Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Magic of a Morning Routine, Part I

This is one way to keep your sanity.
A better way is to have a morning routine.

You know what happens when I don’t have a morning routine?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. My day flitters away—amiably, for the most part, but also with my conscience nagging at me—and when it ends, I feel out of sorts. What happened to my day? What happened to those hours? I’ll never get them back. Wah.

It’s a different thing entirely to be on vacation or to decide that I’m extra tired and need to give myself a break. A Sabbath day of doing nothing is not wasting time, either. This is true rest because it is planned, and preparations are made. Our hearts are focused on the Lord and His goodness, and this is the best kind of rest.

Rest is meaningful and important. But being truly lazy and passive while the day gets away isn’t. I know the difference between getting needed physical or mental rest and unrestrained laziness.

I’m not a productivity hound—one of those people who schedules every single minute of their day, including a mere 5 minutes in the morning and afternoon just to breathe and be mindful. (Ah, so much rest there!)

I’m not a Type A personality or duty-driven, but I do like to think that my day has at least some purpose and a point to it. I like to have a sense of direction, even if there’s not a big list of things to do or places to go or people to see.

I unfailingly regret those days when I wake up early in the morning—well-rested—but decide I deserve a little lie-in. It goes kind of like this:

It’s my day off, so I’ll just lie here for awhile and be chill. I’m not sleepy, so I’ll read. I love to read, so this will be nice. And I always have a pile of about 20 books by my bed, so I’ve got options! I read until my eyes are heavy, and I don’t fight sleep when it comes.

When I wake up again, it’s after 9:00. Nooooo! I hate getting up this late. Why did I do that?!

I pop out of bed and head to the kitchen to put the kettle on. It’s Saturday, so I brew coffee in my French press and sit down, as I always do, at the table with my Bible and journal. But I’m feeling antsy and distracted because the morning is slipping away from me fast, so I don’t manage to have a good, focused quiet time.

After I give up on that, I sip my coffee and absentmindedly flip through books and magazines. I look at my phone to see if I have any text messages. Yep. And a couple of missed calls. Well, I’ll call them back after I shower. I take another sip of coffee.

It’s well after 10:00 now, so I eat something. The question occurs to me—what if someone comes to the door? I still haven’t showered. Mascara is smeared under my eyes, and my bed-head is not the charming type. I decide to leave my front curtains closed so no one can peek in and see me (they’ve done it before!).

My phone buzzes. I ignore it. I don’t like the way the day is going. I’m feeling lazy and unmotivated. I look at the dishes on the table and kitchen counter. I look at today’s list of things I wanted to do. No big deal. I’ll get to them. I rationalize that my to-do list is a working list, not a task-master. So, I’m not going to be legalistic about it.

I glance around the house and decide that—hey, maybe right now is a great time to change all of the furniture around. So I try a new arrangement, but I don’t like it, so I move it back. 

I notice my plants are looking thirsty, so I carry them into the kitchen and water them. I leave the plants on the counter so they can soak up the water. Then I begin to putter around while I wait. That’s productive, right?

After awhile, I glance at the clock. It is after 2:00 p.m. So why am I sitting on the floor, still unshowered, hair uncombed, in my pajamas, eating chocolate while I casually flip through a stack of free magazines I brought home from the library?

Sufficiently ashamed of myself, I head to the shower. I dress and finally look presentable and ready for the day. I go to open the curtains—something I normally do early, while the cheerful sun is rising on that side of the apartment— but I survey the room on my way there and realize it is a mess. So I tidy everything and do the dishes before I finally open the curtain. (You can c’mon over now people! I’m ready for ya!) Finally, I make my bed. I decide I won’t bother cleaning my room at this late hour, so I shut the bedroom door.

I look at my to-do list and make little arrows in most of the boxes (—>), which means that I’m moving the items to the next day.

It is now well after 3:00 and too quickly approaching dinner time. I haven’t gone outside today, not even onto my back balcony. I haven’t answered a single message that has come through on my phone. I haven’t done one item on my to-do list (budgeting, bill-paying, grocery shopping, laundry, letter writing, connecting with Mom, possibly for a trip to the beach, doing weekend housework, etc.), and now the list seems overwhelming and oppressive.

The only things I have accomplished at this late hour are the things I usually do before 7:00 a.m. There’s nothing wrong with moving through the day in a leisurely fashion sometimes, but this is ridiculous and I know it.

* * *

You get the idea, right? I may or may not have had a day exactly like this before. I’ve definitely done all of those things on separate days, and I’ve managed combinations of them on other days. It is possible that I’ve done all of this, and more, on a single, hopefully very rare, day. But I do know the feeling of aimlessness and lost time, and I don’t like it!

As I was typing, it occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anyone who has had days like this. (Do I really want to post this?) In fact, my best friend and her husband are quite the opposite. They might be ashamed of me.

Over the years, I have almost eradicated this type of aimless wandering, but I can quickly move back into this mode if I am not proactive about my days. Thankfully, on most days I do feel a happy sense of direction, and that is, for me, thanks to keeping my morning routine.

In my early years of motherhood, I realized that if I didn’t develop a morning routine—one that was flexible enough to allow for all of the unexpected things that come up with babies and children, but that was also fixed enough to give our family checkpoints throughout the day— we were going to struggle.

Having a routine is what made our mornings happy. It is how I got myself—and all of us—moving in a good direction. I made the effort to determine and establish a routine that flowed well for our family, and I eventually figured out how to get things done in a relatively peaceful manner.

Having a routine allowed us to read more books together, play more games, have a cleaner house (though it was a disaster sometimes!), laugh more, have more peace, and even have time for friends.

I prayed for wisdom and thought hard about what kind of rhythm I wanted to establish in our home. I learned to remove time-sucking distractions from my day (and life, for awhile at least). I studied my children to see what they needed in their lives to best keep them at peace, give them a sense of freedom and joy, and yet make them more compliant (routines help so much!).

Striving to create a workable, flexible routine helped to clear distractions and obstacles from my day and made it possible to focus on having a heart of love and service for my family.

Now that I’m older and have no children at home, I still need a routine. I work now, so I actually have a schedule, but even before I leave for work, I have a routine that I follow every single day. It allows me to almost automate my morning tasks and rhythms so that I have a sense of peace all the way through. I love my mornings before work. On weekends and during vacations (I work only on school days), I follow a different routine, but it’s similar.

The morning routine is a jumpstart. It gets things going, and once they’re going, it’s easier to keep them going. Again, I’m not talking about driving myself through to-do lists and all kinds of goals and frantic activities. I just know what I need to do, and I also know what I want to do.

I enjoy all of my tasks when I keep somewhat to a routine. It gives order and direction to my day, so I don’t need to hide my messy self behind closed curtains or procrastinate with text messages and phone calls. It does away with the chaotic atmosphere that gives me a nagging sense of guilt that I’m being lazy. My routine keeps me going in a good direction.

I am not a strict-schedule person. I like to be spontaneous. So, if it’s an extra gorgeous day and someone asks if I want to go to the beach or somewhere else, unless I have mandatory commitments, I’m in! If I’ve stuck to my early morning routine, I’m free and ready to go!

A routine is a type of discipline that produces peace and leisure. I think having a consistent pattern, rhythm, routine, or whatever you like to call it, can help anyone, in any stage of life. It might not make everything perfect, but it will definitely make it better.


  1. That's what my mom always said! (And Elisabeth Elliot too!) After all these years I'm still working on it!!!😬 I love the picture at the top! Lol.πŸ˜‚

  2. After all these years, I'm still working on it, too! :) And so it will always be, I'm sure. I loved that photo, too!