I love morning routines and have honestly had at least some structure to every morning for several years now. I've also made a few posts on my blog regarding my morning routines, such as My simple & productive morning routine and 5 things to add to your morning routine and why you should start one. I also touched on productivity in my post 7 realistic ways to be more productive. and reference productivity often. So often, I even have a productivity category for blog posts.
I say this because I do post about morning routines and productive habits and love writing posts about both. However, I've come to realize that there is a dark side to morning routines and productivity. Not to be dramatic, of course, just an observation (which is what this entire post is, really).
In my post about toxic self-care, I talk about the importance of self-discipline and being wary of indulgence that goes by the name "treat yourself". But, as always, there's another side of the spectrum that can be just as harmful: too much productivity.
Disclaimer: I'm not here to tell you how to enjoy your mornings, neither make fun of your routine, because everyone's morning routine is different, and productivity is not one-size-fits-all. Everyone's idea of a productive day is going to be individual to them. No way is necessarily bad, and no way is the only way.
But, we consume videos, blogs, and posts that flash productivity and morning routines in our faces. If you don't wake up before 8 am, work out, drink a green smoothie, and meditate for 20 minutes every morning, you're not as productive as you could be. Or, at least, this is the overall assumption and self-conscious belief that flourishes into comparison overtime.
As usual, I'm going to start off with a personal story.
Lately, I've been consuming a large number of vlogs and videos on productivity and mindfulness. It wasn't until I watched a morning routine video that was absolutely shocking when I began reevaluating my consumption of these videos.
Her routine consisted of waking up at 6 am, working out, yoga, jumping into an ice-cold shower, skincare, journaling for 30 minutes, and a long meditation before cooking a hearty breakfast, then diving into work.
On Instagram, the same girl was doing a Q&A, so I asked her, "Do you wake up early even when you have nothing to get up early for?" and she later responded with something along the lines of, "Yes, because it's good to get up and have a productive routine to start the day, regardless of the day."
I remember thinking her response was odd, but I carried on. However, I couldn't seem to stop thinking of her response every time I slept in or wasn't super productive. I began to beat myself up.
I watched more morning routine videos that also seemed way too intense and included things such as: stay off the phone until noon, go on a three-mile bike ride, journal for an hour, and avoid coffee. These morning routines also lasted for about two or three hours. Like... what!?
Not to call anyone out, but I thought this one was particularly crazy...
As I said in the beginning, every morning routine is different, and if someone wants to do these tasks every single morning, good for them! But, the more one looks into these routines, the more questions seem to arise.
One question possibly being: Are morning routines even helpful?
Having a structured sleep schedule is beneficial and practically vital for a good, productive day. However, everything is solely suggestive. While there are many morning habits I tend to, I don't do them every day, and my days aren't ruined or any less productive when I "slack off" and decide to sleep in or workout at night, rather than in the morning.
Morning routines begin to get harmful when one is so focused on their morning routine, they forget to actually make the day count. I have, at several times, fallen guilty of this, spending hours journaling about nothing when I don't really feel like it, and waking up at the crack of dawn for no other reason other than the fact that waking up early is "more productive".
While I do enjoy waking up early, it's not practical to expect or force myself to do so every day, especially as a college student living with roommates who stay up until 3 am. Every now and then, I watch a movie or hang out with them late into the night, therefore I'm not going to get up at 6 am the next day. However, that doesn't mean that day will be any less productive.
Routines can be helpful. Incredibly, remarkably helpful. A little bit of exercise, lots of water, and 15 minutes of morning journaling (such as morning pages) are all proven, beneficial ways to wake yourself up and get the day started.
But, simply from my personal experience, a long, structured routine is almost like doing fun but otherwise unimportant, repetitive tasks while only half-awake and coffee-deprived. In other words: it doesn't help too much.
Another question I've found myself asking is: Who are these people giving me advice?
This may seem a bit harsh, but it's an important question to ask when consuming media.
It also may seem hypocritical, as I myself post about morning routines and productivity when I haven't received my Psychology degree just yet. I simply enjoy blogging, so I do it. I conduct research and use personal experiences, but even so, everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. That's how we should approach any kind of media, regardless of who it's from.
Even if someone is sweet, intelligent, and is seemingly put-together, we can't always trust what they have to say. They may have a fabulous, productive morning routine that is seriously life-changing in every way, but that's their routine. Not yours.
It's important to watch these videos or read these posts as a bystander, an observer, not as a student. We can learn from others and incorporate tasks and habits into our everyday lifestyle, but even so, we should first ease into these habits and see if they actually do work for us. Also, who's to say these people actually do what they claim they do?
Even these "A productive day in my life videos" can be misleading or not entirely accurate. Not everyone's day is going to be time-blocked, and more times than not, people aren't going to be able to check off everything from their to-do lists. Life gets messy, and unexpected events will pop up. It's okay to have an interruption every now and again. In fact, it's beyond normal.
To avoid frustration, stress, and self-sabotaging thoughts and feelings, it's good to invite flexibility and room to breathe in our days and morning routines. If we always expect structure and perfectly crafted days, it may be more harmful than helpful. Also, by being too repetitive, we could fall into a mechanical rhythm that no longer gives us meaning other than to feel productive and successful.
If you're wanting to change your life, be more productive, or simply begin a morning routine, I'd advise not to dive in with a two-hour routine consisting of intense exercise and self-exploration journaling. Choose up to five tasks that both make you feel good and wake you up a little, then get on with your day.
Some examples of tasks could be taking your vitamins, washing your face, brewing coffee, stepping outside for fresh air, simple stretching, mindset work for 5 minutes, making a to-do list, drinking water, or making your bed. They don't have to be giant tasks, but simple rituals that program your brain, letting your subconscious know that it's time to wake up your thinking mind for the day.
Also, your day doesn't have to be mapped-out. I personally like to choose three tasks, aim to complete those by the end of the day, and honestly, that's about it. And that's okay, too. Both are okay. Whatever benefits you the most is the best method for you.
Really, the key to finding optimal productivity in each day, in my opinion, is leaning into your intuition and finding what feels good. What do you want to do? But more than that, What does your body want to do? Your mind?
The same goes for morning routines.
For more on this idea, check out my post The key to finding balance in each day.
And we shouldn't feel the need to beat ourselves up for not having a perfectly structured day, for not doing every task, for sleeping in a tad when we honestly have nothing to even get up early for. Heck, I'm writing this at 11:30 pm and yet, I still feel as productive as ever!
Stop beating yourself up. You're doing fine. You're doing wonderful!
What we can take from this | conclusion
Having a morning routine is a wonderful way to separate the early hours and the foggy head from the working day. Before opening social media or logging on for work, it's good to give ourselves time and space to wake up our minds and stretch out our bodies.
But, this trend of waking up before 6 am and having the most obscene morning routine has, in my opinion, taken the beauty and magic out of morning rituals.
My favorite part of each morning is standing outside on my balcony with a strong cup of coffee. Regardless of the time, I get some fresh air, tend to my plants, and watch the birds swoop from tree to tree, sipping that perfect cup of coffee. Sometimes, this is all I do in the mornings, but it's enough to wake me up and make me excited for the day ahead.
In the end, it's about what feels good, and what encourages you to get out of bed, not about what makes you the best, put-together person (because that title is subjective and we'd have to first dive into philosophy to decipher whether or not you are yet a productive person).
Make the morning yours. Make the day yours.
We aren't meant to always be going, going, going, producing content, getting things done. It's encouraged to be productive with our lives, but it's also vital to give ourselves rest, and send kind, loving words to ourselves when we slip up. But then again, who's to say we're slipping up at all?
The only one who can tell us how to live each day is ourselves.
Morning routines can be harmful, and they can also be helpful. To avoid harming yourself in the long-run by wasting time, falling into self-sabotaging mindsets, and experiencing burn-out, as consequences of much-too-intense morning routines, it's good to take every blogger's advice lightly, and figure out what works for you.
And maybe, just maybe, I need to stop consuming so many videos on productivity.
I've been writing a lot of analysis posts lately, and that's because I've been increasingly interested in philosophical and analytical thinking! Do you like these sorts of posts? Be sure to comment your thoughts below!
Have a wonderful, calming night.