How to Set and Stick to Your Morning Routine

steaming cup of coffee sitting on a book

Every decision you make throughout your day (even a small one) takes time and energy, meaning that if your morning is full of dozens of tiny choices, you might feel stressed before you even leave the house. A personalized morning routine sets the tone for your whole day by reducing the amount of decisions you’re required to make. In doing so, it enables you to start your day efficiently and intentionally, while also creating mental space for the things that matter most to you. Determining your ideal morning routine is easier than you might think. Keep reading for our step by step guide on how to do just that.

Use this article and our downloadable routine setting guide to shape your ideal morning, build an itinerary to support it, identify potential setbacks and gain some helpful tips to help you stick to your routine once it’s set.

Step 1: Your Perfect Morning

First, think back to what you did this morning. Grab a pen and use these Morning Routine Printables to take note of everything you need and want to do from the moment you wake up in order to successfully get out the door or into your workspace. During this step, it’s important to include every tiny detail. If putting in your contacts adds time to your morning, write it down. If taking your time to flip through the morning paper is an important aspect of your morning, write it down. The same goes with things like brushing your teeth, tidying the kitchen, letting the dog out, making the bed – you get the picture. Creating an honest view of your average morning will be important as you begin shaping your ideal daily routine.

Remember that if you are responsible for getting others out the door, too, you’ll need to include them in your list. Waking up your kids, getting them dressed, making breakfast, assembling and packing lunches, and other parenting duties take a lot of time out of your morning. After you've made note of everything it takes to start your morning out strong, you're ready to move to step two!

Step 2: Revisit Your List

You've written everything down, now it's time to cross some things out. Go back through your list and think about whether or not each task truly belongs there. Is there another time during the day that you can look through the mail, for example? Or, could you pack up the lunches at night instead of in the morning? Decide on which tasks are must-dos in the morning for you and which can be completed throughout the day or at night.

Although some tasks don't necessarily need to be done in the mornings, they still might be important to you. For instance, if coming home to a tidy living room brings you joy, taking the time to complete a quick morning tidy is a task that should remain on your list. Take some time to decide which tasks truly matter to you. Doing so will put you on a path to create a morning routine that is uniquely suited to your lifestyle and habits.

Step 3: Know Your Blind Spots

There will always be mornings that are hectic when you feel like you're doing everything you can to rush out the door on time. At the same time, you may notice that some tasks consistently hold you up and completely throw you off schedule. If this happens to you, review your morning to-do list and spot the time-sucking items. Think through questions like:

  • Why does this task take me so long?
  • What can I do to shorten this amount of time?
  • Can I tackle or even partially complete this task the day/night before?

Think about which tasks are avoidable and which are not. Ask yourself if you can sidestep any of these distractions with some planning. Completing certain tasks at night, such as meal prepping breakfast or selecting tomorrow’s clothes, for example, can help reduce stress in the morning and even help you transition into a state that is prepared for sleep, which is key to a successful evening routine.

Some steps you can take to better manage distractions include:

  • Planning ahead. If you know that waking up to a dirty kitchen causes you stress in the morning, make sure you prioritize cleaning it at night before bed. If paying bills or checking emails sends you down a rabbit hole, give yourself a no digital media rule in the morning.
  • Getting others on board. Work with your family or roommates to create their own easy-to-follow morning routines too. Doing so will help you stay accountable to our own routine.
  • Remembering why you started. You wanted to create a morning routine for a reason. What is it? Keep your intention at the front of your mind to stay motivated when all you want to do hit the snooze button one more time. Keeping your motivation visible will help you stay focused and follow through with your routine. 
  • Creating a backup plan. Sometimes things just go awry. Sticking to your routine is ideal, when that’s not possible make sure you know the bare minimum that needs to occur in order for you to get out of the door and still feel somewhat accomplished.

Step 4: Map it Out

Using your new and improved list (we'll get back to those items you removed later), work backwards from the exact time you need to leave your house or sit down at your study space to determine when you need to wake up every morning. Be sure to include ample time for unexpected events and mishaps, especially if the success of your routine depends on others like your roommate, significant other, or child.

On the side, include all of the tasks you have determined can be completed at night to help minimize stress and maximize efficiency in the morning. Use this list as a reference when building your evening routine.

person sitting at desk with cup of coffee and granola

Take a look at this morning routine as an example. This schedule was customized by Taylor, a single mom taking care of two elementary-aged children. Her routine generally follows this order to help everyone in the house get out the door on time:

  • 5:45 a.m. – Wake up
  • 5:50 a.m. – Have coffee
  • 5:55 a.m. – Shower
  • 6:05 a.m. – Put clothes on
  • 6:15 a.m. – Self-care
  • 6:30 a.m. – Wake up kids
  • 6:45 a.m. – Kids dressed
  • 7:00 a.m. – Make breakfast, eat at the table as a family
  • 7:20 a.m. – Brush teeth
  • 7:25 a.m. – Hand out lunches
  • 7:30 a.m. – Everyone is in the car and ready to go to work/school

Nighttime tasks:

  • Set coffee
  • Shower
  • Bathe kids
  • Pack lunches
  • Kids: pack bags and pick out clothes
  • Tidy up living room and kitchen

Step 5: Test, Test, Test

It's finally time to put your new routine to work! Keep a copy of your routine on your nightstand or by the coffee pot to ensure you stick to it. Remember to follow it line by line when first starting out. If you notice that certain tasks are being completed much faster or slower than you anticipated, tweak your list accordingly. You may also find that some tasks don't actually need to be done in the mornings. If this is the case, simply work them in during a different part of the day or into your evening routine.

After you've found a strong, productive schedule that works for you and your lifestyle, it's crucial to stick with it. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes about 2 months, or 66 days, to completely form a new habit. Stay consistent, give yourself time, and be efficient. By the end of the two months, you should be able to see significant improvements to your overall day!

man on laptop holding cup of coffee

Quick and Simple Tips

We know that routines are strictly unique, but there are a few tried and true methods to help you be the most productive in the mornings in the least amount of time. Check out these tips to help you stay on track to tackle the day:

  • Shut down your mobile devices. Digital distractions have become one of the most common time-sucking habits, especially during the morning. In fact, many users spend an average of 2 hours per day looking through their social media accounts. Browsing your email, reading news updates, and scrolling through social media can easily derail your morning routine as you get sucked into the social media world. If it's important to you to check your accounts, allot a certain amount of time toward it. If not, try to avoid your phone until you can successfully head out the door on time.
  • Establish a space for success. It happens all too often – you leave the house and have a successful and productive day, only to come home to an untidy space. Opening the door and seeing a mess can make you feel overwhelmed. You already had a busy day and you don't want to add to it by spending hours cleaning, too. Doing a quick pick up routine in the mornings can let you come home to a relaxing and positive environment, keeping you on the right track to following your new routine moving forward. Think about which rooms you notice when you first get home. Then, make time to do some quick tidying in these rooms every morning so your home stays a relaxing space. This can include making the bed, clearing off the kitchen counter, throwing dishes in the sink, and tidying up the front room.

How to Stick to Your Routine

Change can be hard. If you're creating a new routine to better yourself and have more productive mornings, your personal motivation can make this change a bit easier. The time it takes you to create a habit and go through the motions truly depends on your own personality, how challenging the new behaviors are (especially if they're completely different from what you're used to), and what kinds of distractions you're likely to face. We're here to help you succeed. Here are a few tips to help you stick to your routine, even when things get tough:

  • Remember why you started. Setting a morning routine may help you see positive changes in school, work, your family life, and even your down time. Keep in mind the reason why you wanted a routine in the first place. Was it because you wanted to spend a peaceful morning sipping your coffee, or working with a clearer mind and greater focus? Do you want more time to spend doing what you love, like painting, writing, running, or finally getting to that project you promised yourself you'd finish last year? Whatever your reason, write it down and hang it up. Keep it in front of you every time you're feeling unmotivated or think you can sleep in just 15 more minutes.
  • Get vocal. Make your routine known! Those who may be directly affected by your new morning plan include close family members and friends. Letting them in on your routine lets them get on board and help keep you accountable.
  • Get visual. Lots of small tasks can be easy to forget. Keep a checklist somewhere close by – like on your bedside table or on the kitchen counter – to help you remember every detail. Check off each task every morning until you're familiar with your new routine.
  • Stack your habits. Some say that new habits are easier to keep when attached to existing ones. If you want to meditate, for example, challenge yourself to meditate for 2 minutes before your first cup of coffee.
  • Set an alarm that works for you. Not everyone can wake up peacefully to the ear-splitting buzz of an alarm clock. In fact, most people shut it off or hit snooze and fall back asleep. At the same time, others can't wake up to radio station because the music may be too soft. Try finding an alarm that works for you, like the Sleep Cycle alarm app that wakes you up in your lightest sleep phase to ensure you feel fully awake and refreshed when you get out of bed. You can also try looking into methods to help train your body to wake up naturally at the same time every morning.
  • Reward your progress. If you've successfully completed your routine a few days in a row, reward yourself by taking extra time relaxing in the bath or reading a book, buying yourself a small gift, or spending extra time doing what you love at the end of the day. By turning your new routine into something positive rather than something you feel forced to do, you'll be more likely to stick with it in the long run.

If you're ready to set yourself up for success, plan out your morning routine now! By the end of the week, you should be able to notice a difference in your productivity and overall happiness. Continue to tweak your to-do list until you find a plan that works for you, and you'll be well on your way to creating a successful morning routine that does wonders for you and your family. Then, create a nighttime routine to ensure an overall productive day, every day of the week.



Written by Ashford University Staff

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