Life

My Morning Routine: An Early Alarm Sets the Tone for the Day

reading, planning, and apple cider vinegar

By Megan Collins | Last Updated: Aug 1 2016

Lately, I’ve been working on my mornings.

I realized I’d been fetishizing how hard I worked and how many hours I was logging, which is NOT the way I want to approach my career. Don’t get me wrong, I love running Style Girlfriend, but it was starting to feel like the site was running me. Exhausted by the grind, I got nervous that burnout was around the corner, so I set about making a change.

To start: a more structured morning routine that helps me get ahead of the day (rather than running to catch up with it) from the second my head’s off the pillow.

I thought you guys might be interested because, the way I see it, how you take on your day mentally is not that different from how you take on the day physically. It’s the difference between rushing into a meeting late, with your tie askew and clutching the day’s still-unstapled status report  – not a good look – and gliding in right on time with everything in order, looking dapper and calm. We all want to be in control, feel confident, and in charge; an empowering morning routine is another way of getting there, before even getting dressed.

Here’s my morning play-by-play. I’d love to hear yours in the comments below: 

Alarm goes off at 5:40am and I roll out of bed. I heard once that hitting the snooze button is basically you saying to the universe, “I don’t want what you have waiting for me today.” Which is definitely not the vibes I want to send out before my feet even hit the floor.

Now, does that mean getting up on the early side of 6 o’clock is fun? That I spring out of bed with a smile on my face and whistling a happy tune? No, but one of the things I’ve found makes my life easier is when I take choices away. When I know I’m getting up at 5:40am – because I’ve told myself anything else is not even an option – that means I don’t worry about when I’ll actually get up, how many times I’ll hit the snooze button, if I’ll have time to make it to the gym or eat a healthy breakfast, and on and on.

I pad out to the kitchen, where a glass of room temperature water awaits me. I filled it last night and left it out on the counter so it won’t be too hot or too cold when I drink it, both of which slow down h20’s ability to rehydrate your body, which hasn’t had a lick of moisture since your head hit the pillow the night before. 

While drinking, I put the kettle on the stove. Well before it hisses, I pour a glass of warm-but-not-hot water into the now-empty drinking glass and add a squeeze of lemon and a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. 

Sound…unpleasant? It kind of is, though I’m used to it by now. You can read up on the drink’s benefits here, and while I know how you guys love to call out my more hippie-dippy tendencies, you can’t argue that two tall glasses of water down the hatch before 6am even hits is anything but good news for your body.

Sitting down with my lemon vinegar concoction, I start on my “miracle morning” routine. I first heard about the concept on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast (which I highly recommend, by the way). The 6-step structure is below, along with how I put it into action:

1. meditation

The first step is one I’ve had some practice with, but definitely does not come naturally (or even unnaturally) to me. I love the idea of trying to find stillness, but even so early in the morning, my mind is jumping around from the dream I just had, to my day’s to do list, to my butt falling asleep on the chair, to who knows what else. I’m working on it, though, and I like that the first thing I do when I wake up is no longer check my Instagram and Twitter feeds.

2. affirmation

This has easily been the most rewarding part of my new morning routine and also the hardest.Being generous towards myself is not something I’m well-versed in; I’m much better at admonishing myself that I should (should!) work harder, exercise more, eat better…the list goes on (and on and on).

I have a whole list on my phone saved to Evernote of encouraging reminders – positive thoughts about my career, my body, my relationships. Starting the day by focusing on the good things (yes, the “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough…” approach) is definitely a change for the better.

3. visualization

Ooh, we’re getting into some next-level The Secret stuff now, guys. This one’s also hard for me (are we seeing a theme here? Megan stinks at “stillness”) but has also proven really helpful.

How to do it? In a nutshell: close your eyes; think about what you want; get what you want. Of course it’s not as easy as all that, but visualizing the day ahead of me at 6am is not all that different than Aaron Rodgers in the locker room before a game, picturing himself throwing the perfect pass. Consider visualization the flexing of your brain’s muscle memory.

Of course, if you’re not a millionaire athlete, this practice of visualization can still work for you. Try going micro: see your day unfold in front of you just the way you want it (the train pulling in right when you reach the platform, no line at the usually packed coffee shop, your boss handing you a prime project) or macro (getting that promotion you want, shopping for new clothes because you’ve dropped 20 pounds, closing on your dream house).

4. writing

Journaling has flowed in and out of my life at different times. I have a box of journals from my years in advertising when I felt that if I didn’t write something, I’d jump out the window. Now that writing is integrally wrapped up in my work, I’m less diligent about writing for fun.

I’ve used this step to write anything from affirmations that are having a hard time sticking (if I die unexpectedly, please burn the one with “I love my body” scribbled 100 times inside) to lists of gratitude – ie, “Im grateful that I don’t need to keep a journal to write anymore” – to lists of to-do’s that eventually get transferred to my daily planner.

5. reading

This rotates between a devotional given to me by my mother and shunted off in my bookcase for far too long, and business and marketing books I consume like carbs.

6. exercise

I’ve long preferred a morning workout over any other time of the day. My fitness membership start-up Classpass allows me access to countless gyms and studios around the city. Good for someone like me, who loves instruction when it comes to fitness, but gets bored doing the same thing day in day out. I don’t understand how some people subsist on just spinning, or just Pilates, or just boot camps. Getting up before 6am, I’m able to get centered for the day with all of the above, be sweating by 7am, and home and showered by 9:30 – meaning I’m sitting down to work the same time most people roll into their offices.

…And that’s it! Totally chill, right? Okay, maybe it’s a little intense, but I love the space created in my day that getting up extra early gives me. This early morning is mine – before giving my time and attention up to clients, editors, direction-impaired Uber drivers…whoever. While I’m still tweaking the specifics, it’s working for me and I’m excited to continue coming at my day with calm energy, rather than frantic rushing.

Tell me:

Do you have a morning routine? What is it?

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(kitchen image via)