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The Best Morning Routine for Your Lifestyle

Can the perfect morning routine set you up for success? CEOs seem to think so. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey shocks himself awake with morning ice baths, and Outdoor Voices’ Tyler Haney drinks a cold glass of lemon water and does “30 grateful breaths,” according to “The False Promise of Morning Routines” in The Atlantic.

For most of my life, mornings have meant one thing: dragging myself out of bed and making myself presentable to perform whatever task the day has in store. Some mornings, that has meant racing around to freshen up, get dressed, and grab breakfast before rushing out the door. Other days, when I don’t have anything pressing on my schedule, the morning takes a more leisurely pace. One thing I know will never entice me to get out of bed is exercise. But I still manage to seize most days.

The recent push to live our best lives by creating the perfect morning had me rethinking my lack of routines—at least briefly. As someone with a chronic sleep disorder, I feel a sense of accomplishment from waking up just moderately early. But let’s be honest: waking up at 5 a.m. makes me feel lousy. That’s right in the middle of my sleep cycle. Other than having a smug sense of satisfaction from waking up early, there really isn’t anything better for me about waking up at 5 a.m. instead of 7:30.

In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all morning routine. Finding the best one for you will take some trial and error. Your lifestyle, your health, and your daily obligations are all things to take into consideration; and, of course, don’t forget to factor in what you like. There’s no point in creating a morning routine that makes you miserable.

“Despite the seeming popularity of days that start before 5 a.m. with rigorous exercise, meditation, cleansing breaths, lemon water, or other trendy activities, the truth is utterly different,” says life coach and consultant Amie Devero. “The best morning routine is the one that best amplifies your own mood and sense of control over what comes next in your day and what you seek to accomplish.”

Devero suggests creating a morning routine that enhances your natural rhythm and positive habits instead of working against them. For example, if you already work out at 6 p.m. every evening, there’s no need to change that just because the morning routine fad says so.

“The best morning routine is the one that best amplifies your own mood and sense of control over what comes next in your day and what you seek to accomplish.”

“Figure out what the permanent fixtures are in your typical day: chores, child duties, energy flow, work demands, travel, etc.,” says Devero. “Then, craft a routine that fits within those fixed artifacts and also promotes what you want to accomplish. Be flexible and creative so that you have days that fulfill you—not some prefabricated ideal handed down by tech billionaires or movie moguls.”

Whether you naturally wake up early, are running around trying to get your family out the door, or struggle to get out of bed when your alarm goes off, there’s a morning routine for you. With the help of Devero, we’ve outlined easy morning routines for different lifestyles.

A morning routine for the early bird

If you’re already used to waking up at the crack of dawn, you may have your morning routine down pat. But if you’d like a little more structure to the start of your days, this is a good place to begin. This morning routine will help set the tone for the rest of your day.

5:00 a.m.: Wake up.

5:05 a.m.: Stretch.

5:10 a.m.: Do a peaceful activity, such as meditating or setting an intention for the day.

5:20 a.m.: Be creative. Write a dream journal, draw, read, or work on that book you’ve always wanted to write.

5:45 a.m.: Eat a light breakfast.

6:00 a.m.: Exercise.

6:35 a.m.: Shower and get ready to go.

7:30 a.m.: Leave for work.

A morning routine for the busy parent

“If you have small children who wake early, they may need your attention first thing,” says Devero. “That doesn’t mean you are neglecting yourself or your own self-care.” Feeling connected to and nurturing your family can be part of your morning self-care. “If babies start your day, you may need to end-load the day with later work or evening workouts —which means that the morning routine is dictated by circumstance but the evening routine is senior in fulfilling your own personal goals,” Devero adds.

6:00 a.m.: Wake up before the kids.

6:05 a.m.: Do a peaceful activity, such as meditating or setting an intention for the day.

6:20 a.m.: Get dressed and ready to go.

6:35 a.m.: Wake the kids up.

6:45 a.m.: Make breakfast for everyone.

7:00 a.m.: Herd the kids in for some food.

7:30 a.m.: Rush out the door.

A morning routine for the alarm-snoozer

If you’re like me, you want to spend as much of the morning in bed as possible. Your efforts to make yourself a morning person haven’t worked. The best advice for you is: Don’t force yourself. Instead, plan ahead. Finish everything you need for the morning the night before. Exercise in the evening. Choose your outfit for the next day. Set out everything you need so you can launch yourself into the day as quickly as possible without losing any coveted snooze time.

7:30 a.m.: Wake up.

7:35 a.m.: Get dressed and ready to go.

7:55 a.m.: Grab a breakfast you made the night before.

8:00 a.m.: Rush out the door.

The bottom line: There is no single perfect morning routine that will work for everyone. Finding the right one for you may require some trial and error. When one routine doesn’t work, nix it and try something new. There is absolutely no reason to force yourself to be a morning person. Healthy habits are still healthy no matter what time of day they land in your schedule.

Should showering be part of your morning routine—or your evening one? Here, we debate the pros and cons of morning vs. nighttime showers.