Inside: Have you tried morning routines in past, but they’ve never really stuck? Learn how to design one that works for YOU, and borrow from my minimalist morning routine as (and if) you like.
“I try to run three days a week, but it’s just so, so, SO hard to do with Gabrielle lately!” I vented to my sister for the tenth time about the challenges of having a demanding 3-year-old.
I’m sure hearing the same lament over and over again was more than a little frustrating for my sister.
“Why aren’t you using that amazing rower and weight system your husband bought? I mean, it’s right there in the house…” she suggested.
It’s not the first time she’s made this suggestion, but I guess that time happened to be THE magical seventh time (the rule of 7: it’s a marketing thing).
I stopped and asked myself why: why was I being so stubborn? If working out regularly was so important to me, the solution was starting me in the face multiple times a day.
And I didn’t have 45-60 minutes a day, but I could probably squeeze in 20-25 minutes in the morning, while my youngest was occupied…
My sister’s last verbal nudge finally pushed me to get over my stubborn self and adapt my ideals to something better suited to my current circumstances.
And my new minimalist morning routine was born.
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Why Call It A “Minimalist” Morning Routine?
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First, why call it a “minimalist” morning routine? It’s practically cliche these days to call something minimalist, right?
Well for starters, I happen to be a minimalist. But also, to me, minimalism is about living your whole life intentionally, from what you bring into your home to what you put on your calendar.
Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist
A minimalist morning routine considers everything you could fit into the first hour or so of your day down to the essential few things that matter most to you personally.
When you choose to put those few things first in your day, they are far more likely to actually get done.
Minimalism also aims to reduce decision fatigue by limiting your choices. A minimalist morning routine decides ahead of time what you’re going to do with that first 30-60 minutes of your day.
My Simple Minimalist Morning Routine
As an introverted, homeschooling, work at home mom of 5, my morning routine “why” is taking care of myself.
But I only have so much time (I don’t get up before my kids), so what I’ve chosen to include in my routine are my absolute highest self-care priorities. Some tasks didn’t make the cut.
For example, my daily cleaning task used to be part of my morning routine, but my almost 4-year-old usually needs attention after playing by herself for such a long time. Now cleaning often has to wait until later in the day.
Ultimately, I decided that a clean house matters less to me than my own self-care.
Unless something unusual comes up, I follow this routine daily, although I sometimes skip step 3 on Mondays, which is my dedicated work day.
(Occasionally, making breakfast for a kids here and there interrupts the flow, but I just go to the next step in the routine post-sandwich-making.)
1. Drink all the morning beverages first, always.
I wake up and
fall get out of bed. I grab my phone and head straight for the kitchen, keeper of the coffee.
I fill the tea kettle and turn on the burner. Then, I grind my coffee and add it to the French Press.
While I wait for the kettle to boil, I grab a glass of water to drink before the coffee and change into my work-out clothes.
I add the hot water to the French Press and wait the required five minutes before pressing and adding cream.
At the time of this writing, I’m experimenting with giving up sugar in my coffee. It quite honestly sucks, but I don’t have a severe afternoon slump like I did before, so I might have to stick with it. Dangit.
2. Read the news and non-fiction.
While I drink that first cup of coffee, I read.
Maybe the news isn’t the most positive way to start your day. But during the Pandemic, I ended up subscribing to the New York Times daily digest, and it’s become a fixed part of my morning ritual.
I read the digest, click on a news article or two that interests me. Later in the day, I’ll share interesting facts and stories with my kids.
After that, I’ll read a chapter from my latest non-fiction book.
Non-fiction has long been my go-to. I typically only read fiction during time off in December, and then it’s often dystopian fiction (do I have a problem? maybe?).
I save the “heaviest” books, the ones that take the most concentration, for that morning cup of coffee in a quieter-than-typical house.
3. Exercise, be inspired and eat healthy stuff.
After that I head into my workout.
I used to be a runner, and maybe one day I’ll get back to it. But running currently involves begging an older child to babysit and far more time than my current workout.
Rowing (we have THIS machine, if you’re curious) and lifting weights doesn’t give me quite the same “runner’s high”, but it’s a bit easier on my approaching-forty body than running. I also injured myself while running last year.
Right now, my workout takes about 25 minutes.
When I finish exercising, I make a smoothie or eat a piece of fruit.
I’m not the world’s healthiest eater, but stacking a healthy eating habit with my workout habit was surprisingly easy. And I’ve found that if I start the day with healthy food, I tend to make healthier food choices the rest of the day.
5 Tips for Designing Your Own Simple Morning Routine
Your morning routine probably won’t look like mine. And that’s a good thing! More than a little pain in the world is caused by trying to do things exactly how other people do them.
If you’re looking for ideas of what to include in your own simple morning routine, you might consider…
- 3 Item To-Do List
Consider what makes you feel like your best self for the day ahead.
What is going to set your day up for success? What do you want to fit in that might not happen if you don’t do it right away?
With those questions in mind, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you create your own routine.
1. Decide the “why” behind your morning routine.
For me, my morning routine is my main time for self-care.
I often go to bed when my kids do, as we run on a later schedule than most families. If I get no other time in the day to myself, I know 99% of the time, I’ll have my mornings.
Protecting my mental, emotional and physical health comes first. From that place of self-care, I can best fulfill my responsibilities.
Maybe you want to…
- be a calmer, kinder parent,
- feel more prepared and organized for your day, or
- spend less decision-making energy in the morning.
Whatever your reasons, having a strong “why” is usually what keeps us going with any kind of lifestyle change.
2. Pick morning routine elements that align with your “why”.
Your “why” will help you choose things to add to your routine that most align with that purpose.
If you want to feel more prepared and organized for your day, creating a short to-do list and looking at the day’s events might be one of your three things.
If you’re wanting to become more positive, a daily gratitude list could be perfect for your morning routine.
For an opposite example, if exercise is not your thing – as in you literally loathe it – and physical health isn’t your “why” right now, making exercise part of your mornings might not be the best idea.
3. Be real about your current season of life.
Thirteen years into this whole motherhood thing, I still have young children. My youngest is not yet four. Crazy, right?
I also have tweens and teens who are up much later than my youngest. I’m burning the candle at both ends, so to speak, plus working and homeschooling.
Will I wake up before my kids one day? Probably. Today is (still) not that day.
My control over my mornings is currently limited, but my youngest mostly respects a good cup of coffee (as long as I give her a sip or two) and little bit of workout time.
So I have about an hour or less to fit in my morning routine. And I make that enough for now.
Are you working night shifts, sleeping, then taking over childcare from a partner when you wake up around noon? Your routine will look different than the single young adult with a 9-5 and complete morning autonomy.
Are you living with chronic pain? Maybe pick one key thing to prioritize, and focus on basic self-care.
4. Set yourself up for success the night before.
A good morning usually begins the night before, or so the saying goes.
Set yourself up for success by doing a few things like…
- Put a post-it note on your phone with the first step in the routine.
- Set your workout clothes and headphones out the night before.
- Clean the kitchen – or just one counter – and set up your coffee for the morning.
- Create a basket or area with your morning routine essentials.
- Write down the morning routine you’re working toward.
- Pick out the podcast for your workout (you guessed it) the night before.
I’m sure there are more ideas, but then I’d be writing an “evening routine” post, so I won’t ramble on.
5. Keep your routine super simple.
Choose your top 3 things (5 max) that most align with your “why”.
The more things you add to your morning routine – a.k.a. the more complicated it gets – the least likely you are to stick with it or get the benefits of it.
If you find yourself wanting to add all.the.things to your morning routine, consider creating an evening routine, and moving some things to that one, instead.
And finally, put things in an order that makes sense to you.
Maybe you need to workout first thing if it’s going to happen at all. Maybe sleeping in your workout clothes so you can roll out of bed and jump right on the treadmill is what it’s gonna take.
Or maybe you really need to make showering and dressing first thing to feel like your best self. More power to you! Do it.
A Brief (Strong) Word About Getting Up Early
I’m pretty over the blanket “successful people get up early” advice.
Whether or not you wake up early or before your kids is a very personal choice. Don’t let self-help gurus tell you it’s essential to success, or life, or whatever tough love mantra sells their latest course.
Only you know your body. Hopefully, you know how much sleep you need to feel good and alert and kind.
Parents of young children need every drop of sleep they can get, in my opinion. Early mornings be damned. And yes, screens can be a babysitter for your to fit in self-care.
But if getting up before your kids if what you need to feel good about life (and it actually has this effect after experimenting), please do it!
If you don’t have children, assess your own situation. You might have no other choice but to wake up early before work to fit in a morning routine. Or you might have more schedule freedom and can sleep until you’re rested.
Either way, make a choice that fits your sleep needs.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to all kinds of negative health effects. The best morning routine in the world won’t make up for damaging your health by not getting enough sleep.
The Perfect Morning Routine Is Above All Else Unique to YOU
I know I’ve said this every other paragraph, but I’ll say it again.
The best morning routine is a personalized morning routine. What works for Miracle Mornings guy or that Instagram life coach you follow or me might not work for you.
You might need to try different things for a month or two to see what actually works for your life. Give yourself the time and space to do that.
Maybe you try exercise first thing and hate it, so you move that to after work. Maybe you try gratitude lists in the morning, but you get bored after four days (um, me), so you try journaling, instead.
Create a trial routine. Try it out for a few weeks. Decide if it’s working for you.
You might need to try a few different combinations before you find the perfect routine for you. There is so much freedom to change something that isn’t working!
And remember: don’t be a stubborn perfectionist like me. Embracing imperfect, less than ideal solutions will move you forward faster than waiting for perfect.
The best is the enemy of the good.Voltaire