The Morning Routine

I’ve been thinking about my morning routine for a good, long while now (more than a year). With the help of a few friends (especially Jenn), I think I’ve finally stumbled on what I would consider my perfect weekday morning.

My mornings used to look like:

When I was living in Paris for months, and I was all by myself without my friends, family, or even normal work system, I found the mornings so unbearably difficult that I was sleeping in until 1 in the afternoon. This was horribly bad, and it set me up to be in an awful mood all day.

There were a few very obvious reasons for this: I didn’t adjust to the time change correctly, I was not used to being in a foreign city on my own just yet, I had no breakfast food in the house, and there was almost no sunlight getting through to my little studio. It was awful. In addition, I still had the habit of looking at my phone until I couldn’t hold it anymore before bed and looking at my phone until I got overly bored first thing in the morning. This would lead me to checking my work emails and often coming across small work emergencies that had to be handled as soon as possible, which lead me to a mini state of panic. Basically, I had a lot of morning problems.

Morning Problems

  1. Too dark where I slept – no morning light.
  2. Phone was in my hand immediately before bed and first thing in the morning.
  3. Work emails put me in a state of panic over the work that needed to be done asap.
  4. Breakfast consisted of whatever I could find first.
  5. There was no reason to get out of bed.

Changes

I slowly realized I needed to figure out a better way to wake up. Some of these changes were obvious, and some I stumbled upon through various means.

While I was in Paris, Jenn once mentioned that I might be addicted to my phone… I got very defensive about it. Over the course of my three months in Paris, I could see she was right to some extent, but I wasn’t willing to give it up while I was away. It was sometimes the sole connection I had to any friends and family, and it was certainly the thing that made me eventually connect to real live people while I was there. In any case, I told myself that when I moved back to Philadelphia, I wouldn’t sleep with my phone next to my bed. And now I don’t. It’s banished to my desk at night, and it stays in Do Not Disturb mode from the hours of 11pm through 8am. Note that I usually am not asleep by 11pm and I am usually awake before 8am. The phone is not allowed to be the thing that keeps me awake or wakes me up.

I also eventually took care of that pesky no-sunlight issue. I bought a Hue Wake-Up Light. It’s a game changer. It simulates a sunrise at the time you set to wake up. You can adjust how bright it gets and also how long you want that sunrise to take. You can also set it to have birds chirp or the radio turn on at the alarm time. I started waking up before the alarm time. That light gets bright! I still use it as my primary alarm, even in my Philadelphia apartment that generally has ample sunlight. Most days I don’t need the alarm to wake up at all.

A few months ago, Jenn spoke to me and another friend Alyssa about her new morning routine. She read this book called The Miracle Morning and had been talking to me about how she does some meditation and movement first thing in the morning (among other things). You can read more of her thoughts on this in this blog post of hers. It’s been jingling around in my head for awhile now. I first tried to write in my journal for 5 minutes or more everyday, but I found I sometimes started thinking about work first thing again, and so it was only useful to do if I had something personal on my mind.

At this point, I was pretty excited about the changes I had made to my morning. I was waking up naturally, without any annoying buzzers, bells, or sounds. I wasn’t in a constant state of panic from work or annoyance at some social media post. I started keeping some breakfast staples in the house: like bananas and Nespresso capsules for my morning lungo. And sometimes writing in my journal allowed me to claim the day as my own.

And then about 10 days ago I was thinking about my morning, and I looked at my piano and grade 2 lesson books I had been working on intermittently for the last 5 years. It all clicked. Playing piano for just a little bit first thing in the morning would be amazing. I love music, and I sing all of the time, but the morning is not the time you really want to stretch your voice. Playing piano first thing would be so enjoyable, and putting a small time-constraint on it would make it never seem like a chore. I decided on 10 minutes or more depending on my mood. I started first thing the next day, and it’s everything I hoped it would be. Not only does it allow me to claim my day, but learning a new skill like that really engages my problem solving and focus for the rest of my day’s tasks. Plus, I’m starting to make progress in my piano skills.

My new mornings

  1. Phone is kept on my desk away from the bedroom, and set on Do Not Disturb from 11pm to 8am.
  2. Kitchen is stocked with breakfast staples that are both healthy and easy to grab in the morning.
  3. The actual sun wakes me up naturally at about 7:30am and if it doesn’t, my wake-up light fills in so that I still wake up naturally without buzzers.
  4. I play piano for 10+ minutes before looking at my phone or my computer and usually before even eating anything, because I’m so excited to play.
  5. Starting work was easier, more relaxed, and more productive after focusing on myself for a bit.

It’s pretty amazing! Thanks to everyone who helped me get to this place :) If you have any tips or want to share your own morning routine, please do. I love comments.