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Discovering a morning routine that suits your needs

During weekdays, my alarm goes off at 4:15 a.m., and my husband and I swiftly get out of bed.

I quickly drink some water from the bottle on my nightstand, brush my teeth, change into my workout clothes, and prepare our workout electrolyte drinks while he readies his work bag. We then drive to the gym for our 5 a.m. weightlifting class.

We return home around 6:15 a.m., and we divide the morning tasks: My husband makes a protein-rich breakfast while I pack his lunch for the day and feed our dog. After that, we sit down together for breakfast, discuss our plans for the day, and he heads off to work. At 7 a.m., I go upstairs to shower and dress for the day. After that, I spend time reading, writing, and/or meditating before heading to my home office to start work around 8:30 a.m.

Just my wake-up time might sound like something an Instagram influencer or a privileged tech person would do, right? Yes, I do share advice on Instagram, but no, I assure you, I’m not one. (I’d have to do cold plunges every morning to be in that league).

I don’t believe that my way is the ultimate approach, nor do I think it’s a universal remedy for the “best” morning routine. This routine has worked well for me over the last few years because it has anchored my day in this specific phase of my life. I found what works best for me and took the time to determine what sets me up for a successful day. My routine isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that will guarantee overnight success.

I understand that I’ll need to adjust it as my life changes. I’m aware of this as I’m writing this at 38 weeks pregnant, just about to give birth to my first child. I fully grasp that the routine that has been my anchor is about to be disrupted and reshaped. I’ll eventually need to find a new anchor. And considering how babies affect schedules, I might be without one for a while.

There are three issues with copying other people’s morning routines: Firstly, replicating their routine doesn’t allow you the flexibility to determine what suits you best, given your current and desired life. Secondly, some of their activities might not hold much significance and might not affect the rest of your day. Finally, you might feel stressed because you haven’t discovered what’s right for you, which might leave you with an uneasy feeling lingering throughout the day.

Many people have similar goals and aspirations, but their days and responsibilities differ. I’m realizing this more than ever now as my days and responsibilities are on the brink of a significant change.

People often ask how I maintain consistency in my morning routine. Until now, I’ve achieved it by working through the same process I recommend to others.

• What three things make me feel my best in the morning? • How do I prioritize those three things based on the joy they bring me? • How can I incorporate the top item from that list into tomorrow morning? • If anything obstructs the top priority, what can I do about it?

I intend to approach this new chapter of life and redefine my morning routine by addressing the same four questions.

After giving birth, I know it will be more challenging. While I plan to revisit this exercise, I thought I’d seek expert guidance. I reached out to behavioral scientist Katy Milkman, author of “How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” and a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

“We know that building a new routine requires detailed planning,” Milkman shared. “However, research indicates that creating multiple detailed plans for multiple goals, rather than helping, can actually hinder us.”

She suggests focusing on prioritizing one new goal at a time and creating a plan to achieve that goal within your routine. “Let’s say you want to meditate and exercise in the morning, but currently do neither,” Milkman explained. “It might be more effective to pick one to prioritize as your new morning goal, make a detailed plan for when and where you’ll do it, and add it to your routine.”

Once that becomes established, you can consider introducing another aspect to your routine.

The goal isn’t to change everything about your morning all at once. It’s about selecting one or two elements that motivate you to start your day and conquer the challenges ahead.

Need more inspiration? When I proposed this story to my editor, I guided her through this process. I discovered that she genuinely desires to work out in the morning as it positively impacts her day. Additionally, she aims to complete the recommended 150 minutes of weekly cardio (especially since her team frequently discusses this recommendation).

However, she often gets caught up in early morning edits and ends up rushing for school drop-offs or work. I advised her to set her alarm with sufficient time for her preferred workout, lay out her workout clothes the night before in a visible place, immediately put them on upon waking up, and place a sticky note on her laptop reading, “Do not open until after workout.”

For the most part, it’s working well for her. Not every morning, but more often than not. Her child’s school will start soon, altering her routine as well. We both intend to revisit those questions again.

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