Having a consistent morning routine can increase your productivity and set you up for a successful day ahead. Most successful people wake up to the same set of activities every morning. This enables them to focus on making meaningful decisions to problems that matter.
Why wake up to a chaotic and stressful morning, when you could spend some effort to establish a proper morning routine? Having everything planned out can help you to begin your day on a good note. Students who have a proper morning routine can concentrate better in class. Also, they tend to perform better than their peers who do not have a clear plan.
In this article, we would like to share some actionable steps to help you design your own morning routine (especially if you haven’t got one). We have also included some pointers for you to streamline your current routine, and make your mornings even more productive than before.
Develop Your Productive Morning Routine with these 7 Steps
Here are 7 steps you can follow to make your mornings more fruitful, even if you are not a morning person:
- Recognise the importance of starting the day well
- Track how you are currently spending your mornings
- Classify activities based on whether they are essential morning tasks
- Replace bad habits with good ones, and good habits with better ones
- Dive into your new morning routine (or introduce these changes gradually)
- Make tweaks along the way, especially if something isn’t quite working
- Continue improving, and reward yourself with an occasional “cheat day”
Sounds good, so where do I start?
How are your mornings currently like?
- Every morning I am rushing for time, all the time. Go to Step 1
- There are just too many things to do in the morning! Go to Step 3
- I’ve got a rather good routine, but want to make it better. Go to Step 4
- I’ve pretty much figured everything out. Got any bonus tips? Go to Step 6
Step 1: Recognise the importance of starting the day well
Start the day right with a productive morning routine. What you do in the morning sets the momentum for the rest of your day. Having a clear routine puts you in the right frame of mind, setting you up for success. At the same time, you would feel ready to take on any challenges that you may encounter throughout the day.
With a clear morning routine, you wouldn’t need to spend time and brain energy to make small and trivial decisions. Deciding which water bottle to bring to school, or whether to eat porridge or bread for breakfast, are good examples of unimportant decisions that you shouldn’t need to make in the morning. The limited time you have every morning should be spent on things which truly add value to your life.
Making too many decisions in the morning – whether big or small – can contribute to a phenomenon known as decision fatigue. It’s time for you to start ignoring the things that do not significantly improve your quality of life. One of the ways to get into this habit is to build a regular morning routine and stick to it.
Begin your day with a high level of energy, and a fresh mind that is not cluttered by unimportant thoughts. When you start the morning feeling refreshed, you would naturally become a more enthusiastic person. For example, you would start to look forward to what you will be learning in class. You are also more likely to find ways to expand your social circle and meet new friends.
Now that you understand the importance of starting every day well, you’ve taken your first step towards more productive mornings. You’re all set to build yourself a better morning rountine.
Step 2: Track how you are currently spending your mornings
Track your habits and discover how you are currently spending your time after getting out of bed. This is especially helpful for those who have been leaving the duration of each activity to chance every morning. If it takes you 20 minutes to shower, 20 minutes it is – sounds familiar?
But do you really need to spend 20 minutes to wash up every morning? Not really, you could potentially do that in half the time.
Tracking your morning activities lets you know where your precious minutes in the morning have been flowing. It also gives you a better estimate of how long you should cater to each morning activity.
Get started by recording the time spent on each activity in a notebook. Don’t forget to include a short description of the activity, especially if it is something out of the norm. Alternatively, you can use a time-tracking tool such as Toggl (which is conveniently made available on desktop and mobile). You can also ask a family member to help you track your morning activities.
Step 3: Classify activities based on whether they are essential morning tasks
Tracking your habits for a week or a fortnight gives you a clearer picture of how you would usually spend your mornings. Let’s put the data which you have collected in the previous step to good use. Don’t forget that your ultimate goal is to build a more productive morning for yourself.
When you go through your timesheet, you would find that most activities take a predictable amount of time. Getting dressed for the day takes you the same amount of time each day. The time you spend eating breakfast shouldn’t deviate too much from one day to another either. This means that you already have a morning routine of some sort. So, how can you make your existing morning routine even better?
Divide your activities into essential morning tasks and those which can be done at other times of the day. Essential tasks in the morning include things like brushing your teeth, eating your breakfast and travelling to school. You can’t actually complete these tasks the night before.
Other tasks such as ironing your uniform and packing your bag could be done anytime. Free up your hectic morning schedule by completing these tasks the night before. And always make sure that you have enough time to complete your rescheduled tasks before going to bed.
Step 4: Replace bad habits with good ones, and good habits with better ones
Checking Instagram first thing in the morning to see what your friends have been up to while you were asleep? Rolling around in bed, staring into space and pretending that you’re awake? Or hitting the snooze button for the second or third time so that you could get that few extra minutes of sleep?
These are some of the bad habits that can turn your morning into an unproductive time of the day. And if we’re guessing correctly, there is a likely chance that you have not been recording these activities on your timesheet. But don’t worry about it – we certainly didn’t write those activities down when we first tracked our morning routine.
There’s just one more step before you roll out that new morning routine.
The good news is that you do not need to start making a list of bad habits. When you get rid of a bad habit, you may unknowingly develop another bad habit to fill the void. Instead, come up with a list of good habits that could make your mornings more productive. These good habits will eventually replace the old ones over time.
Redesign your ideal morning by incorporating some good habits into your routine. For instance, you may start the day by doing five to ten minutes of exercise to boost your physical and mental performance. You could also wake up slightly earlier to prepare a healthy breakfast for your family.
Here are some suggestions for good habits which you can include in your morning routine:
- Wake up at the same time every morning, including weekends
- Make your bed, and look forward to an organised room after school
- Sit down at the dining table and have breakfast together with your family
- Take a ten-minute brisk walk and breathe in some fresh air from outside
- Go through your schedule for the day, including any activities after school
- Cross out yesterday’s date on the calendar – another day has gone by
Don’t worry too much about perfecting your habits right from the start. It takes time (and of course, determination) for habits to change.
Step 5: Dive into your new morning routine (or introduce these changes gradually)
It’s time to test out your redesigned morning routine. Add up the time needed for your essential morning tasks. Work backwards and determine the time you should sleep the night before. Unplanned surprises could throw your morning schedule off course, so don’t forget to buffer in some extra minutes.
Moving towards a new and productive morning routine requires a lot of effort and commitment. Some people prefer to introduce gradual changes to avoid a sudden change to their existing lifestyle. By making small and incremental changes, you have a better chance of sticking with your new morning routine. Your good habits are also more likely to stay.
Let’s say you are planning to wake up half an hour earlier every morning. You can move your waking up time 10 minutes earlier every Saturday morning, over the next three weeks. Just like changing your eating habits to a healthier one, you would need time for your body to adjust to a new morning routine.
Or think of it as lowering yourself into the swimming pool filled with cold water – a little at a time. Eventually, you would get used to the temperature of the water.
For other people who are more determined, diving straight into your improved morning routine can be a more effective option. After all, you may not know what is your perfect morning routine until you actually try things out. Every morning is a new beginning, so if something didn’t work quite well for you, try refining your routine the next morning.
Step 6: Make tweaks along the way, especially if something isn’t quite working
It takes time for you to figure out a consistent morning routine that works best for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment around and make slight tweaks to the things which you’ve been doing every morning.
When something doesn’t quite work for you, try a different approach. If you think that you could finish breakfast in five minutes but consistently take ten minutes, consider adjusting your morning routine to accommodate this.
Should you take a cold shower before eating breakfast, or the other way round? Perhaps switching the order of your morning activities could cut a few minutes from your schedule. The whole idea is to figure out how you can optimise your behaviour for a more productive morning.
Everyone has their own perfect morning routine. What works for your friend may not be the most productive arrangement for you. The only way for you to find out is to give it a try.
Don’t forget to continue tracking how you spend your mornings. Set yourself a target (e.g. in a month’s time) and mark the date on your calendar. When the day comes, reflect on whether your new schedule has made you more productive in the mornings.
From the data, you can calculate the amount of time you have saved by streamlining your morning activities. Multiply that by the number of days in a year. Let’s say you save 15 every morning by being more productive. That’s almost four days saved in an entire year. You could do a lot of things which you’ve always wanted to do.
Step 7: Continue improving, and reward yourself with an occasional “cheat day”
Congratulations on setting up a more productive morning routine for yourself. At this point, you should have a consistent routine that sticks, and things should be going on autopilot from now on.
Every morning, your body would just go with the flow as you do one activity after another. You are not spending time thinking of what you should be doing next. You wake up and brush your teeth, drink a glass of water, followed by taking a shower and getting changed. Sticking to a fixed sequence of activities every morning frees your mind up for more important decisions which you will be making later in the day.
While you are comfortable with your new morning routine, it is important for you to continue improving. Always challenge yourself to take things one step further, and find out how you can further increase your productivity. Sometimes, a small tweak to your routine can go a long way – you’ll only find out after you have tried it out.
Earlier, we mentioned about keeping to a consistent schedule every morning, even on weekends and during the school holidays. But that doesn’t mean that you have to stick to it too rigidly. There’s something called “cheat days”, on which you can cut yourself some slack.
If you’ve just completed a whole week of examinations, reward yourself by sleeping in during the weekend. Get that extra rest which you deserve. Completed your holiday homework ahead of schedule? Spend the extra time exploring your neighbourhood for a new breakfast place. Or spend some quality time with your family and friends (hopefully they are equally productive – otherwise, send them this article). It’s always good to break your routine once in a while so that life doesn’t get too mundane.
Take Action Now for Better Mornings
A good morning routine helps you to get into a positive mindset. By sticking to your morning routine, you can build small but consistent habits that can last you for a lifetime.
Regardless of how you have been spending your mornings, make it a point to give the above steps a go. Remember that results do not show overnight. Be patient, be determined and be disciplined to follow through your goals.