Of all the things I have learned, implemented, and improved upon over the years, the number one habit that I’ve seen the greatest results from is creating—and sticking to—my morning routine. Committing to my morning routine has helped me up-level my life and my business like nothing else has. If you want to up-level your life and your business, you need to first up-level yourself—and it all begins in the morning.
Each and every morning the sun comes up, you have a new chance—a fresh start to take the right steps toward your goals and becoming the person you want to be. Don’t take that for granted—treat your mornings like the gifts they are. First, you’ll need to decide what your morning routine will consist of. Once you’ve figured that part out, commit to it.
If you need to give yourself extra time to complete all the things in your morning routine, wake up an hour earlier—trust me, it’s worth it. And if you’re looking for some more specific inspiration, keep reading for my full morning routine. Take what you like and throw out the rest, but this is what has worked for me for years…
First things first. The best morning routine actually requires a solid night routine—a healthy dinner, lots of water, and getting to bed at a good hour are key. I try to avoid being on the phone or watching TV thirty minutes before bed. In fact, the less TV I consume, the better I feel and perform. Then, I think about what the next morning will look like. Chad and I discuss if it’s a “run day” or a “ gym day”. We make sure to always have water, books, headphones, and a journal by our bedsides. Before going to bed, I like to set an intention that I’ll have a restful and restorative sleep and wake up energized and focused.
Depending on the morning, I might wake up between 5:30 and 6:30am. But either way, I get up about an hour before I need to be somewhere, like out for a run or hitting the gym. This is when I center myself—it’s my “me time”.
I wake up, brush my teeth, and make myself a fresh iced water with lots of lemon. Sometimes I’ll take an ice cube and go over my face with it—it wakes me up and even reduces facial puffiness. Then, I make sure to expose myself to plenty of light. If it’s dark, I turn on all the lights in the room. One trick: I never, ever close the blinds or use blackouts. Rising with the sun—or before it’s up—is essential for me, as I find that the sun really does give me extra energy.
One of the most important things is to resist your phone first thing in the morning. Sure, you can turn it over and look to make sure there are no emergencies, but never start your day with Instagram, email, or anything similar. In fact, it’s been shown that you should keep your phone at least ten feet away from your bedside to avoid harmful radiation. And if that helps from keeping it out of your hands right before going to bed, and just after waking up, by all means—move it!
I know you’ve probably heard that meditation is good for you, that it will add years to your life—but have you actually made time for it? It’s not complicated or crazy time-consuming. All you really need is about ten minutes. I’ve experimented with lots of different apps and guided meditations, and personally found a good rhythm with the Calm app, and most recently, Insight Timer. Both are very easy to follow, and it’s entirely guided. For a beginner, it’s a really great place to start, and a couple of years in, I’m still loving it.
After I start my morning routine off with meditation, I read one page of A Year of Miracles by Marianne Williamson and The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur by John Jantsch. A Year of Miracles is a collection of positive affirmations, readings, and devotionals intended to be read one page per day. While it’s in no way a religious book, it is spiritual and uses words like God and universe throughout. I use them interchangeably, but obviously, to each their own! It’s a good source of grounding and inspiration for me and I really love it. The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur is a useful daily read for the business side of my brain. Tending to both the spiritual and the entrepreneurial aspects of myself first thing in the morning really helps me feel balanced, inspired, and alert.
After I’ve done my morning routine reading, I sit down with a pen and paper and just write down whatever I need to process or express for me to feel ready to move forward with the rest of my day. I have five general prompts to start me off. Some days I hit them all, and some days just two or three. Here are some of my standard elements when I journal:
Whether it’s a dream I woke up thinking about, or the first thoughts that come to my mind—I just let them flow onto paper. If you’re anxious or worried, just write it out. If you’re excited about the day, share it. Even a few lines can feel cathartic. Over time, this practice will help you stay mentally present, mindful, and grounded—which will benefit every aspect of your life. I find a good thought dump to be a great way to start off my morning journaling.
My morning routine definitely requires expressing gratitude. It’s possibly the most important element of journaling (and life, really). I find that writing 5 to 10 things I’m grateful for fills me with positivity. You can be grateful for anything—simply waking up in your own bed, feeling good physically—anything that comes to mind is valid and worth writing down.
It’s best to focus on the little things—like that phone call with your mom last night, your husband cooking dinner, feeling motivated on a project, or your kid telling you a funny joke. Whatever it is for you—just try to find the beauty in the smaller details and recognize how important they actually are.
Gratitude journaling is all about taking stock of the abundance we already have around us each and every day. The more you acknowledge and express gratitude, the more you’ll start to see and feel it automatically—not only during your morning routine—but throughout your life in general.
My morning routine also requires focusing on my goals. During this journaling exercise, I write down ten goals in the past tense—as though I have already reached them. I start with the prompt: I am so happy and grateful that… and then follow with ten goals. For example, I’m so happy and grateful that I have completed X project this year. Each day, I write down the same ten goals.
If there are measurable goals, like financial, weight, etc., be sure to add the date you’re aiming to complete them by. So: ‘I’m so happy and grateful that I completed X (project) by Y (date)’. Writing these goals down day after day keeps them front of mind as we inch towards our deadlines.
If you like, you can also include some character goals as well. If you’re focused on being a better wife or mother, perhaps you want to add that you are a fantastic mother or loving wife. The most important thing is to get them on the paper daily.
To wrap up my morning journaling, I set intentions or write affirmations—or both! This could look like requesting guidance from the universe or God; perhaps you’re looking for inspiration for a project or wisdom for a problem. You can write out what you’re seeking in a simple sentence like: ‘Today I’m seeking inspiration and creativity for my photo shoot.’
Alternatively, you can simply write down what you would like to bring more of into your day: kindness, patience, laughter, a total mindset shift—you name it. Maybe you’d like to be a more present friend, parent, or spouse. An example of a good affirmation for this intention would be: ‘I’m a calm and present friend.’
Or, maybe you’d like to change the way you view something. For example, I’ve worked to cultivate a better money mindset. In my mind, money had always been hard to come by and was a difficult topic to talk about. An effective affirmation that I used to totally shift that mindset was: ‘Money comes easily and often.’
I also have an affirmation to calm anxiety: ‘I’m calm and creative under pressure’. Writing down our intentions and affirmations helps us set the tone for the rest of our day—which is why it’s such an important part of my morning routine.
Yes, I intentionally listed ‘read’ twice. After I journal, I read for a second time. If I have time—depending on how long I spend in my journal—my next step in my morning routine is another ten minutes or so of reading. I typically read a few books at a time—and in the mornings, I like to opt for a ‘morning book’—one that’s filled with wisdom and mindfulness—one that gives me something to think on. And sometimes, just reading one chapter gives me enough food for thought that morning. My favorite kind of books for this part of my morning routine are about business, self-help, mindset, or inspiration.
After I’ve finished meditating, reading, journaling, and reading some more—it’s time to make the bed and get a workout in. For me, that means at least 30 minutes of exercise. But on most mornings, I like to get in about an hour of movement. Sometimes I opt for a five-mile run, sometimes I opt for a three-mile power walk, and sometimes I opt for using a workout app or a class like Barry’s. But the most important thing is to just get moving.
While the meditation and journaling portion of my morning routine was added just a few years ago, my morning routine has always consisted of a good sweat. I cannot say enough about exercise. Because energy creates energy. Even if you’re tired, stressed, or grumpy—getting that run, hike, or walk in will give you more energy, a clearer mind, and a more positive outlook. It’s a must for my morning routine.
Remember, it’s been proven that just thirty minutes of exercise will fuel your frontal cortex and improve your mood, memory, and mental clarity for up to twelve hours. Also—something like 97% of the top leaders of the world make a habit to work out regularly—they must be onto something!
And my favorite reward for a good sweat? The cool ocean waves on my skin.
When I’ve gotten through the five steps of my morning routine, I’m finally ready to hit the showers and get my work day started. I hope this post inspires you to create your own morning routine. It doesn’t have to look like mine, but I encourage you to commit to figuring out and experimenting to see what works best for you!
Your life is yours—take the time to build it. We all have stuff we need to get done, but taking the time to be intentional with how you start each day will pay off in dividends. It’s important to control what you can control—and your mornings truly are the start of it all. So, don’t take them for granted.
Wishing you many, many beautiful mornings to come.
've spent the past decade capturing love and chasing beauty across the globe, and I believe every story like yours is different and special, and deserves to be told exceptionally.
Drawing on years of experience in the fashion and editorial photography industry, my photographs are graceful, honest and boldly natural, while completely intentional. Whether it’s the opportunity to narrate the retelling of once-in-a-lifetime wedding days, or the ability to communicate issues of global importance, or all the stories in between, I look at photography as the method by which I get to leave the world a little better than I found it.
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And this is why you are so successful. These daily disciplines are so necessary to accomplish our dreams. I am so grateful for your leadership and example in the world.