A Morning Routine That Finally Feels Great

Yes, I let myself scroll Instagram in bed.

Stephanie St.Claire
7 min readDec 27, 2019
image: Rawpixel

This post is inspired by an interview I did with Joseph Mavericks, a purpose and self-improvement writer on Medium. He is publishing a series of interviews with writers about their morning routines.

I’ve experimented with different ways to get the day going and this is what’s working beautifully for me now.

What time do you wake up in the morning?

I wake up at 5:30. I have one of those “sunrise clocks” that mimic the light of sunrise slowly dawning to the sound of birds chirping. It’s a much better way to wake up than my previous two decades of “ENNNTT! EEENNNTTT! ENNNNT!”

I’m the product of two midwestern farming parents who grew up in the 1940s, so rising early is in my wiring.

I have experimented with all kinds of ways to handle that first hour after the alarm goes off: I’ve hopped right out of bed and carved out two hours of reading and studying before work. I’ve thrown on workout clothes and made it to the gym, bleary-eyed and coffeeless at 5:15 a.m. I’ve lingered in a dream state, my hand resting on the snooze button for one, two, three pushes.

Currently, I let myself wake up a little more naturally over about 30 minutes. I rest my fingertips over my heart and with my eyes still closed, ask myself the question, “What is the most important thing I can do today?” The answer comes to me right away. Lots of times it’s counter-intuitive, but I follow it. Then I scroll through Instagram for about 20 minutes and see what the world’s been up to while I slept. My feet are on the floor by 6 a.m.

2. Once you’re up, what is the first thing you do in the morning?

A few months ago, I invested in an iPad Pro. I had just quit my job to start my own business, so I was nervous to fork over that much money, but I did it. I wanted to teach myself how to draw and create art, so every morning I grab my coffee and my iPad and draw for about 45 minutes.

I also read about 40 pages a day which allows me to get through a book a week. I like to take notes and deconstruct the author’s ideas, adding my own thoughts. Sometimes what I’m drawing and what I’m reading fuse together and it gives new inspiration about what I’m going to share with my audience that day.

Breakfast is simple: a piece of fruit or plain oatmeal with cinnamon. I stand at my kitchen sink, looking at the trees just outside my window, and solidify my plan for the day mentally. After that, I jump into action: make my bed, brush teeth, throw on a skin serum, and mascara.

Since I work for myself it’s tempting to stay in sweats and keep my hair in a ponytail but I make myself get dressed in real clothes. There’s something about coming to my desk with the same respect I would if I were working in an office that puts me in a primo state of mind to do my best work.

Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash

3. How much of your personal success (online and offline) do you attribute to your morning routine?

I attribute my success to having a clear mind and the ability to hear my own voice. My morning routine plays a major role. Starting the day in a right-brained zone and then moving to a quick physical routine of stretching, breakfast, and tidying up my home really hones that for me.

I do spend time every day writing in my journal. This helps me empty my concerns, agitations, and under-developed thoughts to a safe place so they won’t be haranguing me all day. Kind of like walking your kids to the bus stop. You see them board the bus, you know they’ll be safe, but you’re free to turn on your heel and say “BYE! See you at 3!”

The hours between 9 a.m. and noon are a high-octane productivity capsule for me. I’m buoyant and full of energy. I went through a bad patch of burnout in 2016–17 and lost my ability to think creatively or optimistically. I droned through the day, getting basics done, but didn’t have the bandwidth to launch anything new. It was a living hell, and anyone who has been through that knows the worst part is that you really feel you’ll never come out of it.

I decided to scale my business way, way back and only took clients upon request. I took a position at Compass real estate as the Director of Operations for an agent and her team. This afforded me two years of creative rest and a 9–5 routine which was wonderful.

Then the time came: Last year the desire to write full time and create a new personal advising firm grew stronger and stronger. I decided to design a burnout-free business and do it on my terms, which meant making decisions to not scale or go bonkers with a bunch of income streams. I wanted my business to be streamlined and straight-forward — small and magnetic. I know that’s not the popular route to take, but it is working for me, and my morning hours are a big influence in how I carry that objective out.

Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash

4. What drives you to do what you do on a daily basis?

I’m all about working from free-range inspiration with a good dose of get-shit-done. I discovered Human Design over the summer which is a modern personality typing tool, similar to the enneagram and Myers-Briggs. It was an invitation to consider doing things the way I’m naturally wired and was very permission-granting to me.

For instance, I’ve always felt pressure to “get out there and make it happen! Drive, drive, drive!” but my innate preference is to observe and respond to what’s happening around me and then create something clear and impactful from that. I’m wired to single-task, instead of multi-task. I love to work deeply for long hours, losing myself in a project— so modern “open space” office plans kill my productivity. I found the Human Design model provides real guidance in proudly, unapologetically working within your energetic blueprint.

Every Saturday night, I draw up a list of important tasks that need to be accomplished the next week. And then every weekday morning, I choose three business and two personal tasks that I’m lit up about that day and do them. I have oriented myself to gather data on an entire week of work instead of the day-to-day.

I used to think that working from inspiration would result in la-la land screwing around all day but it’s just the opposite. I’m inspired by my goals and it has vastly increased my productivity. I want to get my work done because I chose it.

5. What advice do you have for people who struggle to actually start working on the projects they have?

Be good to yourself for the first hour of your day. Want to stay in bed and snooze? Do it unapologetically, knowing you are choosing to give yourself extra sleep without guilt. Want to read? Want to make a fancy cappuccino? Want to watch TedTalks or animal videos on YouTube? Do it. That hour is yours. Then take that warm fuzzy feeling and bring it to the most important task on your list. Set a timer for 25 minutes and go to town. Do not look up. Do not go to the bathroom. Do not cruise the fridge for cheese sticks. You will be in a wave of momentum at that point.

I think it also helps to have a firm quitting time for the day, so no, you can’t work through dinner. And give yourself something to look forward to every evening — anything small works. Right now, I’m into gardening so I meet up with my neighbors an hour before sunset and we work in our community garden together. Other nights it’s a full-stop solo sweatpants party with Chipotle, oscillating between BeautyTube and Shane Dawson.

Be better to yourself than you think you deserve and you will pull productivity out of yourself that you never knew you had in you.

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Stephanie St.Claire is a writer and personal advisor based in Orange County, California. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Inc., Thought Catalogue, Greatist, Citizens of Culture, Mind Body Green and has been named one of Medium’s Top 100 Writers.

website: stephaniestclaire.com
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Stephanie St.Claire

Writer. Reader. Lover of the Oxford comma. Writing for Medium since 2013. Find me at stephaniestclaire.com