband. I didn’t do anything on my list until 2 pm, and I didn’t finish the last item until just before bed. and I did the short version for everything. But I touched each item that day.
A body building coach I admire a lot says to just put in the movement, even if you don’t do full volume. This keeps the habit up, because missing even one day can derail a month of consistency.
Keeping track, even when you feel you are off track helps you see a bigger picture. How many days in a row have I had to do the short version of something or an item got left until 10:30 at night? How mnay days in a row did i do that big workout? Is that why I can’t get my back to loosen up and do I need a light day or three?
One last thing I do everyday, but that is my ONLY night time item, is write in my personal journal. I’ve been doing this for more than twenty years.
This is my latest journal. I use Stabilo pens.
I keep this low key too, a sentence is enough, but when I’m feeling the feels I can go on for pages. I also glue or tape photos, programs and other memory holding pieces of paper inside, some sometimes my journals are hard to close.
I won’t claim I’m an expert on the morning routine thing. But I am working on becoming expert on myself. that means flexibility with accountability. Checking off boxes feels good, but so does getting enough sleep. Mastering a piece of music feels good, but so does not feeling rushed for morning class or work.
What does your morning look like? What do you wish it looked like?