‘What day is it?’ ‘Does it even matter?’ Do you keep hearing these questions everywhere too? It’s like the movie “Groundhog Day” has become our real lives, and we’ve lost our motivation for structure and routine. Hell, we’ve lost our motivation for a lot of things! And I get it—times are weird. But I’d like to propose that we actually need structure and routine more than ever. Even if it’s just so we can feel spontaneous in other areas of our life, like getting takeout or walking a route in the opposite direction—all the things that make you feel a bit wild during a pandemic.
Of all the things I have learned, implemented and improved upon over the last few years, the number one habit I have seen the greatest results from is my morning routine, especially in the last few months. I know that’s a bold statement, but it’s true. When life feels uncertain, create rituals that you can count on. And I believe that starts first thing in the morning.
Each and every morning the sun comes up, you have a new chance, you have a fresh start to take the right steps towards your goals and become the person you want to be. Each and every day, I wake up with one mission: to do better than I did yesterday. Do you feel that way? Or are your mornings a blur of rushing around dealing with phone calls, breakfast, emails, and managing unnecessary chaos before you even brush your teeth?
If you want to up-level your life (and your business), you need to first up-level yourself and that begins each and every morning. Hal Elrod shares in his book, The Morning Miracle,
If you need to, wake up an hour earlier; it’s worth it. So here we go—my Morning Routine. Take what you like and throw out the rest, but this is what has worked for me for years…
First things first. A productive morning actually starts the night prior: 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 for the last thirty minutes before bed. In fact, the less TV I consume, the better I feel and perform. Next, I set my mind to what my morning will look like. Chad and I discuss if it’s a “run day” or a “(at home) gym day” (these days we are working out 7 days a week in a pretty predictable schedule) and we make sure to have water by our bedside, as well as books, headphones, and the journal. 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 want to get up about an hour before I need to be somewhere, like out for a run or hitting the gym. This is the time where I will center myself, it’s my “me time.” I wake up, brush my teeth and make myself a fresh ice water with lots of lemon. I have found that I love rolling one of the ice cubes all over my face for an extra jolt. It sounds really strange, but it works to reduce the puffiness and wake you up. I make sure to flood myself with 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 is up, is essential. The sun will give you the energy that you need, so don’t block out its power.
One of the most important keys is to resist your phone first thing. Sure, you can turn it over and look to make sure there are no emergencies, and I mean real ones, 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, well then by all means—move it!
I know you have heard that meditation is good for you, that it will add years to your life, but have you made time for it? Have you really, really tried 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.
Next, 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 her own! It’s a good source of grounding and inspiration for me and I really love it. The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur is a new one for me and is an interesting daily read for the business side of my brain.
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 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, and over time, this practice will help you continue to get more present and grounded in your mind.
This can be done morning, night or any time you feel the urge, but it’s possibly the most important thing to do. I find there’s such value in writing 5 to 10 things that you’re grateful for. It can be just waking up in your own bed, feeling good or anything that comes to mind. Most days 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. Try to find the beauty in the smaller details and recognize how important they are. It’s all about taking stock in the abundance we already have around us each and every day. The more that you acknowledge it, the more that you will see it.
In this journaling exercise, I write down ten goals in the past tense, as though I have already reached them. I love Bob Proctor’s approach to this, and 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. I am so happy and grateful that I completed X project this year, then the date, December 31st, or whatever your goal date is. 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.
Before I wrap up my journaling, I set intentions or write some affirmations. This could look like requesting guidance from the universe or God; perhaps you are looking for inspiration for a project or wisdom for a problem. You can write out what you are 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, you name it. Maybe you’d like to be a more present friend, parent or spouse, then an affirmation like, I am a calm and present friend might do the trick. It helps us set the tone before you kick things off for the day. If there is something you really need to get done today or have strength in, you might write, Today my goal is to finish my editing on so-and-so’s album, or Today my goal is to write 1000 words.
If there is an area where you’d like to overcome a challenge or have a mindset shift, this is a great way to make sure that you’re addressing it each and every day. For example, I’ve worked to cultivate a better money mindset. In my mind, money had always been hard to come by or was an ugly topic to talk about. So one of my affirmations is, Money comes easily and often. And when I find myself reverting back to an old mindset about money, I say this to myself and write it down daily. It helps me immensely. Another affirmation of mine is used to calm anxiety. I think we can all relate to anxiety these days! And one sentence that I write every day is, I am calm and creative under pressure. You can use these outside of your journaling to calm and center yourself too.
Yes, this is reading for the second time. If I have time, depending on how long I spend in my journal, my next step in the morning routine is about ten minutes of reading. I typically read a few books at a time and I usually choose a ‘morning book’ that’s more mindful and deep, something to think on. And sometimes, just reading a chapter gives me enough food for thought. My favorite kind of books are about business, self-help or inspiration, so I’m usually picking up one of those during step four.
Finally, 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, it’s an hour of breaking a sweat. It could be a five+ mile run, a one mile power walk or using a workout app like Jillian Michaels; the most important thing is to 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 that. There’s no secret that an overwhelming number of top leaders make exercise a regular habit. It’s something like 97%! On the first day of 2020, I began a 30 day challenge to sweat for at least 30 minutes each and every day. After 30 days it felt so good, I haven’t stopped. That’s right, not a single day off this year and man, it’s been a game-changer!
So why am I so passionate about this? Because energy creates energy. Even if you are tired and stressed, getting that run, hike or walk in will leave you with more energy, a clearer mind, and a more positive outlook. 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. And my favorite reward for a good sweat? The cool ocean waves on my skin…
When I’ve gotten through my five step morning routine, I’m ready to hit the showers and get my work day started. I hope my morning routine inspires you to create one of your own. It doesn’t have to look like mine, but I encourage you to make one!
Your life is built by design, if you take the time to build it. We all have stuff that 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––especially right now––and your mornings are the start of it all.
Wishing you many, many good and powerful 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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