Building Zen Habits: Creating a Morning Ritual

It’s 7:45 am. You groggily open your eyes and try to blink the sleep out of them. In an effort to go to the bathroom, you attempt to roll over, but can’t. There are kids piled on your bed blocking you in.

My cozy reading spot

Irritated, you lie there, thinking about how you really need to pee. But you don’t want to get up because it will awaken the children, tantamount to poking a busy beehive. But you can’t hold it any longer (all those pregnancies have made your bladder so unreliable) and you get out of bed.

The kids stir, one begins crying, another yells that they want to snuggle with you more. They’re all hungry. You sigh and use the potty as quickly as you can. So begins another day.

That’s how my days began. Over and over and over again, my little Groundhog Day prison. I tried to be intentional about the day – spending time with the kids, reading, being productive – but the bad start to my morning put a serious damper on my mood.

So, true to form, I got sick of it and decided to change.

Inspired by Leo at Zen Habits, I decided that the problem was not a lack of discipline but bad habits. Those habits could be changed, it would just take dedication and time. And so I began.

Make a list, check it twice

First, I wrote out (I love my lists) what I wanted my mornings to look like. I took inspiration from Dan Miller and Justin Lukasavige who have a pretty set routine they follow in the morning. Here’s what I decided was most important.

Wake up earlier. But I knew that if I were to just start getting up at 6 that I wouldn’t follow through. So I started with 7:30. Baby steps.

Drink tea. I’ve never liked coffee and though I’ve been thinking about trying it again (it’s starting to smell really good), I’m content to stick with a morning cup of tea. Most of this was really just an excuse to sit and drink tea in the morning. I feel better about doing it if I’m doing something “productive”. Yep, I’m a spaz.

Read positive, uplifting information. I’ve done this by reading a few different books each morning. A proverb here, devotional there. Nothing long, but enough to put me in a positive mood. Right now I’m reading:

Rudder of the Day by Dan Miller. A business/career/life devotional to help people think about their values, dreams and passions.

My Bible. I’m currently reading a proverb a day using my wonderful Kindle. One proverb for each day of the month.

The Love Dare by Steven Kendrick. A devotional for improving marriage. I’ve been a crappy wife lately and need to put more energy into this area of my life.

The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles. Also reading this on my Kindle. It’s greatly improved the way I think by helping me focus on good things and to be grateful for everything.

Exercise. I feel so much better when I exercise in the morning and I knew that I could get in at least a short workout before my kids got too out of control.

And now, without further ado, here’s a look at my new morning ritual.

My new and improved morning routine:

Wake and stumble out of bed over sneaky ninja children who infiltrated the bedroom during the night.

Use the potty (I know that some of you understand this the weak bladder issue).

Put on work out clothes.

Put water on for tea and gather books.

Start a load of laundry, change Isaiah’s diaper if he’s awake and dole out bananas. Ha, get it?

Steep tea while I begin reading then slowly sip tea as I take in all the goodness. If I’m lucky, the kids sleep through this or play quietly in the playroom. Otherwise, they all try to snuggle around me.

Put books and tea cup away and do 10-15 minutes of challenging exercise.

The exercise doesn’t happen every day, but I’ve been able to do everything else pretty consistently for almost three weeks. I’ve noticed a difference in my attitude throughout the day just by incorporating this simple routine into my mornings.

The Challenge

Now I have a challenge for you. Start your own morning routine. And do it every day for the next 3 weeks. Let me know in the comments if you’re up for it. But don’t stop there.

If you have a blog, tell your audience. Let your facebook and twitter friends know, too. Accountability is the key to building new habits. It’s hard to quit when a lot of people are asking about your progress.

Are you in? I’ll hold you to it. :)

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  1. Love the insight in this post, Nina – and I especially appreciate your comment about changes needing to be sustainable. Most of the time (and I suspect I’m not alone here) I overestimate how much change I can enter into. When I fail to sustain the change? It’s really discouraging, and I slip right back into the old normal.

    I’ve recently begun my new morning routine – thanks for the shot in the arm!! This was just what I needed today!

  2. You had me laughing here, Nina! I love the routine and even more importantly, the baby steps. I just moved my time up 15 minutes earlier for the next 12 months. Doing an hour wouldn’t work.

    How’s the Love Dare? I keep coming across it but haven’t picked up a copy yet.

  3. It’s pretty good so far. The steps aren’t terribly difficult. Wait, scratch that. The steps are simple. Implementing them, well, that can be a pain. I’ve had to bite my tongue a few times. But I love the intentionality it brings to marriage. You should check it out. :)

  4. That’s great Josh! I’ll tweet you about how it’s going. I’m actually not doing mine today. I got up SUPER early to get ready for a class – I’m being certified as a Neonatal Resuscitation Provider. Skills I hope that I never have to use. I forgot that I had to bring a potluck lunch, so I hastily threw something together,er, cut up a delicious watermelon. But I still had my tea. I find that if I can’t do the whole thing for some reason, that doing part of it still helps me feel centered and ready to start the day.

  5. This is the first time I have had to get a chance to look at your blog :)
    Haaahaaa, dole out banana’s! That’s the funniest thing I have heard or seen all day.

  6. I was so tickled after I read what I’d written. My husband’s corny sense of humor has totally rubbed off on me. :)

  7. “Make sure the thing you’re living for is worth dying for.” – words by Charles Mayes

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