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Finding My “Productive Morning Routine” – the non influencer, regular Admin version


For as long as I can remember, I have never been a morning person. In fact, mornings made me sick as a kid…literally. Not in the fun, Hocus Pocus way.

Credit: Freeform (Giphy)

I figured my mental aversion to waking up early, plus the actual physical repulsion, would seal the deal. School aside, I would forever be a vampire.

One who happens to like going to bed early.

But in recent years, I’ve learned this isn’t the way. With the job I have, the hours I work, the projects I want to tackle and the general life balance I aspire to have…I need more hours in the day. And there’s only one way to do that within the bounds of science and physics.

Waking up earlier. My mother was right.

What even is a “perfect morning routine”?

Great question! Plug that phrase into Youtube and see what answers you get.

I love going down the Youtube vlogging (video blogging) rabbit hole, gang. It’s entertaining, but mostly fascinating to see how fellow regulars live their lives.

Right before the pandemic – and definitely well into the pandemic – I got swept up in the influencer morning routine video craze. In total, I’ve probably watched 30+ videos, all following largely the same format:

  • Perfect shot of an iPhone alarm (or sunrise alarm clock) ringing between 4-5AM
  • Person gets out of bed and stretches their arms
  • Then ensues a busy but also relaxing (?) morning – full of exercise, gratitude journaling, meditation, and a breakfast that looks like it was made for Instagram. In most cases, it was a version of avocado toast.
  • And coffee. There’s always coffee.

The big irony? I often watched these late at night, or first thing in the AM.

While some of you may be rolling your eyes, there’s a real audience for this kind of thing…and I’m definitely it. It’s not so different from the successful CEO morning routine craze a few years back! No, the depictions aren’t always realistic. No, I can’t possibly not look like a monster upon rising from my slumber.

But I can & do take inspiration from watching others do their best, to find a system that I can make work.

p.s. For those uniquely interested, this article by The Swaddle has a good summary on what these videos are + why they’re so fascinating.

So onto the content you’ve all been dying for. Here’s how I go about my morning, as a non-influencing, non-CEO-ing, person with a day job.

The prep starts the night before, when I haggle with myself to set the alarm.

The night before I know I want to wake up early, I look at the clock, do some quick math (will I get at least 6 hours?) and proceed to give myself a pep talk.

Yes Denise, you will regret it when the alarm goes off at 5AM. But think about how accomplished you’ll feel 12 hours later, if you can just get out the bed.

That works about 60% of the time.

Then, I try to wake up as close to my alarm time as possible.

When I first started, I had no problem snoozing if I didn’t feel up to it. And I still believe that’s the move. There’s a difference between fighting the sleepies, and feeling exhausted because you didn’t get enough sleep…or enough good sleep.

But once I started sleeping better, I had a different problem. My body was naturally waking up too early, by 30-60 minutes! Too early for me to find motivation, yet too late to safely fall back asleep.

The second issue is easier to deal with, so I’m training my mind to view it as a moment to take advantage…of myself, I guess?

Once I’m out the bed, I do about 1/3 of the things I’ve seen on Youtube. And skip the rest.

There are aspects to my morning that I must credit to the influencers. The sunrise alarm clock is actually a nice way to wake up. And water on the face + a glass of water first thing does the rest to help.

Here’s a not-so-great picture of my sunrise alarm clock when it’s on. You can either get the expensive Phillips version (not pictured), or any of the cheaper look-a-likes on sites like Amazon.

I also like having tea or coffee in a nice mug. Although that comes a bit later.

Ideally, I’d exercise first thing. In reality, I often can’t find the will to get moving at 6AM. Instead, I’ll stretch: to work off some of the sleep kinks, and to keep my TMJ symptoms in check. (No floor stretching though, or I WILL fall back asleep!)

I haven’t found a meditation method that works yet, and I’ve never been able to get into journaling of any kind. But my favorite part of waking up early is the silence. There’s something to be said about having a moment to yourself, during the quietest time of the day. I guess that’s a bit like meditation.

And more recently, I’ll try to spend a few minutes drawing. It’s my favorite hobby, yet I went for so long without doing it! Reintroducing it into my mornings has given me a way to ease into my day, especially on my drowsier starts. It also feels good to start the day on a creative note.

So is my morning routine “productive”?

If nothing else, the routine has gotten me into the habit of wanting to wake up early. For a former self-proclaimed vampire, I’ll take it.

Sure, I used to wake up early every day when I had to go into an office. But it feels different when you wake up because you want to get a jump start on life, vs getting up purely to make a train on-time.

As far as the work that actually gets done…it depends. There are mornings when I crank out a task that I didn’t expect to get ahead on. Those are usually things related to this blog, or a separate side craft that I’m currently (excitedly!) working on.

Now I won’t actually start my day job until 8AM, no matter how early I get up. And that’s purely strategy. While I already report to work before my colleagues, I know that starting significantly earlier doesn’t mean I’ll end my day sooner.

p.s. That’s partly the nature of my job, but mostly the nature of how I work. I can get very absorbed, whether I’m wrangling a Flow or contemplating improvements to our Salesforce instance. That’s the thing with figuring out any sort of routine or process: you’ve got to meet yourself where you‘re at.

While I’m not Salesforce Admin-ing it up by 7AM, the work I do get done typically queues me up for a positive start to my workday. Rather than having a groggy start right at 8AM, my brain is already primed and motivated from having worked on my personal stuff.

This has also helped with my RADWomen coding class. I was lucky enough to get a class slot at 9AM, and with this routine, I’m able to work on my homework first thing in the mornings.

My advice if you’re trying to get up earlier

It’s an evolving process. Some mornings aren’t as productive, particularly when I blank on what I want to accomplish. I’ll even occasionally crawl back into bed. Gasp!

Tip: I find I go wrong when I don’t have at least 1 target task in mind for the AM. On those days, I waste brainpower trying to pull something randomly from my long, invisible to-do list.

But like I alluded to earlier, the extra time to myself + the habit-inducing aspect is worth it. I don’t want to be a morning person just because it’s trendy. I get up earlier because I believe doing so helps me accomplish more of the things that I care about.

So whether it’s a morning routine or some other time of day, the best you can do is think about your goals, where you’re at currently with time, and how you can get that extra 20, 60, 90 minutes of value-add to your day.

Thanks for reading!
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