I used to characterise myself by my poor ability to sleep.
I still remember the ceiling of my kindergarten classroom – I stared at it every day during nap time, eyes wide open.
After years of experimenting and researching, I’ve finally mastered sleep. These days, when health professionals ask me ‘And how is your sleep?’ I love being able to say: ‘It’s great!’.
I am now an expert in waking up. I can even do it without hitting snooze or scrolling through Facebook.
Morning routines get a lot of attention, but ‘waking up’ is often glossed over. My waking up routine has two secret ingredients: Loveliness & Certainty.
Secret Ingredient No. 1 | Loveliness
I have no trouble waking up when I’m anticipating something in the morning, like a new Taylor Swift song or Survivor episode.
What I crave upon waking up is loveliness. My hazy morning self isn’t great at seeking it, but I get where she’s coming from.
When I reach for my phone in the morning, I’m hoping for inspiration.
I want to read, see what’s new. But I don’t want to be working, or stressing, or thinking too hard. While my inbox may contain a lovely note, what’s more likely waiting for me is an administrative task. It’s rarely as fun as I hope.
So I’ve replaced that ‘checking’ habit with what I call ‘witchuals’: I draw a tarot card, and read my horoscope on Co-Star. I also let myself check the Disney news, on its own app, and read articles on Pocket that I’ve curated. No surprises.
If I’m excited about a book or magazine, I keep it nearby. But I also know that this early in the day, it’s easier to reach for my phone than a book.
When it comes to healthy habits, I am most motivated by my writing:
- Limiting sugar benefits my writing.
- Meditation benefits my writing.
- Not checking social media first thing in the morning benefits my writing.
When I put it like this, I’m on board. The vague notion of ‘I know I shouldn’t’ gains specificity when I attach it to my top priority.
I write best when I devote time to its practice before any other form of communication. I save texting and emailing for later – my afternoon treat once my writing is complete.
Secret Ingredient No.2 | Certainty
I’m clear on my wakeup routine with the certainty of a thesis statement.
From documenting my sleep, I learned that I sleep better with a strict wakeup time. Snoozing one morning sabotages my sleep that evening.
My waking up routine is composed of tiny critical steps. The more I get used to them, the fewer decisions await me each morning. No more thoughts like ‘ahh I should do some yoga’ or ‘I should get up’. I just don’t, and I just do.
The routine starts by deactivating Snooze.
Waking up is the Overture of the day, setting the mood for the acts to follow. Since I’m certain of my wakeup time, I don’t need the snooze button.
Steve and I have two alarms – 5:47am and 6am. They are set to lovely tunes, which I call Lullhellos, because they are Lullabies for the morning.
At the first alarm, I turn on the lamp, but we stay in bed for hugs. At 6am, we shift towards being awake. 13 minutes is a good amount of time to enjoy the comfort of being in bed without drifting back to sleep.
My Morning Wake Up Routine:
- 5:47am | First Lullhello. Hugs. Turn on Lamp.
- 6:00am | Second Lullhello. Put pillows on bed. Put on kettle. Use bathroom, brush teeth, spritz face. Pour tea and bring back to bed. Open curtains, crack window, and turn off lamp.
- ~6:05am | Pet dog. Pull tarot card. Read horoscope. Drink tea. Read a book, Disney news, or articles on Pocket.
Things that help me wake up:
The switch for my lamp is within arm’s reach. At 6am, I stand up to draw the drapes.
We listen to the birds. When I’m feeling especially groggy I select an album and press play (not on shuffle). My favourite morning album is ‘One Cell in the Sea’ by A Fine Frenzy.
We always crack the window open, even in winter.
The night before, I fill the kettle and set out the tea cups to make this as easy as possible.
Our wakeup routine is slow, and we embrace its luxury.
Instead of guilty lie-ins we have leisurely mornings. We enjoy this time, rather than letting snooze buttons shame us for oversleeping.
A year ago, this routine wouldn’t have worked, because we had to rush Snug outside. Now that she’s grown into our schedule, we can enjoy petting her and saying hello at our own pace.
These little steps were born from recognising obstacles.
To the waking-up mind, the tiniest obstacles are amplified. For example, I wanted to help out in the morning, but kept leaving the tea-brewing to Steve.
So I listed in the obstacles: Not enough room to stand up. Cushions on floor. Steve in way.
We devised a simple solution: Put cushions on bed first. This is easy to do, and clears a path for me. Steve no longer in way.
The steps are important, but not as valuable as self-knowledge.
I know that if I watch tv too close to bedtime, my eyes struggle to open in the morning. Instead of having a ‘screens off’ deadline, I calculate consequences: We can stay up watching Ant-Man, but I’ll have a harder time waking up tomorrow. What should I do?
(We paused Ant-Man in favour of reading time, then woke up to watch the rest in bed before breakfast. Morning movies feel as luxurious as Blair Waldorf propping up her eye-mask to feast on parfait).
I’ve built up this knowledge by paying attention to the increments of my morning. I know for sure that turning on the lamp helps me wake up. Scrolling through social media does not make me feel better. Reading tarot cards does.
As you build your Perfect Morning Routine, I dare you to go smaller and smaller with each detail. Like Ant-Man.
P.S. Thank you to Everyday Wonderland members Kimber, Kristina, and Mari for inspiring this essay with your questions ❤️
P.P.S. Did you know that I give complimentary Mini Adventure Mappings? In these 1:1 chats, I can help you make your daily life more magical. Everyone has different limitations, and what’s possible for me might not fit for you. If you’re reading this essay thinking ‘but I can’t do that!’, I would love to help you design your own waking up routine. Visit heroinetraining.com/mini to find a space in my calendar that works for you.