How To Find and Keep A Great Morning Routine For Success

a morning run

Swap daily activities between the morning and the rest of your day as needed for resiliency and success.

Once upon a time, there was a young boy with many bad habits.

This bothered his father, so he corrected him. “Don’t do this,” the father would say. “Don’t do that.”

The young man ignored him.

Over time, his father persisted, deciding his son wasn’t hearing him. The father spoke more loudly until he was almost hoarse, shouting.

“Don’t do this!” he’d scream. “Don’t do that!”

The bad habits continued.

“What do they matter?” the boy said, shrugging. “I’m not perfect, and nobody is.”

“That’s not the point.”

The father realized he couldn’t shout any louder than he already was. So he took the boy to see his grandfather. “Can you help him understand why he’s got to quit his bad habits? He doesn’t listen even though he can hear.”

The boy’s grandfather nodded silently. “Come. Walk with me through my garden.”

“Please pluck that flower out of the ground,” Grandad said after a bit.

“Sure,” the boy said. The wildflower came out easily.

A few feet later, they came to a more established plant of the same species. This plant had more time to grow, and it was larger, and more developed with spines on its leaves.

“Please remove this one,” the elderly man said.

It took some effort, but that medium-sized plant came up, long roots trailing behind it.

The same type of plant had grown into a small bush in another spot in the garden.

“Pull this one out.”

The boy hesitated. “That one is too big.”

“And so it is with bad habits. A behavior once repeated grows and becomes more established the same way a plant does. If we wanted to take this bush out, we’d have to use tools, herbicides, and whatnot. It can be done, but it’s a big job, much bigger than it should be. Mind your life the same way one tends a garden. You’ll have an easier time of it if you do.”

What are habits?

Habits are daily actions. In and of themselves, habits are like coins with heads and tails. They can be good; they can be harmful.

They can be weeds; they can be beautiful, useful plants.

How many people who’ve adopted the smoking habit wish they had never started? It’s easy to do, and it was easy to think it looked cool with all the advertising years ago. It was a way to cope.

Thirty years later, after thousands of dollars have been spent, literally going up in smoke, quitting is challenging even with medication.

A poor diet leads to the same result.

Yet going out to a basketball court and shooting baskets by yourself is also a way to cope with stress. That positive coping habit (depending on how much pressure you have in your life) can also turn you into someone next to impossible to beat in games of H-O-R-S-E and P-I-G. I’ll give you that may be a minor benefit, but that’s not the point.

Morning routines

Morning routines are collections of habits. Mornings start the day. If you want to ensure something gets done by the end of the day, do it in the morning. Yet, after a point, it is not practical. The morning can get too crowded with too much activity.

Furthermore, your morning is influenced by other factors besides your goals. Sometimes you’ve got to go to work; sometimes, you’ve got the day off. Sometimes the weather is excellent; other times not. Sometimes the activity isn’t likely influenced by other things; sometimes, it is.

It can be -10 degrees Celsius outside, and that won’t matter when brushing your teeth and washing up—as long as you have heat. Washing up in extreme cold is miserable!

Your exercise program, whatever it is, is likely to suffer if it involves getting outside. If you have weather like that, you need to have a contingency plan if you’re going to fulfill the positive habit goal.

Bedtime routines are also important too.

What belongs in a successful morning routine?

It depends on you and your definition of success. Things like eating healthfully, working toward some long-term goal, and doing personal maintenance like exercise, brushing teeth, and personal hygiene might belong on your list. Maybe all those things, maybe not necessarily every day. Use your discretion. Some say you should floss every day. Some say you should floss at least once a week. What’s the correct answer? Can you floss once a week and use a germ-killing mouthwash the other days? Perhaps. But one factor is true: dental care is expensive and inconvenient. You want to be sure you’re taking good care of your teeth.

Another thing holds: if you want to ensure you get it done that day, do it in the morning so it’s not crowded out.

If you want to make sure you get it done, do it in the morning so it’s not crowded out.

The best morning routine for you will be something special and unique to you, your situation, the particular day of the week, or your situation at the time. Make every day count. You’re an individual living in your place, your own time, with your resources and other peculiarities. The best morning routine for you will change from time to time, and your practice will vary depending on whether the day is a workday, day off, your living situation, and other factors.

It will depend even on things outside of your control.

Nobody ever said reaching a goal was straightforward.

General morning routine guidance

  1. Decide what you want to accomplish over the long term. What’s your plan for next year? For five years from now? What can you do every morning to help you get there? Review your plan for your day? Learn a foreign language? Spend some time reading the classics or studying for a big test?
  2. Don’t worry about including things that aren’t essential to your goals in your routine. For example, you might like drinking coffee in the morning. You might drink coffee every morning, and you might find that it helps you wake up. Yet, you probably won’t find it necessary to make sure you have contingency plans to make sure you have it.
  3. For each goal or habit, come up with a contingency plan if it doesn’t get done. If you can’t run in the morning, maybe you can run on a treadmill later. If you can’t get to studying for the big test in the morning, perhaps you can make it up later at lunch. If your goal is to be better informed, maybe reading your journals could supplant watching videos later in the day.
  4. Be careful about making too long of a list of habits. There’s only so much time in the morning, and all of this still takes time every day. Three to five things to accomplish every morning (each taking less than 15 minutes to accomplish) in addition to personal hygiene, is enough to start with.
  5. It’s better to set your goals low than set them too high and fail. Failing to keep the resolution makes you feel like a failure and makes it likely that you’ll quit. If you want to exercise, tell yourself that the goal is one pushup, but you can always do more. It’s all you can push on the pushups. Make sure you do that pushup. The hardest part is getting started.
  6. Everyone can benefit from morning affirmations, even if you need help seeing situations realistically. In that case, you might want to say, “I accurately assess situations in my life” in the mirror. They’re easy to include in a morning routine as they take only moments and can be performed while accomplishing hygiene. You can also use subliminal recordings to enhance your mental training further.

Morning routine ideas

So keeping that general guidance in mind, what are some things you could do in the morning?


Work on something that’s long-term important to you (start a business, learn a different language, eat healthfully, practice a skill)?

Read books on a reading list?

Journal your ideas and/or dreams?

Pray, work on your relationship with God?

Perhaps working on your relationship with someone else?

A strong morning routine is a source of strength.

A good morning routine lends itself to good habits

In the summer where I live, I can count on the weather getting to above 100 degrees almost every day. I like to take my dogs on a walk, and. I also like to do exercise like that in the afternoon. If I want happy dogs and get the workout in, I find I’m better off walking them in the morning before it gets too hot. Walking the dogs is part of my morning routine in the summer. In the winter, we walk later in the day.

I also want to improve my Spanish, and I do that by playing Duolingo. I play on that until I lose the five gemstones on the free version. If I wait to do it later in the day, playing on Duolingo gets forgotten.

It can become a habit if it becomes part of your morning routine.

The benefit, however, is that you can work your good morning routine into habit-building. If you can adopt a positive habit, you can achieve a lot no matter your particular belief about your level of willpower.

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James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 

The Dream Recovery System sometimes uses affiliate links in posts. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small portion of the sales price. The possibility of a commission doesn’t influence our opinions.

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