Your morning routine sets the stage for the rest of the day. Those first minutes determine your mood, productivity, and not only how you feel but also those around you. This is true whether you’re single or married with 4 kids. I’m sharing 5 ways to rock your morning routine.

I’ve been adulting for some years now, and long known starting my day off on the right foot impacts the rest of my day in a big way. My mornings, however, have only grown more complicated. As in, there are more mouths to feed and bodies to dress along with getting my own self ready physically and emotionally. But I’ve spent time working on habits that make the biggest impact and settled in on a few.

A good morning starts with a good night.

This is key. If I plan on waking at 5 am, I can’t go to bed at 11:30. The amount of sleep everyone needs varies, but most experts agree it’s around 8 hours. I think my sweet spot is around 7. I can start my morning routine on 5 hours of sleep one or two days in a row, but it’s never sustainable. And any positive effect of my morning routine is offset by increased irritability and fatigue. If you’re looking for a practice that works, aim for going to bed at a decent hour every night.

Wake before the crowd

Ideally, I have about an hour to myself in the morning. But even 15 minutes makes a difference. You’d be shocked at what sitting alone with a hot cup of coffee for 15 minutes can do for you. Maybe you pray, or meditate, or read. Whatever works for you. I first heard this from Melinda Gates and it stayed with me. She mentioned it’s important especially if you’re off your routine or busier than normal. Maybe you don’t have an hour in your day to spare. Start with 15 minutes.

Say your prayers

I grew up in church and learned the importance of “quiet time.” This is time spent reading the Bible and praying. But I’ve learned waiting for the right time to talk to God doesn’t work for me. And doesn’t really make sense either. He’s available 24-7 so why should I carve out a specific time for this? What I’ve found, however, is that starting my day off thanking God, asking for blessings and protection over my kids and family, and talking to him about a few things that are on my mind really help me with perspective.

Sometimes I’ll do a study, or read from, or occasionally work my way through a book of the Bible. But most days I just sit and pray, just me, God, and a cup of coffee. After that, all the little things that typically bother me don’t seem so big. If prayer isn’t your thing, use this as a time of reflection. Think of three things you’re thankful for and meditate on them.

Anything involving the kids is completed the night before

This includes but is not limited to homework, signing off on homework, picking out clothes, prepping for whatever special day it is that week (i.e. pajama day or crazy hair day), making lunch, and anything required for extracurricular activities is packed and ready to go. If there’s one thing that’s had the biggest effect on decreasing chaos, it’s this step.

Theoretically, the kids could wake up, get dressed (in the clothes already laid out so no sudden meltdown over nothing to wear), brush their teeth and walk out the door with their backpack and lunchbox in less than 10 minutes. What actually happens is we have time to sit, eat breakfast, and relax a little instead of running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Having a master calendar has really helped with this process.

Don’t skip breakfast

For me, if I’m doing well with our routine I have time for a hot breakfast like eggs or oatmeal. This tends to be the first thing that gets cut if I’m running late. I’ve written about the importance of not skipping breakfast before. I’ve started keeping protein bars on hand so I have something available. Starting your body off with good fuel is so important. I’ve also added discussing the plan for dinner. That way if anything needs to be prepped or someone needs to pick up an ingredient at the store, we’re on top of it.

Other Thoughts

You’ll notice I didn’t say exercise. As much as I’d love this to be part of my morning routine, it simply doesn’t fit in mine right now. I could make fit, but not without sacrificing one of the other steps above that I’ve found much more beneficial not just for me but my family. My perceived level of stress and time management in the morning significantly impacts my entire family. It arguably affects everyone’s day. That’s not really fair, but it’s just the way it is. For me to follow the steps above and leave the house around 7, I’m up around 5. I feel getting up at 4 to get a workout in doesn’t decrease my stress or help me feel better. I’m fortunate I typically have time and resources to exercise either over lunch or in the evenings. I’ve become much more ok with working out 3-4 days a week instead of 6 or 7.

This is a work in progress. I’m not perfect and this doesn’t happen every morning. But the more consistent I am the easier it gets. I’m motivated to continue doing it because I feel so much better when I make it happen. I suggest playing around with what works for you. If working out at 4am get’s you going for the day, go for it! Try to take at least some time for yourself to sit and reflect. I’m not promising you’ll never have another chaotic morning, but I do think more of this is in our control than we think and your morning routine makes a difference.

Who would have ever thought we’d have extra time for coloring or playing in the morning. Now it happens more often than not