Before I had a baby, I spent the first hour or so in the morning meditating and writing in my journal. I eased naturally into my day, and set a calm and positive demeanor to my day (well, most of the time).
Once I had my son, my mornings no longer belonged to me. I was in “Mommy Mode” from the first moments of my day (usually awakened by loud cries) and they didn’t end until I went to sleep at night (and often, I picked up a midnight shift or two throughout the night). The second I became a mom, I inadvertently gave up an important part of what created balance, calm, inspiration, and happiness in my life.
Although my son is still an “active sleeper,” I decided a few months ago to set my alarm an hour before he usually wakes up (about 5:00 a.m.) so I could re-establish a morning routine that was consistent and dedicated to my personal well-being.
Devoting the first hour of my day to establishing my goals and intentions has made all the difference in my level of productivity and temperament. I no longer feel depleted and disorganized. Instead, I have a plan for the day and am able to move forward with a more balanced and positive state of mind.
Here’s what included in my Morning Routine (and tips for creating your own morning routine).
Essential Elements to a Morning Routine
S: Silence. Meditation. Prayer. Deep breathing. Reflection. Gratitude. The way you begin your day will set the tone for the rest of your day. Most people wake up late and rush through their morning, which just leads to more chaos and frustration. When you dedicate the first few minutes of your day easing into the morning, you’ll feel more calm, balanced, and in control. You’ll have time to quiet your mind and reflect on what’s important for the upcoming day. You can also consider what you’re grateful for, which science shows leads to more happiness and fulfillment all by itself. Doesn’t this sound better than always feel behind and rushed? You don’t need much silence for it to take effect either. Ten to fifteen minutes (even five!) is plenty of time to set establish your calm state for the day.
A: Affirmations. The thoughts in our head have a surprising amount of influence over our daily lives. Many of us have negative subconscious “tapes” that play in our heads, which can (and usually does) lead to negative experiences in our lives. Often, these tapes are leftover messages from our childhoods, and we aren’t even aware they’re impacting our lives.
Spend the first moments of your day re-programming what you think about yourself and your life circumstances. Let go of the negative beliefs that are holding you back in life. Re-train yourself to run “new tapes” in your head that are positive, inspiring, and motivational. Remind yourself that you are in control of what you believe. Having a consistent routine where you repeat positive affirmations about your life will re-establish connections in your brain, and eventually the new messages will overwrite the old, negative beliefs.
V: Visualizations. Athletes know the power of visualization, or “mental rehearsal.” Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan have all described a process they engage in, where they visualize their athletic performance in minute detail before they step foot near a pool, golf course, or basketball court. They train their minds with such detail and repetition that their performance is already familiar before their bodies follow suit. They attribute much of their success to their ability to run through that success in their minds.
Use this quiet time in the morning to envision the details of your ideal life. Start with the basics. Visualize a calm, peaceful, and engaged day. Visualize yourself giving a perfect presentation, or getting through your to-do list efficiently and with plenty of time. Visualize yourself playing and laughing with your kids after work and spending quality time with your spouse before bed. Your life is in your hands. Try implementing this “mental rehearsal” the first thing in your day. I think you’ll be surprised at how effective it can really be.
E: Exercise. I don’t know about you, but this is the hardest element for me to implement into my daily life. I’ve never been a morning person. I love to ease into my day. The other elements of the SAVERS program are easy for me in the morning, probably because they’re mostly focused on mental activities and can be done on my cozy couch. Getting my body up and moving seems to take a lot more effort. But it is undeniably a key component to a healthy, energized, and positive life.
Having children now, it’s much harder for me to grab my music and go for a two-hour run/walk along the water, which used to be my favorite form of exercise. Since I became a mom, I’ve tried in-home workouts, apps, yoga in the living room, and long walks with my son. I’m still trying to find a routine that sticks, but I’m very aware that having some sort of physical exercise as part of my morning is essential to thinking clearly, staying energized, and focusing on what’s most important in my day.
R: Reading. Self-development is a powerful way to increase motivation and healthy habits in your day-to-day life. Taking a few minutes first thing in the morning to read even a few pages of something inspirational will do wonders for your state of mind. Focus the first part of your morning to improving yourself in various ways. Learn something new. Take in a new perspective about your life. Implement a new habit. Apply an uplifting lesson from someone else’s life. No matter what happens throughout the rest of your day, if the first part of your day is dedicated to your own self-improvement, you’ll have a lot more patience and tolerance for the other parts of your day. So much of your life as a working parent is dedicated to others: your kids, your boss, your clients, your spouse, your friends and extended family…. taking a few minutes in the morning to “fill yourself up” before you have to engage with everyone around you will help you give without resentment because you’ll have given to yourself first.
S: Scribe. As Hal mentions in his book, “Scribe” is just another word for “writing.” This can be a hard habit to get into, but you would be amazed at the impact it will have on your life. Taking even a few minutes to write down the thoughts in your head has a few benefits:
• Writing down our goals helps solidify them as intentions and has a much higher likelihood that they will be achieved.
• Our subconscious thoughts can become clearer and lose their power over our actions.
• We can reflect on lessons from the previous day, activities for our upcoming day, or desires for our future.
• We can identify and vent thoughts that are causing us to feel stuck.
• We can process difficult feelings.
• We can brainstorm solutions to obstacles in our lives.
• We can solidify our visualizations for the day ahead and for our lives in general.
As I mentioned, I used to spend a fair amount of time in the morning writing in my journal. This practice was paramount to my being able to move forward in my life. But as I also mentioned, having kids limits the time I can sit and reflect on my life. A few months ago I found a resource called the Five Minute Journal. “Exactly what I need!” I thought when I first heard about it. That’s about the amount of time I can budget for journaling these days. The Five Minute Journal provides prompts for both your morning and evening routine that walks you through the process of visualization, identifying what you’re grateful for today, and the goals you want to achieve today. Even spending a few minutes writing in the morning has had an amazing effect on the changes in my day.
Don’t feel compelled to start a whole new routine with all of these elements tomorrow. Instead, commit to setting your alarm just 15 minutes earlier and choosing one or two of these activities that you think would help you the most right now. Then after a week or two of doing that consistently, add another element. Then another. The first 10 days of any new routine is the toughest to maintain, so just focus on establishing the new habit of starting your day off on your terms. After a few weeks, you can expand your routine to include everything you need to stay balanced, rejuvenated, and more in control of your life.
A note for new parents.
If you’re a new parent, I want to talk to you for a moment. Everything I said above still applies. A morning routine is the key to a balanced life. HOWEVER. We all know what an infant does to a routine. The baby’s immediate needs control most of what happens throughout your day. You’re basically operating in a fog for the first few weeks of your child’s life. Your family is adjusting to a new way of life. It’s okay if you don’t have the consistency yet to establish a specific time of day for a “morning” routine.
If you’re a brand new parent, GO EASY ON YOURSELF. The recommendations above will certainly help, but there are seasons in life. Right now might be a season of transition (and sheer survival) for you. That’s okay. This is a temporary phase that will pass. Just do the best you can, and don’t worry about trying to implement all of these tips into your morning just yet. Don’t put the added pressure on yourself of having a specific time of day set aside for these things. Instead, just try to implement various tips as you have pockets of time throughout your day. Do what you can, and realize that things will settle down. Focus on your health, getting some sleep, and your baby’s needs for now.
The SAVERS are wonderful suggestions for variables to include in a morning routine, but this is your life. Choose a morning routine that works for and appeals to you. What’s important is that you begin your day in a way that energizes and focuses you, and allows you to take a step back from the chaos of your day.
One Final Note (seriously, last one).
There are times when my little guy still wakes up early and my morning routine is interrupted. I’ve gotten creative and will now meditate in bed with him lying next to me, or write in my journal or read while he’s watching a movie (yes, he’s allowed some screen time). We exercise together. And sometimes my husband wakes up early to engage my son so I can have my quiet time (good hubby!!).
Don’t feel like you have to give up your whole routine just because it doesn’t follow your plan. Get in what you can, and you’ll still feel the effects, even if it doesn’t always look perfect.
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