47:01

My morning routine is nothing short of sacred, gifting me calm, grounded energy, a happier mood, and improved stress resilience as I move throughout my day. In this episode, I’ll share the history of my mornings, starting twenty years ago fresh out of rehab right up through today, working around parenting and COVID. I’ll detail what, how, and why I do what I do each morning, how to identify pain points in your own mornings, and share a dozen practical tips for crafting your own morning routine, even if you’ve never had one before (Hint: You DO have one, but it might be running you, instead of you running the routine. Let’s change that.)

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THIS EPISODE’S GUEST

Melissa Urban

Whole30 CEO, Co-Founder

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Connect with Melissa

Website: whole30.com
Instagram: @melissau
Facebook: /melissau.author

Episode Notes

Cold Showers with Ed Sheeran (podcast)

#Mindright with Todd McCullough (podcast)

Habit Level: Atomic with James Clear (podcast)

#melissaurbanreads

My Morning Routine, Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander

Atomic Habits, James Clear

MU (00:03):

Hi, my name is Melissa Urban, and you’re listening to Do the Thing, a podcast where we explore what’s been missing every time you’ve tried to make a change and make it stick.

MU (00:20):

Today I’m talking all about my morning routine. For those of you who know me in person or through Instagram, you’ll know, my morning routine is nothing short of sacred, and I really do work the rest of my life around making sure I can meet my early morning priorities. I’ve structured my routine to start my day on an intentional and positive note to reduce, or at the very least not add more stress to my life and to tackle the things that make the biggest impact on my mental and physical health. Obviously over the years, my routine has shifted to accommodate my life and it’s expanded as I’ve discovered new impactful self care practices. The birth of my morning routine started over 20 years ago when I was fresh out of rehab for my drug addiction and decided to start going to the gym in the morning before work.

MU (01:14):

But my current morning routine really evolved 10 years ago when I quit my full time job and started working for myself. I experienced two years of major burnout before realizing the power that came with setting priorities and intentionality and boundaries around how I start my day today. All share the evolution of my morning routine. Exactly what, how and why I do what I do every morning. Now, why there is no one size fits all routine that works equally well for everyone and how you can start to create your own morning routine, even if you’ve never had one before this podcast is all about making change stick. And I think you’ll find there are small changes to the way you start your day, that will bring you enormous gifts in the form of physical health, mental health, focus, creativity, calm, centered energy and stress resilience. As you go about your day.

MU (02:14):

Start by talking about my morning routine. Back in 2000, I had just come out of rehab for my drug addiction, and I knew that I needed to make some significant changes to basically everything in my life in order to maintain my recovery. That was when I started going to the gym every day, I started with the idea that a healthy person with healthy habits exercises. I worked in nine to five job at the time, which was more like a seven 30 or 8:00 AM to four 30 or 5:00 PM job. And I knew that after my workday, I was always pretty tired. And I figured if I wanted to make going to the gym a habit, I needed to get it out of the way early. I didn’t know anything about willpower at this point or the science of habit and change. I didn’t realize that willpower was highest first thing in the morning.

MU (03:06):

So anything that felt physically or emotionally or mentally daunting, there’s a management theory that you should tackle that first in your day when willpower is highest and you can give yourself a big win and put the hardest thing behind you. I didn’t know any of that. I just thought I want to go start going to the gym. And the healthy person would get up early in the morning to go to the gym. So I would wake up at 5:00 AM and I had about a 40 minute commute to work, but I found a gym right near my office. So I would get up super early, be out the door in 20 minutes, drive to the gym, get my workout in. Then I would go to the office, take a shower, get dressed, make my post-workout shake. And I would start my day by about seven 30 or eight o’clock I think starting with this routine served me well for a couple reasons.

MU (03:52):

The first thing is that it forced me to really think about what I needed to do to make this morning routine successful. So the night before I would get all of my clothes for work ready, I would lay out all of my gym clothes right down to my underwear and socks in the spare room. I would get my lunch ready and pack up all of my snacks and anything I wanted to take to the office because I knew that if I had to stop and prep stuff in the morning at like 5:00 AM, it would probably derail the entire routine. So forcing myself to think about what do I need to be successful with? This was really, really helpful. There’s another piece to this too, that I want to mention because it is something that I have maintained since day one. So for the last 20 years, I don’t hit snooze.

MU (04:39):

I decided that if I was going to go to the gym in the morning and I wanted to get as much sleep as I could, I was just going to have to go to bed early enough that when the alarm went off, I would immediately turn it off and get up and go. There was no snoozing for nine minutes because nine minutes turned into 18 minutes, which then meant I really didn’t have enough time for a good workout. And more often than not, I would just want to skip. So that was one of the pieces of my morning routine. As the alarm would go off, there would be no snooze. I did not deviate from this once. Not once. I’m very much a Gretchen Rubin upholder and an Enneagram type eight. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. So the alarm goes off.

MU (05:15):

I do not hit snooze. I go straight to the gym, get my workout in. And that was my morning routine for about 10 years, until 2010. When I quit my full time job to take whole 30 full time. My cofounder and I had been doing whole 30 stuff nights and weekends for the better part of a year and a half. And it finally came time to pull the trigger and see if we could make it work as a full time thing. However, with that came an incredible amount of freedom around my schedule and also an incredible amount of, I don’t know, rigidity or internal expectation. So when you work for yourself, there’s no start time. There’s no end time you work when you choose to work, which can feel really, really freeing. But at the same time, I felt like I was under this obligation for probably the first two years to answer every email.

MU (06:07):

The second it came in, be responsive, even if it was 10 o’clock at night. And I found myself waking up in the morning, jumping on my phone and my laptop immediately in my day and getting rolling into like work mode because I felt like everyone else deserved my time and attention whenever they wanted it. Obviously that’s a major recipe for entrepreneurial burnout and it wasn’t until I was probably two years into working for myself. I was settled here in salt Lake city. I was mainlining caffeine. I was super stressed. I was really anxious. It was like I was on this hamster wheel where the harder I worked, the more work I thought I had to do and the harder I had to work to do it. And I did not know how to get off. At some point, I just had a reckoning. I had a little intervention and I realized that it was digging myself and my own health into the ground, in the name of health and wellness with the way that I was structuring my own day.

MU (07:05):

There was no one to blame in this situation, but myself and mind you, I was still going to the gym in the morning. I was still working out five days a week, but I was, it was more catches catch, could like I would get on email, I’d get on my laptop. I’d work for a bit. And when I had like a natural break in my work is when I would go to the gym and when I would have breakfast, it was just no longer the priority of my morning, something had shifted. And if the thing that I put first in the morning is the thing I’m telling myself is the most important than what I was telling myself is random demands from strangers on the internet is more important than the things that I know fill up my own cup. And obviously that was not okay and not sustainable.

MU (07:47):

So I made a couple changes and I did a couple things. I gave up caffeine. That was a rough one, but I gave it up like cold Turkey. And I began carving out what was to become my morning routine for the next 10 years, right up through today, which is I don’t open my phone. I don’t look at social media. I don’t look at email. I don’t open my laptop. I don’t do any work whatsoever until I’ve gone to the gym or done my workout, whether that’s a yoga class or like a short hike. I decided to do that because the act of opening my phone or opening my laptop or my email was making me feel like the day was running me. Instead of me running the day, I immediately felt pressure. I felt obligation. One simple email could lead to an hour of work in terms of research or a response.

MU (08:35):

I never knew where the act of opening my phone was going to take me. And that just meant that I was completely out of control of the most important part of my day, which is how I wake up. So I decided that from now on, I wasn’t going to start work until 10:00 AM. I would get up. I would go to the gym. I would come home, take a shower, have breakfast. And then I was going to start to work. Now I could do this because I worked for myself. I didn’t have a boss who expected me in an office at a specific time, but I’m betting there are a lot of entrepreneurs out there who were like, I could never do this. I have clients. I have comments to respond to. I have obligations. I have team members. Here’s a little secret that I learned early on in my entrepreneurial career.

MU (09:18):

People will take as much as you are willing to give. And it’s not a bad thing. It’s just human nature. But as an entrepreneur, you need to figure this out fast. And if you don’t acknowledge this or set your own boundaries around it, what it means is that you are going to allow everybody else, your customers, your clients, total strangers on the internet, people in your DMS and people in your emails to dictate the flow of your day, instead of you being the one to set boundaries and guardrails around their expectations. So once I just decided that I was going to create this morning routine and not start working until 10, I just started conditioning everyone in my life that I didn’t start working until 10. I wouldn’t take a meeting before 10:00 AM. I wouldn’t schedule a call before 10:00 AM. Obviously there were exceptions. If I was on book tour, if I was flying or traveling, there would be.

MU (10:13):

But the majority of my day to day, I just started telling people I’m available at 10:00 AM mountain or later. And guess what? It was fine. In fact, I don’t think most people even noticed. So what I got to do was carve out that section, that most important section of my day, back to me in a way that didn’t have a negative impact on anything else and gave me so many benefits and filled me up so so much, it was hands down the best move that I could have made in terms of my entrepreneur career. So this new morning routine, which lasted for a while, looked like this, I would wake up in the morning. I would not hit snooze. I would get dressed and brush my teeth. I’d go straight to the gym. I’d spend about an hour at the gym. On my way home.

MU (10:59):

I would grab a coffee, a decaf from the local coffee shop. I’d have a little cart dance party. I’d get home. I take a quick shower, eat my breakfast or my post workout meal. And then I would open my phone and my laptop and I would start my day. And then I had a baby. And that was probably the most challenging event in terms of a morning routine and feeling like I had structure to my day. Again, I was lucky in that. I worked for myself and I didn’t have to figure out how to navigate a nine to five job and those hourly expectations around my baby. But my baby did not care about my schedule. He didn’t care about my desire to work out in the morning or sleep eight hours a night, or have an hour of uninterrupted time to take breakfast and have a shower in the morning.

MU (11:48):

He did not care about any of that. And I think those first, like the first year was such a blur in part because his dad and I were in the process of separating and also in part, because I was just so incredibly sleep deprived, but I did the best I could to get out in the morning, you know, got with him, get out in the morning. I went for a lot of walks with him. I would put him in a backpack and go for a hike. Sometimes his dad would stay with him while I would go to the gym. I was very graceful with myself in terms of my morning routine with a newborn, because you had to be, there was nothing else you could do. And still I recognized that if I had the opportunity to get out and move before I started my work day, I took it because again, that started my day off on the right foot.

MU (12:34):

I felt like I was being intentional. And I felt like I was being proactive about setting the tone for my day. Once my son got older and we were in an established custody situation, he was old enough to actually enjoy the daycare at the gym. And at this point I had a full time nanny for him so that I could work during the day. That’s really where the current morning routine that I’m in right now solidified. And it’s where I took what I had been doing and started adding onto it. I think after my divorce, when I was living by myself, I found so much comfort in adding even a bit more structure and a bit more, um, what’s the word I’m looking for? Like tidiness to my morning routine, the basics were still the same. I was still waking up in the morning going to do a movement session and getting some breakfast in before I started work.

MU (13:28):

But my routine was different on weeks that I had my son versus weeks that I didn’t. And over the course of the next few years, I would slowly add things to my routine, self care practices that I discovered were so incredibly valuable for my mental health and my stress resilience that it just felt like I had to fit them in and somewhere they were that important. And I already had a solid morning routine down. So why don’t I just stick them in there? The best part about these additions as you’ll see is that they really didn’t add any additional time to my routine. And that’s going to be one of the tips I talk about later on in the episode. Anyway, let me take you through a typical morning routine now. And I’ll go through what I do when I have my son and what I do when I don’t.

MU (14:16):

I start my day, every day, between six and six 30, my body, I haven’t used an alarm clock in years. Not since I had my son, my body just wakes up at that time every single day, no matter what time zone I’m in, no matter what time I go to bed, which is kind of unfortunate, but it’s like, I have this built in alarm clock. So I wake up every morning. My day starts and I don’t hit the equivalent of snooze. Meaning once I wake up and look at what time it is, and I’m like, Oh, it’s 6:13. I just get right out of bed. And then the first thing I do the second, my feet hit the floor is I turn around and I make my bed. I that before I do anything in the morning, I was not a making my bed person growing up.

MU (14:56):

My mom is still amazed that I do this every morning, but there’s something about waking up and making my space nice and neat. Taking one proactive motion in the morning to make a space that is designed to be peaceful. Look peaceful again. So after I make my bed, I jumped straight into a cold shower. You have heard me talk about this. A number of times I did a whole podcast episode on it. I’ve talked about it on Instagram. This is a relatively new addition to my morning routine. I started this in February of 2020. So it’s been about six months, but I immediately upon waking turned my shower onto lukewarm. Like not even lukewarm, that would be generous. It’s cold. And I will turn the water as cold as it will go. And I currently stay in that shower for anywhere from like four to eight minutes, one or two songs, depending on how long I feel like staying in. This has been one of the most impactful additions to my morning routine.

MU (15:54):

It is better than caffeine in terms of making me feel energized and clear headed and giving me a mood boost. It helps me with stress resilience during the day. And I love the feeling of getting out of that cold shower and allowing my body to warm itself back up. So cold shower is a new part of my morning routine. And if you want to hear all of the details, you can go to my Cold Showers with Ed Sheeran podcast episode from a few weeks ago. And this is where my morning routine will deviate based on whether I do or do not have my son. If I don’t have my son, then I get out of my cold shower. I get dressed to go to the gym. I fill my water bottle, get all my stuff ready. And within 20 minutes, I am out the door to go to the gym.

MU (16:36):

And whether I’m actually going to the gym or working out at home or going for a walk or going for a hike, whatever that looks like, I’m moving pretty quickly. I spend about 75 to 90 minutes in my movement session every morning. Now I do this because I love it. I sometimes spend two hours at the gym on a weekend. I will be in there forever, just like rolling around and stretching and mobilizing and playing with new exercises. I happen to absolutely love spending that amount of time in the gym. It is not necessary for you to maintain your health or fitness, to be in the gym for that long. This is the part where everyone’s morning routine is going to look a little different and you need to make sure that your routine serves you. I am able to get up early enough on the weeks that I don’t have my son and get out to the gym so that I can spend an hour and a half doing whatever I want to do as part of my movement and still be at my desk at a reasonable.

MU (17:33):

Now, after my movement session, this is another mission critical part of my morning routine, something I added about two years ago. I then immediately post-workout sit down in the gym, usually on the turf, kind of off to the side where people are stretching and I will do mindright meditation session. I’ve also talked about mindright, a practice I learned from my friend Todd McCullough in another do the thing podcast episode from season one, it’s essentially a four part self guided meditation done immediately following a workout or a movement session. And it’s designed to kind of help you process some of the big stressors or the big feelings that you are experiencing through the movement. First, such that by the time you sit down to actually do this meditation process, you’re a little more calm, a little more grounded, and you can drop in more deeply.

MU (18:24):

There are four parts that I just go through in my head. The first part is gratitude. The second is where you lift someone up. The third is where you set your intention for the day. And in the fourth, I just sit quietly and listen to the sounds of the gym around me. I don’t spend any set time here. I also don’t time it. I just sit with my eyes closed in the middle of the gym, meditating for as long as I feel like I need to, to achieve whatever, you know, connection to the universe. I feel like I need to achieve on that day. And I found that just that small piece, adding that small piece to my morning routine, release that the tone for the rest of my day, if I was still stressed at all after my workout, if I left my workout thinking about, Oh, I have to do this for work, and it’s going to be challenging, or I’m procrastinating on this task.

MU (19:15):

Having that buffer between working out and going straight into work, both of which are relatively high energy events for me having this space of calm and peacefulness in the middle with this meditation practice proved really transformative for my mental health, my mood and the amount of stress capacity I had. So adding that was a huge part of my morning routine. And when I’m done, I get up, I go home. I either stop on the way home for an iced decaf coffee, or I will make a decaf or a mud water. When I get home, I’ll take another shower. If I need it just a quick one, sometimes hot, sometimes cold. I will make my breakfast and eat that. And then I’m sitting down at my desk to work. And if I’m getting up at 6:15, I’m at the gym by no later than seven, I can be at my desk by 9:30, no problem.

MU (20:08):

And still have all of that stuff done that in my mind is the perfect morning. I mean, maybe it’d be a little bit more perfect if I woke up at like five and went for an epic 10 mile hike, but I can’t do that most mornings. So for my Monday through Friday day to day, this is my perfect morning routine. Now it looks a little bit different. If I have my son, if I have my son, I still start off the morning waking up naturally between six and six 30, I still make my bed. I take my cold shower and then I will spend time with him before going to the gym. So we usually have about an hour and a half in the morning where I make him breakfast. We play card games or board games. We, I don’t, I don’t even know what we do.

MU (20:54):

We’ll play Lego, we’ll build puzzles. And I take him to school in normal times. And then once I take him to school, that’s when I drop him off. I go to the gym and the rest of my morning commences on weeks when I have my son, I’m not sitting down until closer to 10:30, but I’m still sitting down at a reasonable time. And I plan my schedule on the weeks when I have my son. So I don’t start any meetings until probably closer to 10:30. And that’s what my morning routine has looked like basically for the last six years. That is until COVID March. When the pandemic hit, everything kind of happened at once. My kids stopped going to school towards the end of March, my gym shut down. And we took on this shelter in place on our own way earlier than my state did, which meant that we were essentially just staying home.

MU (21:47):

And I had to figure out how I was going to maintain this morning routine. That was so important to me with this changing landscape with my son, not in school with him home with me in the morning. And with me not having a gym to go to the good thing about establishing a morning routine in times of ease, when things feel, you know, not super stressful and pretty quote normal, is that when the poop does hit the fan, you’ve got this already established habit to lean on and it made transitioning during COVID super easy for me. As soon as I realized that I wasn’t going to have access to my gym. I went out into my garage where I had scattered throughout my filthy cold garage, a bunch of different workout equipment that I had accumulated over the years. I hate working out at home.

MU (22:35):

It has never been something that I’ve chosen to do, but I thought, well, if I don’t have access to a gym, I’m going to have to figure out what to do here. It turns out I had quite a bit of equipment, so I kind of cobbled it together. I unrolled a brand new yoga mat. I swept out my garage and I figured out, okay, if I can’t go to the gym, I can work out here. Now I have to figure out what to do with my kid, because I still want to spend 45 minutes to an hour in my movement session every morning. And he is at seven, definitely old enough to entertain himself, but we really needed to find a solution where he was occupied really well. And I still felt like I had the presence to be able to drop into that morning routine.

MU (23:16):

The way that I needed to listen to me, parents, this it is not selfish. How many times James, do I have to say that we have to pay ourselves first? If I got my morning routine in, if I moved, if I did my mind right. Meditation session, I was a better parent. When I came out, I had more patience. I had more tolerance. I had more grace. I had a better mood. I had more energy. So it was equally important to both of us that I figure out how to maintain this routine. And that means my kid is getting on his iPad. It is not ideal. I wish that there was another activity that would keep him equally as entranced and occupied. So I could get my 45 minutes of movement and meditation in, but there isn’t. So he would play a game. He would watch an episode of Paw Patrol.

MU (24:05):

He would bring the iPad out to the garage and kind of sit with me and hang out while I did my workout. And it was fine. I let that be good enough. We were in the middle and we still are of a global pandemic. And we’re all just figuring out how to make it work. So my morning routine looked basically the same. I would get up. I would make my bed. I would go into my cold shower. I would get dressed instead of going to the gym, I would now go out into my cold, dirty garage. Very often my son would bundle up and come out there and join me. And I would get my workout in. And it wasn’t a 75 or 90 minute workout. It was typically closer to 40 or 45 minutes, but I was still getting it done. And I would sit and do my mind, right.

MU (24:46):

Meditation session. And even if he interrupted me 17 times or shot Nerf darts at me as I was meditating, which is, it happened many times. I still got the practice then. And when I was done, we would go inside together. We would eat breakfast, we’d play our games. And then his nanny would come over and at around 10:00 AM, I would start my workday. I think the point is that we will always be subject to these changes. These life changes, whether we get a new job or have a partner move in, or we all experience this global pandemic, the morning routine has to be flexible. It can’t be so rigid that if one piece of it can’t be accomplished or can’t be accomplished in the way that you originally intended, you scrap the whole thing. That’s not the effectiveness of the routine, and that’s not how it works.

MU (25:37):

Learning to create this structure around your morning and also be flexible around it and understand that showing up is the win, not checking off every single box in the most perfect way is going to be really helpful for you. As you think about crafting your own morning routines. I’ll also say that the fact that I had such an established routine already deeply ingrained, made it very, very easy for me, simply to pivot. There was never a question of, am I going to still work out in the morning or do my mind right in the morning? Am I still going to take my cold showers? That was never the question. The question was always, okay, how are we going to get this done? Even if it looks a little bit different. And I honestly feel like that versatility and flexibility and resilience carries over into other areas of my life.

MU (26:30):

And what I’ve discovered is that I can really play around with some of the pieces in this routine. If my workout was just a stretching session, if I just went for a walk, instead, if it was a rest day, I didn’t get my workout in. As long as the rest of the structure of that routine is in place. I still feel like I’m starting off my day with intentionality, with purpose. And that’s really the power of creating your own morning routine, whatever that looks like it is about waking up and deciding that you are going to start your day in the way that serves you best. It’s also about prioritizing the things that, you know, serve you the most, most, but that you tend to out of time or energy for as your day goes on. You know, things like journaling, a gratitude practice, a movement session.

MU (27:25):

These things are so easy to put off. Once we get into the hustle and bustle of our day to day saying to yourself, these are now part of my morning routine means that you’re prioritizing them to the degree that you ensure they always get done. And that’s important because these are the things that you yourself have, right? Identified as the most impactful in terms of your physical health, your mental health, your mood, your energy, your centeredness, or your ground. And when you wake up and you love launch into this morning routine, which very quickly becomes a matter of habit. When you launch into it, you are reaffirming in your own mind. I am important. I am worthy. I am worth taking this time that I have carved out for myself to start my day, the way that I choose. And then that’s a really powerful message to send to yourself.

MU (28:18):

First thing in the morning, before you begin your day, I feel like this is not the first time you’ve heard of the power of a morning routine. This is one of the most common questions you ask me about, and you’re probably sold on the idea of creating your own morning routine to start your day off. Right. I also know that I mentioned the fact that I had an established morning routine made it really easy to transition in the advent of this global pandemic. However, the fact that you didn’t have one before now means that now is literally the perfect time to start, who couldn’t use a little more energy focus, productivity and stress resilience in the middle of this incredibly stressful time. Now is the perfect time to start that morning routine, give yourself a little bit more capacity and practice just showing up for yourself every single morning.

MU (29:12):

But I feel like the reason more people don’t proactively craft their own morning routine is I think maybe two reasons. First, they feel like someone else’s routine has to work for them or that there’s one perfect morning routine like mine, where if that’s not something you can follow, or if that just doesn’t sound like it would work for you, it’s kind of not worth doing. And that’s not at all the case. There’s a really wonderful that I read last year called My Morning Routine by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander. And one of the things that this book illustrated for me is that there are a zillion different morning routines that work equally well for different people and the way they have the book structured it’s morning routines for parents morning routines for entrepreneurs morning routines for people who work a nine to five, they’ve grouped it kind of by category so that you can see all of the different ways that different people employ the idea of a morning routine around the rest of their life in a way that works for them.

MU (30:20):

I loved reading this book because it helped me to realize that I can create my morning routine any way I want. The other thing that I think tends to happen is that we can get really intimidated looking at other people’s morning routines. And we feel like if ours isn’t as extensive or aspirational or hardcore that we’re not doing it right, you know, you’ll read about the businessman who wakes up at three 45 to get a jumpstart on email, then makes the power smoothie and goes for an eight mile run or the wellness influencer who rises before the sun reads a book by candlelight until the sun comes up and meditates for 45 minutes to start her day. That’s a real morning routine. I read no shade. That sounds amazing. Or you’ll read the super extensive morning routine where they wake up, take a cold shower, do 90 minutes of movement.

MU (31:09):

Do their red light therapy, learn a little bit of a language, make a home cooked breakfast, make that Bulletproof coffee, and then spend an hour writing creatively. And we feel like if we can’t match that or equal that, that our morning routine isn’t valid and nothing could be further from the truth. The point is there is no one size fits all. There is no list of check boxes that you have to tick off to make sure that your morning routine counts and something is better than nothing. The other thing I’ll say is this. If you say to yourself, I don’t have a morning routine. You’re wrong. You do have a morning routine. You’re just not running it. Your morning routine is I wake up and I flip, open my phone and whatever happens to catch my vision sends me off and running. Or I wake up when my kid like pries my eyes open and whatever their demands are,

MU (31:58):

that’s what sends me off and running. You have a routine. You just may not be in charge of it. In which case it may not be serving you as best as it could. So here’s the part where I start helping you craft your own perfect morning routine. And the first thing I want you to do is sit down and think about which tasks or practices behaviors would feel the best for you. First thing in the morning. And if you’re not sure maybe the way to go about it is what are some ways that I wake up right now that make me feel really crappy. Maybe it’s the fact that you are never in charge of your own, wake up, that your kids always that for you, maybe it’s the fact that you automatically reach for your phone, first thing in the morning, or automatically turn on the TV or news or sports center.

MU (32:48):

And that makes you feel like you’re not being proactive with your day. It’s just as important to think about the things you want to exclude from your morning as the things you want to include, make a short list, write down three to five things that if you could accomplish every morning would make you feel like you were starting the day off. Right? And back 20 years ago, when I was first re-establishing myself, post rehab as a healthy person with healthy habits, the way I crafted this list was to ask myself what a healthy person with healthy habits do this first thing in the morning, would a healthy person roll over and immediately grab their phone. Probably not what a healthy person wake up just a little bit earlier to do a journaling practice or a gratitude practice. Yeah. You know, they probably would. And maybe that framework could help you think about what your mornings could look like based on your growth mindset and the kind of person you want to reflect to yourself as you start your day.

MU (33:49):

And there’s a huge list of things that you can pick from going through other people’s morning routines, maybe doing a Google search, reading the book. My Morning Routine will give you a lot of great ideas. Things that you’ll see over and over include gratitude, practice, journaling, meditation, a movement session, making your bed, taking a cold shower or reading a little bit of a book. These are all very common practices in successful people’s morning routines. And I don’t mean successful. Like they make a lot of money or they have fame. I mean, successful. Like they get it done every single morning and it really adds to their mental health

Speaker 2 (34:30):

And their capacity.

MU (34:37):

Once you’ve identified your list. Now I want you to be realistic about the time that you have in the morning and how you might get those things done. So if a movement session is part of your list, if you think to yourself, man, if I could just get up and move a little bit every morning, I would feel so much better about how I started my day. Now I want you to look at okay, how can I carve out time to make that happen? And what would it look like? I want you to break out of the rigidity of going to the gym here. Eight movement session can look like anything from getting up and taking the dog for a walk or going for a walk around the block with your kids to doing 10 minutes of sun salutations. As soon as you wake up to getting in your car, driving to a gym and working out for 90 minutes, maybe you want to have an hour and a half in your day to go to the gym and get a session in, but that’s just not reasonable.

MU (35:27):

Given your other family and work obligations. The point isn’t, if I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all. Ask yourself how can meet this internal goal of moving in the morning in a way that both suits my schedule and still feels good. Maybe you’re doing a 20 minute TMAC workout with your kids in the morning, like I do in my garage. Maybe it’s waking up and cranking out 20 pushups right then and there, which takes like a minute, a healthy person with healthy habits would absolutely get out of bed and do some pushups or do some squats or do some sit ups, check that box mission accomplished. Remember you can make this look any way you want. Another tip is looking at the items on your list and thinking about, can I add this in to the routine I already have? For example, you probably take a shower every morning.

MU (36:21):

Can you do your gratitude practice in the shower? Use the time that you spend in the shower and either meditate on or out loud, reflect on three things you’re grateful for in that moment, can you practice stress resilience in your shower by changing your normally hot shower to a cold shower or doing a contrast shower or adding two minutes of cold at the end of your shower, can you replace something you were doing with something new? So instead of getting out of bed and reaching for your phone and getting sucked in for a couple minutes, can you instead journal for three minutes and make your bed? So not all of these practices need to add minutes to your morning routine. Some of them can just be slotted in effortlessly around what you’re already doing, especially if there are some things in your routine that you’re taking out, like looking at your phone or turning on the news and getting lost in the news cycle for 10 to 15 minutes.

MU (37:16):

Now let’s talk about the phone for a minute because I guarantee most people without a structured morning routine are waking up and getting on their phones pretty darn quickly. There are examples of morning routines that I have read where people say, you know, I feel better if I wake up and just glance through my emails right away, that way I kind of know what’s coming up and it makes me feel a little bit more relaxed. That is not the norm based on the research that I’ve done. So here is my challenge to you. If the only thing you do to set up this morning routine is say no phone in the morning for the first half hour of my day or no phone until I’ve gotten out of bed, taking a shower, brush my teeth and had my breakfast. I would be shocked if setting a boundary around that incoming energy, didn’t have a profound effect on how your morning began.

MU (38:07):

And honestly, I bet you’ll find if you take that away, you will discover a wealth of time, okay? Maybe not a wealth, but at least 10 or 15 minutes in your morning that you can now slot with things that feel far more rejuvenating and refreshing. The important thing to remember is that your morning routine might take five minutes. It might take 90 minutes. It might take three hours. There’s no one size fits all. And if you only have 10 minutes or 15 minutes in your morning, awesome work with that. Trust me. When I say that, even just changing up the first five minutes of my morning, switching from rolling over and looking at my phone to waking up, making my bed, taking a four minute cold shower, made an enormous impact on how I felt and how I started my day, my energy and my mood.

MU (38:59):

You don’t need a lot of time. I promise you that the conscientious act of deciding exactly how you are going to begin your day. Even if that’s just the first few minutes of your day will have a tremendous positive impact on the rest of your day. Just trust me on this. Now I recognize that not everyone is a morning person. And I also recognize that some of your days start really early already because like me, you have children. Having a kid can be one of the most stressful starts to the day you wake up. Whenever they decide you wake up, you wake up to whatever needs they happen to having that moment. And the moment you okay in your eyes your day does not belong to you. It belongs to this tiny human. So one of the common practices I’ve seen, and one of the most common pieces of advice is can you carve 10 to 15 minutes out of that morning before the child wakes you up before somebody needs you for something that is just for you?

MU (39:59):

The parents specifically that I have talked to who have said, you know, I’ve started waking up a little extra early just to get a little me time in the morning have said that it’s been incredibly impactful. But what this means is that you might start having to go to bed a little bit earlier. And this kind of ties into what I said at the very beginning of the podcast, where I had to think about how I could set myself up for success the night before, this is a really good time. Now that you have your list and you’ve thought about where you can carve out time to create this morning routine and how you’ll carve out that time to now ask yourself, what can I do the night before to set myself up for success? If you want to start waking up 10 to 15 minutes earlier than your kids, that means going to bed 10 to 15 minutes earlier.

MU (40:48):

So what practices can you employ to make sure that that happens reliably? If you want a journal in the morning, make sure that your journal and a pen and a glass of water are set out right by your bed to make that easy. So you don’t have to go digging for a pen first thing in the morning, if you want to do a movement session and that’s going to be sun salutations or a few pushups, make sure a yoga mat and your towel are right by your bed or on your deck or wherever you’re going to do that. Thinking about how to pre commit to this morning routine. That’s the technical habit term the night before, make sure that A, when you get out of bed, it’s effortless to roll right into the routine that you’ve outlined for yourself. And B helps you solidify even the night before,

MU (41:31):

I’m a healthy person with healthy habits. Look at me, healthy person with healthy habits, rolling out my yoga mat for the morning, getting my gratitude journal ready for the morning, going to bed just a little bit earlier so I can wake up and have that me time in the morning. These are all very powerful signals that we are sending to ourselves, that we are worth this self care practice. And don’t underestimate the value of these subconscious messages repeated over and over and over again, as the days go on. Another thing I’d encourage you to do is ask for help. I know as a mom and as a formerly single mom and now a mom who has a ton of help in my partner, it’s still really hard for me to say, Hey, can you hang out with him for half an hour so I can go get some stuff done.

MU (42:16):

I still feel like I want to and have to do everything myself. And if you’re a parent in the morning, sit down with your co-parent, your partner, your roommate, whoever helps you out and say, Hey, I’m going to start to get up 10 minutes earlier. So I have a little me time in the morning. I’m going to go in the back room and do a little meditation and journaling. If the kids come in, while I’m in there, I need you to run point. I will come out when I’m done. Can you do that for me? Ask for help so that you can both accomplish your needs and start your days off on the right foot. Especially as a parent, trust me, it makes a huge difference in how my mornings go. And if you are a single parent and you don’t have help and COVID is making it a lot harder for you to hire, help or let your parents come in and take over.

MU (43:00):

Remember, all you need is a few moments to start your day with intentionality. How can you gift that to yourself among your other responsibilities? Even if it’s just a few moments upon wake up, even if it’s sticking your kid in a pack and play in the bathroom, while you take your cold shower, whatever that looks like showing yourself some grace, but starting your day with a conscientious practice of paying yourself first will add up and it will make a difference to yourself, to your mental health and to your capacity. As a parent, finally treat this like any other self experiment. You know that I’m a huge fan of self experimentation, and you can play around with bits and pieces of your morning routine to see what adds the most value, how things could be tweaked. Maybe you make your bed for a week and then you stop making it for a week.

MU (43:55):

And you see if you notice a difference, maybe making your bed, doesn’t have to be part of your morning routine, maybe waking up and doing some gentle yoga movements versus a TMAC 20 high intensity workout feels different. It might feel better, or it might feel not as good. You can add things. You can take things away, you can change the duration. You can change the location, play around with all of these different factors, right? Until you arrive at a routine that feels really good to you. And then it’s all about consistency. Do your best to settle into that in some iteration, some days might look different, maybe longer, maybe shorter. Maybe you don’t work out every single day, but hold the space around that routine for you and show up for yourself consistently over and over and over again, until it becomes automatic until it becomes a habit until it becomes so ingrained that in periods of stress or difficulty or in the middle of a global pandemic.

MU (44:57):

There’s no question as to whether or not you are going to continue this self care practice. It’s just something you do because you’re a healthy person with healthy habits who pays themselves first and prioritizes your own self care. So I’ve just given you some tips based on my own research for creating your own morning routine. And I hope that you got some inspiration and a few great ideas, and maybe some resources from this episode, I would love to hear about your current morning routine, the new morning routine that you’re going to create after listening to this episode or some of the changes you’re going to make based on what you’ve heard here. And if you need some help crafting your own perfect morning routine hit me up. I would love to help you figure out how to fit in what you want to fit in, or which pieces might be the most valuable for you. You can find me on Instagram at MelissaU. You leave a comment on this episode post or send me a DM.


Thanks for listening!

Continue the conversation with me @melissau on Instagram. If you have a question for Dear Melissa or a topic idea for the show, leave me a voicemail at (321) 209-1480.

Do the Thing is part of The Onward Project, a family of podcasts brought together by Gretchen Rubin—all about how to make your life better. Check out the other Onward Project podcasts– Happier with Gretchen RubinSide Hustle SchoolHappier in Hollywood, and Everything Happens.

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