Why You Need a Morning Routine (& How To Start One)
Last Updated: 06 Sep 2022
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Guest Authored by Sean Rybolt, VWC Fitness Coordinator and Wellness Coach
A well-developed, personalized routine can increase your productivity, lower stress, and boost your energy levels. But…just how do you start?
You waste so much time in the morning just stressing about the little things—hitting the snooze button, rushing to get to work on time, forgetting that you have to put gas in the car. That sounds like a really rough start to anyone’s day, but it’s the norm for a typical person.
If this sounds like you, and you’re ready to make a change, I believe that creating a morning routine can be a life-changing decision for you.
The Military & Routine
When a military service member joins to serve their country, one of the first things that they learn is an extremely strict routine.
I was an Army guy, and I remember getting off the bus that drove me to the Ft. Sill basic training center. Immediately, I was told that I needed to hurry up, get off the bus, and go through reception because it was lights out and an early morning wakeup was coming.
At 0500, I woke to the sound of alarms, trash cans, and whistles. That wake-up call never changed for the 19 weeks I spent in basic and AIT training. I knew exactly when my wake-up call was, what time I needed to get to bed, and everything in between including chow time, physical training, and cleaning time.
My Post-Military Morning Routine
When I got out of the Army, my life was no longer tethered to a routine dictated by an outside force. However, I still found myself living by a basic guiding principle: I wanted to know what was going to happen, and I wanted to know when it was going to happen.
I wanted a routine.
So, every day, I woke up at the same time, exercised at the same time, went to duty and got off duty at the same time, and generally went to bed at the same time. And I found amazing results. When I kept up a guideline on how to run my day from start to finish, I found I had less anxiety, lower stress levels, higher energy, better relationships, and improved confidence.
I still follow a routine to this day even though I have been out of the military for almost three years now.
What Does a Routine Look Like?
Within the first 30 seconds of my day, I know what the next 1-2 hours look like and what I’m going to wear. Plus, I’ve already gotten out of bed. Before work, I make sure that I’ve exercised, eaten breakfast, and spent time with my kids before they go to school.
- Wake-up: Choose a time to wake up and stick to it. Try not to snooze, though don’t beat yourself up if you do. I recommend getting up a little bit before you have to. Even though it’s incredibly early, I start my day off at 4:30AM every morning so I can have some “me” time before anyone else is awake. That way, I can focus on myself without interruption.
- Work out: Choose a few days a week (keep them the same every week, if possible) to schedule your workout. Even if the workout is a short, 20-minute program, it will make a difference in your day! Plan out in advance what you’ll be doing and set out your workout clothes the night before.
- Breakfast: Plan in advance what you’ll be having for breakfast. Personally, I eat the same thing Monday through Friday so that I don’t have to go through the cabinets in the morning. But if you want to vary it, that’s fine too. Keep healthy breakfast options on hand and know what you’re reaching for in the morning before you go to bed.
How to Start Your Own Routine
1. Do not expect perfection.
I want to be completely honest in saying that it’s going to be a hard process to start. Your mind will come up with every reason to stray from the path you want to change, and this is completely normal.
Even when a new client first starts a new exercise or nutrition program, I make it clear that I am looking for about 70% compliance. If we can set up a solid foundation of activity for a month, it is much easier to transform that habit into a life skill that you can benefit from for the rest of your life—and that goes for routine changes as well. Simply do not expect perfection.
2. Start small.
The next step that I would recommend is to start small. Don’t allocate every hour of your day to a specific activity. Start by asking yourself what do you want to start doing in your day that you don’t have time for.
For example, from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., make it a point to get up, get dressed, and exercise before your work shift. Keep it simple. Once you make that procedure into a habit, it will be so much easier to expand on that. Want to start going to bed early? What is keeping you from going to bed? Is it the television? The kids? Work your way backwards and find where you can optimize your time to get what you want.
3. Do something that you look forward to and have a reason to get it done.
If I woke up early and had to do something that I hate, chances are that I would have a hard time sticking to that wakeup call. It’s crucial that, when you’re creating a morning routine, you know your “why” for each task.
For example, if I don’t exercise in the morning, I experience lots of brain fog and general lack of cognitive function and it makes my whole day harder to connect to people. I am a better person when I exercise and it helps me to fulfill my purpose of helping people.
I have never gotten up, went to the gym, and regretted it, but I have most certainly regretted hitting the snooze button and sleeping in when I should be “filling my cup” with self care.
Start Your Own Morning Routine
I’m not saying that everyone needs to wake up as early as I do or exercise five times a week. Everyone’s routine will be unique to their needs and lifestyle. The important thing is having one.
Starting and keeping a routine has been one of the biggest factors that keep me consistent in living a life of overall wellness. It gives me time to take care of my body and exercise, spend time with my family, take care of my duties around the house, and so much more.
Just as Jocko Willink, former Navy Officer, author, and podcaster, said, “Discipline equals freedom.” Take care of your responsibilities through healthy habits and routine and watch your productivity, anxiety, and overall wellness improve.
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.