All over the internet, you can find people touting how their morning rituals are helping them to be more productive and feel saner. I agree! A morning routine can set you up for success and really lay the groundwork for a day that goes exactly according to plan.

I’m a pretty productive person- I have a full-time job and I run a successful coaching business, which includes being the founder (and chief cheerleader!) of the Great Work Community.

So, do I have a morning routine?

I don’t really have a morning routine

I find that my life has too many actively conflicting priorities.

I want to get enough sleep AND I want to get up early to get things done.

I want to work out in the morning AND I want to journal in the morning.

Even though my mornings are actually kind of erratic and unpredictable, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what an ideal morning routine would look like.

Here’s my dream morning routine, which happens only when every single star aligns (i.e., almost never):

  • I wake up refreshed at 4:30am.
  • I go downstairs and revel in the absolute silence of a house not yet filled with opinionated kids, a meowing cat, and a chatty husband.
  • I take piping hot coffee and sit down in a comfy chair and do 30 or 45 minutes of journaling.
  • Feeling centered I then get out the yoga mat and do 30 minutes of strength and stretching.
  • After strength and stretching I pull on shoes and run a one-mile interval set outside.
  • Appropriately stretched and sweaty, I take a leisurely shower and put on work clothes that are obviously already cleaned, ironed, and accessible.
  • I have time to pay attention while I put on makeup.
  • I go downstairs and make the kid’s lunches and ensure that their backpacks are packed and ready to go.
  • My kids then wake up and we all peacefully pass through their breakfast and get-ready routine.
  • We make it to school on time and I make my train with time to spare!
  • Ahhh, isn’t it nice to be organized?

Sadly, at least as often as that magical unicorn morning occurs, so does this anxiety-producing mess:

  • I wake up exhausted at 6:30 because someone woke up needing me and I had trouble getting back to sleep
  • I trip over the cat meowing to be fed.
  • I drink coffee and stare anxiously at my calendar while my husband good-naturedly chats at me long before I’m ready to interact with another human.
  • The kids wake up half an hour early and crowd into the bathroom arguing about who gets the juggling balls while I’m trying to shower.
  • I can’t find a pair of pants so I wear capri length pants with boots hoping there’s no emergency that would require me to take off my shoes.
  • I put on my makeup in a mad rush, realizing later that I only put mascara on one eye.
  • I make their lunches while they eat breakfast, which means I turn around after 20 minutes and no one has eaten a thing.
  • We are late for school.
  • I miss my train.
  • This is the life that I’ve chosen.

So, see! You can be a very productive person even when your “morning routine” is an unpredictable hodgepodge of crazy!

So don’t stress if you look around the internet and think “I am the only person who doesn’t have my mornings 100% habit-stacked and productive!”  It’s not true.  In fact, I’ll tell you a secret: I’ve asked a few of these people and the morning routines they shared on these websites are their “ideal” mornings.

We are all imperfect

Just do what you can, and then learn to gently hold the tension between what you want and what you have.

And, together, we will keep working towards a better morning tomorrow.

About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.