Morning routines are something that I’ve long been fascinated by. My most creative and productive time is immediately after breakfast, and I know first-hand how the early hours can help set the tone for the day; it’s the difference between a day that starts with drinking a leisurely cup of tea while reading a chapter of a book and one that starts with gulping down that same cup of tea while getting dressed to get my caffeine hit before I rush out the door.
A few months ago, then, I developed a brilliant morning routine. I got up with my alarm at 6, made myself a big bowl of porridge and cup of steaming tea, then sat down at the table to eat my breakfast. After finishing my porridge, I pulled out my laptop and wrote 1000 words on my novel, before getting on some workout clothes and exercising for 45 minutes. Afterwards, I hopped in the shower, then got dressed for the day and packed my lunch, heading out the door around 8:40.
It was glorious. With the exclusion of dinner, I got all my important daily tasks out of the way before 9am, leaving me with lovely leisurely evenings to spend as I wished, without responsibilities looming over me.
There was just one problem.
You see, I developed that routine at the start of the local schools’ Easter holidays. When term time started again, I found myself having to leave the house earlier to compensate for the increased traffic, so I started packing my lunch in the evening, then truncating my workouts, until I found myself stressed about trying to get out the door on time, stressed about the traffic, and then stressed about finding a parking space at the office, and gradually my routine fell apart as I took advantage of my office’s flexible time policy and started leaving the house at 7am to beat the traffic.
This meant, of course, that I drastically cut my morning routine time from 2.5 hours down to one hour. Of course, I could theoretically get up earlier, but I go to bed between 9 and 10 to get up for 6, and I’m not really willing to get up so early I have to be in bed before the TV watershed starts.
And so for the past few months I’ve been working on developing a morning routine that takes the essence of that lovely 2.5-hour routine and condenses it into a single hour. Of course, I don’t have time to write, and I don’t have time for a full-length workout, but I do still have time to bring mindfulness into my morning and set the tone for the day.
If you find yourself wishing you had the time for a 3-hour morning routine but are stuck with just an hour (or less), then read on for my advice on creating the perfect short morning routine.
If you’re stuck with a limited amount of time in the morning, you’re going to have to prioritise. What things are absolutely essential to you in the morning? Conversely, what things would you like to do in the morning but would rather spend more time on than you have available first thing?
For instance, my non-negotiable is breakfast. I’m one of those people who wakes up hungry, so I need to make time before work to prepare and eat a filling, nutritious breakfast. Maybe you aren’t hungry when you wake up, so you’re fine taking some overnight oats on the train with you and getting in a morning workout instead.
On the other hand, while I love writing in the morning, I find I take 15-20 minutes to really get in my groove, so I prefer to write at a time when I can devote 40-60 minutes to it all in one go.Think you don't have time for a #morning routine? Think again. Click To Tweet
Deciding what you’ll spend your morning time on is an important start, but it’s only half the story. The key to taking your morning routine from mediocre to fantastic is mindfulness. Mindfulness carries a whole host of health benefits, including guarding against depression and improving focus and memory. A mindful morning routine allows you to approach the day ahead with gratitude and joy, rather than trepidation and dread.
You don’t have to meditate or journal in order to have a mindful morning routine (though by all means do so if you like); instead, you can incorporate mindfulness by paying attention to the things you’re doing anyway and carefully weeding out activities that don’t fit your purpose.
Because you have limited time for your morning routine, it can be tempting to rush through breakfast or try and multitask and check your emails while you eat. Don’t do this. Eating mindfully has a whole host of health benefits, including improved digestion and increased satiety, but, most significantly for the purposes of this post, rushing and multitasking sets you up for a hectic day, immediately putting you in a mindset where you’re constantly ‘ON’. You might not have time for the full mindful morning routine of your dreams, but you have time to slow down and enjoy your breakfast. Savour your meal, and take advantage of the chance to be alone with your food and your thoughts.
Just don’t. With a limited amount of time to work with, your goal here is to create a streamlined routine where you do the same things at the same time every day to get you out the door on time. Checking social media for 2 minutes can easily turn into 8 or 10 as you start responding to comments and reading blog posts. Avoid the temptation by keeping your phone in your bag or, if you use your phone as your alarm, putting it in airplane mode or turning off the internet when you go to bed.
Using social media first thing in the morning puts us in a reactionary mode, where we see comments and likes and feel the need to take action in response. A mindful morning routine, on the other hand, is proactive, spending time on the things that will help us feel better and be more productive throughout the day.
Chances are you don’t have time for a full workout, but you may still want to get a bit of movement in. An intuitive yoga practice is perfect for working the sleepy kinks out and tuning into your body and mind, though if you’re looking for something a bit more structured I can’t recommend Robin Long’s 5-10-minute Pilates videos enough. Whatever you choose, focus on being present in your workout; it will ensure you work harder and help you keep your routine mindful.
Creating a mindful morning routine doesn’t have to take you any longer than your traditional morning routine; the key is in removing things that distract you (like social media) and being mindful about the things you are doing.
Over to you
Do you have a limited amount of time in the morning? What’s your advice for developing a mindful morning routine?
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