This Is Why You Do Need A (Realistic) Morning Routine.

By: Deb Knobelman, PhD
Photo by Bailey Zindel on Unsplash

Especially if you are a night owl or have ADHD.

My son wanted to make his own smoothie yesterday.

He drinks a lot of smoothies. And at 10 years old, he is perfectly capable of making his own.

I make him almost the exact same combination every day. He has had at least 600 smoothies with the same ingredients. But he asked me for the recipe.

At first, I got annoyed. How could he not know what goes in there? But he didn’t. He drank it, but never paid attention to what went into it.

Then I realized. He could bang around the kitchen for 20 minutes. Opening every cabinet, trying to decide if he should add cinnamon or ice cubes to get the result that he wanted.

Or I could write the ingredients on a Post-It. And then he could follow the recipe that he knew would get him the result that he wanted. He could make it in 5 minutes, enjoy the smoothie, and move on to something else. Without wasting time and brain juice on reinventing the wheel.

It’s the same idea with morning routines.

I have not read a lot of other morning routine stories. I know that many of them promise to 100x your productivity! And save you 20 hours a week! And maybe that is true.

But when I read those stories, I notice that the people writing them are completely alone. They do everything in isolation. They have no kids or spouses or pets to attend to in the morning. I know some of the authors have kids. Who is giving them breakfast and driving them to school? Its all a distracting mystery to me. So, I have skimmed the whole “morning routine” thing.

But, I realized that in our family, our morning routine is critical. Not because I am able to write 100,000 words before 6am and then run 10 miles with my headlamp on.

But because, if we did not have a morning routine, we’d spend every morning reinventing the wheel. Where are my socks? Why don’t I have enough time for breakfast today? We’d never get out of the house on time, and we’d all exhaust ourselves along the way.

I am a morning person. I’d 100x my productivity if I lived alone and could work, unencumbered, from 5a-10a, no question. But my family members are not all morning people. And my 10 year old son is both a Night Owl AND struggles with Executive Function. Which means he struggles to manage time and pay attention in the best of circumstances.

So for us, we all need a routine, a well established habit every morning. So that the time and events of each morning can unfold without thought. And we can use our brain power for other things. Or, for people like my son, he does not have to waste the limited brain juice that he has in the morning. Trying to remember to brush his teeth before he leaves the house.

Charles Duhigg wrote a brilliant book called The Power of Habit. In it he writes:

Habits allow our minds to ramp down more often. This effort-saving instinct is a huge advantage… (because) an efficient brain allows us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors such as walking and choosing what to eat, so we can devote mental energy to inventing spears, irrigation systems, and, eventually, airplanes and video games.

If your most productive time is in the evening, or you struggle to manage time and attention. Having a habit, a routine in the morning is even more important. You are already working at limited capacity at that time of the day. You need to make that time as efficient as possible.

So yes, what I am saying is that having a morning routine can make your day more productive. Even if your most productive time is not first thing in the morning.

Now, what that morning routine looks like is up to you. I have no idea if 30 grams of plant based protein 30 minutes after you wake up (as Tim Ferriss suggests) is realistic for you. But whatever you need to do in the morning, you need to figure out your optimal routine. And stick to it.

Doing so will make your whole day more productive. Because you will have the mental capacity to deal with the things outside your control. And think about more creative endeavors.