How I Tricked Myself Into Being A Morning Person

I saved 20+ hours per week and so can you.

“I am not a morning person.” This is what I have told myself since I was young, a teenager probably, a time when I definitely had no idea what kind of person I was. So why do I continue to live this way through adulthood? Why have I accepted it as my truth?

To be honest, I don’t believe anyone is a “morning person” or a “night person,” even though we so often categorize ourselves, checking a box as if we must decide what team we’re on and stick to it for the rest of our lives. But when I really think about it, it’s not that I’m not a “morning person” — I am a person who lacks discipline.

Now, I don’t mean I’m lazy or anything. I like to believe I’m a pretty ambitious and hard-working person. I have a good job, I bought a house, I paid off my student loans, and I’ve built a comfortable life for myself. The problem is just that: I’m comfortable. While that might sound like a good thing, what it really means is I’m not striving to be better. This lifestyle has become my normal and I’ve accepted that it’s just “the way I am.” The hard truth is, I tend to choose short term comfort over long term happiness, and coming to terms with that is the first step towards making a change.

Step 1: Understand your challenge

As human beings, the way we make decisions is simple: which option will cause me less pain? I could wake up early, or I could hit snooze a few more times. My bed is warm and cozy and comfortable. I can get away with a few more minutes. The pain of getting out of bed feels worse than the pain of being a little bit more rushed to get ready. So I hit snooze, and snooze, and snooze, until finally — shit! If I don’t wake up right now, I’m going to be late to work. Now, the outcome has changed: the pain of getting out of bed is less than the pain of being late to work and dealing with the consequences. Get it?

Okay, so where do I go from here? How do I convince myself not to snooze? For me, the answer is simple: I need a morning routine.

Step 2: Set a system, not a goal

I am not a “routine person” — there I go again, categorizing myself. But it isn’t entirely untrue. My way of life is spontaneous, chaotic. Never knowing what to expect keeps things fun and exciting, but is it sustainable? Is this way of living really benefiting my overall happiness? The answer is, regrettably, no. I’m not saying I’m suddenly going to schedule every single minute of my day, but a little routine can’t hurt.

The fun thing about life is that you can become whatever kind of person you want to be, it’s just a matter of figuring out how, and figuring out what works for you. It’s about setting a system, not a goal. Setting a goal is great, sure, but how are you going to get there?

I can’t even tell you how many articles I’ve read and YouTube videos I’ve watched of young, beautiful beauty bloggers talking about their “life-changing morning routine.” And I think to myself, okay let’s try this! So I make an unnecessarily involved smoothie bowl, I meal prep for the week using overpriced ingredients I’ve never heard of, I buy some expensive face toner even though I don’t even know what it does, and then I never repeat the routine again. Why? Because it’s not made for me.

Step 3: Create a morning routine that works for YOU

I took it upon myself to put together a realistic morning routine that I can stick to.

It took a few tries, as all things in life do, but by the end of this process I had a routine that worked, a routine that is sustainable and won’t lead to burnout, and I truly believe it has changed my life for the better. So here’s what I did:

First, work backward. Figure out what you want to accomplish in the morning and how much time you need to do it. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  • Walk Laszlo (my dog): 20 minutes
  • Yoga: 10 minutes
  • Make coffee: 10 minutes
  • Eat breakfast: 10 minutes
  • Shower, hair, makeup: 30 minutes
  • Meditate: 10 minutes
  • Read: 20 minutes
  • Personal work time: 1 hour

This adds up to roughly 3 hours. Obviously, I was making best guesses with these times, so I wouldn’t really know if it made sense until I tried it. My workday begins at 9:00 am, which means if I want a 3 hour morning routine, I need to wake up at 6:00 am. Oof.

I have the benefit of working from home, which means I can technically roll out of bed at 8:55 am and still make it to my virtual 9:00 am meeting. Not a very healthy way to live, but I’ve done that more times than I care to admit. It leaves me feeling groggy, gross, and sets the tone for a crappy day. No thank you.

So I rearranged my list into an order that makes sense and came up with this:

  • 6:00 am Wake up, brush teeth, put on gym clothes
  • 6:10 am Walk Laszlo
  • 6:30 am Do a 10-minute meditation exercise
  • 6:40 am Put on coffee, which takes 10 minutes to brew. Do a yoga session during that 10 minutes so I have coffee when I’m done!
  • 7:00 am Shower, hair, makeup
  • 7:30 am Drink coffee and eat breakfast. If there’s time, read a little.
  • 8:00 am One hour of uninterrupted personal work time
  • 9:00 am Start my workday

Step 4: Actually do it

Great! I have a routine. Now, let’s compare that to what actually happened:

  • 6:00 am Alarm goes off. I immediately regret everything. I lay there for about 5 minutes, complaining to my husband that I’m tired, who (thankfully) tells me “you wanted this!”
  • 6:10 am Begrudgingly, I wake up. I’m going to be 100% honest with you: if it wasn’t for my husband convincing me to wake up, and my dog who started crying because he needed to be let out, I probably would’ve snoozed for an hour. Getting out of bed was hard. It helps to have something to be responsible for (like a dog), or some kind of support system, but I know not everyone is in the same situation. Like I said, this is what works for me — you’ll figure out what works for you.
  • 6:17 am Get dressed. I truly have no idea what I did for 7 minutes, but this is what I wrote down in my phone (I logged it in real-time so I could write this accurately). Tiny little things must have added up, like letting out the dog, letting him back in, drifting through the house like a disoriented ghost, etc.
  • 6:25 am Walk the dog! This generally turns into a run, because I have a Husky with boundless, unrelenting energy, so we did kind of a walk/run hybrid. The trail behind our house was longer than I anticipated, so this took like 30 minutes. I decided to listen to an audiobook. Some people might choose to go to the gym during this time, but I’ve tried that in the past and it just isn’t for me. I love to be outside and surrounded by nature. It eases my mind and gives me a chance to slow down and admire what I might be taking for granted.
  • 6:58 am Arrive back at the house. Find out that my husband made coffee! This is such a tiny thing, but it gave me back 10 minutes. Normally, he wakes up at 7:00 and is out the door before I even wake up, but I think my desire for a morning routine rubbed off on him a bit. He also fed the dog, which is something I usually do and takes about 5 minutes. I didn’t even think to put it in my original routine.
  • 7:05 am 10-minute yoga session. I cannot begin to tell you how good this made me feel, especially after having just come back from a cold, 30-minute walk/run. I always try to fit yoga into my day, but usually, I put it off until the afternoon or not at all. Carving out time to do it in the morning helped both my body and mind to relax and prepare for the day ahead. And it only took 10 minutes! (I also decided to skip the meditation exercise because it felt a little redundant considering yoga did the job.)
  • 7:15 am I went to take a shower, but my husband needed it. I didn’t think about this before. So instead, I had my coffee and made breakfast (2 eggs and a blood orange, if you’re curious).
  • 7:30 am Shower, hair, makeup — except I decided to skip the makeup. Turns out, I need more than 30 minutes. I was already running a bit late, and I didn’t want to cut into my one hour of “me time” just to have a pretty face. Instead, I opted for a simple skincare routine (which is just face wash, moisturizer, and this lip balm that I cannot recommend enough).
  • 8:00 am Grab a second cup of coffee and begin my 1 hour of uninterrupted personal work time (which also happens to be right now! I was able to write this entire article up until this point before 9:00 am! Go me!). This is the time that is most valuable to me, and the reason I wanted to try waking up early in the first place. As a person with a handful of side hustles and creative projects, I need time like this.
  • 9:00 am Begin my workday feeling refreshed, happy, and completely at ease.

Okay, so I had to rearrange some things, but overall? Success! I didn’t have time to meditate or to sit down and read, but at least I got in 30 minutes of an audiobook. Of course, I still need to make sure I can consistently do this on a regular basis, but knowing how good it made me feel is enough motivation to keep going.

Something interesting to note is that I never checked my social media once during the entire morning. I was so focused and preoccupied with the routine that I set for myself, so it never even crossed my mind. There’s really no denying that probably improved my mental health as well.

Step 5: Keep it going

Y’know what I learned? I like mornings. The pink shade of the sky while the sun is still rising, the crisp smell in the air, getting a taste of the day before the world wakes up. Nobody crosses paths with me on my walks, which is unusual considering the high amount of traffic that trail gets later in the day. It feels like I have unlocked some secret hour just for me, like some kind of time travel.

During my morning routine, I wasn’t getting interrupted by work calls or emails or meetings, and I wasn’t stressed about needing to get back to whatever I was supposed to be doing. Because I had a set routine, I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.

I had time. I have time. I have time.

just a sad girl trying to write her way out of a mental crisis • bylines in buzzfeed, syfy, + more •