Raise your hand if you like the idea of having a morning routine but cannot for the life of you make one work over the long haul. That has been me, and I have been SO frustrated!! But you CAN develop a morning routine that is sustainable, and I’m going to tell you how today.
Before reading further, though, go do a quick skim of my last post, The Secret to a Sustainable Morning Routine. It will give you the background for what I’m writing about here. Then don’t forget to come back to this one, because today I’m going to give you the nitty-gritty of exactly how to choose which tasks to put into a morning routine that will actually work for you long-term.
Remember the goal: a morning routine that helps set the tone for the rest of the day — one of energy and productivity — but doesn’t take over the rest of the day, because we get so exhausted doing an impossibly long list.
How to determine which tasks become part of your morning routine:
I determined my sustainable morning routine by looking at two factors: 1) eating the frog, and 2) what energizes me.
Let me explain:
1) Eating the frog is a phrase that means get the hardest/worst thing done first. Whatever the job is, tackle the hardest thing first, and then the rest will be that much easier and go that much more quickly. I also think it means to get that thing done that wouldn’t happen at all if you put it off until later.
Examples of these might be exercising, cleaning something, grading homeschool stuff, lesson planning, etc. There was a time period when I put writing new blog posts in this category, lol, because filling up a blank page can be hard for me. So it was best to do it early in the morning, while I was fresh, and get it out of the way; so I didn’t have to think about it for the rest of the day. What things do you tend to put off that really do need to be done? That’s the first type of thing you want to add to your morning routine.
2) What energizes me? What things give me that great motivated feeling that will spur me on to further productivity? These are things that help your brain feel clean and clear when you’ve done them — whereas when they are not done, your brain feels cluttered and frustrated.
You could go crazy and say my whole house needs to be clean and laundry needs to be caught up — nah, don’t go there. Just try to really think about which specific tasks energize YOU, make you feel refreshed. For instance, Fly Lady advocates having a shiny sink. For her, that’s a thing that when it’s done, she’s energized and ready to tackle whatever else. But you know what? When I made a shiny sink MY first priority, it didn’t do that much for me. It was definitely nice having a shiny sink, but it didn’t motivate me like it does her.
That’s the problem with many articles about morning routines — they try to legislate what works for them into what should work for you. It doesn’t work that way. LOL.
You may end up with long lists. The way to narrow them down is to see which tasks are on BOTH the “frog” list AND the energizing list. Those are the ones you DEFINITELY want as part of your morning routine!!
Just remember that the secret is to keep your list SHORT. Adding too many tasks to your morning routine will doom you to failure yet again. We want this to be doable day after day.
My own morning routine
When I spent some time thinking about “frog” tasks and energizing tasks, I came up these:
1) Bible time — This is energizing for me. It helps me keep my priorities in order, reminds me of Whose I am, and refreshes my spirit. It is also a “frog” in that, if I put it off, it probably won’t get done.
2) Exercise — This is mostly a “frog” because I am often not motivated to make it happen. The crazy thing is that after I am done I feel so much more like a human being. So it’s also an energizer. Currently I am taking a walk with the dog each day.
3) Clean Kitchen — No, I usually don’t do this the night before. I’m TIRED after dinner, y’all. I put away the food in the evening, but yes, I often leave the dishes until the following morning. (Half of you are now gasping in horror, and the other half are secretly relieved that you’re not the only ones. 🙂 ) I figure that I can’t see the mess while I’m sleeping — am I right? — so it doesn’t hurt to put it off until morning. It weighs me down MORE having to do it at night than it does to wake up to it.
This is just me knowing how I work best and not trying to change myself to fit somebody else’s idea of a “good homemaker.” But don’t get me wrong, I do recognize that having a clean kitchen makes food prep for the rest of the day go WAY better. So while I don’t necessarily like cleaning (“frog”), it does promote future productivity (energizer).
4) Make Bed — If I have time, I’d prefer to straighten up the entire bedroom, but I definitely like to see the bed made when I walk into there later in the day. It’s one of my “shiny sinks.” Other areas of the home being cluttered don’t affect me as much. This one is not a “frog,” but when it’s not done, my brain feels blecky.
5) Plan the rest of my day by time increments — See, this is how I fit the clock into it. Each morning, I sit down with a spiral notebook and schedule what I hope to accomplish that day into time slots. But I just start from whatever time it is right then. This means I don’t have to start my routine at the same time every day, which is HUGE when it comes to sustaining it.
Doing this helps me see if my to-do list for the day is reasonable, and it keeps me moving forward from one thing to the next. So making this plan is an important energizing thing for me.
How do I order these morning routine tasks?
Making the plan happens first, perhaps while I am sipping my coffee. All the others get planned into my morning as I do this step. The benefit is that this way my morning routine is flexible enough to account for the varying needs of each day. Does the day happen the way I plan? Actually, not that often. The plan is more of a guideline than a contract. But for me personally, it helps to make one.
I don’t always do these morning routine tasks in the same order, although usually after planning comes Bible time, then cleaning the kitchen (often while I make breakfast), then my walk, then making the bed (while I am showering and getting dressed.) But not always. And everything happens at different times almost every morning. It’s a fluid routine, not a straitjacket. And therein lies its beauty.
You may be wondering why I did NOT include coffee, breakfast, shower, get dressed, etc. on my list of morning routine items. To me, these are universal and will happen every day whether I have a “morning routine” or I don’t. Yes, coffee energizes me — doesn’t it energize us all?? LOL. But I don’t need the motivating structure of a “routine” to make sure I get some.
On the other hand, the items that are actually on my list are ones I have identified as my own personal MUST-DO’s. They are individual to ME. If I didn’t identify them and how important they are to me, and why they should happen in the morning to set the tone for MY day, how they make ME feel empowered and ready to tackle whatever comes next — then I’d probably be distracted by other things in the morning, things that are easier or more fun or supposedly more urgent.
And I would regret it for the rest of the day.
Short and flexible. That’s the type of morning routine that will be sustainable over the long haul. One that is not bound by time but can adapt to each new day. One made of tasks that empower you by taking a burden away that would otherwise hang over you all day and/or tasks that energize you by giving you a lift in your spirit. One that you can pick up day after day and not feel like you are robotically going through your morning with no room for error or spontaneity.
What will your morning routine look like now? 🙂
P.S. For more great articles from other perspectives about what a morning routine should look like, check out my Ann-Notated roundup here: What Others Say about Creating a Morning Routine.