Why the ‘ultimate’ morning routine is a myth

September 2019


Type ‘morning routines’ into Google and you’ll see a whopping 78,200,000 results looking back at you. According to plenty of publications, starting your day at 4am with a HIIT session, a green juice and meditation is the routine for success. Although all of these things are good for you, it’s not sustainable, and you’ll know this if you’ve ever tried it.


Erin Hanafy of Well+Good gave this strict routine a go and found that her day started a tidy 4 hours before commencing work. There can, indeed, be too much of a good thing, and getting mornings right is all about hand selecting the non-negotiables that work for you personally, rather than trying to fit it all in.

The idea that there is a morning routine blueprint that we should all follow to guarantee ultimate productivity and success is quite frankly wrong. We’re all different and our minds (and bodies) work most effectively at different times of the day and under different conditions.

Here are the most important factors that you should really be thinking about when planning your routine:


One size does not fit all

It doesn’t exist. I know you’ve seen it splattered on your news feed. I know you’ve clicked on the article that reveals Steve Jobs’ morning rituals. If truth be told it’s not how these entrepreneurs spend their mornings that makes their success. It’s not the appropriate form of measurement, and it’s very misleading. Also, I suspect a lot of the retrospective morning routine reveals are mythical. Park these if you can. Just remember that everyone is different and what works for you might sound absurd to someone else. We recently sat down with some of our Residents to talk about how they spend their mornings and just look how different they all are.


Sleep – how much shut eye should we really be getting?

Well research varies on this one, but most suggests between 7 and 9 hours are needed to operate at your best. “Everyone should figure out their own best sleep pattern and follow that. This could be longer than eight for some people” says Ying-Hui Fu, a researcher at the University of California. It’s crucial to get the right amount of sleep for you. Christopher Kline, Ph.D. reported that “too little sleep or poor-quality sleep can impact mood, make you more volatile, and increase anxiety and depression symptoms.”

This doesn’t apply for natural short sleepers though… If a short night’s sleep works for you, it’s likely that you get plenty of restorative sleep and can go about your day-to-day life normally, without any of the sluggish crashing. However, short sleepers make up approximately 1% of the population though, so for most of us, sleep is key.


Exercise – but take the pressure off

We need it to stay healthy, but when it comes down to fitting it into our daily routine, something usually has to give. Can you spare 30 minutes in the morning for yoga? Is it mental exercise you need? Or if sleep is important (and you need the full 9 hours) then can you exercise at lunch or in the evening? Whatever route you choose, getting your body and mind working and focused is a great way to kick things off but don’t feel pressure to do so.

If you’re a Resident of Fora, use the wellness studios across the network for an active time out whenever you need one. Just because everyone you know is doing reformer pilates, it doesn’t mean that’s right for you. Try out different options like yoga or weight training, which are both available as part of Fora’s wellness offering. Find your flow and make room for it in your schedule. You’ll soon notice the difference.

What can we all do?

Stop comparing yourself to others as a starting point. People love to talk about their meticulous, almost military, morning rituals (especially on YouTube and social media), but that shouldn’t undermine or take away from yours. It’s personal and we’re only human. Just notice the days when you feel on top of things and try to replicate your system.

Being organised and having everything in place for the morning (and day) to go smoothly can begin the night before. Prepare your breakfast and lunch the night before, lay out your clothes and set yourself a priority list for the next day. This list shouldn’t be lengthy, it should be three or four core tasks that have to be completed. Why not try a ‘must do’ list and a ‘can do’ list – start with the must-dos and let the can-dos sit within your broader plan for the week.


Making it work for you

Find a routine that includes all the factors you need to work and live optimally. If it’s exercise, it’s in there, if it’s mental stimulation, it’s got a space. A strong  routine is a routine that works for you — it sets your day so that you accomplish meaningful results right away, giving you the energy to be motivated for the rest of your day. It’s the foundation that the rest of your day sits on. With that in mind, you’ve got to be forgiving and set yourself goals that can flex when your life needs it to.

Letting yourself down when plans change and you interrupt your routine can make you feel really deflated and frustrated with yourself. You want to avoid those self-defeating and negative thoughts. Take some time to figure out what gets you moving physically, mentally and professionally. Part with the idea of perfection and instead favour the idea of improvement and evolution when it comes to structuring your mornings. When you’ve got it, stick to it as much as possible. That means making it easy.

Routine makes good habits easier to replicate. Our bodies and our minds become addicted to the good stuff. With each win, you get a hit of dopamine, and consistent wins are quickly transformed into habits. Most importantly though, living has got to come above prepping, otherwise what are you getting ready for?