I think a lot of us (myself included) think that we'll have it all figured out by the time we turn 40. It's a bit delusional—especially because I'm also of the camp that believes that you'll never figure it all out, and that's okay—but for some reason, it comforts me and makes me think I have a lot of time for trial and error. When I was a teenager I used to think I would have a husband, kids, a house, and a great career by the time I turned 30. Well, I turned 30 last January and I only have one of those things (thanks to my job at THE/THIRTY), and you know what? I think my life is going pretty well so far.
But if we're trying to reach a goal of having our lives together (or something like that) by a certain age—whether it's 30, 40, 50, or even 100—then this is where a little self-improvement goes a long way. We all have different life circumstances, so some of us might have to make big changes, and others might have to make smaller ones.
Whatever the case, I think one common place for improvement is the morning routine. Most of us have to wake up in the morning, get ready, and head to work or school, take care of the kids, or whatever fills your weekdays. I think it's safe to say that how you start your morning can really affect the rest of your day. If you have a good morning, you're more likely go to work happier, but if you wake up rushed and annoyed, you're probably going to feel frazzled and grumpy when you get to the office. That grumpiness can affect your work performance, and then it can be a domino effect from there.
So why not start reevaluating your morning routine to set yourself up for success? To help, below you'll find a list of morning routine ideas to adopt, all of them inspired by our Morning Person series. I'm not saying that you'll be a successful billionaire and know the answers to everything by the age of 40 if you follow these tips, but it might get you closer to your goals. And hey, even if you're already 40 (or over 40 or turning 40 soon), you can take these up, too. These ideas are universal.
1. Wake Up Early—But Do It With Intention
Instead of rushing around to get to work on time, set your alarm to wake up earlier (it can be anything from two hours or 15 minutes early). Geri Hirsch, founder of Because I'm Addicted, says, "One of the best life changes I ever made was waking earlier so that I can wake up slowly. I started this habit after I graduated from college. Having the time to take a walk, lie around, meditate, take a long shower, or make a good breakfast allows me to start my day off right."
But you have to be careful that you're not waking up early just because. "There's no point getting up early just to do so. The question is what you'll do with the time hopefully something that will advance you toward your long-term goals," says time management expert Laura Vanderkam.
3. Let the Light In
Some natural light can wake your body. "At nighttime, you want to have a blue-light shade so you can get the melatonin going, but the morning is the opposite. You want to let that sunshine in," says Rajkumar Dasgupta, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine. So prepare your eyes for some brightness and open the blinds or curtains when you get out of bed.
5. Don't Skimp on Your Skincare or Makeup Routine
Your getting-ready routine is a big part of your morning self-care, even if your routine is minimal. So whether you shower in the morning and do a full face of makeup, or just like to wash your face and put on some mascara, take the time to do it and really enjoy it (even if it takes just five minutes).
6. Indulge in Some Aromatherapy
Quite a few of participants in our Morning Person series said they enjoy some aromatherapy first thing in the morning, which makes sense because we know that some essential oils can relieve stress and give a boost of energy. Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness tells us she likes to spritz herself with an energizing essential oil spray. You can also turn on your diffuser when you wake up so it's running while you're getting ready.
7. Keep Your Phone on Airplane Mode
Another popular mindful habit with many of our Morning Person participants, keeping your phone on Airplane Mode while you're getting ready, eating breakfast, and working out will help you stay focused on just enjoying your morning."If you leave it on airplane mode until you are done with your morning routine, you eliminate the instant from all the emails, texts, alert, etc., that have piled up. When you're ready to take on the day and handle life, turn airplane mode off," Hirsch suggests.
Breakfast is the most important meal, so you should have something to eat and/or drink, even if you're not hungry. You might want to stay away from the heavy breakfasts (like bacon, eggs, and pancakes) and stick to something lighter and energizing (like a smoothie bowl or a vegetable scramble). If you're usually not hungry, instead of skipping breakfast, you can drink a green juice or smoothie. Or try Dunlop's suggestion: "I mix one shot of decaf espresso and one regular with unsweetened almond milk steamed with cinnamon, and add two scoops of Vital Proteins coconut creamer. It's the best! I'm not a big morning eater, so this allows me to get healthy fats and proteins post-workout without forcing myself to eat a giant meal."
Use this time to take your supplements, too.
9. Catch Up With Friends and Family
Depending on everyone's schedules, if you live with roommates, significant other, or family, use this time to have a quick chat before you head out the door. Kelly Love, co-founder of Branch Basics likes to sit down to eat breakfast with her family each morning, "My husband plugs in our wi-fi (we unplug it at night while we sleep) and then asks Google to play us some music (usually Ellie Holcomb). We all finish making breakfast and sit down to eat as a family."
If you live alone, call your parents, best friend, siblings. A little bit of friendly and familial interaction might provide some comfort and put a smile on your face as you start your day.
10. Get Outside
THE/THIRTY's social media editor, Steph Limiti, takes her dog for a walk first thing in the morning, which gives her an excuse to get some fresh air. "I love getting outside first thing in the morning. Instead of checking the weather app, I get to feel what it's actually like outside, and it really sets a positive tone for my day," she says.
You can also go for a run, but if you don't have time, stepping out onto your backyard, balcony, or even front doorstep to just breathe in the morning air might energize you.
11. Read a Book
Taking some time to read a book or magazine is a nice moment of self-care. You can stay on top of what's going on in the world by opening up the newspaper, but if you find that is stressful, you'll probably want to stay away from it first thing in the morning. "Before anything else, I read a book each morning. This ritual can range from five to 30 minutes, but I’ve been loving it because it wakes up my eyes and my brain, and it gets me learning and consuming thoughtful content (as opposed to mindlessly scrolling Instagram)," says health and wellness influencer and blogger Rachel Rhee.
Some mindfulness in the morning can set the tone for the rest of the day. Melynda Barnes, MD, of women's healthcare start-up Rory, says that she meditates right after she wakes up. "The first thing I do when I wake up is meditate. I use the Muse headset to monitor the brain waves and meditate for 20 minutes."
You can also keep it simple, by doing some breathing exercises, or using an app like Headspace.
Sometimes putting your thoughts to paper is a great way to get the creativity flowing, or it can be a form of release. "I take 15 minutes during breakfast to sit down and journal. Pen to paper, whatever comes to mind," says Sara Cullen, CEO of vitamin brand GEM in her Morning Person story. "I find journaling first thing helps clear the cobwebs and calm the mind. It gets your worries and anxieties out of the way so you can focus on the day ahead."
14. Set Your Intentions
Hirsch recommends setting aside some time to think: "My mom always reminds me that no one can control my thoughts but me, and while it took me a long time to truly own this (25 years to be exact), it's so true. To remind myself of this each and every day, I like to set my intentions in the morning, which simply put is like picking out my thoughts just like I pick out my clothes. I map out my thoughts, goals, and actions for the day while taking an extra-hot shower. (Fun fact: Pharrell and Paul McCartney do the same.) I find that this practice is a driving force of higher consciousness."
15. Work on a Side Project, or Do Something You Love
Vanderkam suggests doing a fun activity, "Start your day with something fun. Most people won't get up, consistently, for something they don't like. So figure out what would make those first minutes (or even hour!) of the day feel like a treat." That might mean exercising, or making breakfast, but it could also be something like working on your side hustle or doing a craft. Just a few minutes in the morning can put you in a good mindset.
Get those endorphins going and your heart rate up—it will put you in a good mood. "I like getting my workouts done in the morning for two reasons: It helps wake me up, and it gives me dedicated time to set my intention for the day and refocus on my health," Dunlop says. "If you exercise first thing in the morning, you'll probably make healthier choices all day long."
17. Listen to a Podcast or Audiobook During Your Commute
Make good use of that time in traffic or on the train to learn something new, or inspire you. There are so many podcasts to choose from, so there's bound to be one that is tailored to your interests.
18. Go to Work Early
Even if it's just 15 minutes early, it will give you enough time to make a coffee in the kitchen, catch up with a co-worker, and get settled at your desk. And if you get there even earlier, you can go through emails or work on a project with very few distractions.
19. Try to Stick to This Routine on the Weekends
It's easier said than done, but not breaking your daily routine won't throw you off course come Monday morning. This is especially true for good sleeping habits. "The key is sleep restriction, meaning having a set bedtime and set waking time all the time—this includes weekends and holidays," Dasgupta says. That way, you won't feel sleep-deprived at the start of the week.
But, a Good Morning Routine Also Starts the Night Before
It's not what you do in the morning, but also what you do at night. Set yourself up for an easier morning by creating a nighttime routine and sticking to it. So here's a continuation of morning routine ideas—night version.
20. Limit What You Eat Right Before Bed
Don't overdo it on the nighttime snacking or decide to have a heavy meal before you go to sleep. You might get heartburn or feel uncomfortably full, which will keep you up.
21. Lay Out Your Clothes for the Next Day
Anyone who's been late to something because they changed outfits 20 times will know that wisdom behind this tip. Figuring out what you're going to wear will save you some time in the morning.
22. Shower at Night
If you are very particular about your morning showers (some find it gives them a boost of energy), then stick to it. But if you don't care about your shower times so much, consider doing it at night so you can cut down your getting-ready time.
23. Create a Nighttime Routine
This will help your brain and body realize it's time for bed. Turn your essential oil diffuser on to relax. Maybe read a book. Or nail down your nightly skincare ritual. Whatever it is, add a moment to unwind and still your mind.
24. Set a Bedtime and Stick to It
"Morning people still need sleep. The only way to get up earlier is to go to bed earlier," Vanderkam says. If you have the same bedtime every night, your body will get used to this habit.
25. Switch Your Phone to Do Not Disturb
Now you won't get woken up by text messages or your phone lighting up. "I also keep my phone on Do Not Disturb from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. It helps keep me focused on my morning rituals and helps me get a full eight to nine hours of sleep each night," Limiti says.