Endlessly Tweaking the Morning Routine

My weekday morning routine is a work in progress. Always has been, always will be. I tinker with it from season to season to accommodate the changing needs of family, work, and myself.

There area few constants to the routine, the most essential are (in no particular order)

  • Wake up. Waking up is mandatory as without that there is no morning routine. When I wake up — and how — are flexible.
  • Eat. I need to consume fuel. Worst case scenario, that’s coffee and a Pop Tart. Best case, it’s something better … but there’s still coffee. There must always be coffee.
  • Physical therapy. Since breaking (and then healing) my ankle, PT is a morning requirement. I can get through the day without it … but that’s not a good idea.
  • Touch base with my wife. At some point in the morning, sooner rather than later, I talk with Sue about how things are going. If the routine needs to change, it changes.
  • Household chores. Do the dishes. Tidy the kitchen. Vacuum the 1st floor. Exactly what needs doing varies, but there’s always something.

There are other essential tasks that need to happen, but thankfully my wife oversees them and/or the kids are now old enough take care of themselves: making lunches, getting the kids dressed, getting to the bus, wrangling school paperwork. We switch out as needed, but typically I can count on a solid 2 hours of time to myself. This gives me my biggest block of free time during the day … if I can wake up on time.

The Morning Routine

This is meant to be the ideal of a morning routine and my actual routine may fall short of it. Nothing survives contact with the kids, or hell, reality for that matter, but it’s good to have something to work towards.

  1. Wake up between 6 and 6:30 a.m.: I need to be at work between 8:45 and 9:15 a.m. My commute takes about a half hour. At it’s most efficient, my morning routine takes an hour. If I allocate time for exercise and writing, then it’s 2-to-2.5 hours. I use my phone at my alarm, with the wake-up music set to “The Avengers” from The Avengers soundtrack.
  2. Eat breakfast. Journal. Read. (30 minutes): Over breakfast, I review my bullet journal and consider my plan for the day based on my meetings and planned tasks. I make any necessary adjustments and update my habit tracker. I read something, typically a book or comic book. Sometimes, depending on my deadlines, I swap out reading for writing. 30 minutes.
  3. Physical Therapy (15 minutes) / Exercise (30 minutes): With a cup of coffee in hand, I head to my third-floor office/game room to do 15 minutes of physical therapy. For the last year or so, this was accompanied by watching the Robotech TV series. After I finally finished it, I replaced the series with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ideally, this is followed by 30-40 minutes of exercise as I walk one of the dogs 1.5-2 miles. This is the most difficult part of my morning to hit reliably, particularly in the winter months when it’s dark, cold, and my motivation is low. From December-February, I typically exercise in the afternoon or evening, but once Daylight Saving Time is in effect I’m back to my morning walks.
  4. Get ready for work (20 minutes): Exercise completed, I grab a shower and get dressed for work. I gather together anything I need for my day job and throw it into my messenger bag.
  5. Morning chores (20 minutes): I wash the dishes, clean up the kitchen, and quickly vacuum the first floor.
  6. Go to work (15-25 minutes): I typically walk to work at the local college. If I’m going to campus, that takes 15-20 minutes, if I’m walking downtown, that’s closer to 25. Either way, I listen to a book or less frequently a podcast during my commute.

Following this routine leads to a productive morning and (hopefully) a productive day. It knocks out some of the essential tasks (exercise, reading, chores) that I want to get done each day and my bullet journal review reminds me of exactly what I need to get done the rest of the day.

Not hitting everything on this list isn’t the end of the world, but it makes things more challenging. My ankle is cranky if I don’t do physical therapy. The kids’ schedules mean that if I don’t exercise in the morning, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to exercise in the evening. Any chores I don’t get done in the morning need to be done when I get home. And most important, if I don’t review my bullet journal, I can fall into the trap of thinking I have an easier day than I do. There’s nothing quite like walking into the downtown office, throwing down my messenger bag, and realizing that I have four meetings … one of which is 20 minutes away on campus.

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