Design your morning routine around what matters.

The way we spend each morning is crucial to the attitude and focus brought to the rest of the day.

Intentionally designing morning habits around what we value helps us experience deeper meaning and uncover what truly matters.

By default, the morning presses us to participate in activities often in conflict with our true values. Phones beg us to scroll, snooze buttons ask to be pressed, and running shoes want to stay on the shelf. Intentionally pushing against these forces with proactive rhythms helps sew into more fullness and satisfaction.

Here is how my weekday mornings are currently designed. I look to follow this pattern at least four days each week and take a more relaxed approach on weekends.

4:45AM – Wake up

  • Having a smartphone next to my bed disrupts rest. I now keep my phone docked in my office on this stand (the stand seems frivolous, but having a resting place for my phone helps maintain a healthy relationship with technology).
  • I set a silent alarm on my Fitbit and an audible alarm on my bedside clock to go off at 4:50.

5:00 – Bible

  • I read about ten verses from the Bible. In a notebook, I record the date, a summary of what I read, and the impact what I read has on my life. Many times these observations become encouragements I share with others.
  • I close this time in prayer, dedicating the day to God, petitioning for specific requests, and offering specific areas of thanksgiving.

5:15 – Exercise

  • I run 30 minutes while listening to two news podcasts—Up First and The Daily—put into a “Morning Run” playlist within the Overcast podcast app.
  • I use the Nike+ Run Club app on my iPhone to track my distance and time. I also use a running belt to hold my phone and Bluetooth headphones.

5:45 – Breakfast and gratitude journal

  • While the coffee is brewing, I record three things I’m thankful for in a gratitude journal I keep in Evernote. This takes less than 30 seconds and helps cultivate a more optimistic lens in life. I got this idea from Peter Greer’s 40/40 Vision in which he’s referencing Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. As of this writing, I have 396 (mostly) unique items on my list (snow cones, Indian food, and the NBA Finals are all on there).
  • To be intentional with the information I consume, I’ve chosen three major news sources to stay engaged with what’s going on around the world from various perceived biases—the two podcasts consumed on my run and a print & digital subscription to The Wall Street Journal. This subscription is new (they were running a two months for $1 promotion)—and I’ve been impressed with their Kindle Fire app.

6:15 – Shower, shave, and start the day 

I don't always follow this schedule perfectly. Sometimes I sleep late, have early morning meetings, or make adjustments. The takeaway is less about my specifics and more about the act of making a plan for the morning, trying it more than once, revising when necessary, and committing to it while also extending grace to yourself.

Maybe 4:45AM sounds like torture. That's okay. Start a routine when it makes the most sense. Be proactive with the morning. Keep in mind a reactive attitude to circumstances often results in feeling unable to fully embody values.

Here are two questions to consider when designing a morning routine.

  1. Does each practice help me more fully embody my values? It's easy to pursue daily habits simply because we feel we're supposed to do certain things. As you design and test your morning routine, continually ask each component whether or not it's truly adding value to your life.
  2. Is this sustainable?  Keep in mind the most fruitful disciplines aren't sprints. A morning routine will undoubtedly change over time, but from the beginning, remember this is intended for the long haul.

Create a rough draft and try it this week.

Photo sourced via Creative Commons.