How to create a productive morning routine when obstacles stand in your way.

You’ve probably seen the articles, books, and podcasts floating around: X things to do in the morning to be more productive, how to create a morning routine, successful people get things done before breakfast, etc. etc. and so on.

That’s all great. I buy it: getting things done first thing in the morning is definitely a way to set up your day for success and productivity. Getting up early to make them happen is worth it. It’s good for your productivity, your mental focus, and your stress levels.

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Except for when it’s not possible.

I have always been a morning person. Just ask the girls I lived with in college – I was always the one that was awake before everybody else. I’m also the most productive in the morning – it’s when my creative juices and thought processes flow the best. I used to have an awesomely productive morning routine, not by design but just out of natural habit. I’d wake up early, get a cup of coffee, and start pounding away at my keyboard, all before the birds starting chirping and most people starting stirring from their beds.

And then I became a mom.

For some people this may make no difference at all, but for me it totally through my sacred productive morning time for a loop.

And I’m not the only one. This comes up in my coaching groups all.the.time. – how do you have a productive morning routine with kids who are dictating your morning time?

My son {who is three and a half} rarely sleeps through the night. Even if he does, he often gets up when there’s a 5 at the beginning of the clock and more nights than not he ends up in my bed in the middle of the night, meaning if I were to sneak out of bed early, he’d be up too. So getting up before he does is often either not possible, or it means I’d be trading in valuable sleep hours {getting up at 4am is one thing; getting up at 4am after having been up multiple times a night is another}.

These aren’t excuses; it’s just real life. I won’t lie – I love waking up with him snuggled up next to me or sneaking into my room for a morning hug. Sometimes it’s the only time he sits still all day and I’ll cherish those moments as long as they last. No amount of work or productivity is worth the swap.

There are certainly times, when it’s possible, that I will get up before the crack of dawn because that’s just what has to happen. But other times, I chose to reevaluate my morning routine.

Here are my three tips for faking a productive morning routine when morning time feels out of your control:Tips for a morning routine when you don't have any time in the morning. WAHM tips.

1. Make your to-do list ahead of time.

If I try to get my work day started by making a to-do list, I immediately get sucked down the rabbit hole. Whether it’s because I opened my email to check a deadline or get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things on it, I know it’s not a good way to get started.

productive morning routine

Instead, make your to-do list ahead of time. I like to do mine at the end of my “work day” the day before, that way what I need to do is fresh on my mind but not distracting me. Some people do well making a to-do list the night before, as a last pre-bed brain dump. {For me, that just makes my wheels start spinning and I can’t fall asleep.}

Now when you go to start your “morning routine”, you know exactly what it is you have to accomplish.

2. Move your morning.

This might sound rather ridiculous, but it can really be that simple. If I can’t do my “morning routine” in the morning, I push it to when I can, such as when my son goes to preschool. I head directly to a coffee shop {or make the trek back home if I need to be there} and start knocking things out. {For others, this may mean nap time, babysitting hours, or when a spouse is on duty.}

I treat it exactly as I would my time first thing in the morning: get a cup of coffee, start pounding away at the keyboard.

work at home morning routine tips

I already have my to-do list from the day before, so I don’t have to stop and think about what needs to be done; I just dive in. I pick my most important tasks first: this tends to be the closest deadline or the thing that will move my business forward the most.

I have trouble transitioning from other activities into creative ones, like writing, so I try to get all my writing done first before I switch to other tasks like email, invoices, etc. This usually matches up to what I have a deadline for so it works out well. {“Most important” often includes things I couldn’t possibly do when my son is with me.}

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3. Be adaptable.

Kids are funny things. As soon as you adjust to whatever phase they’re in, they move on to the next one, usually with a complete 180. Whether it’s kids or something else that interferes with your routine, be adaptable: adjust as  much and as often as needed.

For example, when my son was nursing, my morning routine meant me sitting on the couch at an ungodly early hour in the morning with my phone in one hand answering emails. It was something I could do with one hand and knocked a big chunk of my to-do list out of the way.

For the three weeks of my son’s life where he slept through the night and made it until at least 6am {!!!}, I got up early and reverted to my old more traditional morning routine. When he stopped gracing us with that gloriousness, I readjusted. I’m sure I’ll have to readjust again when baby comes.

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Trying to make things work when they just don’t want to is like trying to jam the wrong puzzle pieces together over and over and over without trying to turn one a different direction. It gets you know where and leaves you stressed and frustrated. Instead, work with what you have and make it work.

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What are your tips for a productive morning routine when you can’t do it first thing in the morning?