Why We're So Obsessed with Morning Routines
I subscribe to a weekly email called My Morning Routine (#notsponsored).
And I wish it were daily.
To me, it’s literally the most exciting email I get every week and I always open it and read it as soon as it appears in my inbox.
The premise is pretty self-explanatory -- they survey successful people (writers, athletes, CEOs, founders) with the same set of questions about what they do every morning. What time do they eat breakfast? Do they workout in the morning? When do they first look at their phone?
I’m obsessed and I know I’m not the only one, because otherwise this newsletter wouldn’t exist. Also because just about every other Medium post that gets delivered in my daily digest is about what three things you need to do before 8AM if you want to be successful or how a morning meditation routine will give you superpowers or what have you.
Why are we so obsessed with these routines? Why are we all looking to lifehack our way into success by replacing our first cup of coffee with lemon water? (seriously, how many people are going to tell me that drinking lemon water first thing in the morning is going to “jumpstart my metabolism” because, no.)
Routine = Comfort
This is kind of a no-brainer but human beings fucking love routines. Part of it is biological -- we get up with the sun, go to bed when it’s dark, that’s just what our bodies want to do.
But it’s a psychological thing, too (and if you want to come at me with psychology is biological or brain science or bulletproof coffee just know that it's not even 7AM when I'm writing this and I just can't and will not).
The more you do something, the better you get at it. That’s true whether you’re talking about playing a concerto on the violin or making an omelette every morning or even sitting quietly with your thoughts for five minutes before you turn on your phone. When you create a routine, you eventually become an expert at that routine.
It’s important to mention here that not all morning routines are actually helpful or healthy. Even if you have a cigarette before you jump in the shower or look at Instagram for 45 minutes and feel bad about your lack of abs before you have your first cup of coffee, you’re still crafting a routine and becoming an expert at it. You’re comfortable doing the things that you do every day. This is the definition of a “comfort zone.” It can be stifling, for some, but it can also be a source of peace and calm that can be used as a jumping off point for the rest of your day.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a 9-to-5er with a side hustle, or a busy mom who has to get a kid or two out the door at a certain time, we want to know that what we’re doing is the right thing. If we start the day with that cup of coffee we want to hear that Arianna Huffington also drinks coffee (SHE DOES). If we like to start our day with a brisk jog (uh, this is not me) we want to hear that former Olympians are also strapping on their Nikes first thing in the morning.
I liken this to what the marketing gurus (wait that's me...is that me?) call “social proof.” If someone else is doing it -- especially someone that has what we want, like financial success, creative success, a hot husband, Instagram-ready kids -- that acts as reinforcement for our own choices and it makes us feel good.
Are we looking for new ideas for our morning routine? To improve, optimize, streamline?
I mean, sure, to some extent. But more often than not we comb through looking for things we’re already doing as supporting evidence for our existing choices.
Reclaiming Our Time
For many people, especially women, those first moments that we awake are some of the only ones that we get to control. I don’t have children of my own but I still have my days scheduled out from about 7AM to 9PM (time blocking, get into it). Some of those things are work meetings, some are self-care like gym time and lunch, but the fact is that it’s all laid out there. I have to do all those things on my calendar, in that order, so that I make a living, maintain sanity, get fed, get swole, and keep my dog alive.
In the morning, when it’s still getting light, my 14-year-old pupper is still snoring and my husband is starting his own morning activities, I can decide what I need to do in that warm, quiet moment. I can stay in bed for five more minutes, go out onto our balcony for mindful meditation, start stretching in bed or move over to the yoga mat that I keep folded up by my nightstand. I can go at my own pace and not feel obligated to do any one thing for any perfect span of time. It’s only for me (even though the happiness I cultivate during these early morning moments definitely have a positive impact on those around me).
That might not sound like a routine, but it is. It’s basically a build-your-own routine that gives me some flexibility so that I can start my day on the right foot no matter what my circumstances are for that day.
Should You Have a Morning Routine?
If you’re reading this, my guess is that you already have one. It may be one that you’ve developed after research, testing, and personal growth -- or it might just be hopping out of bed, grabbing a coffee, and walking the dog.
The morning hours before we have to start work, before we have to do anything, can be extremely powerful. If you’re waking up every day to the blaring of an alarm clock and never feel ready to get up, it’s worth trying to make a change.