The other day I was listening to a podcast, in which a fitness coach and business guru was outlining his morning routine.

Now, I love this kind of advice, especially when it comes from people who seem to have their lives pretty squared away. Or at least who appear to have their lives squared away (because honestly, he could have been broadcasting from a rusty old camper parked in someone’s side yard, on “borrowed” WiFi, right?).

Anyway, I’m always on the lookout for new things that work for other people, on the chance I can use it for myself. Plus, it’s fun to hear about, in a slightly voyeuristic way.

As I was listening to this guy talk about his routine, I did some calculations, and I was like, “WHAT?”

He couldn’t actually be doing the routine he was outlining, could he? Because as far as I could figure, getting through his entire morning routine would take at least an hour, maybe two.

An Hour-Long Morning Routine?

No thanks!

Who has that kind of time? I mean seriously, how did he manage to get all this stuff done before he started his day? Here are some of the items he was outlining:

  • Cold water plunges
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • A yoga/stretching routine
  • Drinking some specially brewed tea
  • Setting intentions
  • Performing affirmations

I mean, really. How did he do it all?

And then it hit me. Sorry. I don’t mean to be sexist, but just bear with me for a sec.

He is a dude.

And then I got a double-whammy hit. Nearly every one of the morning routines I had failed at trying to replicate over the years had come from a dude.

Dudes who don’t have to worry about the state of their hair, or their makeup, before leaving the house.

Dudes whose jobs don’t entail getting to work before 7 a.m.

And not only that, but dudes who have a support staff (or a wife) to handle the little nagging details of life. (You know, like keeping the bathroom and kitchen clean.)


Women, Can You Relate?

The guy on this podcast has three kids. I’m sure he’s wonderful, caring, giving, kind, and more. But do you think his wife has an hour-long personal-care morning routine? (Rhetorical.)

I mean, I don’t have any kids and can barely get out the door within 90 minutes of my wakeup. I do have a dog that needs walking, and (TMI) I take medication first thing that requires me to wait an hour till I eat breakfast, so there’s that.

But still, I always feel slightly rushed, like I barely have time to brush my teeth, much less my hair.

 And that’s usually because I make a daily swipe at only ONE of the recurring items on all those morning routines I’d failed at over the years: writing morning pages (a post about them is coming up soon, because they’re kind of magical).

As I was fretting over this morning routine problem, I had an a-ha moment.

What if I flipped the script on these morning routines, and focused on the routine that was actually the most important?

And one that was actually doable?

The Evening Routine

Yes, the key to an awesome start to your day actually originates the day before, with what you do before you go to bed.

Every time I’ve made serious progress on my goals, I’ve always paid special attention to my routine before I go to bed. Here are just a few examples of times my evening routine powered me through:

  • When I went from rookie newspaper reporter to sweeping the awards at a journalism event, I spent some time each night organizing for the next day.
  • When I prepared for my figure competitions, my nighttime routine was a must-do in my pre-show process.
  • When I wrote my book, I woke up each day with a clear plan that I’d charted the night before.

There are loads more examples, but you get the gist, right?

Hit the Ground Running (or Sip the Coffee Productively)

Basically, when I followed my evening routine, I woke up each morning with all the bothersome little details of getting my day started taken care of. My marching orders were in place.

And that stopped me from wasting time trying to figure out what to focus on. Because God knows when I don’t have a plan, I’m kind of all over the place in the morning. I flit from one activity to the next.

The fact I am all about this routine is beyond weird, because I actually hate routines. Like a lot of creative people, I naturally shy away from them.

Are Routines Creativity Crushers?

The truth is, a lot of good comes from the calm of having a basic structure (yes, a routine) in place. Because once the structure is there, you can free-range around it.

This is actually a pretty big debate among creative people – does routine promote or kill creativity? (1)

As much as I hate to admit it, Aristotle was right. A routine helps.

Through Freedom Comes Discipline

My Bare-Bones Evening Routine

 This is my current (and very unglamorous) routine:

  1. Make a prioritized to-do list for the next day – appointments, projects, errands, etc. (NOTE:  Because I hover toward the characteristics of a “Type A” personality, my list is always too long, so it never gets done. I have accepted that. But beware the too-long to-do list … in fact, limiting it to 3 to 5 things is awesome.)
  2. Quick-clean my home (Kitchen sink empty!).
  3. Get tomorrow’s meals ready to roll, or at least have a plan.
  4. What am I going to wear?
  5. Take dog for a final outing.
  6. Set alarm for the morning and program coffeemaker.
  7. Skin-care regimen, etc.
  8. Take vitamins.
  9. Unplug and relax.

Now obviously this isn’t rocket science. But that’s what makes it so great: it’s common sense, and it’s designed to make your life easier.

The Importance of Nighttime Routines 

Having a routine in place is really calming for me, personally. Right now I have a lot of balls in the air with various projects I’m working on. And when I get going on my day, it can be very hard to know what to focus on. It gets overwhelming, due to a phenomenon known as “decision fatigue.” (2) (3)

Basically, your brain can only handle making finite number of decisions each day before it gets tired out, a situation that studies show wears down your willpower. (4)

Think that sounds like a stretch? Well, that can happen to me when I don’t follow my evening routine.

That’s because the next morning I end up rushing around trying to find something wear, taking the dog for a quick walk while fretting over what to make for breakfast that will hold me till I’m done with my morning round of training clients. Inevitably, by the time I finish up at the studio for the morning I’m thinking about grabbing a muffin and coffee from Dunkin’. And I don’t even really like their muffins all that much.

What’s Your Routine?

So now, I make sure I go to bed with my kitchen clean, my early-morning to-dos handled, and my day-long checklist in place. (Bonus: I can fall asleep without worrying that I’ll forget something I’m supposed to do).

Want to know the evening routines of some successful women? Check them out here.

Do you have an evening routine? Or maybe morning routines actually work better for you. I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments.