If you missed our very first Small Business School IRL event, we decided to tackle the topic of creating a morning routine that sets you up for a day of productivity! After receiving a lot of great questions about what a “successful” morning routine looks like, we wanted to expand a little more on this topic for all of you (even the ones who were unable to attend in person)!
As creative professionals, we definitely don’t abide by the typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work week. However, we believe that a good morning routine transcends what job or career you have and is much more than what time or order you do it in! We're living proof that a finding a great morning routine can lend itself to motivating you to show up as your best self daily and to achieve steps toward your goals! Which, you will see, is a characteristic present in all of our mornings — giving ourselves permission to take space for ourselves, whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour.
Now, we want to emphasize that we don’t have the secret to the “perfect” morning routine — to be honest, we’re not sure that even exists. Our morning routines are constantly evolving and even we sometimes steal a little extra sleep from our busy schedules! So, with that said, here’s a glimpse into what some morning's look like:
What does a typical morning look like for you?
6:00am: Wake up to have coffee in bed with the hubs.
6:45am: At my desk. Pull a tarot card for the day & write in my gratitude journal.
7:00am: Begin work for the day with a 90-minute sprint; keeping this one dedicated to only things I need to do for my business (write blogs, newsletter, schedule my social media, etc.). I really try to not do client work at this time.
8:30am: Hop in shower, get ready for the day, and eat breakfast.
9:30am: Back at my desk for a 60-minute sprint; typically on client work.
11:00am: First client meeting of the day.
8:30 a.m. - My bedroom lights start to dim on
9:00 a.m. - First alarm goes off, take a moment to just cuddle with my dog Breaudi, ask my Google Home about my schedule for the day, or start listening to some upbeat music. Begin drafting emails from my bed, while watching tv.
9:30 a.m. - Look at my planner and make a daily to-do of things that have to get done in the next 24 hours, send drafted emails
10:15 a.m. - Let my dog outside, feed him, get dressed and put on makeup
10:45 a.m. - Make breakfast before heading to The Paper + Craft Pantry, grab a coffee at Sorrentos or set up shop at a coffee shop or Yard Bar with my puppy, or driving to a client meeting.
5:30 a.m. - Wake up + put on yoga pants.
5:40am - Answer emails
6:00 a.m. - Head to the YMCA or barton springs
7:00 a.m. - Shower + get dressed at the gym. Eat some breakfast on the go. Put on lipstick (I am generally always wearing lipstick + mascara.) Sometimes I go back home to work or sometimes I have a meeting to get to.
7:45 a.m. - Listmaking. What do I have to do today? What am I thankful for today? What is causing me stress today?
8:30 a.m. - First meeting or first work block.
7:00 a.m. - Wake up with Evan, laze around in bed and snooze for a bit more, or sneak off to an early morning workout.
8:00 a.m. - Get out of bed and pop onto Instagram (which I know I should do right when I get up) and sift through my emails. I delete junk mail and star important emails that I'll get to later in the day.
8:30 a.m. - I spritz a little lavender mist, make myself a cup of coffee and take Harley out into our backyard
9:00 a.m. - I make my way to my desk, I've been sitting down and choosing 5 and only 5 things of the most important I need to get done for The Paper + Craft Pantry and another 5 for me personally.
9:30 a.m. - Time for a second energizing citrus spritz before I make myself some breakfast (something I'm trying to do more of)!
11:00a.m. - Start getting ready to head into the studio, usually with a pit stop along the way for a second cup of coffee or to pick up workshop supplies for the upcoming week!
Describe your morning routine in 3 words:
Chelsea: early, efficient, joy-producing
Emily: relaxing, efficient, energizing
Maggie: slow, intentional, grounding
Pei: slow, quiet, spontaneous
Why is creating a meaningful morning routine important to your daily success?
Pei: My days are never the same, and often there are so many things to get done and people demanding or needing my attention. So the idea that the mornings — even if its 30-45 minutes — are completely mine is something I really cherish.
Chelsea: It’s important to me because it helps me set intentions for the day + it helps me get focused. By working early, I usually get to work without stress. I look like I’m really on top of things. In a perfect world I’m completely done with work around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. everyday.
Emily: Since I am not a morning person, creating a time that is meaningful has been crucial to my everyday happiness. If I start the morning off rough (aka too stressful, or too early), my whole day is thrown off. I have especially noticed that, as an introvert, I am less drained at the end of the day when I take the time in the mornings to recharge with some “me time” before starting a day in the studio or meeting clients.
Maggie: It’s hard to know how the day will ultimately turn out, so I have found that dedicating time to my marriage first and foremost, and then to my business, allows me to be more flexible with the rest of the day. Because I know I had a great conversation with my husband, some good time reflecting by myself, and then accomplished my most pressing tasks for my own business, I feel like I am more open and receptive to take on whatever that day throws my way.
How long did it take you to find the routine that works best for you?
Emily: Honestly, morning routines have not ever come easy for me. It wasn’t until I started freelancing a couple years ago that I had the freedom to create an “ideal” schedule that I enjoy and that motivates and encourages my successes throughout the day. But, even still, it’s constantly evolving.
Maggie: A long time! Or at least for me it felt like forever. The hubs and I had talked about getting up early to do coffee for years, and we have tried it several times, but it never stuck. For some reason when 2017 hit, we finally seemed to really dial it in. I’ve been searching for the perfect morning routine ever since I started my business in March 2016, so I suppose I can track it back to a 10-month active, intentional process, but the idea was brewing for a lot longer.
Pei: It's taken me almost a whole year to get into the rhythm and habit of finding a routine that worked best for me. I was totally playing the comparison game and trying out other people's morning routines, and they just didn't work for me! That's the thing about routines, they're so unique to everyone! So it just takes time and flexibility to tweak and change a routine until it's just right for you!
Chelsea: The entirety of my adulthood before April of last year.
What are some challenges you tend to face in the mornings, and how do you overcome them?
Maggie: Wanting to answer all the emails! Thankfully, at 7am there aren’t too many emails coming in, but it’s really hard to resist the urge to start clearing those out versus focusing on completing my own work first. I set a 90-minute timer and give myself specific tasks I want to accomplish in that time. For some reason, having that clock winding down really motivates me to get the work done. And if I finish what I want in less than 90 minutes, I’ll enjoy a little bit of a longer breakfast before getting back to it.
Pei: I sometimes feel extremely overwhelmed thinking about ALL the things I have to do that day, or even that week. By making it a point to only focus on the very most important and crucial projects/tasks, I've been able to shave off the frivolous things that make me feel busy yet unaccomplished!
Emily: Waking up! I love to sleep, and up until recently I was definitely that person that had an annoying barrage of alarms in the morning (sorry, roommates!) But, since getting a Google Home and Wifi enabled lights, I have scheduled a routine that gradually wakes me up so that when my alarm goes off at 9 a.m. I'm typically already alert and stirring.
Chelsea: It’s hard to wake up early in the morning, but for me once I’m out of bed, working comes naturally.
Are there any things you try NOT to do in the mornings?
Chelsea: I try not to pay too much attention to my phone. I also try to never skip breakfast.
Emily: Schedule things before 9 a.m. It is difficult at times, and I make exceptions when I need to... but I've realized that even when I get enough sleep, I am never performing at 100% that early in the morning — and I often leave the house feeling rushed and unprepared for the day. So, to help with this I have also tried my best to not overcomplicate things like my make-up routine and wardrobe.
Pei: I try really hard not to talk, like actually speak. It's the time I let my introvert side recharge since I spend a lot of time talking and speaking for the business!
Maggie: I try not to start client meetings before 11am. I find that I need some time to really ease into my day, and because most of my work is through one-on-one client engagements, I spend a lot of my time in meetings. I need to have that dedicated morning time to actually follow-up and send my clients the resources I’ve promised them.
What’s your approach to mentally preparing yourself to tackle the day’s to-dos?
Maggie: Pulling a tarot card and writing in my gratitude journal are the two practices that really help me feel grounded and ready to start the day. For me, it’s easy to end the day feeling depleted and worn out. I’m probably feeling guilty about all the things I didn’t accomplish, so it’s a nice way to start each day on a positive note - reminding myself of all the good things that I did do the previous day. I think it’s human nature to dwell on the negative and glaze over the positive. This practice has helped me see how much good is happening all around me.
Pei: As I mentioned before, picking a specific number of things to work on and making sure they're the MOST important and getting to decide what is MOST important has been really a turning point for me. Feeling comfortable declining meetings and rescheduling events around the actual space and time I need to be my best has been a challenge for someone who really enjoys saying "Yes!”
Chelsea: I make a to-do list the night before + then I add to it and rearrange it during my morning routine. I also try and be relatively quiet during most of it-- it’s just me a lot of the time.
Emily: One of my favorite mantras of all time is Hakuna Matata. Growing up, my parents always endearingly dubbed me the “worry wart” of the family, and in all honesty anxiety has been something I’ve dealt with my entire life. So, taking a little extra time each morning to remind myself not to worry about the tasks at hand, and combat those feelings by staying organized with lists and to-dos has helped immensely with feeling prepared and productive each day.
What's advice you would give to someone looking to hone a routine that will help them become more successful/productive during the day?
Maggie: My advice would be to experiment, and to be patient with yourself. I think in order for you to find the perfect routine, you have to try different things, and you have to be really honest with yourself about what feels like it’s working versus what is clearly not. It’s an intuitive, personal experience, but it’s also a fun experiment!!
Emily: Don't feel like you have to wake up early to be a successful and driven person. Learn to honor your lifestyle and stop comparing yourself to others' idea of success. You do you!
Chelsea: I would just advise them to try and figure out what works best for them, but don’t automatically assume you aren’t a morning person! I LOVE SLEEP and I have the hardest time getting out of bed to be up that early, but I love getting work done early on. It helps ease my daily stresses to know I’m on top of things.
Pei: Take your time. Take your time to figure out what works best for you and try sticking to it for at least 21 days. I read somewhere once (probably on the internet so it must be true right?) that it takes 3 weeks or 21 days for something you do in repetition to become a habit!
So, as you can tell, our morning routines are so different and yet share similarities. However, one thing we have all managed to find success in is finding a daily practice that energizes you for the day, whatever that means for you.
Do you have a morning routine? We’d love to hear how you encourage your daily success with your routines! Let us know in the comments below!
*FUN ALERT* Interested in seeing more behind the scenes of our morning routines? Starting Tuesday, April 4th through Friday, April 7th, each of us will be taking over our @thepapercraftpantry story to give you a real-time, real-life peek into our morning routines 👋🏼