How Your Morning Routine Might Be Hurting Your Productivity

I only have to swipe a few times through social media each day before I find someone talking about their sacred morning routine like it’s the magic elixir to the perfectly productive life.

The idea of a morning routine has been around forever, but in recent years, the obsession with it in the entrepreneur world especially has resulted in a  flood of podcast episodes, planners, and Instagram stories.

Everyone wants to have the best morning routine ever.

  • Meditation
  • Celery Juice
  • Workouts
  • Yoga
  • Journaling

Some even tout that the perfectly scheduled morning routine has radically transformed all of life.

I have to be honest. Some of these morning routines look like they require a 4am wakeup call or the bulk of the morning just to get it done! If you are trying to meditate, workout, journal, make a smoothie, shower, get ready, etc. all before 7am, well – have at it.

But I want to make a bold and radically controversial statement…

Most Morning Routines Are The Opposite Of Productive

Lots of people have asked me about my morning routine, and what it looks like. And I love to say, “I don’t have one,” and watch people stare at me with a combination of confusion and curiosity.

I don’t have a morning routine for a few reasons, that, if you’ll stick with me, might start to make sense. But first…

What is a routine?

A routine is simply a fixed set of steps or actions that are followed repeatedly and in sequential order. There are really two parts to a routine – the steps themselves, and the order they go in. This is an important distinction. Steps AND order.

When I say I don’t have a morning routine, I’m not saying that I don’t do similar actions each day. Because let’s face it – I do. I wake up. I go to the bathroom. I check my phone. I get dressed. That happens every day. But the ORDER of it changes depending on my mood, external factors, schedule, my sleep needs, etc. And most people who are boasting about a morning routine, aren’t talking about these steps anyway. They are talking about things like meditation, yoga, working out, smoothies, etc.

Before I launch into why I think the morning routine in its current form is a terrible idea, I need to give a big disclaimer. If you like your morning routine, skip the rest of this post. Just go with your awesome morning self and move on.

But if you’re struggling to be productive and you feel like there are never enough hours in the day, the problem might be hiding in your morning routine.

Why I Say No To A Morning Routine

First off, a morning routine often includes activities that I would not consider 100% brain activities (no idea what I’m talking about? Read my 100/50/10 system). Things like showering, getting dressed, working out, making smoothies, etc. None of them qualify as the sacred time activities I talked about in my earlier post. And yet, most morning routines are at a time of the day when:

  1. Your brain is in PEAK state
  2. You DO have control over the time since other family members are asleep

So many mom and dad entrepreneurs pull themselves out of bed at 5am and proceed to waste TWO hours of precious sacred time doing things they could easily do at another time of the day.

Secondly, a morning routine assumes that we humans are consistent. And it’s not just morning routines that assume this, most productivity products on the market forget the small fact that we are not robots, but humans with hormones and moods and kids that love to break ANY semblance of a routine they can. Because of this, when a routine can’t be followed, you’ll hear people say things like, “My day just got so messed up because I couldn’t get through my routine.”

The routine turns into a thermometer that sets up the person to either feel awesome or horrible depending on how many steps were accomplished. Funnily enough, if the routine hadn’t been there in the first place, the person wouldn’t have to battle feelings of failure in the first place.

I can hear you saying, “But what about my daily meditation! It’s so important to me!” or “I need to workout each day or I get nuts”. The good news is that you can KILL off the typical morning routine and still do all the things you need to do each day. And I’m going to show you how!

The Daily Evaluation

Okay so here’s the crucial first step. Identify your sacred time slots in your day. If the wee morning hours are part of your sacred time, take out everything you normally do during that time that doesn’t constitute a 100 task.

These are things like showering, making breakfast, and working out. All of these things can be done when kids are around OR…at a time during the day when you don’t need your PEAK brain power.

Some stuff might need a sacred time slot. Journaling and meditation for example. But…does it need a peak brain time slot or no? Let’s just say for a moment – what might your day look like if you meditated in the afternoon, or in the evening?

Next, look at the stuff that never seems to get done. Writing your book, finishing that project, starting that podcast you wanted to. Things that you schedule into the busy workday but always get CROWDED out by other interruptions.

You’re going to swap IN the important work that you’re putting off, and swap OUT the stuff like taking a shower or getting in your celery juice for the day.

Schedule Setting The Night Before

My solution to my human-ness is to simply set my schedule for the next day…the night before.

Rather than create a routine I can never stick to, I look at the current state of affairs in my house, my business, and my life, and take five minutes to plan what my next day looks like.

  • Sometimes that means I’m going to sleep in til 7 and use two hours of sacred time to get more shut eye.
  • Sometimes that means I’m going to put my laptop by my bed and wake up at 5am and write for 60 minutes before I even get up to get dressed or make tea.
  • Sometimes that means I’m going to wake up at 6am and record a podcast or two and take my daily walk later in the morning during a call I have with a client.

I will tell you that everyone who has ever stopped to think outside the box of what you could be doing in those typical morning routine hours of 5-7am, has felt a RADICAL difference in momentum.

When you release yourself from having to do the same thing in the same order each day, you eliminate the feeling of failure when it doesn’t work out the way you planned. Less mindset baggage equals more productivity because you have brain power to use on other things.

Here are some ideas for how I work in the typical “morning routine” stuff throughout the day.

  1. Unless I have a meeting first thing, I take a shower mid-day, not in the morning. I wait until I have a lull in my schedule, or I need to take a break and regroup, and use the shower as my “break”. If you work from home, this is such a good move – I love doing this!
  2. When I want to exercise, I wait til that slumpy afternoon time. My productivity and creative brain is dead, but I’m perfectly able to go outside and play a game of tag or soccer with William for 20 minutes.
  3. If I want to eat a breakfast that takes time to prepare, I do it around 8am, when everyone is up and running around. I cook breakfast and chat about the day with Alex, and I feel so relaxed because I’ve done some work already and feel like I’m ahead for the day.
  4. Meditation for me is something I want to call on when I’m stressed, not when I’m first awake and fresh. I don’t need it as bad as I need it after an email from an angry client or a call from my kid’s school. If the weather is nice, I usually take my lunch outside by this beautiful tree. I eat, and I lean back on the tree, close my eyes, and breathe.

Test The ‘Crush Your Morning Routine’ And Let Me Know!

Okay so in summary, here are the key points to remember.

You are not a robot.
Set your plan for the morning the night before. Flexibility actually helps you be MORE productive, not less.

Use the early morning hours of sacred time for things that require 100% of your brain.
Try the laptop near your bed idea I’ve used. Don’t do anything else but pick up your laptop the minute you wake up. Just set a timer for 60 minutes and see what you get done in that time. Go through the stuff that never gets done, and imagine what would happen if you tried to tackle it first thing.

Think outside the box.
The stuff that’s normally considered “morning-ish” actually works great at other times of day like a mid-morning break, lunchtime, the slumpy afternoon, or in the evening.

Release the baggage of success/failure of your morning routine.
It’s not helpful to have a long morning routine, that if not followed, makes you feel like the whole day is a wash. It’s such crap.

After you’ve tried it, let me know in the comments below what shifted for you!

xx Julie