I’ll give it all away at the beginning. Here’s the big secret to your best morning routine: automation.
That’s it. You can stop now.
But if you want a little more info on how to do it, keep reading for six steps to help you actually do this..
1. Remove the decisions
Here’s a challenge for you. If you have trouble crawling out of bed in the morning (like I do), stop and assess what happens right before you decide to stay in bed after slamming your alarm.
I’m going to guess your answer: it’s likely because you had to make a decision.
If you don’t have a crystal clear plan for exactly what you will do when you turn off the alarm, and in what order, you likely won’t get up. It’s that simple.
I can hear you now. You do get up to shuffle to the bathroom. But maybe you go back to bed, right? Maybe this happens especially on days when you don’t have anything holding you accountable in the morning, like going to work or getting the kids to school.
Don’t get me wrong, I love sleep-in days. But some days I’m annoyed that I’ve lazed away the morning and could have gotten some things done, that I now have to do at night. Or, of course, you’ve slept in and then you have to scramble.
Back to the challenge. When you notice whether the decision factor is true for you, you’re ready to take the next step.
2. Determine each step, one at a time
This is super boring to do, but you need to plan every single step, one at a time, from the moment your alarm goes off. Of course I’m assuming you’re using an alarm, because we night owls can’t get up without them.
For example, here’s a sample of my morning step details:
- Alarm goes off – cross the room to turn it off (it’s not beside the bed, that doesn’t work for me)
- Go directly from the alarm to the bathroom, do bathroom things
- Go directly to the pile of workout clothes in the bedroom and put everything on
- Go directly to the kitchen to put on the kettle for coffee
- Fill the three daytime diffusers with pre-determined blends
- Grind the coffee, put into the press
- Pour the water into the press
- While the coffee is brewing, empty the dishwasher
- When the dishwasher is empty, press and pour the coffee
- Bring coffee along for the morning pages journaling session
It continues from there, but you get the idea.
If at any point there is a decision to be made, I’ll either go back to bed or I’ll stick my nose in facebook and poof, there go my best morning routine intentions.
3. Plan all the details
Sometimes the things that trip us up aren’t so easy to notice. For the longest time I wanted to get my workouts done in the morning so I would actually do them. I had a really hard time anchoring that habit.
The thing that usually got in my way was having to stop and find all the gear. What would I wear? Where is that dang sports bra? Where did I leave my shoes? Ugh, I have to dig through the dryer to find socks.
It’s so much easier just to go back to bed. Maybe later in the day these kinds of little things won’t stop you from getting your workout in. I actually love working out at night (no surprise there, being a night owl and all) and these little stumbles don’t usually stop me at that time. But in the morning, any one of these things is enough to send me right back to sleepy land.
4. Prepare the night before
Once you notice where you’re getting stuck you can start to plan ahead. Again, it’s often the little details that get in the way. In my case, back to the workout example, if I don’t set out my workout clothes the night before the workout doesn’t happen. End of story.
The really crucial moment is right when you wake up. Again with the workout clothes: putting on the clothes is the third item in my detailed morning list. That detailed list I included above is the crucial morning time when the brain isn’t firing yet. It’s not ready to deal with decisions. It’s likely no coincidence this is all before coffee.
Once I’m past the coffee I tend to have an easier time dealing with the little stumbles. However, if there’s something in your morning routine you’re doing but don’t love (ahem, my morning workout) any little excuse to skip it is reason enough.
Again, back to the workout, I even need to know exactly what workout I will do before it’s workout time. Otherwise my entire workout time is spent in making that decision, and then the time is gone. I determine this the night before in case there is equipment or space that needs to be prepared.
5. Harness the power of habit stacking
Habit stacking is when you intentionally link one behaviour to another, to increase the likelihood of doing the desired behaviour.
What the heck does that mean? Here’s an example from my detailed morning routine. I needed to find a way to include emptying the dishwasher into my morning, because I noticed it was something that was getting in my way later in the day. It was something I desperately needed to address.
In the morning, making coffee is a non-negotiable. There is time there while the coffee is brewing when I saw an opportunity to do something productive. Now, whenever I start the coffee-making process it triggers my reaction to open the dishwasher.
It’s funny because if I happen to make a second pot of coffee in the afternoon I automatically head to the dishwasher while it’s brewing. I’ve done this particular habit stack so many times that the movements have become linked.
Here’s another example. When my alarm goes off I walk towards the bedroom door, not the other way to the bed. It seems like a really small thing, but the direction I walk towards after turning off the alarm has become a stacked habit.
After you have done enough of these habit triggers you’ll notice when you break them. For example, in those moments where I make coffee in the afternoon and turn towards the dishwasher, if the dishwasher doesn’t need attention I end up just standing there, not knowing what to do while the coffee brews.
6. Leverage aromas to anchor the habit trail
This step is not necessarily integral to your morning success, but it definitely helps.
I’ve written about this before but it deserves repeating in this context. Aromas have the very strong ability to anchor behaviours.
More specifically, aromas are so inextricably linked with memory that a quick sniff of something familiar can remind you of your next step. This, I believe, is one of the biggest assets to my morning routine success.
Maybe you inferred that connection above between the smell of coffee and emptying the dishwasher. I’m sure that’s true. But you can get more strategic if you have the right tools at your disposal.
For me, Peppermint essential oil ties directly to feelings of wakefulness and productivity. Knowing this, I use Peppermint in a few key locations in my morning step-by-step list.
- Peppermint is in the OnGuard Toothpaste we use in our house
- Peppermint is one of the oils in the hand soap in our bathroom (see the bottom of this post if you want our DIY recipe!)*
- All the daytime diffusers have Peppermint or Spearmint in the blends
I’m so groggy in the morning that I really notice my fog lift a little every time I catch a whiff of Peppermint in the morning. Can I function without it? Sure, but it definitely makes things easier, and a lot more pleasant.
I wrote about oils for habit stacking in a couple of previous posts if you’re curious to know more:
How to start creating your best morning routine
Start with observing. Where do you get stuck in the morning? What happens right before you get stuck? Is your stuck-ness linked to a decision early in the morning process?
Noticing the little blocks is the first step in figuring out how to make changes that stick.
Then, plan! But start small. Maybe you start with one small thing, that is getting yourself to the coffee station rather than back to bed. To do this you need to plan exactly how you’ll get there.
If you plan in enough detail, eventually your actions will become automatic and you’ll be able to perform them consistently. This is how you can get these changes to stick.
Try it and report back!
*DIY foaming hand soap
As promised, here’s our family-favourite DIY recipe for our foaming hand soap.
Stuff you need:
- Get a foaming hand soap dispenser (this is the hardest part)
- Get some unscented castile soap (we love Green Beaver brand, made in Northern Ontario without palm oil)
- Choose some oils
- 2 Tbsp castile soap, into the bottle
- 15-20-ish drops of essential oils into the bottle
- If desired, 2 tsp of a moisturizing oil, like fractionated coconut, olive oil (I like this best), or vitamin E
- Top with water (leave room at the top for the pump)
Our detailed recipe:
- 2 Tbsp castile soap
- 6 drops Peppermint essential oil
- 6 drops Spearmint essential oil
- 10 drops On Guard essential oil blend
- 6 drops Yarrow | Pom oil (instead of moisturizing oil)