Why It’s Okay If Your Mornings Aren’t “Ideal”

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It seems that I’ve been reading a lot lately about morning routines, specifically what “power people” do in the mornings to make sure their day gets off on the right foot. Maybe it’s just the type of blog I follow or maybe it’s just the type of magazine I subscribe to or maybe it’s just the fact that social media has given birth to people wanting to know every detail of everyone else’s lives, but it seems like the topic has been cropping up a LOT.

Take my current issue of Self magazine for example—in the April issue, there is a whole section devoted to powerful/inspirational women and how they spend their mornings. As I’ve been reading about how these people refuse to start the day without a green smoothie and a relaxing yoga workout or a hot beverage of choice taken out onto “the deck” to watch the sun rise, I was left feeling like something must be wrong with my life because my mornings look NOTHING like that.

Then I realized a few things.

For one, all the women featured had the kind of work schedule that they had control over when they started their day (because pretty much all of them ran their own businesses or did freelance work). For two, almost none of them had kids. For three, the women featured seemed to all HAVE these “decks” to watch sunrises on (instead of living in a small apartment with no yard to speak of, never mind having a deck).

In other words, it took me awhile to not be frustrated over the whole thing because it took me awhile to realize that my mornings COULDN’T look like that right now, and THAT WAS OKAY. It took me awhile to realize that while my mornings might not be “relaxing” or “calming” or “energizing,” that didn’t mean that I wasn’t set up to be “powerful” or “inspirational” later in the day.

Here’s a run-down of my typical weekday morning:

1. Because of my commute and my work schedule (and the negotiations I made to make up all my contract time BEFORE school), I pretty much have to get up between 5:15 and 5:30 every morning. Even though I would overall consider myself to be a “morning person,” the five o’clock hour is hardly the ideal time to be waking up—somewhere in the 6 – 7 range would be much nicer, but that’s just not an option for me. The fact is, I have a longer commute to factor in and a lot to get done before school starts, so waking up in the 5 o’clock hour is a necessity.

2. I put a high value on sleep, which means that I wake up as late as possible to ensure myself the maximum amount of shut-eye (while still leaving myself a 5 minute cushion just in case something goes wrong). I often have set out my outfit the night before and prepared my lunch for the next day, so I really am waking up as late as I can. Therefore, the idea of starting out my morning “leisurely” is a choice I’ve opted not to make—I choose sleep over feeling unhurried.

3. I choose to eat my breakfast on the go. Each year, my “go-to” breakfast seems to change (last year it was pb & j’s or instant oatmeal in a cup that I’d pray wouldn’t spill as I ate it on my drive), and this year, I currently take a protein bar and a banana most mornings with me as I head out the door. Once again, because I prize sleep over feeling unhurried, the choice of a “leisurely” breakfast has also been foregone.

4. Once I’m at the school (at which point, the sun still hasn’t risen, fyi, so no sunrise-gazing possible), I get started on the most urgent tasks—making copies for that day, filling my water bottle, getting the agenda on the board. If I have time after doing all that, I try to take a few minutes to get a head start on grading. Since I try to avoid taking work home at all costs, I really try to take advantage of my work hours as much as I can. In other words, when I’m at work, I’m at work, and when I’m at home, I’m at home (which is one of my “life secrets” for healthy balance as a working mother).

5. Even though my mornings are packed full and no-nonsense, I’m very rarely STRESSED in the morning, just because I’ve learned to jump right into my to-do list and just get everything done and out of the way. (As mentioned earlier, it does help that I choose to prepare some things the night before so that I’m not running around the apartment in a panic because I can’t find something.)

As you might notice, there is nothing in my routine that is “leisurely” and nothing that’s really being “savored”—it’s just productivity and efficiency, all the time.

Is this my ideal morning routine?

No.

Am I okay with my current routine?

Surprisingly–after giving it way more thought than I probably should have after reading the magazine article–YES. The fact is, my mornings are the way they are because of life decisions that I CHOSE. I chose to be in a profession that has an early start time. I chose to teach at a school that’s a 30-minute drive away. I chose to spend more time working in the morning so that I could have my afternoons free to come home and be with my daughter.

Sure, my ideal morning would look like a leisurely sip of fresh-made smoothie out on the beach somewhere watching the sunrise, followed up by a 3-4 mile run on said beach. My ideal morning would involve a solid 30 or 60 minutes of quiet reading. My ideal morning would involve extra snuggles in bed with my husband and then extra amounts of snuggles and play time with my daughter.

But for my life right now, that’s not what I’ve chosen. And I’m okay with that.

(It’s also been helpful to realize that while those women’s MORNINGS might seem dreamy, the rest of their lives sounded pretty packed and hectic and full-to-the-brim, which is definitely NOT how I choose to spend my afternoons or evenings.)

Can you be a “powerful person” and not have a “power” morning routine that involves yoga stretches and green smoothies? Can you be a “powerful person” without being driven to crazy, stressed-out, workaholic extremes in the morning, too?

Absolutely.

It should also be noted that you can also prize “simple living” and STILL have a bit of a go-go-go morning routine. I think the keys are these:

1. Un-ideal mornings work for you if you’re happy with your overall life choices—if you’re content with your overall work/life balance and your current choices for how you’re spending your days, then it’s okay to be rushed in the morning.

2. “Me” time is important, but it doesn’t have to happen in the morning. As long as you make sure it happens sometime, that’s what’s most important.

3. Realize that there are trade-offs for everything, so if your day would start better by you feeling less stressed out/harried, then you might need to wake up earlier. If a little bit of rush gets your blood going (in a good way) and you prize sleep most (knowing that enough shut-eye will guarantee a smooth day better than almost anything else), then don’t feel guilty about your un-ideal morning routine.

What do you think? Do you think powerful people tend to have an ideal morning routine? Or do you think that “hitting the ground running” can work too?

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