morning routine

I get asked two questions a lot: First, how do you get so much done every day? And second, how do you seem so happy all the time? The answer to both questions is the same: I owe it all to my morning routine. Today I’m going to take you through my easy to adopt, five-step morning routine which will only take you 15 minutes but offer you huge results!

10-minute read

Today I’m getting granular! I’m talking nitty gritty. We are going to get down to the step-by-step of how I make my own mornings great and how this system has worked for countless clients. I’m going to give you the basics and then you’re going to make it yours so you can have great mornings that lead to great days, consistently. And let me say that this works even if you have kids – again, you’ll need to modify depending on your own personal situation, but I promise you that incorporating even a couple of these steps will have you feeling more in control and happier.

Step One: Get the Fuck to Bed!

Your day doesn’t start when you turn off your alarm in the morning; it starts when you set it at night. One of the biggest factors to having a great day is getting as good a night’s sleep as you can. This means getting your ass to bed at a reasonable hour and not staying up all night binging something on Netflix. This means not staying up late answering emails or playing games on your phone.

I know what you’re going to say (especially if you have kids), “But Abby, this is my only alone time. Late at night is the only me time I get all day.” Here’s the deal, if you got more and better sleep, you’d be feeling more refreshed all day and you’d have much better emotional regulation as well as critical thinking. This means you’d be more stable in your days, and you’d be able to plan and execute better, which would result in you not feeling completely drained by the end of your day. In other words, you wouldn’t need all that “me” time if you got more and better sleep!

So, go the fuck to sleep! Get your ass into bed at a reasonable time and practice good sleep hygiene and you’ll find yourself ready and happier when the morning comes.

As part of getting to bed on time, I’d like you to do a couple of things earlier in the evening when you have more energy:

  • Get things ready that you’ll need for the next day. If you’ve got kids, get the backpacks packed with homework and sports equipment/uniforms settled at the front door. Find your kids’ shoes now and have them there too. If you’re going to the gym at lunch, pack that bag or get anything else ready that you need to bring to work.
  • Wash your face and put on all your lotions earlier in the evening or when you first get home from work. Later you’re too tired anyway. I’ve even brushed and flossed my teeth early even though I might have another snack after dinner.

Lastly, and this is very important, I want you to set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier than you “need” to wake up – more about that in step four.

Step Two: Wake the Fuck Up!

When the alarm goes off, it’s time to wake up. Do not ever (EVER!) hit the snooze button again. You’re completely screwing up your day when you do this because:

  • Snoozing ruins the behavioral conditioning between the stimulus (your alarm) and the response (getting your butt out of bed).
  • When you hit snooze and start to fall back asleep, your body gears up for another full cycle of sleep. When the second alarm jerks you awake during the beginning of your next sleep cycle, that incomplete cycle leaves you with something called sleep inertia grogginess for hours after you get up. This makes you feel more tired, for longer, than you would have been had you just gotten out of bed.
  • This sleep inertia grogginess also creates lapses in thinking, planning and judgment and diminishes your emotional regulation.
  • Lastly, this is your first commitment of the day and you’re not keeping it so now your word to yourself means nothing. “Oh, I promised to eat healthy today? No need to keep to that, I don’t keep promises to myself or trust what I say.”

A little pro tip for helping you get up? Use a real alarm clock instead of your phone.

Step Three: Think a good-feeling thought right away

You’ve got to point your head into a positive direction first thing. Most people wake up and groan and their first thought is that they didn’t get enough sleep. This is no way to start a day; you’re already “behind;” you already don’t have “enough.” Do you know what this kind of thinking does to you? We feel the way we think. So, if you’re already thinking that you’re tired, you didn’t get enough sleep and that your life sucks, then you’re going to start your day feeling impatient, frustrated, resentful or hopeless.

Instead, I want you to do two things before you get out of bed. I lay in bed while I do this, but you can sit up if you’re afraid of falling back asleep. These two things take less than a minute so please don’t tell me you don’t have enough time:

First, bring your mind to a good-feeling thought and then breathe that in. Just take a moment to focus your mind on something that makes you feel good. It can be the feel of your 800 thread count sheets or the yumminess of the warm body lying next to you. You could focus on the seashell you keep next to your bed from your last vacation, and you can take a moment to breathe in how fun it is to be at the ocean. You can stretch and think how much you appreciate your healthy, strong body. Choose any thought that will make you feel good and then take a conscious slow, deep breath and breathe in that good-feeling thought just like you’d breathe in a good smell.

Next, you’re going to set an Intention. Generally, there’s a “tone” in mornings that centers around rushing and “getting stuff done.” This focus on “getting stuff done” creates frustration, high expectations, anger and, most damaging, controlling behavior. Yes, there are things that need to happen in the mornings, but I want you to stop and take a minute and think about why you’re doing all this. If you have kids, I want you to wonder why you’re so focused on getting all this stuff done. Deep down, it’s because you love them. It’s because you want everyone to get where they need to go with everything they need. The problem is that this loving motivation often gets lost in the mornings.

Or maybe it’s to get yourself out the door with a healthy lunch and everything you need. Just slow down and think about having a more relaxed tone in the morning. Set an intention for mindfulness, kindness, patience or whatever else will help you keep the morning moving in a positive direction.

Instead of focusing on “getting stuff done,” I want you to set an intention of loving service. I want you to consciously tell yourself that you’ll be loving, patient and kind to yourself and your family members in the morning. Yes, there are things to do, but your actions and words will flow from your loving intention instead of a need to get stuff done. You’ll be more self-aware, relaxed and thoughtful instead of on controlling autopilot where your only agenda is checking off what’s on your list. You’ll still get things done, but the tone, feelings and mood will completely shift.

Any time you’re in a state of “getting it done,” you’re in a controlling mind frame. When the people around you feel that you’re trying to control them, they react. They act out, act passive aggressively (or just plain aggressively), get defensive, ignore you, or any number of other behaviors you don’t like. In my own controlling crazy mom days, there were plenty of times I needed to call the elementary school and tell them, “Yes, we’ll be late because Macartney needed to zip her own jacket.” Your kids or the other people in your life will take their control back any way they can and it’s usually something that’ll make you crazy. Instead, slow down and be aware of your intention.

Step Four: You Time Before Everyone Else Time

Now it’s time to focus on that 15 minutes you’ve added to your morning by setting your alarm earlier. This is your time for putting the real fuel in the tank for your day. This is something that’s often called the “Hour of Power” and maybe one day you’ll work up to more time but, for now, 15 minutes is great.

This special morning time devoted to yourself and your own growth is used by some of the most happy and productive people in the world. Richard Branson calls his “me time” every morning transformational. Motivational guru Anthony Robbins has been attributing his daily Hour of Power as the foundation of his success, Oprah Winfrey says it’s what keeps her on track all day and the late Steve Jobs said it was when he would get his best ideas.

I’d like you to start instituting “15 minutes of power” every weekday morning. Having this time signals to the universe, yourself, and your family that you are the first priority and everything else goes around that.

This is a time to work on yourself. It’s a time to read/watch anything that helps you be the best person you can be. It’s a time for anything motivating, inspiring and/or educational. It’s also a time to meditate, pray or whatever else fits for you. It’s NOT a time to work on your bills, answer emails, check your phone or watch funny cat videos on YouTube.

In the evenings, decide what you’ll be doing the next day in your 15 minutes of power. I highly recommend the following to start:

how to meditate
  • After that, spend your time writing for 10 minutes. Here are two prompts I want you to use:
    • First, finish this sentence, “Wouldn’t it be nice if…”
    • Another option is to write down three things you want (be as specific as possible) and then write down why you want those things.

I will tell you that I’ve never been a “journal-er” but taking 10 minutes to do some introspective writing like this will positively charge your day!

If you just can’t bring yourself to write, then get one book that you’ve been wanting to read in the self-help or thought arena and set a timer for 10 minutes and read (might I highly suggest getting my Amazon #1 Best Seller, Be Happily Married Even if Your Partner Won’t Do a Thing)?

relationship book

Step Five: Do One Other Thing for Your Greater Good

In addition to your 15 minutes of power, I’d like you to think of one other thing to create time for in the mornings that’s for your greater good. This could be things like:

  • Doing a special scrub in the shower each day
  • Working out
  • Stretching
  • Meditating outside of your 15 minutes of power
  • A yoga pose or two
  • Sitting quietly in your favorite chair with a cup of tea
  • Having sex with your partner
  • Eating something healthy
  • Taking vitamins or supplements

Over time, I’d like you to stretch this 15 minutes into a longer period that includes some kind of movement and 15 minutes of meditation, but getting started with a consistent practice is the most important to focus on so don’t rush it and find a rhythm that works for you.

Dr. Abby with her Book "Be Happily Married, Even If Your Partner Won't Do A Thing"


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