Morning routines are only helpful if you get out of bed.
A seemingly obvious fact that I learned in quarantine when my body simply refused to get up. This, just after I had been feeling so proud of myself for nailing down the perfect morning routine.
The routine I had carefully designed and iterated on was incredibly effective at setting me up for a productive day. The only problem was that it quite literally didn’t get me out of bed in the morning. This was because my routine was optimized for the outcome only. I was happy with how I felt after yoga, meditation, and journaling, but I wasn’t excited to get started.
Still, the fresh routine had motivated me for a few weeks, as I basked in the glow of newfound productivity. Soon enough, this faded back into difficult mornings. My alarm triggered visions of the next hour and a half of diligent routine, and my body promptly responded, “No, thank you” by snuggling back under the duvet.
I ended up resolving my inability to get up in the morning by accident. Like most handy inventions, I didn’t realize that I had solved a problem, or that I had a problem to solve in the first place, until I had already fixed it.
A week ago, I was feeling particularly grumpy in the morning. I had woken up late, dutifully worked through my morning routine, and launched straight into work when I heard my dog’s paws tip-tapping across the kitchen floor. I felt a familiar pang of guilt, as I realized it was time to take my puggle, Ov, out for his morning walk.
I was frustrated for many reasons that morning. Mostly, because it was late, and I really wanted to get started on my work. As I leashed Ov up and waited for my partner to put his jacket on, I felt my blood start to simmer.
I didn’t want to meander up the block, while the beagle in Ov demanded to sniff every tree. I didn’t feel like having a morning chat. I hated the daily guilt and the interruption of my workflow. This walk was a part of my morning routine, as much as the rest of it, but not by design.
The next morning, I decided to get the walk out of the way, first thing. There was a book that had recently peaked my interest on Audible, so I tossed on my headphones and walked out the door. The book was inspiring and thought-provoking, and I entered back into the house with my wheels turning.
What followed was the best, most creative day I’d had in a long time. The next few days, I repeated the pattern: wake up, slip on yoga clothes and headphones, and slowly make my way around the block.
Pretty soon, I noticed that I no longer pushed the snooze on my alarm. In fact, I found myself waking up before the chime, disarming the upcoming notification, and getting right out of bed. This one simple change fixed a problem that I hadn’t even realized I’d had.
It introduced a morning activity that fed my soul and creativity: listening to a book, purely for my own pleasure.
Previously, I’d chalked up my difficulty to wake up to normal grumpiness or fatigue. Perhaps, the blues seeping in from the upside down world outside of my apartment.
I figured, getting out of bed is hard. I just need to power through. Maybe use the 5-Second Rule or something.
If I’m being completely honest, this change hasn’t dissolved my ever-present urge to power through. I felt a little poke of judgement when I made morning Audible walks a regular thing.
“You should be present when you walk, not listening to your headphones.”
“If you do listen to a book, it should be educational, something off your ‘to read’ list.”
You know what I say to those thoughts?
“Thank you for your concern, I can see that you want me to do well, but this is working for me.”
For people like us, who naturally gravitate toward self-improvement, it can feel awkward to give into indulgences—especially little daily pleasures like my morning listen. Even now, with as much as I write about and advocate for self-care, I often have to make a case to my logical self. I gently point out that it’s in my best interest to create space and do things that don’t always make sense. That it actually benefits me, my work, and those around me.
I find that these sorts of things go in cycles. We have an issue, we find a way to make it better. Soon, we grow out of the solution, which we so carefully stitched together, and another obstacle pops up. Rather than forcing ourselves to fit into what worked before or what’s “supposed” to be, we might instead be curious about this new need, and listen to what it’s asking from us.
It’s in this way that we can evolve and continue to unfold our truest, most joyful lives.