Mornings are always chaos at my house and I just don't know where to start to fix it. I'm not sure if habits really work...

You Don’t Need a New Morning Routine

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Don’t copy someone else’s morning routine

Everyone has a the perfect morning routine. Just try searching for it on Google or Pinterest and you’ll get what seems like a million hits. Morning routines are great. I am a fan. I even really enjoy reading what other people’s morning routines look like. They are a great place to find ideas and get motivation.

The trouble with OPRs (other people’s routines) is that they are not yours. They are written for and work for people who are not you. Not your life. Not your kids. Not your pets. Not your husband. Not your house. Not your job.

It’s like trying to fit yourself into a pair of shoes that are too small and then kicking them off in anger that they don’t fit and thinking it’s your feet’s fault the shoes hurt. It’s the same thing with someone else’s morning routine that doesn’t fit. There’s nothing wrong with you!

“But I’m stuck and feeling like I’m spinning my wheels and dropping way too many balls in the morning and I want a morning routine!”

I hear you.

You already have a morning routine

Here’s the great news: you already have a morning routine full of habits and habits are the key to our human behavior. You just have habits that aren’t working for you and don’t even realize it.

But fear not, there is a way to create a routine that will work for you and become a habit and soon your life will be smooth sailing. Well, stuff happens, but a functional morning routine will make those bumps less a catastrophe and more a future humorous family anecdote.

Before you can improve your mornings, you need to know where you are starting from. So grab a notebook and pen or a voice recorder on your phone or whatever and make a note of everything you do on a routine morning.

Do it once, do it for a week, do it for however long it takes for you to feel like you have a representative snapshot of your daily life. Maybe every weekday is the same. Maybe you want to get Saturdays under control. Maybe every day of the week looks different, but you can count every day of the week looking the same from week to week.

Don’t worry about oddball days where everything is fly by the seat of your pants. Just focus on the routine.

Habits are key

Now that you know what a routine morning looks like, think about your habits. Stuff you do without having to think about it. Decision fatigue is a real thing and it’s tiring. If you have to make a decision for every small piece of your day, you and your brain are going to start making dumb decisions sooner rather than later and chaos will ensue.

This is also a great skill to teach kids/anyone who lives without you. Humans are made to be creatures of habit and anything you can put on automatic is a win. Think about automatic bill pay, it’s the best. No late fees and less to worry about.

“I’m sold on habits, but how do I start?”

What would you like your morning routine to look like?

Just take a few minutes to imagine a perfect day morning routine. Everyone is on time, everyone is in a good mood, the coffee’s hot and you’re not PMSing. Write down what that routine would look like.

Hopefully, that was fun and it reminded you of some of the most important components of a morning routine. The next thing I want you to do is to forget about it. When you’re climbing Mount Everest, you don’t start at the peak. You start a sealevel.

I want you to build a solid foundation of morning habits that get it done. And I want you to succeed. And stopping here, just with a “dream morning routine” is almost guaranteed to end in failure.

Your next step is to think about a bare bones routine. The bare minimum that can get done so that everyone gets out the door fed and on time. It may not be pretty or Pinterest-worthy, but it’s functional and the important stuff is covered.

Now take your bare bones list and your actual morning routine and find the overlap. Congrats! You are already much further along in creating helpful morning routine than you were even giving yourself credit for!

Pick one key element  that would improve your whole morning

Now you’re going to pick ONE THING that will make the biggest difference in your morning. This is the lynchpin of improving your morning routine.

What is the one thing that would make the biggest difference in how the morning runs?

  • Is it a grab and go breakfast?
  • Is it getting up 30 minutes earlier so that you have more time to get yourself ready?
  • Is it putting your teenager in charge of starting the coffee pot?

Whatever it is, it is the ball that will start the whole morning rolling into complete chaos or making the morning a great launch into a great day.

Create a habit. Find a trigger.

You know what your current morning routine looks like. You know what a “good enough” morning routine looks like. You know one thing that if you implement it into your morning routine will give you the biggest bang for your buck. But none of that will help if you can’t make it a habit and actually DO it every morning.

You need to stop deciding what to do and start making it a habit that doesn’t require any particular thought to get the action started. How do you create a habit?

Start with a habit that you already have, that will become your trigger for the new habit. Whenever your trigger occurs, that is your reminder to do the new action that will become the habit. This sounds a little complicated, but believe me, it’s not.

For example, if your desired morning routine habit is to go for a run after the kids are at school, then think about what’s the trigger? Pulling into the driveway after dropping off the kids.

The new habit is going for that run. I want you to make it as easy as possible. Maybe you drop the kids off in your running clothes and don’t even go inside the house when you get home. You just lock up the car and go off for your run. Or maybe instead of going home after dropoff, you drive to your favorite running trail. Something simple, when A happens, I do B and just do it.

Set yourself up for success by prepping, but don’t let yourself off the hook. Not feeling like doing something is never an actual reason for not doing it.

How long until it’s a habit? I don’t know because it depends on a lot of things, like the difficulty of the new habit and if you have other stressors in your life. It could take as little as 14 days or maybe even up to a year.

But don’t let that stop you, remember the time will pass anyway. You’ll never regret improving yourself!

Work on this one habit until you don’t need to think about it anymore

I know you want a smooth running, amazing morning routine with a foundation of great habits like yesterday.

But if you don’t listen to anything else I say, listen to this: only work on one habit at a time!

With one new habit, your success rate of forming and keeping any new habit is about 80%. But if you try to create 2 new habits at once your success rate in keeping both new habits falls to about 30%. If you are trying to create three or more habits at once, your success in keeping all your new habits is about 0%.

So take it slow and steady. Focus on one thing at a time. You will know when your new habit is a habit because you don’t have to think about it anymore.

Now pick your next new habit to create and repeat.

Great, you have created a new habit. Mornings are running more smoothly and you can run it on autopilot with the habits you already had and the new habit you have just created.

Now, what’s next? Look at your good enough morning routine and identify the next most crucial habit to add into your mornings. Then just repeat the outlined steps.

“What if my morning is running smoothly and I don’t want to add in any more habits?” Or “What if it’s smooth enough and I just don’t want to take the effort to create another habit?”

Congratulations! You are rocking your morning and I salute you. Don’t add more stuff to your life just for the sake of adding stuff. Perfection is overrated and good enough is way underrated. When you find the sweet spot that makes YOU happy, enjoy the sweetness!

Caution: don’t let your morning routine control you

One word of warning. Don’t keep piling on habits to perfection. Whatever that’s supposed to be.

If you’ve read that CEOs read 1 book a week or never check their email before 10 am, that doesn’t mean you need to do that, even if you are a CEO. Just because someone who is successful is doing A, doesn’t mean A is a requirement for success.

Be you and be the you-est you you can be, the rest will work itself out.

Routine Maintenance

If, at some point in the future, you are starting to feel like your morning routine is going off the rails, stop and reevaluate.

  • Maybe you’ve dropped some of your useful habits and need to work on reintegrating them into your day.
  • Maybe your circumstances have changed and the habits you’ve cultivated don’t fit into your day anymore.
  • Maybe you’ve gone back to work full time, or moved to a new house, or had a new baby.

Just work through the steps again and make a new plan. You got this! What is your one new habit you are planning to work on? Let me know in the comments below.

Mornings are always chaos at my house and I just don't know where to start to fix it. I'm not sure if habits really work...
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