Sick of scattered and rushed mornings? We’ve got tips to help you set your day up for productivity and success by creating a morning routine that works for you and your family.
Now we are well into a new school year and I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic of creating a morning routine. Our routine looks a bit different each year (especially now, in the era of remote learning), and I’m excited to share those changes in case it may help you out as well.
When I originally wrote this post, it was from the perspective of someone who works from home but with the knowledge that many other people don’t. Well, now a lot of you have joined me! I still include my favorite tips on how I shift from “Mom Time” to “Work Time” which is even more important with all three kiddos home.
How to Create a Morning Routine
As you probably know if you’re a long-time follower of this blog, I’m big on planning and goals and time management. Without a morning routine, I probably wouldn’t accomplish anything! While our morning routine is far from perfect, it’s the most effective it’s ever been, and it’s helping to set the stage for a more productive day.
First, I’m going to share what our morning looks like. It relies heavily on preparing the night before.
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My Morning Routine Begins the Night Before
There are a few steps I take to set myself up for success and to eliminate my excuses the next morning.
First, I do my very best to go to bed early the night before. For me, this means 10pm at the latest, because I know that I need at least 7 hours of sleep to have a good day.
This isn’t always perfect, because sometimes I’m reading a really good book or we are bingeing on a show, and we look up at the clock, and it’s suddenly 11. It happens, but we try to save it for the weekends.
I have my little skincare routine that I do both in the morning and at night. If I happen to be doing a workout the next day, I lay out my workout clothes and locate my sneakers to eliminate any objections I will try to find in the morning.
- Making an effort to go to bed at a reasonable time.
- Setting out your clothes and sneakers if you work out in the morning.
I have found that personally, I do better when I wake up early. I tend to get up at the same exact time every day (even weekends), between 6 and 7 am. Once I’m up I get dressed and ready.
Once Mack is awake, I’ve recently prioritized making the bed. It makes such a difference on the other end of the day, and it also makes me feel like I’m setting things up for success.
I’m trying to build the healthy habit of doing something active daily in the winter, but to be fully transparent, it’s a struggle. It’s always more of a challenge for me after daylight savings time begins and it’s dark outside in the mornings. If I’m able to succeed at an early morning workout, that’s how I start my day. In the summer, I love to wake up early and go for walks outdoors.
- Making the bed
- Try to build the habit of doing something active in the winter
Time for Self Care
So time to get a little personal here. Even though I work from home, I think being showered, blow drying my hair (or brushing it, if I’ve already blown it out), practicing a skincare routine, and getting dressed for the day— even if it’s just in fresh yoga pants— can make or break my productivity and mood. However, I know through conversations that for so many of us self-care is the first thing on the chopping block.
- Implement time for self care. Even if you work from/stay at home with your kids, take the time to be put together for the day.
Encouragement / Meditation / Spiritual Growth
Every single day I make coffee— an Americano with my Brevilla Barista. I don’t typically eat breakfast because I’ve practiced Intermittent Fasting for the past couple of years, and it’s something that really seems to work for me. However, if I’m extremely hungry, it’s a signal that something’s off and I will eat breakfast. Basically, I try to listen to my body!
Like many people, I used to check the news at this time, but I honestly find that a depressing way to start the day. Not that it’s unimportant, but it definitely sets me up for the day with a negative mindset.
It’s also helpful to use this time to practice gratitude of some kind. You could also do this in your everyday journal or there are specific gratitude journals where you just write down one line daily.
- Eat breakfast
- Consider using this time for encouragement/spiritual growth to set the tone for your day.
A Morning Routine with Older Kids
You may know that we have three kids. The two oldest are mostly self-sufficient in their morning routines, which was very important to us. They also happen to be early risers, like I am— they like to have time to themselves before they have to log on to class.
By the time I am having my coffee, they are usually already showered, dressed, and eating breakfast. They usually only require gentle reminders to do quick chores or brush their teeth.
However, that was not always the case. Years ago, when my oldest started kindergarten, we had a very difficult time creating a routine. I ended up creating a checklist whiteboard (with illustrations also) that he could reference in the mornings.
It looked like this:
- get dressed
- get breakfast (or ask for help)
- pick a snack
- fill your water bottle
- brush your teeth
- put your shoes on
- locate your backpack (library book, homework, etc.)
- locate your winter gear if needed
Then, if all of those were accomplished, he could play until it was time to watch for the bus.
My younger son adopted the routine pretty smoothly, but choosing fresh clothes has always been his biggest challenge (he would wear his favorite Nike sweatshirt for a month straight if I allowed it). For a while, we were laying clothes out the night before to try to eliminate frustration in the morning. It has gotten a lot better, so we aren’t doing that anymore, but it would be the strategy we returned to if ever the problem returned.
You may notice that my involvement in their morning routines is minimal. That is not by accident. While we are happy to help if asked or give gentle reminders, we want to equip them with the ability to manage themselves and their time. It has been very helpful when I travel for work, and another adult is handling the morning routine. I also think it’s important for them to learn to be self-sufficient for college and beyond!
Strategies for a morning routine with older kids:
- Invest time up front in adopting a morning routine for older children.
- If they need it, create an illustrated whiteboard to help them memorize the routine.
- Reward success with play/extra time for accomplishing the routine early.
- Prevent conflict by laying out clothing the night before.
- Give gentle reminders and help if needed.
Strategies for Morning Routines for Younger School-Aged Kids
The Wild Card (a.k.a Kindergartener)
The rest of my focus in the morning is my little wild card. At six, her mornings aren’t quite as streamlined, and I’m not sure that they can be just yet.
She has definite opinions about what she wants to wear, and sometimes those opinions change after she’s already dressed. Usually, she also has fluctuating opinions about what she’s eating for breakfast. She also has opinions about how I do her hair. Basically, she just has opinions. I’m not sure if that’s her age, or her personality, or a bit of both.
I try to be as adaptable as possible while getting her ready (and not to let my temper take over). We are figuring it out, basically! The only thing I know for sure is that it helps me to have myself 100% ready before beginning my negotiations with her.
I’m hoping to someday have her initiated into the school day routine of her older brothers, but we’re clearly still working on it.
Strategies for morning routines with younger kids:
- If going to school in-person have backpack, coat, and shoes located the night before
- Clean up and organize workspace if remote learning
- Have yourself 100% ready ahead of time
Starting My Work-From-Home Work Day
I’ve found that it helps to have a ritual that signals to my brain that the work day is beginning. Usually, this takes about an hour.
I check my planner, Asana tasks, overall goals, and editorial calendar (CoSchedule) to see what it is that I’m planning to work on that day. Sometimes I just start with a blank piece of paper and write it all out!
It may sound silly to have all of my planning in different places, but I’ve found that different things work for different parts of my life. I shared my favorite time management strategies here, which explains the thought process a bit more.
- Signal to my brain that it’s “work time” by checking in on my plans for the day.
- The “Brain Dump” Method: If I’m struggling, I take a blank piece of paper and simply write.
All in all, creating a morning routine will help you to set the stage for a productive day. Although I’m sure your version won’t be exactly the same as mine, I hope that these strategies provided some insight. Let me know in the comments: what is and isn’t working with your morning routine? Do you have any tips to share?