How To Establish A Morning Routine That Can Radically Change Your Life

How To Establish A Morning Routine That Can Radically Change Your Life

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Are you stressed and burned out by not having enough hours in the day? Have you tried organizational tips and tricks, but they haven’t brought you any joy? What you need instead is a routine.

Photo: pxhere/An Min

Why Routines?

Routines are fixed programs of action followed regularly in sequence. Beneficial routines are purposefully created to enhance productivity, which can then create high achievers who are more successful.

Studies also show that beneficial routines enhance memory. Building good habits like hanging your car keys on a rack near your door when you arrive at home means you’ll remember them when you leave again. The habit of always putting your shoes in the same place means they’ll be there for you when you need to put them on. And a routine of following all these habits means you do them by rote. It is a series of steps you won’t even have to think about anymore. You just progress through them on autopilot.

For example, when is the last time you thought about every single step in the process of brushing your teeth? You take the toothbrush from its storage place. Pick up the toothpaste. Open the cap. Spread the toothpaste on the brush. Close the cap. Brush your teeth. Rinse your toothbrush. And put everything away. You most likely even brush your teeth in the same manner every time, in the same order: side or front first, inside, outside, molar tops, and tongue (yuck—brush your tongue; it’s a leading cause of bad breath). It’s just all just a “mindless” routine now.

Photo: Pexels/Andrew Neel

It Seems Counterintuitive, But It’s Not

So how can establishing a routine break you out of your everyday patterns? First, understand that the word “routine” has gotten a bad rap. It’s often misused to convey a negative impression of being bored or feeling stuck. But that feeling is not the byproduct of doing things in a certain order all the time. Those things are barely noticed, remember?

Instead, the stuck feeling is caused by dissatisfaction with results. The projects that weren’t finished at work. The household chores piling up. The loved ones who didn’t get undivided attention. These sorts of worries can cause insomnia. In the ever-present, overwhelming time crunch of being modern super-do-it-all people, everyone is trying to fit several days’ activities into each day. Brains on autopilot for mundane activities are free to focus on other, more important matters.

Photo: Flickr.com/Melissa Gutierrez

So, How Can Routines Help?

First, understand that it’s not an immediate process. It takes time and effort to build good habits that lead to beneficial routines and to break the bad ones that are cluttering your life and holding you back.

Habits, even bad ones, can have a positive effect. The pleasure the brain gets from eating sweets or laughing over cat videos is caused by increased dopamine levels. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter the body creates for the nervous system, used to transmit messages to nerve cells. It is a major player in how pleasure is felt. Even trying to stop bad habits can fail because the dopamine high can overrule willpower. And sometimes the harder we try to break a bad habit, the more our brain resists the change.

Therefore, it’s vital to shift focus and built good habits that take over instead—and then use those habits to establish advantageous routines.

Online lists might popularize the benefits of routines, like habitually making your bed or exercising and then taking a cold shower. But it’s more important to focus not on what works for other people, but what works for you. What is the point of taking the time to make your bed if you are late leaving the house because you misplaced your wallet? Tailoring a morning routine to your needs is the key. Focus on the things you need to do to make yourself healthy, happier, punctual, and more productive.