Cultivating a Great Day: 7 Key Components of My Morning Routine
Monday August 2, 2021

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“The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom . . . the time of rising and going to bed every day . . . are subjects of express volitional deliberation.” —William James, writer (1842-1910)

When we tend to our morning routine and cultivate one to center us, we proceed into the rest of our day as best as possible. Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson teaches in his book Hardwiring Happiness, “When you feel centered, it is harder for others to provoke you.” The opportunity to find our center begins when we wake up to a new day. Our time with ourselves in the morning is the most malleable part of our day. Why not make it work for us in the best possible way?

Over the course of this summer, I have been playing with the handful of what I will call puzzle pieces to see which order they best fit for a great start to my days. While I work from home, what has been helpful ensuring I begin my day in the office around 9am is that my contractor and subtractors arrive at the house at about that time as well, so I need to be ready to work with them as need be, but mainly be in my office (view the progress of Le Papillon’s customization so far in this month’s A Cuppa Moments).

Mentally I took notes over the past eight weeks or so. Noting how I felt when I sat down to work, how I felt at the end of the day, the productivity rate, at what time I feel most rested upon waking, etc..

While we may not be able to entirely tailor the time at which we begin our work day, we can schedule everything prior to when the day begins, and knowing that, as well as knowing how powerful a great morning routine can be in relationship to a wonderful rest of the day, prioritizing figuring out a morning to help us thrive is not a bad idea.

1.I give myself enough time to sleep deeply and awake rested without the assistance from an alarm clock

“Productivity and positivity surge with good sleep. Depression diminishes. Do you state of mind a favor and prioritize slumber.” —Dr. Frank Lipman, author of How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life

How do you know if you’ve found a sleeping pattern that benefits your health? Dr. Lipman simply states, “Fall asleep within thirty minutes and rarely toss and turn for more than fifteen minutes during the night? . . . You’re ‘on track’ with your sleep.” I have found most mornings I wake up between 5:30 and 6 once I am off of the teacher/classroom schedule during the school year. Even without an alarm, that is when my body wakes up even if my dogs are already awake (I finally learned to take Oscar’s collar off when he sleeps, otherwise it is a bell that wakes me up much like an alarm clock would if he wakes up earlier than what my sleep clocks prefers). However, there have been mornings, when my body and mind, upon reflection, need more sleep even after going to bed at approximately the same time the night before. Waking up at 7:30 or 8 is rare, but it happens, and I respect what my body needs. I also take note on these occasions and assess what may have caused me to need more sleep. Knowing how my body works and what it needs helps me to make better decisions in the future, knowing what the effect will be.

An interesting finding by Benjamin Spall who studied 300 high achievers for his book My Morning Routine, the average wake-up time for [everyone in his study] is 6:27 a.m. — successful people like to experiment to find the sweet spot that works for them.” And that is great advice for each of us. Experiment and see how you too feel waking up at slightly different times. As well, when the seasons change, and the light arrives earlier or later, you too might adjust your rising or morning schedule.

2. A hot cup of lemon water

Not only a healthy choice (aids digestion, freshens breath, improves quality of the skin, supports weight loss, a delicious way to hydrate and is a source of vitamin C), drinking a hot cup of lemon water is also a simple choice to gentle wake you up. I will often boil a kettle of water both for my lemon water and my steel oats. Upon pouring the hot water into my steel oats for simmering for about 15 minutes, I will take my hot cuppa lemon water into the office and begin checking emails. The time limit given by the steel oats ensures I won’t be in the office for a long time, and it gives me time to be still, sit and sip.

3. Enjoy a healthy, satiating breakfast (the same one each work day for me)

Over the past five years I have shared how I have enjoyed the same breakfast for nearly 15 years during the work week. The topic even became an episode of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show. And as mundane and boring as the same breakfast may sound, I still look forward to eating what I prepare each day. Why? It satiates my appetite and keeps me feeling full until lunch, it’s balanced in its nutrition and it tastes great!

As we wake up in the morning, even if we are a ‘lark’ as the term has been given to early-birds as opposed to ‘night owls’, our minds are still waking up. The writer William James’ quote to begin today’s post includes much wisdom, for when we automate more aspects of our day (ensuring they are beneficial and healthy for the life we wish to live), we free the mind to work on the creative, the pressing, the challenging, the desired work we love to do.

4. Know yourself and design according to include energizing rituals

Below are my go-to, must-do rituals that I look forward to, wake me up, and settle my mind each morning:

  • a mini crossword puzzle (free and takes fewer than three minutes – on a good day :))
  • reading a daily news briefing from my two go-to national and international news organizations
  • perusing the latest blog posts from my favorite blogs
  • meditation – 5-10 minutes – with Norman, gazing outside or actually sitting outside
  • I incorporate the tiny habit of a short series of strength exercises – abs, legs, etc. – takes 5 minutes at the most, and I do this every work-day morning (learn more about the benefit of tiny habits here in episode #272 and explore how to create your own strength routine here)

5. Step outside and exercise

Snow or sun, I am outside nearly every day living in Bend, Oregon, which is why I moved here. Norman loves it, Oscar used to as well (but partakes in shorter walks around the neighborhood as he as advanced into his late teen years). Upon moving to Bend, I consigned my treadmill and never once considered joining a gym. Mother Nature at my back doorstop (front doorstep in my case) is my gym, and I am very grateful. I know how fortunate I am as previously I used to live in a town where I did have to have a treadmill in my home or become a member at a gym. What I find doubly beneficial about doing my workout outside (I walk, hike, paddle or ski) is the holding me in the present that occurs when I am outside with the seasons, the birds, the weather, and my mind clears, my mood improves and I am oh so ready to return to the office and dive in with new ideas or approaches I perhaps had not considered before.

As well, tending to my exercise at the beginning of the day ensures it won’t be squeezed out if my schedule runs over with projects, meetings, and appointments.

Not only do I appreciate this necessary detail in my morning routine, but Norman does as well, as upon returning to the office, he promptly finds his bed under my desk and takes his morning nap.

During the winter months and shorter days: I purchased a headlamp for walking in the early morning hours prior to the sun’s rising, and as I know my neighborhood and the paths I choose to walk on at dusk, I not only feel comfortable but am able to see well. Usually, the day breaks by the end of my walk, and now that I don’t have to wake up super early as I am on my own schedule throughout the entire year, I likely will wait a bit longer for the sun to peek over the horizon before stepping outside.

6. When the morning routine does come together – savor what you have created

More than anything, the reason you create a morning routine is to support your ability to live the life you enjoy living and to do so well. As Benjamin Spall points out, life happens, our routine must be adjusted (an early departure time at the airport, a client overseas who needs to talk to you at 6am your time and 4pm their time). In such cases, I have found it becomes even more evident how helpful and beneficial adhering to my designed morning routine is for my life. However, I appreciate that sometimes we have to adjust, so long as we always return to what we know works best and as quickly as possible.

As well, simply because your morning routine has to change, doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate what makes you feel your best at a different time during the day – a workout in the afternoon or at noon, enjoying a different selection for breakfast but making sure the basic elements are present – fibre, protein, etc..

7. Back to my morning routine – make a teapot full of my favorite tea

My work day is just about to begin. Upon returning home, I boil a teapot of water, prepare a small tray with a teacup and saucer, teabag holder and teapot. While the water boils, I change out of my workout clothes and get dressed (if a shower is needed, I shower prior to boiling the water). Selecting a favorite tea – usually F & M’s Earl Grey or Twinings English Breakfast, often alternated with green tea from Mariage Frères, the boys head to the office and I turn on the light on my desk, and settle in to write, plan and create.

Simple? Absolutely. Intentional? Most definitely. And waking up to a fresh vase of flowers, no matter how small, never hurts to immediately begin the day with a smile and a good step out of bed (the top pic was captured recently of my bed-side table with three simple blooms of Buttercup roses from my garden). Add simple, yet intentional touches for your well-being that you know will jumpstart a great day. This is your time to make the day as awesome as it has the potential to be. You’ve got this. 🙂

SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY: | The Simply Luxurious Life

23 thoughts on “Cultivating a Great Day: 7 Key Components of My Morning Routine

  1. Sounds like a lovely start to you day, Shannon. I recently read an interesting article about people who eat the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day. Not very interesting, but very simple. Not for me! I’m just curious, would you mind sharing what you have for breakfast? I tend to alternate between having two farm fresh eggs, from my hairdresser, to my other alternative, of home cooked whole grain oats, which I add chopped apple or banana to, while cooking, and cinnamon of course. I sometimes add a cut up date or some raisins, and it is finished off with a dollop of Greek yogurt and chopped walnuts. On Sunday morning, we have French toast, soaked in a custardy-mix of fresh eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and sometimes a little bit of orange zest. Slow cooked, served with lemon and powdered sugar. I could not eat as my French friends and neighbors do…..baguette, butter and jam, all a little bit too heavy on the carbs. Though I sure do love same as a snack. Love your blog, happy that you retired from teaching. xx

  2. Shannon I so want to be be a ‘morning person’ ! I leave for work at 7.30 and so get up to an alarm at 6.30 but I don’t love it. I do agree that having a morning routine makes it bearable. I have a breakfast of a boiled egg, some hard cheese, walnuts, a few slices of ham, and quarter of an avocado -an odd combination but I enjoy it. And of course a cup of tea – no time for a pot but I enjoy a Twinings Lady Grey – have you tried it? Husband WFH still so he sorts out the teenagers and I just leave, got to love that! I lam enjoying your paddle board videos with Norman, what a way to start the day. A Bientot Gabrielle X

  3. Thanks for this post! I’ve really been focused on adjusting my morning routine. I struggle in the mornings.

    I have noticed that the more I can do the night before (set out clothes, prep lunch, etc.), the better my mornings go. A smooth morning makes my whole day better!
    Now, I need to phase in exercise in the morning. Lately life has thrown some curveballs my way, and while I am taking care of others… my self-care is the first thing to go.

    I know if I can make early morning exercise a part of my day, it will be a game changer!

    Shannon, thank you for your inspirational and thoughtful posts. Checking in at TSLL always brings such joy!

  4. You’re so right Shannon. Thank you for sharing your revised routine. Having a morning routine sets me up for the day. I like to know what I’ll be doing the next day so I can mentally plan it. Some days I wake up early and then other days not so I just listen to my body clock. I too do not have an alarm clock. I spend some time with my cat and then enjoy some lemon and ginger tea . I keep slices of lemon and grated ginger in the fridge and all I do is add to boiling water with a dash of raw honey I have been having the same overnight oats with fruit during the week and at the weekends it will be oeufs en cocotte or scrambled eggs I never wish to change it either.(I know some people go to the same holiday location for years as they like the familiar).Maybe it’s the same with the breakfast. I enjoy a daily facial massage with my own blended oils and the scent of the oils just make me breathe deeply and puts a sense of calmness over me. In France we have a two or three course lunch daily so I will prep for that after breakfast. I later have my daily yoga practice and any other exercise completed before my tea ritual in the afternoon. I am then ready to continue my day. I cannot miss afternoon my tea as I get a little grumpy. Have a great week xx

    1. Hi Kameela !
      Loved reading about your mornings ?
      Shannon’s posts are always an inspiration for me , and a reminder not to just drift through my day…….especially important for the next 14 days as I am self isolating before surgery on the 17th August .
      Have a beautiful day ?

      1. Thank you Anne. Yes I have had a lot of practice over the years. We stop for a 2 hour lunch here so I have to be organised otherwise a twist here and a turn there and the time just vanishes. I wish you the very best for your surgery .Fingers crossed it will go to plan. It’s my son’s birthday so it should be a lucky omen. Do take care and would love to know how you get Take care .Kameela xx

  5. Shannon, how right you are about having a morning routine. Growing up with seven siblings meant our mother instilled a routine for us as a matter of necessity. One bathroom for ten people makes for a hectic morning! She also believed a routine made family life flow better and also helped to instill a sense of responsibility.
    No doubt about it….a morning routine sets a course for the day.
    Thank you for reminding us of this.

  6. You have struck a nerve regarding setting oneself up for a stellar day. I love rising at an early time, and embrace the IDEA of a morning routine. Over time, I have let interruptions rule, and am always on the hunt for my sweet spot…sleep, morning tasks…ie taking Charlie Brown for a walk, (having had his morning time, he’s gently snoring) …

    But I fall short of actually sticking to a morning routine. My imagination and interests take me places…. Currently I am taking a course and learning about Feng Shui, and it is causing a re-imagining of my space. And garden, garage, etc. I DO love your suggestions and example of what works for you, currently sipping lemon water!

    Seriously, I am so drawn to how you have over time designed your life, and are now living it! Your blog is so much more; an archive of a beautiful life!§. Sincere kudos!

    1. Feng Shui is fascinating isn’t it !
      Love the name of your pup ?
      I agree with your comment about Shannon’s blog………inspirational as well as fun to read ?
      Have a lovely day, Sunny Joan

      1. Awww, AW!
        What a lovely re-post….my day just got better with your comment. And the very same to you today!
        Thank you, Sunnyjoan

  7. Thank you for this post Shannon! I like rising early but don’t always find it easy. I need to reduce my reliance on my snooze button and I’d love to train myself to wake without an alarm. Maybe I’ll start practicing this weekend when the danger of waking too late for work.
    I have been known to try for short periods the habit of drinking hot lemon water but never keep it up for long, however with the health benefits I’m determined to adopt it.
    Sunday mornings are a favourite – and I just made a new batch of croissants and pain au chocolat today to enjoy on Sunday’s
    Thank you
    Sarah x

    1. Sarah your baking sounds yummy. Here in France we just pop to the boulangerie for our croissants and pain au chocolat and they are still warm. Every village has one. Our baker even does a domicillary on Wednesdays. How about that for service. I have been taking fresh ginger and lemon in hot water for years and I swear by it. Certainly Istaves off the bugs and if I do succumb it’s only very mild .Do persevere. I always have the lemon sliced and the ginger grated in the fridge and I just add the hot water. A splash of honey might make it more agreeable. Best wishes .Kameela

      1. Kameela, is it terrible to say I’m so envious! Your life in France and trips to the Boulangerie sounds idyllic..
        thanks for the tip about adding ginger – I will persevere!

  8. Like you my routine has changed with no more work. I still get up early, make coffee and dog and cat but then it’s been haphazard. But usually starts with a run, hike or kayaking. It’s been a hot summer and the day needs to start early for being outside. But I am enjoying the spontaneity of the rest of the day. But need to get a better routine as we move into fall. Thanks for the ideas

  9. I enjoyed this post! I retired in December after 25 years as a Nurse Practitioner. I’m a morning person by nature, but I have struggled to come up with a morning routine since retirement! During my career every moment of my day was scheduled down to the minute, so I’m giving myself grace while I explore my options. I’m going to try your suggestion to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit best, with seasonal adjustment.
    Spiritual reading, studying the french language and exercise are the three daily necessities. So far I have spent a lot of time sitting on my porch, listening to the birds, gazing at my new garden. Those three other priorities will require some intention on my part!

    1. Happy retirement Lauren Time well spent on your porch I say. I think your approach is a wise one .Just savour the freedom for a while and then you can invest time in your activities with gusto. I took a similar approach when I retired a few years ago. I savoured some down time and then worked on a schedule . Now I have a busy and meaningful one on my little farm in France. Bonne chance avec le Francais. Such a beautiful language. Kameela

  10. Thank you for sharing. My routine is rather dictated around life with a puppy. Up at 6:30 most days, She goes for her first walk right away. We have to hop into the car for our destination, busy roads are not conducive to meandering! I set everything up the night before. Everything from the breakfast dishes, dog dishes, water in the pot, cup at the ready, etc. My greatest boost for my routines is now working from home. My greatest challenge is now working from home, that is why the routine is essential, otherwise, I would sit on the porch, in my rocking chair, dog at my side, and ponder the state of life, for hours!!! I admire that you can eat the same breakfast every day. I did that for one year on a nutrition diet, I can absolutely never do that again.

  11. Loved the post Shannon , you always manage to inspire me !
    Great to see how Le Papillon is coming together , and how you are able to make changes to your daily routines , now that you are working from home , in a way which you weren’t previously able to do when teaching.
    Bend has such beautiful scenery , and I enjoy watching your paddle boarding and hiking videos , thank you for sharing ?
    Have a wonderful day ????

  12. Just catching up with the week’s posts. My morning has changed over the last 18 months with working from home and the arrival of our puppy in January. Over the summer, I have mixed things up so that our dog walks are early to avoid the heat. It’s raining now ?. One of the best bits is having time to read. I used to listen to podcasts and Audible on my commute so now I make the time to read. It’s lovely and so much more relaxing as I just climb the stairs to my office.

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