February was the month when I discovered a routine that works for me. I’ve been struggling to fit back into “real life” since traveling over the summer and have spent the last 6-months trying out new routines. But, I cracked the morning routine code! To give you an idea of what I was doing––or really, failing to do ––I tried the 5 AM challenge––I was ready for bed by 2 PM every day. That didn’t exactly work out. Then there was the 75 Hard Challenge which was mentally exhausting for being a Traumatic Brain Injury survivor. I tried working out in the morning, at night, making more time for breakfast and reading but nothing felt quite right and would only stick for a few days.
Disclosure: Silk & Sonder gifted product and affiliate.
I was beginning to think that I was incapable of locking down a morning routine. Then, the holidays came and went along with the extra-long to-do list. And February met me with silence and unexpected stillness. I decided to use the Silk & Sonder journal the company sent me, to try and find a pattern and make notes of something––what I liked and what I didn’t because my brain was jumbling up all of the things I’ve tried and I forgot which items I enjoyed versus romanticized upon reflection.
How I Found A Morning Routine That Works
On February 1st I sat down at my desk and flicked through the journal pages. This month’s issue included a mood tracker, habit tracker, sleep tracker, and gratitude tracker which I started filling in right away (or at least what I could, being that it was only day one). I also made the time to stop and fill in the coloring page. I set the goal to fill one line with color instead of the entire page.
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Pretty soon that one blank space was bright and I was a third of the way into the picture. I noticed how peaceful I felt and that was the feeling I’d been longing for and chasing with every failed morning routine attempt. It was the same feeling I had over the summer when I would open my bedroom window and fall asleep listening to the waves crash against the shore. The feeling I had walking to work every day and cutting through the park. The peace that I had felt not doing anything extraordinary but showing up and being fully aware.
Redefining What Journaling & A Routine Looks Like
Since then, I made it a priority––not a task to be ticked off once completed––but a part of my day to turn the page and show up for myself. What I like about the Silk & Sonder journal is that every week I’m prompted to select 5 habits/activities and create a goal for how many days I would like to do those things. The first time I wrote the items down I had no idea how I would fit them into my day or how often I would do them. I chose a random number and just said “oh well, I’ll get to it when I get to it.” This was the total opposite of the 6-month morning routine trial and error that I had scheduled myself to the minute for.
The Hobies/Activities I Listed
- Bible Reading
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Creating Consistency With My Journal
Those were the five activities I wanted to do. As you can see from the image above, I didn’t complete the activities as many times that week as I had set out to do. But, I was unexpectedly and curiously optimistic and full of joy despite what I thought was failing. Instead, I realized that even though I didn’t reach my goal to complete the activities, I loved the days I did complete them. I noticed that I looked forward to finding time to complete those activities.
Re-Defining My Morning Routine
When I journaled, I was happy to select the pen color that sparked joy. I was excited to write down something I wanted to remember or what brought me joy. I also threw out the rule book that I had seen online that said things like “you need to write one page a day”, “only write in the present or future tense” “don’t write about work. This is for your personal feelings only.” When I wrote down a note, bullet point, song lyric, or doodled a crooked smiley face I felt so free and full. One of the days I spent 30-seconds scribbling a note down. The other I spent 30-minutes and went on to the other pages in the journal. I even paused to light a candle and put my classical Taylor Swift playlist on.
Breaking Up With Perfection
The point is, through that––letting go of the idea and my self-expectations of achieving perfection––was I then able to find what works for me. I’m a firm believer that adaptability is key. But I wasn’t allowing myself to be adaptable with my morning routine or to check in with myself to see what I would need in order to have a supported and positive day. Instead, I became a drill sergeant and was exhausted before I logged in to work.
By week two, I was looking forward to ticking off the box for my habit/activities because it meant that I made time for myself that day. I felt an increasing amount of pride for being able to give myself what I wanted and needed in a day. I felt capable, strong, and like I could handle what the day threw at me…even if it was out of my control and bigger than what I could solve at the time. Halfway through the week, I had noticed that working my five habits/activities into the day allowed me to be more creative, more purposeful, and more present at work and home. I was also really excited to wake up every day and go to sleep because that’s when I would take a look at my journal and jot things down or list ideas of what I wanted to try or what I wanted to avoid for the next day/week.
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My Morning Routine:
On the days when I’m not feeling well or I snooze way later than I meant to, I give myself grace and know that during pockets of quiet throughout the day I can go back to these habits/activities and find the stillness that is within myself.
1. Oliver (My Dog) Wakes Me Up
2. Make Coffee & Breakfast
Oliver has learned that when I say “let’s go make coffee”, he will be getting a morning treat. He now sits at the coffee station and waits for me to put the kettle on and then give him one of his special treats (right now he’s loving the Valentine’s Day treat line from our local shop).
3. Walk & Exercise
Every day after breakfast Oliver and I go for a walk. sometimes he wants to go far and other times he likes to stay around the neighborhood. I listen to him (and the weather) to see how the morning goes. After, we’ll head back home where I’ll either do light stretching or workout. It depends on how I’m feeling and how long the walk was.
4. Get Ready For The Day
Some days I’ll have already made my ed by this point––it depends on if Oliver had to go potty when he woke me. If he rushes me downstairs, this is the point of the morning when I’ll head back up to tidy my space for the day and get ready for work while I sip on my cup of coffee.
- Wash my face, brush teeth, put on sunscreen, sometimes I’ll put makeup on––depends on the day.
- Put together an outfit and slip my cozy socks and slipper on.
- Open the curtains, water the plants (if needed), tidy any surface clutter.
- Fill a mason jar up with fresh water and place it beside my desk.
5. Mindfulness & Intention Setting
Sometimes I’ll swap getting ready for the day with the mindfulness and intention setting section of my morning. Approaching my mornings in general periods like getting ready, setting intentions, and making coffee and breakfast allows me to feel like I have the flexibility while maintaining a rhythm that organizes my day. And so, as part of this mindfulness and intention setting portion of the morning, I make time to read my Bible, do a Christian guided meditation or both back to back. Afterward, I’ll make a to-do list for the day that is outside of my work tasks. This lists items like grocery shopping, scheduling appointments, or other personal things.
6. Morning Activity
If I have time before my meetings or the workday starting I will start on my list of daily habits/activities. On some days I tackle the 1,000 piece puzzle that has taken over the buffet. Other times I’ll pull out a book or go for a solo walk around the block while listening to another meditation. Other times I will read a few pages or a chapter of the book I’m going through.