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My back-to-school morning routine revamp starts this September

I recently declared that I am a night owl and always have been. I somehow (usually) get a second wind after my children go to bed and suddenly want to write a novel, watch three episodes of Master of None and redecorate our home via my decor board on Pinterest.


I don’t know if that will ever fully change, but I do know that I need to stop going to bed around midnight almost every night. Because it doesn’t benefit anyone.

Plus, I recently got a taste of the early bird life, and I (surprisingly) liked it!

For a few months, I was able to wake up around 5-5:30 a.m. and either work out or get work done. All before my kids woke up. All in quiet. All with focus and determination.

Then, the busyness of life took over and I slipped back into my old ways of going to bed super late and waking up in the morning at the same time as my kids. On days like this, I feel like I’m automatically playing catch up on productivity.

So, what do I do?

Well, I think September is the perfect time to reflect on and refocus our goals. I haven’t been a student in a long time, but the end of August stills gives me those back-to-school feelings. It feels like a fresh start—a time to get back on track if you’ve fallen off the wagon.

As Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says in her latest podcast episode, “September is the other January.”

We couldn’t agree more.

If you’re craving a better morning routine, here are a few ways that’ll help.

1. Take baby steps

My night owl persona and my early bird persona need to compromise with one another.

Sometimes when I want to make these life changes, I set unrealistic expectations like, “I need to wake up earlier. I’m going to set my alarm for 4:30 a.m.” Or, “I need to lose 15 pounds. I’m going to go to the gym 5 days a week.”

Sure—these might be great goals for someone else or even me one day—but right now these goals would just be setting myself up for failure.

Instead, I’ll start my goal of going to bed earlier with an 11:00 p.m. bedtime versus midnight. I’ll set my alarm for a 6:00 a.m. wake up call. This way, I’ll still have time to myself at night and get some quiet, productive time in the morning before my kids wake up. Then, maybe 11:00 p.m. could turn into 10:30, 10, etc. And 6:00 a.m. could turn into 5:30, 5:00, etc.

For me, baby steps usually work better than large leaps at one time. ?

2. Choose the morning

To me, nighttime is wonderful. It has always felt like my time. It will always tempt me. But is it the best choice for me?

Probably not. So, I will aim to choose more mornings than evenings—fresher brain cells over sleepy brain cells.

It doesn’t hurt that some experts validate this too. I asked Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time what she thought about late nights. She said, “The problem with evening hours is people are generally too tired to do much but watch TV. You’re probably not going to go run in the dark at night, nor are you going to start work on your novel when the Bachelorette is calling. We’re tapped out by this time and don’t have much energy. So we wind up puttering around the house, watching TV, or cruising social media.”

Soo, maybe less TV more to-do...? ?

3. Be pro-active

Vanderkam explains, “Being pro-active in the morning allows us to be more reactive the rest of the day.”

And this can look different for different people. As Vanderkam says, “There are lots of things that can make a good morning routine. You can get a workout in. You can spend quiet time with your coffee thinking about creative work or big projects that are hard to tackle with the distractions at the office. You can do spiritual activities or other reflective activities like journaling.

Bring on the me time. ?

4. Prioritize the night before

In an article from her blog, Vanderkam suggests writing your to-do list for the next day before you go to sleep. “We tend to have more focus and motivation in the morning, so if you know what your most important tasks are for any given day, and roughly when you’ll do them, you can spend your energy on execution, rather than deciding what deserves your attention. Even if something is undone, you know when it will get done, which can help you relax at night.”

Preparation is key. ?

5. Make the best choice for me

Finally, Vanderkam explains that for many mothers, it’s better to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier in search of “me time.” She said, “Mornings are a great time for getting stuff done. This is time you can have for yourself before everyone wants a piece of you. When we accomplish great things in the morning, that sense of victory provides motivation for the rest of the day. By the time the rest of the world is eating breakfast, you’ve already made progress toward your life goals.”

Solid morning routine = #lifegoals. ⏰

I know I want to make these changes because staying up super late isn’t a sustainable life plan.

So this September, I’m going to give my new morning routine the old college try. I mean, it is back-to-school season after all, isn’t it?

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