I, Marissa, am a morning person. It wasn’t something that necessarily happened overnight (lol sleeping puns), and it had less to do with the fact that I wanted to become a morning person and more with the fact that I needed to.
*Harks back to about three years ago*
You see, at 22 I had just been hired into my first post-grad role — my first real job out of college — and it required a 6:00 AM clock-in time. Yowza. As someone who loved her late nights and could easily sleep in past midday, this was a serious wake-up call (ha, more puns). And I’d be remiss not to admit that this early start time made me second-guess the job I had just accepted via a quick phone call. There was still time to jump ship, right?! I mean, I still hadn’t signed any official paperwork. I didn’t need the job that bad (yes I did).
Yet, here I am — almost three years later and up before the sun. On my own terms, too!
I credit my successful (and enduring) metamorphosis from night owl to early bird on one thing, really — a killer morning routine. Okay, wait . . . two things: 1) A killer morning routine and 2) Practicing that killer morning routine
If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking “duh, everyone knows that and honestly, that helps me zero percent,” hear me out. Because it’s more than just deciding on your outfit the night before or following a rigid minute-by-minute schedule — though those things definitely do help.
A deeper dive into the “why” behind my sudden transition into a morning person:
As I mentioned above, I was pretty much forced against my will (lol dramatic much?) to be up before the majority of people living in the same time zone as me. As if the 6:00 AM start time wasn’t already bad enough, I was still living with my parents in San Diego at the time while the office I would be working out of was located, like, so far away in Irvine (maintaining the drama). For those unfamiliar with the distance between these Southern California cities, that’s a nice 45-minute commute. This all translated to the fact that in order to be sitting at my desk promptly at 6:00 AM, I needed to leave around 5-ish. And that meant I would have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning. FOUR. THIRTY. *gasp*
You may be wondering why on earth I would subject myself to this nonsense. “Get a job in the same city, you psycho?!” you’re probs shouting the me of three-years past. “Or at least one with normal hours!” And, yeah, you’d be right to question my decision to actually see this whole thing through. But I had spent nearly five months job hunting to no avail and I was, quite frankly, a little desperate at that point in my life (read this for more insight into my career journey).
So without much else to it, I needed to figure out the whole early-riser identity, and figure it out fast. And no, unfortunately, it’s not as easy as going to sleep earlier to wake up earlier (at least from my experience). Plus, I wanted more than to just being able to wake up and function like a normal human. If I was going to be up, I wanted to enjoy it!
Step 1: Create a Killer Morning Routine
1. Adopt the basics — These are the things that you’ve definitely read in every “The 5 things ~this untouchable successful person~ does every morning for a more productive day” -type article. I like to call them the “ugh, do I really have to” things, like laying out your outfit the night before, sticking to a regular wake-up time, meal prepping, crafting up a handy to-do list, making your bed, etc.
Doing at least some of these things actually will help you have a better morning and set you up for a more successful day. At the very least, they will save you from racing around the apartment half dressed as your carpool buddy is outside waiting, or from being halfway to work and realizing you forgot your lunch on the kitchen counter.
If you just can’t be bothered to do these things (I get it, but also why are you reading this post in the first place lol), the one thing you absolutely must adopt for an improved morning is to set your alarm at the same time every day, regardless of if your schedule changes. This one is kinda non-negotiable, and it’s backed by science and studies and all that. Plainly put, training your internal clock (aka your circadian rhythm) to function properly and its most efficient sets the foundation for a routine that rocks (as well as an all-around healthier lifestyle).
Consider some of these other basics to incorporate into your routine (and keep in mind that it really should start the night or weekend before): Create three to five go-to work-appropriate looks you can always count on; meal prep lunch or dinner (or both!) on Sundays; make a to-do list the night before to rid yourself of a frenzied mindset as you get ready in the morning; hang a *cute* calendar somewhere you frequent often to keep important dates and deadlines at the forefront of your mind; pack your work or workout bag the night before; make your bed every morning (preferably right when you wake up to keep you from getting back in)
Right now, my basics for a more seamless morning include waking up at 6 AM on the dot, meal prepping for both lunch and dinner for the week on Sundays, making my bed, and keeping all my daily essentials (purse, wallet, keys, headphones, gloves, umbrella, etc.) neatly packed or hanging on hooks by the front door. It typically wasn’t a huge worry in California, but since moving to Nashville I’ve also tried to remember to check the weather the night before and in the morning before I get dressed — I’ve been caught unprepared in the rain more times than I’d like to admit.
2. Customize the rest — When it comes down to it, being a morning person is more than just waking up early and performing the necessary tasks to get through the first part of your day. A true morning person enjoys their mornings and takes advantage of them. Just acting out the basics mentioned above probably won’t be enough to accomplish that (though if you’re type-A like me, crossing them off your to-do list might give you a temporary high). Fill in the gaps with things that make being up and out of the warmth of your bed worth it. Because let’s be honest, it’s unlikely that an obnoxious-sounding alarm or the fact that you’ll spend a good deal of your day at work does the best job of motivating you to start your morning.
Identify the things that will. A tried-and-true matcha latte, a butt-kicking workout, or a trendy skincare regimen, perhaps? Consider some of these options, too: Read a chapter of your book; journal for five to ten minutes or doodle while listening to your favorite playlist; set goals for the week; listen to a quick podcast episode as you tidy up; meditate or do a few yoga poses; make your breakfast and brew a strong cup of coffee; unplug for the first 30 minutes you are awake and focus solely on prepping for the day; dance party!
A deeper dive into what gets me eager to wake up in the morning would reveal that I love my morning coffee . . . just the smell of it brewing gets me excited. I also have perfected a skincare routine that has done an incredible job of clearing my forever-problem skin, so being able to follow those steps in the morning is therapeutic for me. While all this is going down, I throw on an equal-parts mellow and upbeat playlist that has become the soundtrack to my mornings, and other than Spotify I make sure to unplug for the entire time I’m at home before work.
3. If you can, extend your routine — While your routine can surely begin and end within the confines of your home, I’ve found that extending it to the workplace (if your office supports that) does wonders in creating a more pleasant environment to be in during whatever your version of a nine-to-five is. Think about it . . .
Let’s say you’ve perfected your morning routine, and these days you’re actually kinda excited to be up (who would have ever guessed it could happen!?). But if your routine ends once you cross the threshold of your front door, you’re likely going to be hit with the harsh and unfortunate reality that your workday has now officially begun. There was no easing into that truth. So your good mood effectively lasted a total of like, 45 minutes. Ugh.
Now, let’s say you’ve extended your routine to include breakfast, coffee, and catching up on your favorite blog for the first 15 minutes you’re sitting at your desk. This allows you to settle into your day a bit more smoothly and could ultimately transform your workspace into a spot you don’t mind being in for eight hours.
Consider these easy ways to extend your routine past your front door: Save your first sip of coffee until you’re sitting at your desk (this brings a bit of anticipation, joy, and comfort to your workspace); spend your commute listening to an informative (or guilty-pleasure) podcast; catch up on the news from the night before; if you have a company kitchen, make some breakfast prior to sitting down; chat with a coworker for a few minutes before getting to work
I typically save my first sip of the coffee I’ve brewed at home for when I have the Skimm open on my desktop at work. This small extension of my routine gets me all cozy and settled and eases me into my work setting. Once the coffee is gone and I’m sufficiently sad at the state of the world (ugh today’s news is just a bit depressing, isn’t it?), I’ll head to the company kitchen and make some toast or oatmeal. Doing these three things takes all of 15-20 minutes, and then I’m in a better mindset to start my day and work efficiently for the rest of it!
Step 2: Create the Habit of Practicing Your Routine
If you happened to open and browse that article I linked above about the benefits of waking up at the same time every day (here it is again if you didn’t), you’ll quickly recall the somewhat daunting statement that it can take up to 40 days to create a habit. Yikes. While admittedly a bit overwhelming, it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. It’s just a reminder that any major change in your lifestyle (be it a new diet or creating a morning routine that works for you) is something that you’re going to have to commit to.
1. Ease into it at first — To reiterate my opening statement . . . becoming a morning person doesn’t happen overnight. Take your time adjusting (without slacking off, though). For those first couple of weeks, set a series of alarms to help you get used to that new wake up time. Not everyone is cut out to immediately embrace early mornings, and I get that. So ease into it! I’m living proof that if you commit, you can eventually get up on the first alarm (without dread, might I add) and start your day on the right foot.
2. Then hold yourself accountable — You know the saying . . . nothing changes if nothing changes. Ha. Stop pressing the snooze button and start getting up on that first alarm. If you have five things you want to integrate into your mornings, make sure you are doing at least three of them regularly. Once they become second nature, introduce those other tasks. It’s up to you how successful you want to be at becoming a morning person!
After about a month in that 6 AM role I mentioned way up there in the intro, I transitioned into a position with the company that had an even earlier start time, believe it or not. Back then we operated exclusively out of the west, and there was a need for a few people to be in the office as those east coasters began their days. With this change, I was now to be at my desk promptly at 5:00 AM (???!!!). So there I was again, needing to adjust my lifestyle accordingly.
I was very lucky to have been able to move in with my aunt and uncle in Orange County during this time, effectively cutting my commute from 45 minutes to 15 minutes. Because of that, I really only had to push back my wake-up time from 4:30 to 4:15 (still “practically midnight” as my former co-worker proclaimed so theatrically). But since I was already about a month into my new early-morning routine (waking up at 4:30, throwing on whatever clothes I had set out for myself the night before, brewing a cup of coffee to-go, and sitting behind the wheel of my car for almost an hour), this slight change in procedure wasn’t as drastic as my initial go at it.
And once those first 30 days came and went, it became the new norm for me. Waking up before the sun was no longer a battle I dreaded showing up for each morning. I began to appreciate the few moments of quiet before the office was buzzing. And when a new opportunity arose five months later where I would be able to dictate my own hours, I was a well-seasoned morning person who chose to be in the office no later than 7:00 AM.
Moral of this story is — practice really does makes perfect. Or dang close to it.
It wouldn’t be totally truthful to close out this post without admitting that yes, even after almost three years of this routine, there are still some mornings my alarm sounds and I have to drag myself unenthused to the bathroom to get my day started.
But on most mornings, you can catch me up and out of bed at the first notes of that ringtone at 6, ready for my first sips of coffee.