9 Morning Habits That Are Doable + Day-Improving

Looking for morning habits that will set you up for an awesome day? Can the right morning routine set up your whole day for success? Absolutely! Click through for 9 morning rituals that'll improve any day!

Picture this.

It’s any given Tuesday and you stretch yourself awake, nestled between clean, high thread-count sheets. You pad downstairs and tuck into a delicious, nourishing breakfast. You meditate. You journal. You put on a lovely, well-planned outfit, before opening your laptop to begin a day of creative, fulfilling, productive work.

Is that what your mornings look like? Weird, me neither!

But I sure wish they did and this year I’m doing my damnedest to get closer to a morning like that.

Why? Because I’ve discovered that the first 10 minutes of any portion of my day – my morning, after lunch, after I close my laptop – set the tone for everything else. When you start the day right, the rest of it is more likely to fall into place. Click To Tweet

You want better business mornings, too? Here’s what I’m doing.

9 morning habits that are doable + day-improving

Don’t worry, you don’t have to do all 9! 😉

1. Have enough time in your morning that you can actually have a few morning habits

Well, obviously, right? It’s hard to create a morning that sets you up for a productive, creative, intentional day if you get out of bed and rush out the door.

If you work for yourself, could you move all your meetings later in the day? If you work a 9-to-5 could you come in later or spend a few mornings working from home?

Barring that, I’m going to make the terribly predictable and un-fun suggestion that you go to bed earlier so you can get up earlier. Yes, it’s boring. It’ll also make your life a lot better! We use this dawn simulator alarm clock and I recommend it to everyone I know.

Related: How to become a morning person (or at least fake it) 

2. Set some (extremely) doable goals for yourself

Fun fact: You do not have to fill the entire page with goals! You can choose, like, three things! And when you’re finished with them, then you get to relax!

Of course, if you’re only setting three goals for yourself each day, they should be large-ish goals, not “do laundry, walk the dog, send one email.”

A few other goal-setting tips:

Use verbs when you write out your goals – not ‘blog post’ but ‘write blog post,’ not ‘closet’ but ‘purge closet like a Marie Kondo tornado of productivity and minimalism.’

I like to include one fun thing on every day’s to-do list because, left to my own devices, I’d work down to a shaking, angry version of myself. ‘Fun things’ include: getting a pedicure, working from a new coffee shop, poking around a thrift store, having lunch with a friend, going to the beach.

If you reallllly want to dork out, you can title your to-do list a ‘can-do’ list. This is both a) slightly more inspiring b) less demoralizing when/if you don’t complete everything on it. It’s stuff you can do if you have the time and energy, not stuff you’re required to do to maintain your value as a human.
P.S. Your productivity has nothing to do with your value as a human. Click To Tweet

3. Choose a time when you’ll check email and don’t check it before then

I’m sure you’ve heard this advice elsewhere but it’s good advice SO I’M TELLING YOU AGAIN. Our inboxes are filled with other people’s agendas – people asking us for information, favors, help, and hookups. Which is fine! And nice even!

But as soon as we check email, we’re in reactive mode. We’re prioritizing other people’s needs over our own work and projects.

Sometimes this is the reality of business. I wouldn’t be very successful if I ignored my students, my clients, or my VAs. But as soon as I click that ‘login’ button, I’m essentially saying “I don’t care about that thing I was working on! I am ready to fall into a hole of distraction!”

In a perfect world, I don’t check email or social media till 11 or 12 every day. I’m not perfect and I don’t do it every day, but when I do I’m floored by how much I can accomplish and how calm I feel.

4. Focus on your breathing or meditate or just zone out, dude

Perfect Me meditates in a patch of sunlight for 20 minutes every morning. Real Life Me stares out the window while she drinks one cup of decaf. I’m calling it good enough.

Science agrees: Quieting our minds is good for our health, our creativity, our productivity, and our relationships. Guided meditation is a good place to start and the Calm app is free and lovely. Or we can focus on our breath. Or we can just sit on the sofa, pet the dog, drink coffee and do nothing else.

That last one probably isn’t quiiiiite as transformative as the former but it’s better than nothing and it works for me! Find something that works for you.

Looking for morning habits that are good for business? Can the right morning routine set up your whole day for success? Absolutely! Click through for 9 morning rituals for entrepreneurs or 9-to-5ers!

5. Take your breakfast seriously

AND YES YOU NEED TO BE EATING BREAKFAST. When I say ‘take breakfast seriously’ I don’t necessarily mean ‘spend 45 minutes making waffles every morning’ (thought that is, indeed, both awesome and serious.)

What I mean is ‘treat breakfast like an actual meal.’ Eat it sitting down, on a plate, at a table. If you’re feeling ambitious, put it on a placemat, and pull out a napkin.

When I was mapping out what makes me happy, I realized that eating beautiful meals brings me inordinate amounts of joy. So now I spend the extra 10 seconds to sprinkle cocoa onto my oatmeal or chop some chives for my eggs. Faaaaancy!

6. Move your body in some way

You knew this was coming. This doesn’t have to be rigorous cardio! It could be a two-block walk with the dog, five minutes of stretching, a 10-minute Youtube yoga video, or dancing around to two Sia songs.

Any type of movement helps us wake up, focus, and separate the sleepy, horizontal part of our day from the keyboard, business part of our day.

7. Do something that makes you feel like you have your ish together

I like starting my workday feeling like a gee dee adult. I want to feel like someone who can be trusted to meet deadlines and bring amazing ideas to fruition. It is harder to feel this way when I’m wearing pajamas and working from my couch.

Different things make different people feel ‘together.’ Maybe it’s putting on A Real Outfit and doing your hair. Maybe it’s washing your breakfast dishes. Maybe it’s making your bed and clearing off your desk. Find something that makes you feel on top of it and make it part of your morning.

8. Have a ‘I’m getting serious now’ ritual

One of my work-from-home friends puts on her coat and walks around the block every day before she starts work. Another friend has a breakfast coffee mug and work day coffee mug. Another friend puts her hair in a top knot and puts her phone on flight mode.

You know what works for you. Your ritual might involve technology, what you’re wearing, where you’re working, a fresh cup of coffee, or even a special candle you only burn during working hours. Find something that fits you and your needs!

9. Reach out to someone you admire

My friend Molly has made it a daily habit to reach out to someone she admires. Every single day! By doing it daily, she makes it a habit and reduces the stress and pressure. Somebody doesn’t respond? No big deal! She’s reached out to four other people that week and surely someone will reply!

Related: How to befriend bloggers without feeling awkward or stalker-y

But I want to hear from you! Do you feel like you have a handle on your mornings? Do you have a morning routine that helps you set up your day for success? 

P.S. 5 ways to enjoy your commute (or at least hate it less)

Photos by Brooke Lark and Maria Mekht on Unsplash

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  1. Cristin

    Such practical and effective advice as usual!

    Relevant: I just discovered an app called Quality Time that locks your phone down so you can’t use any apps for a set amount of time (so it’s just, you know, a phone). To access any of the apps when it’s going, you have to wait 5 minutes, which is usually long enough to change your mind about checking Instagram for the 500th time today.

    It even tells you your screen usage and how many times you’ve unlocked your screen today to shame you into using your phone less. Can you tell I’m obsessed???

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ooooh! That’s so good!

  2. Katharine

    YES especially to breakfast and moving! I do a mini workout (5-10 mins) before breakfast every day and it a) helps me wake up, b) makes me feel better if I don’t get any exercise later in the day, and c) warms me up in the winter because getting dressed while cold is THE WORST. And breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

    Also, one of my new things this year is to actually comment on the blogs I read all the time. So I just wanted you to know that I read Yes & Yes pretty much every day and I love it and I never want it to go away.

    Keep doing what you do!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Oh, you’re so kind to say so! Thank you, Katherine!

  3. Rebekah Jaunty

    I’m not sure how many of these I’ll commit to trying, but it was a delicious read. Daydreaming about being a morning person is one of my favorite pastimes.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Oddly gratifying, isn’t it?!

  4. Darcy Coulter

    “Or we can just sit on the sofa, pet the dog, drink coffee and do nothing else.” < I literally do this every morning! Mostly because I need coffee and my dog needs petting after 8 hours of no petting (her life is so hard) but it's become the best part of my waking up routine.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yessss! Dog petting = quality time.

  5. Bonnie Fernandes

    One of my new habits that vastly helps me in the morning: actually going to bed in the evening. If I don’t pay attention to this, I can easily be up until 2 or 3 a.m. That doesn’t make my mornings kinder to me! Now I am trying to go to bed when my daughter does (10 pm), give myself permission to read for up to an hour, and then be up for her at 7. It’s not always (or ever) that cut and dried, but it is a definite improvement.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Do you set a ‘go to bed’ alarm? I have one set for 9:45 and it’s helped a lot!

  6. Monique Carbajal

    Great read and great reminders!

    Over time as a freelancer I’m learning my must haves. I’ve found that actually getting dressed in either work out clothes (so I can run out for quick errands/do a quick 10 min workout), or a real outfit, and not staying too long in pajamas, totally changes the tone. It’s become a big one for me. If I don’t get dressed I haven’t fully transitioned out of sleep/morning mode.

    My main goal is to start my morning routine earlier/going to bed earlier (sleep is everything!). The routine that helps me get ready for the day is 1) Make the bed, 2) 5-min meditation, 3) Get dressed, 4) Glass of water and an apple, 5) Make a quick breakfast and grab a cup of coffee, 6) Sit down at the laptop and check emails. I TRY not to look at my phone until 1-5 is done. It’s a work in progress!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I ALWAYS make the bed, too! I don’t feel like I’m ready to start my day if I don’t!

  7. Dressler Parsons

    THIS is great. I read this while sitting on the couch in my pajamas. Bless you, Sarah, for your ever-helpful blog posts. Definitely want to start getting up earlier, meditating (or doing some other calming/centering thing), showering, and having a little bit of breakfast BEFORE I sit down to work. Instead of my current routine which is (not without its perks!) sleeping in, working on the couch in pajamas, showering at 1pm. Yep. Something’s gotta give.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I have faith in youuuuu! <3

  8. Stephanie Moulton

    I wake up early every morning so I can walk two miles and do physical therapy for my back and knees. It’s not fun, but it keeps my back and knees healthy so I can have a life, and that’s the most important thing.

  9. Meg

    I heard the advice recently to add your ‘why’ directly to your to-do list, especially for tasks you don’t want to do. For example, ‘gather receipts’ becomes ‘gather receipts so I’m not stressed all of March,’ ‘sweep the floors’ becomes ‘sweep the floors so I’m not embarrassed when someone stops by without warning,’ or ‘edit essay’ becomes ‘edit essay so I can stop thinking about it all the time.’

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! I love that!

  10. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    This blog post is kicking my butt into action! I often SLEEP at times when people wake – last night I slept at 6AM out of bad habit – and find myself so drained. These tips are helpful! Thank you!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  11. Sally - My Custard Pie

    Loved this. Just rewrote my “Can Do’ list and it feels more achievable already.

  12. Ashley

    I’ve been getting up at 4:30am every weekday for the last 20 days in a row and -call me crazy!- it’s been pure magic. I have a solid 2 hours to myself. I meditate, journal, do yoga, read, study, and don’t worry about a damn thing. It’s such a sacred time for me now. I look forward to it! Who knew?! But I LOVE suggestion 8 because that’s exactly where I struggle – with getting serious. So helpful!! Thank you!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      So glad you found it helpful, Ashley!

  13. Ally

    Creating a morning routine has completely changed my days. I’ve made time to get up early and read a for fun book while I drink my tea befor I start exercising and work. I’m hoping to make space for spiritual growth in the morning as well, some sort of gratitude and mediation.

    Your blog is always so inspiration Sarah. I’ve been reading it for years and love it! Thank you!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Thanks for reading, Ally!

  14. hillary

    Last year I was doing dang good with my routine then I went to my parent’s house for Christmas and fell out of the habit. I am going back to my apt soon and am SO looing forward to getting back into my routine.

  15. torie

    Thanks for this post. I remembered reading it when you posted it, but found it again today.

    A cheaper (though perhaps more abrupt) option for the dawn simulator is to buy a timer for a bedside lamp… they cost $5-15 in the US. I learned that trick from a coworker, especially for winter.

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