3 Morning Routine Mistakes - Are You Sabotaging Your Day?

If I start my morning with a happy, productive hour or two, I know I’ll have an awesome day overall, no matter what happens.

It’s just true.

If you read blog posts or books about what happy people or successful people do, almost every one of them will tell you that type of person wakes up early.

And I know it seems impossible sometimes. I’ve been there, nursing a young baby at night, waking to calm a toddler’s nigtmares, and having the evening be the only time I get to myself. But if I could go back in time, I would do things a little differently, even in that physically and emotionally demanding stage of life. And I’m doing them differently now.

Now before you tell me that you have triplets and they tag-team you 24/7, someone always needs you, you work a full time job, your husband works nights, and you haven’t slept since last February, hear this:

It may not be the right season in your life for you to even think about having a morning routine. That’s okay.

This post is for people who are contemplating their morning routines, trying to find one that works for them, and wondering what’s going wrong with theirs. If you’re not there, come back when you’re ready. No judgement at all.

So what are the three morning routine mistakes that could be sabotaging your day?

Mistake #1 – Staying Up Late

I didn’t want to believe it. I’ve been a night owl for as long as I can remember. Even when I was in elementary school, I would stay awake and rearrange my bedroom furniture in the darkest hours of the night. When I took piano lessons before school and had to wake at 5, I would prepare everything I could the night before – finishing my homework, filling my backpack, and even going to bed fully-dressed in the next day’s clothes so that I could sleep as late as possible in the morning.

But I’ve learned that the time I get to myself once everyone else is in bed is less valuable than it could be. Because I’m exhausted from the day, I’m not fully present with myself. If I want to read or write, it’s harder for me to focus. If I want to do yoga or enjoy a cup of tea, I feel restless, almost itchy.

And for me, the early morning hours before my kids get up have turned out to be about twice as productive and enjoyable as my night owl hours. You won’t know whether it’s the same for you until you’ve tried it for a while though. The first few days will be rough, but you’ll get into the routine of going to bed earlier and waking earlier. And you may just find that your alone time is twice as restoring when you’re not already “used up” by everything the day has thrown at you.

Would you rather have 2 useless exhausted hours to yourself to mess around on Facebook or watch junky TV shows at night? Or 2 peaceful, restorative, and productive (if you’d like them to be) hours in the morning?

Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought to yourself, “Gosh, I wish I had stayed up later last night!”?

Mistake #2 – Hitting the Snooze Button

IF you go to bed at an appropriate time and set your alarm at a time that will give you enough sleep overall (taking into account your estimated night wakings if you have little ones, of course), there’s no reason to hit the snooze button.

There are lots of excuses. But no good reason.

I learned this in college from my roommate during our trip to teach English in China. During the first part of our trip, I hit the snooze button so many times that even a decade later, I can still hum the whole little electronic song my travel alarm clock played.

It drove my roommate crazy. She blew up at me one morning and shouted, “Just set it for the time you want to actually get up!”

It’s so obvious, right? (I apologized, adjusted my alarm, and actually got up when it went off the first time every morning after that.)

If you’ve decided you want to wake up at 5:30, and you went to bed at 10pm, go ahead and get up when your alarm goes off. If you’d really rather get up at 5:45 or 6, that’s fine. Just adjust your alarm clock’s setting.

If you get into the habit of hitting snooze 3-10 times every morning,  the last chunk of your sleeping time is light and interrupted. And you’re already starting the day “uncommitted,” dragging your feet, and making excuses.

Would you rather hit the snooze button 3 times before dragging yourself out of bed? Or have an extra solid half-hour of quality sleep so that you can wake feeling more refreshed and ready to go?

Mistake #3 – Not Having a Plan

So if you’re going to bed at a reasonable time, getting a decent amount of sleep, and hopping out of bed the first (and only) time your alarm goes off, you’re going to have a great morning, right?


If you don’t have some sort of plan, you might just spend the first hour of your day putzing around on Facebook just like you would have at midnight if you had stayed up. Don’t.

At this time of day, your mind is completely clear. If you want to meditate a bit, now’s the time. If you want to write, do it before you clutter your thoughts with interruptions and obligations. If you want to read, you’ll get more out of it when you can be more focused, early in the day.

You could choose to create a morning routine to get you started in the same way every day. Maybe you’ll wake, use the bathroom, brush your teeth, start the coffee maker, hop in the shower, get dressed, and read while you sip your coffee on the porch. Maybe you’d rather hop out of bed and go straight to your home gym to get your blood pumping first. Perhaps you immediately go to your computer or journal and start writing.

Everyone’s ideal routine will look different, depending on what their goals are. But creating one is a good place to start.

Or you could create a short list of PrioriTasks (my word for the tasks that are your top priorities) before you go to bed the night before, with the 3 (or even 2 or 1) most important things you want to accomplish the next day, and look at that as soon as you wake up. This is a great strategy to try if you have a variable schedule and every day has a different set of activities and responsibilities calling to you.

Some days, you might journal or exercise at the start of the day. Other times, when you know you’ll be out and about most of the day, you could start the day with a few chores to get a head start on taking care of your household. If you want to hit the beach with the kids as soon as they get up, maybe you’ll spend some time packing the picnic cooler and gathering towels and sunblock in the car so that you’ll be ready to go right away.

Stop sabotaging your day.

If now is a time in your life when you’re trying to wake earlier and grab ahold of that first hour or two, do it.

  1. Start by going to bed earlier. You don’t have to set a morning alarm at first. Just catch up on some sleep.
  2. After a week or so, keep going to bed a bit earlier, but add a morning alarm. Set it for the time you actually plan to get UP and don’t make excuses. Don’t hit the snooze button.
  3. Have a plan for what you’re going to do right after you turn your alarm off. Make sure your actions are in line with your priorities for that time, and you’ll find that your day is off to a fantastic start.

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  1. […] Thanks to Emily’s wonderful resources I’ve been able to change and improve upon my habits and create a rhythm, not a routine, that works for me. Rhythm is a part of every day life. Maybe you don’t wake up at the same time every day, but you do the same things every morning when you do wake up. […]

  2. Any suggestions for a house full of kids who get up before I do? (I can usually sleep until the baby or my alarm wakes me, whichever comes first. Usually 7:30-7:45. My kids are up around 6:30.)

    I love the idea, but if I,replace two hours at night with two hours in the morning, my kids will already be awake. Instead of helping each other with breakfast, if I,am present, somehow everyone needs my help and I don’t get anything done. Also, then I don’t get any peace and quiet.

    • Are you saying your kids wake up at 6:30, but let you sleep till 7:30? Wow, that must be nice!!! What do they do in that hour?

      My kids get up at 6:40 on school days, and I’ve been waking at 6… even that extra 40 minutes alone is so helpful for me, to get up and ready for the day before they need my help or start asking for breakfast.

      I eventually want to be waking at 5 (I was doing it for a while, and it was awesome for my productivity) or at least 5:30, and that’s definitely before my kids are up…and it sounds like it’s before yours are up too.

      Don’t think in terms of “all or nothing.” It doesn’t have to be a whole 2 hours early. It could be 30 minutes. 15 minutes, even! Just SOME time for yourself. It’s helpful.

      (And to play devil’s advocate, if you really did get up 2 hours early, wouldn’t that be 5:30 in the morning? An hour before your kids are up? What’s wrong with that?)

    • I’ve actually trained my kids to leave me alone in the mornings. 🙂 Once the littlest isn’t breastfed anymore, mornings are mine! I wake up slowly, and I have a sleep disorder that means that no amount of advice or work will ever get me up early regularly–I cannot adapt to that, physiologically. So I do my prep stuff at night. I also shower at night because there’s nothing grosser to me than getting into bed dirty. (UGH!!!) My morning, then, is 20-30 minutes of waking up, straightening my room, washing my face, brushing my teeth, doing basic hair and makeup, and getting dressed, followed by kicking anyone out of bed who still needs it and doing 30 minutes of housecleaning before heading down to my office. I have breakfast after my two “morning hours” of work.

  3. Loved the post. It reminded me that those night owl hours are wrecking any chance I have of being alert and on my game the next morning!

    • Seriously!! One good question to ask yourself while you’re doing the night owl thing is, “Would I wake up early to do THIS?” If the answer is no, it’s probably bedtime. If the answer is yes, think about going to bed and waking up early to do that anyway. haha.

  4. Not getting in the shower FIRST thing. If I’m dressed and ready I’m not late for anything all morning. This means getting up 20 min earlier than the other folks so that I can still have some coffee before we interact too much ;}

    • And hey, 20 minutes isn’t too much! That’s awesome that that small amount of time can make such a huge difference in your entire day!

  5. Loved this. Thank you!!!. Common sense, but nice to be reminded!!

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