10 Steps to a Successful Morning
Over the years I have tried different morning routines. Some worked well, others didn’t. Doing even part of the routine makes a significant difference to my overall physical and mental health for that day.
On days I miss my routine, I find it harder to focus, I don’t achieve as much and I feel sluggish. When going through postpartum depression or other major issues (abuse, homelessness, paralysis, bushfires etc.) the routine took a backseat.
Yet, aside from natural disasters, if I do the routine, it helped with all those obstacles. It took me too long to realise the importance of this key step for my day.
This is why I want to help you create your ideal morning routine. My ideal morning routine is based on the Billionaire Morning Routine.
While I am sharing my ideal routine, it doesn’t mean it will be yours. Try different things, notice how you feel and take notes so you can craft your ideal routine.
That said, most people find the following or some variation of it helps them. They do not have to be done in order, although some do need to be done before others.
Disclosure: This post contains links to products and services I use.
Things To Be Aware Of
Morning routines often look like massive lists that will take too long to do. Most of the time though, these things take under 1 minute so it doesn’t need to take hours.
Spending even 1 minute on each thing can make a difference to your day and levels of success.
Go through the list, try different things and create your own routine. While this is my ideal routine, it does not mean it is the only option or it is something you have to do.
It’s your life and the beauty of that is you get to live it your way. I hope the things below help you find a good routine for you.
1. Wake Early
This has varied for me depending on what is happening with my kids. When my babies are teething or sick, I prioritise sleep.
However, all going well, rising early makes a difference in setting my day up well. Having time to myself before my kids wake up and being able to get ready before I get them ready makes the day feel less rushed.
At times I have been a night owl so waking early didn’t work but doing things late did. You know your life and what works best for you.
The main point with this is having some time when it’s quiet to set yourself up for success, whether that be in the morning or last thing in the evening or both.
Why Wake Early?
I feel on top of things, organised and can get everything done without stress. If I wake later and have to rush or squish my needs in with getting the kids ready, then my needs take a backseat and the morning is stressful for everyone.
For more on the research, there are 10 reasons to get up early on Healthline.
Time Waking Takes: 1 Second
Waking up is something you do and doesn’t need time allocated to it. If you struggle to wake or get up, I recommend The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins.
I will note, as someone with ADHD, the second I wake, my mind is going a million miles an hour. The more I stick to a specific routine and focus on that, the easier it is to get up and the less time it takes.
If I reach for my phone or lay and let my mind wander, I am doomed. I can easily waste 1 hour in bed if my kids are not up.
How to Make Waking Early Easier
Part of my morning routine further down and my evening routine which I share here are designed to make sleeping and waking easier.
As soon as you are awake, get up. Don’t grab your phone or get distracted by those things. Simply get out of bed and get on with your day.
To avoid my phone, I bought this alarm clock and put my devices in another room overnight. That alarm clock was chosen because it is compact and easy to travel with.
Throughout my life I have definitely struggled to get up due to depression, health issues, it was too cold etc. The more consistent I am with waking at the same time, following a routine and avoiding my phone when I wake, the easier it is.
By being consistent with my evening and morning routines, my body tends to wake itself instead of needing an alarm. This makes waking a lot easier.
2. Journal and Dream
This step is actually a few steps in one. For my journalling, I recall my dreams as well as write out my goals and my “to feel” and “to be” lists, as well as gratitude and forgiveness.
I’ll explain each step below. It sounds longer than it really is and once you get into the habit, it’s easy. To make it easy, you can get my journalling prompts as well as more on my ideal routines and some bonus eBooks in this pack from my other site The Thrifty Issue.
Recall Dreams and Write Them Down
Keep a journal by your bed and write down any dreams you remember or anything about your dreams. It is fascinating what is revealed in our dreams and what we process when asleep.
This habit wasn’t one I adopted until more recently because I often remembered my dreams days later. As such, I didn’t feel the need to write them down or process them.
Taking time to recall my dreams seemed like a waste of time to me until I started doing it. As it is one of the habits many wealthy people I know follow, I decided it can’t hurt to try it.
I was surprised by the results, from processing unhealed trauma to problem-solving to new business ideas. So I kept it up even if only writing a few lines to jog my memory of the dream.
Why Add Recalling Dreams?
Research published in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep showed that people who can frequently recall their dreams tend to be more creative and exhibit increased functional connectivity in a key brain network.
As such, developing this skill can improve your brain.
Adding a dream journal to my morning routine has enabled me to collect my thoughts somewhere and freed up headspace I didn’t realise was being wasted. My memory has improved, along with my overall focus.
It’s also enabled me to process some of my trauma from my past, discover new ideas or ways of doing things and helped me as a mother which I did not expect.
Goals, ‘To Be’ and ‘To Feel’ Lists
Writing down my goals daily keeps me focused. If I have time, I do scripting which is where I free write something such as my ideal day as if I am already living it or the result of one of my goals as if it is my life now.
For the ‘to be’ and ‘to feel’ lists, I write down exactly what I want to be and how I want to feel. For example, I feel happy and confident. I am a successful entrepreneur.
It is as simple as asking yourself how you want to feel and what you want to be.
Why Write Them Down?
Research shows people who write down their goals and review them regularly have more success in achieving their goals. Listing what you want to be and how you want to feel reinforces those thoughts and feelings within you as well.
This type of journalling is confidence-boosting and leads to higher levels of success. The research on this is extensive but Forbes has a good article with relevant links.
Gratitude and Forgiveness
I regularly write down and think about things I am grateful for during the day. From small things such as finding some coins on the ground to big things such as winning a competition.
With journalling, I aim to write 3 to 10 things I am grateful for every day in the morning and in the evening. This practice makes it easier to keep a more grateful and positive attitude throughout the day.
When it comes to forgiveness, I think about 1 to 10 things (depending on how much time I have) that I need to forgive. Either forgiving others for situations or past events or myself for doing something or how I treated myself.
There are various methods for this, I like Hoʻoponopono which is a Hawaiian prayer and practice. It is a process and not one to take lightly. I don’t get to do it every morning but definitely feel it when I do.
Time Journalling Takes: 5 Minutes or More
How much time you want to spend on the above is up to you and how much you want to include. If I am short on time I’ll only spend a few minutes and might reduce it to 1 line for each.
My preference is 10 to 20 minutes but I also incorporate visualising with it. More on that below.
How to Make Journalling Easier
Make it accessible by placing a journal and pen next to your bed. Start with 1 line journal prompts instead of pressuring yourself to write entire paragraphs.
As you get used to it, add more time and effort if you feel that will be best for you. Schedule time for it in your day (I do it early and before bed).
Personally, having a journal I like means I am more likely to use it as well. They don’t need to be fancy or expensive, they just need to be something I like.
3. Water Upon Waking
Aside from doing whatever my kids might need if they woke me and aside from the bathroom, the first thing I do is drink water. I do this while recalling my dreams and journalling or right before that.
Placing a drink bottle next to my bed or having a glass available reminds me to do it and makes it easy.
Considering how much of our bodies are water and how much we rely on it to function, getting started with water is a crucial step to a good day.
My aim is 1L within an hour of waking, starting with 1 to 2 glasses as soon as I wake up. Sometimes I add lemon or do an apple cider vinegar drink but mostly, it is simply drinking a glass of water.
With the 1L of water, I take vitamins as well. My kids and I notice the difference regarding PMS, womens health issues, our mental state and skin when we take specific ones.
As I am not a health professional, I cannot advise what you should or should not do. We get regular blood tests and take things under the guidance of health professionals.
Why Drink Water and Take Vitamins?
Being asleep for hours means I’m dehydrated. Drinking water rehydrates the body and is essential for overall health.
Doing it first thing and making that a habit instead of anything else makes drinking water throughout the day easier.
Starting the day with anything else sees me crave sugar or other drinks more. A glass of water in the morning and drinking at least 1L within an hour of waking helps with mental clarity, my skin and continuing with other healthy habits throughout the day.
As mentioned with the vitamins, we take ones specific to our needs and have noticed the difference with mental and physical health as well as our skin and hair.
For the science behind it, here are 7 benefits of drinking enough water and there are mixed views on taking vitamins. I’ve shared my personal experience here but seek professional advice.
Time Drinking Water Takes: 30 Seconds per Glass
Drinking water doesn’t really take much time. It’s something we should all be doing and can be incorporated into many parts of your day with no issue.
How to Make Drinking Water and Taking Vitamins Easier
If you struggle to drink water because of the taste, add some lemon or fruit to flavour it but avoid cordial because that’s just sugar.
Forgetting to drink is another reason people struggle. If that’s you, set an alarm on your phone or get an app to remind you to drink and do it when it goes off. Or put a chart up to mark the amount of glasses you are drinking.
I purchased a 2L drink bottle with a handle I fill every night and keep in the fridge. This helps me track my water intake easily and made it easier to drink 2 to 4L a day.
With vitamins, place them somewhere you will see them or sit them with a glass on your bedside table to make it more likely you’ll take them. Attach the action of drinking water and taking vitamins with other habits you already have and it will be easy.
Reading is a priority of mine and I have a stack of books on the go at any given time. They are in every room and everywhere I spend time as well as having Kindle and Audible.
My preference is a physical book and for reading first thing in the morning or last thing at night, it needs to be a book in my view.
Non-fiction books that improve my life such as finance, psychology, health, self-improvement etc are the sort of books I read. Rarely do I read anything else.
When I read, I make notes and take the time to do any exercises mentioned throughout the books in my journal. This is active reading.
Too often we read a book but don’t take the time to implement it as we go or truly embrace the concepts. If you don’t do the work and apply it, nothing will change.
You learn and grow when you read. I aim for 10 pages every morning but often read more. Reading first thing helps sharpen your mind, gives you some lessons and improves your vocabulary.
Many people say they want to read more or wish they did. Putting it in your morning routine ensures you will do it instead of leaving it for ‘when you have time’.
Time Reading: 1 Minute or More
How long you read is up to you. Aiming for at least 1 minute or 1 page is good to get you started. My preference is 10 pages or a chapter, if not more.
When you are strapped for time, doing 1 page is better than nothing. The more you read and action what you read, the more you will see the benefits.
How to Make Reading Easier
Choose books that interest you and will keep you interested. Give yourself permission to quit any books that aren’t serving you. You don’t have to finish a book if it’s bad! Move onto something else.
Combine resources. Many books come in print, eBook and audiobook formats. For some people, having the audio happen as they read enables them to absorb more of the book and stay focused on what is written.
Find what works for you and experiment if you need to. I use Kindle, Audible, my library and I buy books so I’ve got it all happening in my house.
Place books in easy locations. They are spread throughout my house, in the table next to the lounge, on the bookshelf, in the kitchen, in my bedroom and even in my car. Plus the apps are on my phone so I always have access to a book wherever I am.
It’s a great way to use spare time when I am the taxi for my kids and waiting for them to finish or something.
5. Make The Bed
Most of my life I have been lazy about this but when I made it a habit, it did improve things. Every time I walked into my room, it felt fresh, clean and organised.
When it’s not made and I walk into my room it feels disorganised and messy which makes it harder to focus on other things.
Since my toddlers sleep in the room with me (in their own beds), I don’t always make it immediately. Sometimes I do everything else then come back to make my bed once they are awake too. And make theirs.
Both of them try to help making the beds now too and we high five after. They take pride in making it neat and doing it themselves.
Why Make The Bed?
There is science behind this and if you want to be inspired to add this plus some other habits to your life, read Make Your Bed: Small things that can change your life and maybe the world: Feel grounded and think positive in 10 simple steps by William McRaven.
Starting your day by making your bed is actually a key step for Navy Seals because it works. By doing it, you start your day by accomplishing something. As small as that might seem, it works.
Time to Make the Bed: 1 Minute
My bed is basic with 2 pillows and a doona with a doona cover. That’s it. Making my bed is simply a matter of getting up, and straightening the cover and the pillows.
Once a week I strip the bed and wash it all plus vacuum the mattress. This takes a little more time than simply straightening the covers and pillow.
I previously had European pillowcases, throw pillows and blankets etc. Since I am a rather practical person, they annoyed me as I was removing them to sleep and replacing them in the morning so it looked how I thought it was supposed to (e.g like a magazine).
If you have all that and it brings you joy, keep it. It will take you a little longer to make your bed but if it makes you happy, do it.
How to Make it Easier
If you get rid of everything and do as I do, it’s a lot easier but for many won’t feel as cosy or happy for them. Your bedroom should be a place where you relax and find peace so please keep what you want for your bed.
Do it as soon as you get up. That’s the easiest way to do it. Know in your head how you want it to look and do it immediately.
Alternatively, if you are up before others and can’t make it, set a timer on your phone for when you can go back to make it or get them to do it.
My toddlers sleep on their own beds in my room so I usually make my bed after they go to daycare. But if they are up, our beds are made immediately, even though they’ll possibly mess it up.
Seeing me do it has meant they now try to do it too or are keen to copy what I do. Overtime, this will make my life easier as they will be used to making their own beds and I won’t have to remind them.
6. EFT Tapping, Meditation and Visualising
Even if it is only for a minute each, doing these 3 things has a profound effect on my focus and how much I achieve that day. It is also great for clearing any blocks I have, healing issues and increasing my patience.
EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique is a mind-body method of acupuncture using tapping. Focus on a particular issue while you tap specific parts of your face and upper body to release and overcome issues. There is research around it now showing the positive effect although not a lot is known.
Meditation is not just sitting still saying ‘Om, om, om’, although that is an option. Meditation is a practice using a technique such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on something specific such as an object, thought, or activity.
The aim is to train your attention and awareness to enable calmness and a more stable state.
Visualising is about seeing and feeling in your mind what you want or are working towards. Athletes use this technique before they perform, motivational speakers use it before going on stage, many people doing presentations or anything that is important will visualise it going well.
Why EFT, Meditation and Visualising
Training my mind to handle stress, clear blocks, release trauma and enjoy my life is essential for every aspect of my life. Without it, my mind wanders off and I have had severe depression and anxiety at times.
By using these techniques, I am more focused, calm and happy. It doesn’t mean my depression completely cleared from this alone, so please don’t think that.
Doing them has improved my mental health though and enabled me to live life more aligned with my values and to see a future I wanted. This helped significantly with depression and anxiety (along with professional help).
Time to Meditate, Tap and Visualise: 5 Minutes or More
Meditating for even 1 minute has been shown to be beneficial although doing it for longer is better. These 3 can be combined in a way and they really help me set up my day.
My preference is to spend 20 to 30 minutes doing it if I have the time. If I don’t have time, I aim for 5 minutes minimum.
How to Make Meditation, Tapping and Visualising Easier
As with other habits, the more you do it the easier it becomes. Find YouTube tutorials or guides to help you through it.
There are numerous guided meditations for specific purposes you can use. Look up meditation and whatever you want help with to find something relevant.
With tapping, I like Brad Yates but as with meditation, you can look up EFT Tapping … insert whatever you want to tap about such as wealth, anxiety, trauma, confidence etc.
The key to this is doing something you enjoy or that makes you feel good. First thing in the morning I prefer to warm up, do 100 kettlebell swings, some weights then do yoga or pilates and a cool down/stretch.
Standup paddle boarding is a favourite activity of mine. If someone will take care of my toddlers first thing (e.g. their dad or older siblings), I love doing it around sunrise or in the first few hours of the morning but that isn’t always practical.
Hiking in nature or going for a walk along the beach are two others I love. My aim is to get outside first thing if I can. Even my gym is outside with shade.
Most days I try to do 100 kettlebell swings and something else. Kettlebell swings are a great overall workout but make sure you warm up and cool down/stretch after.
What I do depends on my emotional needs, energy level, how much sleep I’ve had and if there are any injuries or illnesses I am dealing with. When I am triggered by nightmares or struggling, I’ll usually do some trauma-healing yoga or similar first.
On days when I have time and energy, I might do weights and a hike. Some days I have limited time due to travel or family commitments. On those days I aim for a warm-up, kettlebell swings and a stretch after.
Daily exercise has numerous benefits such as improving overall health and preventing disease. When I miss a workout, it throws out my whole day.
Starting with a workout gets me focused and energised to do what I need to do for the day. Without it, I get distracted and feel I have let myself down.
Health is important to me and I want to be there for my kids, be involved in their lives and be able to do the activities we enjoy for a long time. Exercise is a huge part of the lifestyle we want so I start my day with it to ensure I am on track with my goals and desired lifestyle.
Time for Exercise: 10 Minutes or More
I prefer an hour or longer if I am doing a hike or something. However, even 10 minutes of HIIT is effective. Do some research to find the right workouts for you and how long you will need for it then schedule it in.
How to Make Exercising Easier
Investing in the right equipment and clothing, having a good playlist of songs that motivate you and knowing what you enjoy all make it easier.
I enjoy standup paddle boarding, hiking, swimming, diving, weights, kettlebells, yoga, pilates and dance. YouTube has been great for tutorials, classes in my area have been beneficial at times too.
Investing in good hiking boots, buying a SUP I like that is easy to use and diving equipment all helped. Activewear that is comfortable for me has been amazing. I used to think it was all the same so it didn’t matter but I was wrong.
Try different types of activewear to find the fit and fabric you like. Getting the right gear for the exercsie you are doing makes a difference.
8. Cold Shower
A cold shower is much easier to do after exercise or in the summer. During our time in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, we didn’t have hot water and still don’t when we visit our family there but we quickly got used to it.
In winter it is much harder but my skin is better if I have a cold shower first thing in the morning after a workout. I’ve found in cool climates my skin dries out and having hot showers makes that worse.
That is one of the many benefits I’ve seen and that research has shown for a cold shower in the morning. I usually have a warm shower of an evening to wind down for bed though.
Why Cold Shower?
Want to feel alive? A cold shower certainly wakes you up! There are other benefits though including improved mood, focus, alertness, skin, hair and metabolism. Blood circulation is another benefit.
Cold showers have had numerous studies done on their benefits as well as who should avoid them. Runtastic covers research on cold showers well.
Time for a Cold Shower: 5 Minutes
Realistically, when you start doing cold showers you aren’t likely to last 5 minutes but if you can build up to it, there are huge benefits.
Start with 1 minute if needed and keep adding time. You’ll find cold showers mean you don’t want to stand under the water for as long as you do with hot showers so your bills will drop too.
How to Make Taking Cold Showers Easier
Ease into it by doing a cold blast at the start or end of your shower. Or try doing it after your workout since you’re usually hotter at that time and a cold shower can feel good.
We got used to it by simply not having access to hot water. I realise that isn’t practical for everyone though.
Note: One thing I do twice a week in my showers is a full scrub. Using a basic exfoliator mitt and quality soap (these soaps are made by a friend of mine). I also like to make a body scrub using coffee grounds and oil. Then body moisturiser after the shower as well.
9. Get Sunlight
Getting sunlight is usually incorporated into my exercise, journalling or reading if the sun is out. When it is raining I do it as soon as the sun comes out, if it does that day.
Ideally, I’ll have at least 30 minutes of sunlight in the morning but if my day is too packed, I try to get at least 10 minutes.
Sunlight first thing in the morning helps boost serotonin and slows down melatonin. This results in more energy and a more calm, focused state in the morning and better sleep at night.
The sunlight needs to be outside, not through the glass of a window because windows are designed to block UV rays. Yes, we avoid UV rays to avoid skin cancer but there are some benefits and it is about doing it carefully.
With my fair skin and tendency to burn, I am careful with sunlight and do it safely.
We get vitamin D through sunlight which is essential for bone, teeth and muscle health. Our bodies need it to absorb calcium but there are many other reasons we need it. It lowers the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and more.
You can find some research on the benefits of sunlight here.
Time for Sunlight: 5 to 30 Minutes
How long to spend in the sun depends on a few factors such as skin tone, time of day etc. I aim for 10 to 30 minutes early in the morning. There is some information on how long and things to consider in this article.
How to Make Getting Sunlight Easier
Being extremely fair-skinned, I need to do it early. I found doing an early morning workout in the sun one of the easiest ways to get the time in the sun I need.
Going for a walk at sunset as well helps me. Combining sunlight exposure with other tasks is the easiest way for me to implement it.
10. All The Usual Things: 20 Minutes or More
My skincare routine, brushing my teeth, styling my hair, getting dressed, putting on makeup, eating breakfast etc. All the usual things we all do or try to do to get ready in the morning.
This includes getting my toddlers ready which can be a battle some mornings and adds to the time I need. If I only need to get myself ready, it can be done in 20 minutes. Add in the kids and it has taken up to 2 hours for us all to get ready.
What I do and Why I do it
Here are the specifics of each part of my ‘usual things’ routine and what I use. This routine was developed over time, I didn’t start doing it all at once but now I do it all, I feel the difference and notice it when I don’t get to do some of it.
Skincare involves the Korean skincare routine, taught to me by a Korean friend years ago. Oil based cleanser, regular cleanser, exfoliant, toner, essence/serums, treatment, masks, eye cream, moisturiser and SPF.
The exact products I use have varied over time, although Innisfree has been a favourite of mine. Sometimes my skincare is homemade e.g. rice flour with green tea was recommended by my friend to use once a week as an exfoliant.
My focus with skincare is anti-aging and health but my teens are focused on clear skin. This routine works for all of us and my 14 year old has the clearest, most complimented on skin out of anyone I have ever met.
Haircare is a an area I am working on. When I was a hairdresser, I was great at it. With my last 2 pregnancies, my haircare fell by the wayside and due to the changes with pregnancy, I have a love hate relationship with my hair right now.
I’ve finally found a shampoo and conditioner I love, as well as a leave in conditioner and heat protector again but that is about where it ends. This is an area I want to focus on more and improve with again. My kids use the Curly Girl Method.
For styling, a quality hairdryer (my preference is Parlux), brush and straightener are the main things I use.
Makeup, I tend to buy what is on sale but love Kind from Big W at the moment. It’s vegan and feels great.
Time to Get Ready: 20 Minutes or More
How long it takes to do all the usual things depends on what the usual things are for you. If you have a lot like I do, it will take longer.
Having kids and others to consider can also add time to getting ready. One of my teens gets up at 5am to complete their preferred morning routine before everyone else is up. This includes a workout through to a 20 minute skincare routine.
Contouring your face, blow drying and styling your hair etc all add time. My routine for hair and makeup is basic. I can get my hair, skin and makeup done, as well as getting dressed in 20 minutes if I rush but prefer to take my time if I can.
How to Make Getting Ready Easier
Prepare the night before or on a Sunday. Every Sunday, I ensure my clothes are ironed for the week and my outfits planned.
I rotate through 5 dresses for the most part and have 3 sets of activewear. Doing it this way has saved me so much time. My wardrobe is minimal but I love and wear everything I own.
Being definite about my style also reduces the amount of money wasted on clothing. It’s easy for me to know the styles and colours that suit me, which stores to buy from, what size I am and get the items I like for good prices.
Portmans and Review are two of my favourites at the moment but I will shop anywhere I see clothing I like that suits me and lasts.
The same for my kids, we select the outfits, they are sorted ahead of time and easy to grab. This saves so much time.
If you want to start a new skincare regime or haircare or makeup, start slowly. Pick one thing instead of trying to overhaul it all at once.
All the steps above might sound exhausting and as if you have already started your day. In many ways, you have started. Step 10 here is about getting started with work or whatever you have planned for the day.
Do the big things first and get stuck in immediately after completing your morning routine. As a business owner, I have my day planned already so I can easily get started on those things I need to.
I am easily distracted so aim to do the hard things first thing. Those tasks which require more brain power, can only be done by me and that generate income.
Doing all the little things first is a great way to get sidetracked and leave me feeling like I achieved nothing. So getting started with the big, most important and most urgent tasks first thing in the morning helps me stay focused and achieve more.
I mentioned a few books and other items that help me throughout this article. Here they are, in order of when they were mentioned for easy reference.
The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
My Journalling Prompts
2L drink bottle with a handle
Brad Yates for tapping
Standup paddle board
Yoga with Adrienne
Superhero Fitness TV
Basic exfoliator mitt
These soaps are made by a friend of mine