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How I Created An Inspiring Morning Routine

IMG_2968I love getting up early in the morning because it’s peaceful and quiet. That wasn’t always true, though. As a teenager, I slept in late. However, when I started college, I began getting up early for work and to study. Rising early became a key part of my daily ritual.

After college, I continued getting up early. I didn’t have homework, but my work days were full and the mornings were the only time I could exercise. For example, when we lived in Davis, CA—from 2002 to 2008—I belonged to a swim team, and I attended the 6:00 a.m. practice. There is nothing like jumping into a heated outdoor pool to get your body moving.

Things changed when we moved to Sacramento, CA. I didn’t have access to a pool, so I started running with my friend, Kai. We would meet at 5:30 a.m. two or three times a week and go for a short or long run. With Kai’s encouragement, I completed a few half-marathons and even a full marathon! Sadly, I hurt my knee and had to find another activity to keep my body and mind happy; that’s when I discovered yoga and walking. I’ve been doing both since 2009.

In 2012, my morning routine fell apart. My dad became ill, and for the next five months I split my time between my parents’ home in Northern California and Portland, OR. After my dad died, I felt paralyzed by sadness and started to sleep in late. Plus, we moved back to Northern California in 2012. I don’t regret the move, but I wonder if it was the right thing to do. During this time, I felt uprooted, unsettled, and I had trouble getting back into my morning routine.

To counteract these feelings, I decided to create an inspiring morning routine. Starting my daily photography project on January 1, 2013, inspired me to get out of bed and begin the day in a positive way. Over two years later, I’m still taking my daily photo and sharing it online. I’ve also added new activities to my morning routine. I’m journaling, planning my day, and making additional time for photography. I feel better, more grounded, and inspired to do good work.

With that being said, it isn’t easy to leave my warm bed early in the morning. To make sure I get up at 5:15 a.m., I set my phone alarm the night before and leave it in the kitchen. I can’t hit the snooze button if my alarm is in the other room.

When my alarm rings in the morning, I do three key things:

  1. I go into the bathroom and splash cold water on my face, brush my teeth, and drink one glass of water.
  1. I make coffee, and while the coffee is brewing, I give Elaina a shot of water, feed both cats, and sing to them (yes, they are that spoiled).
  1. Finally, I find a comfortable place to sit, and then I plan my day, journal, and take photographs.

Eventually, Logan gets up and we chat about our respective days and get ready for work. My morning routine is a simple way to start my day, and that’s why I love it so much.

If you want to create an inspiring morning routine, try these tips: 

  • Commit to your new habit. If you want to get up early, try it!
  • Make a list of activities that nourish your body and mind. Incorporating your interests into a morning routine is one way to stay inspired and motivated to get out of bed.
  • Before you go to bed, leave your alarm in another room; that way you won’t be tempted to hit the snooze button.
  • Figure out how much sleep you need, and go to bed at an appropriate time. For example, I go to bed at 8:30 or 9:00 p.m., otherwise it’s difficult for me to get up.
  • Find an accountability buddy to keep you motivated.

I’d love to hear about your morning routine in the comments section. Please share your story below!


P. S. “Everyday Magic: How to Capture Creative Images with Your Camera” is open for registration! I hope you’ll join us for the upcoming session. Read the course description by clicking here.


P. S. S. If you know someone who could benefit from my photography course, please send them to rowdykittens.com. Thank you!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • atmaprana February 17, 2015, 5:30 am

    I struggle to get up at 5:45 on work days to have time for meditation but here in France, it’s impossible to go to bed around 8:30-9:00. I don’t know a single person who goes to bed before 10 pm… so the result is that I never get enough sleep…. and can’t really establish a proper rhythm.

  • lisa valinsky February 17, 2015, 6:09 am

    Hi Tammy. Were you and Logan in the tiny house during times when you woke early? And how did that go?

    My husband and I are looking at land for a tiny house, and I’m a morning person and am hoping we’ll be okay in such a small space! Any tips are appreciated. 🙂

    • Tammy Strobel February 17, 2015, 6:18 am

      Logan stays up late and I get up early, so we had to make compromises in the tiny house. Logan went to bed a little earlier and I got up at 5.30 or 6am. It’s harder in the little house because there aren’t separate rooms. It worked out though. Good luck!

    • Vonnie Fredlund February 19, 2015, 10:34 am

      Hi, Tammy:
      I loved this blog. Right now I’m starting again to create a morning routine. I can totally identify with what you went through after your father passed away as the same thing happened when I lost my Mom. Before that I was getting up early, exercising, having plenty of time to get ready to go to work, etc. And then a few months after she passed away (I kept myself busy for a while with the business to take care of, a mechanism to keep the feelings pushed down) I became overcome with mourning and could not get enough sleep or get up in the mornings. I remember I was late for work a lot because I just couldn’t wake up. Anyway, getting off my morning routine caused other things to happen like getting out of shape and gaining weight.

      Now I am repurposing and planning out how I want my mornings to be. Just brainstorming about everything I’d like to put in and then I’ll pick out the things that really matter and begin the habits. And the first thing after I get my concrete list is to go to bed early. For me it starts there.

      Thanks again for all your inspiring shares and I hope you have a really lovely day.


  • Chris February 17, 2015, 6:34 am

    I started an early morning routine after a holiday to Hawaii and the subsequent jetlag got me up at 5am on a regular basis.
    I started to rise early when I got back to the UK and now use the time to journal, plan, blog and meditate. Its now become the foundation of my day, and I can’t think what it would be like to go back to the old ways.
    I too couldn’t do without the coffee to accompany my morning ritual.

  • Suzannah Kolbeck February 17, 2015, 7:35 am

    My problem is that I love the early morning and the late nights. I would like to get up early, enjoy the day until noon or one, go back to bed until 5, then stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. I like the sunrise, sunset, and moonrise.

    Maybe I’ll have to move to Europe. #bummer

    • Beth February 20, 2015, 7:37 am

      Suzannah, this is exactly my dilemma! So some days I’m up at 6am and in bed by 11pm and other days I’m awake until 3am and then sleep until 10am. If you find a solution I’d love to hear about it.

  • Sandra Pawula February 17, 2015, 10:13 am

    This is so inspiring, Tammy! I have a hard time getting up early in the morning, but I still have a morning routine. I meditate first thing. That gives me calm and clarity and grounds my day.

  • Barbara Techel February 17, 2015, 10:24 am

    The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize how important morning ritual and quiet is for me to ground and center myself for the day.
    My morning ritual:
    1. Feed my two dogs. Yes, they get fed before anything else happens! 🙂
    2. Drink 16 ounces of water.
    3. Get my yoga gear on and head across the deck to my writing cottage.
    4. Light candles.
    5. Say a little prayer in front of my mandala I made for the year, review my desires for the year and say my conditions out loud that I am have set as intentions to achieve my desires.
    6. Pick an angel, grace, or animal oracle card (sometimes all three!) and one of my own SoulCollage cards I’ve made. Normally I pose a question or otherwise I just ask for general guidance.
    7. Last by not least, 30 minute yoga practice.

    Then I begin my day! Okay, you inspired me to share my morning routine with my blog readers – thank you!


    I love my routine!!

  • Maggie February 17, 2015, 10:26 am

    I love it when my morning routine starts early and I can have breakfast with my partner, then spend some time planning my day. I plan tasks in my UnCalendar, then I plan more philosophical and artistic endeavors in my journal. If I get up early enough, I set my timer and paint for an hour, then I get to work.

    But if there was a late night previous, I get up, snarf down breakfast, and get right to work.

  • Heather Simmons February 17, 2015, 10:41 am

    My new year’s resolution this year was to stop using the snooze alarm. Not only have I kept this resolution, but I now consistently wake up a few minutes before my alarm goes off at 6am. I go downstairs to brew a cup of tea, then walk back upstairs and wash my face and get dressed. By the time I come back down, my tea is just the right temperature.

  • Laurie February 17, 2015, 4:37 pm

    I learned many years ago that the fewer things I have to do in the morning before going to work, the better. I like for things to be simple! I shower in the evenings instead of mornings, and I have a simple hairstyle that only requires combing in the morning. I don’t wear makeup, so I don’t have to devote time to that. And I get out the clothes I’m going to wear to work the night before, so I’m all set.

    I get up at around 7:30 on work days, 8:00 on the weekends. Getting up really early feels miserable to me, as does sleeping late, so I’ve found my Goldilocks “just right” time to roll out of bed a happy woman :). I feed my cats first thing, make coffee, get dressed, and eat a simple breakfast. Then I meditate for 10 or 15 minutes, and then spend about 20 to 30 minutes reading non-fiction books, something inspiring or thought-provoking. In the summer I sometimes go out for a short walk. I leave for work at around 8:50 feeling calm and centered.

    I’m really enjoying your Tuesday posts, Tammy, thank you!

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods February 18, 2015, 4:33 am

    I had the same knee-pain-from-running induced transition to yoga, but I’m actually grateful in the end because I find yoga to be a much more fulfilling and holistic workout.

    My husband and I get up at 6am everyday, which is a routine that’s only about 8 months old for us, but we love it. First we cuddle our greyhound in her doggie bed (she lays there on her back waiting for us to come give her scratches), then I take the hound out while my husband makes our coffee and oatmeal (and hound kibble). Then we leisurely enjoy our breakfast while reading news, blogs (like right now!), and writing. Next we do our morning workout, and then we shower and go to work (blerg). Even though it culminates in going to work :(, we’re able to enjoy the morning together and it puts us both in a great mood for the day.

    Agreed on going to bed early enough–that’s absolutely key! I also find that it helps to try and keep the routine on the weekends and vacations. Fortunately our dog makes sure we get up 🙂

  • Dartie Lefering February 18, 2015, 6:34 am

    I’ve tried several times to get up early in the morning, so that I don’t have to hurry to go to the office. Since two days I’ve started a new attempt and for the first time in my life (and for the first time since I’ve moved to Zeist in 2007), I’ve watched the sunrise from my flat. It was absolutely magnificent!!! So I really want this early morning routine to continue. The only problem I have, and which makes me return to my ‘normal’ routine, is that if I go out with friends and I return home late, it’s very difficult to get up early the next morning and so it is easy to slip into your old routine. I wonder how you handle this.

    • Tammy Strobel February 18, 2015, 9:41 am

      Hi Dartie,

      I’m happy you were able to watch the sunrise! Your comment made me smile.

      Also, your question was great. If I stay out late, I give myself permission to sleep in or to nap later in the day. Sleep is so important. However, my body seems to love getting up early.

      I’m committed to my new routine. However, I try to go easy on myself too. If I need extra sleep, I listen to my body.

      I hope that helps,

      • Dartie Lefering February 18, 2015, 12:00 pm

        Hi Tammy,

        Thanks for your advice. You’re absolutely right, listening to your body is crucial.
        I’m really gonna try to stick to my new routine now and hopefully I won’t have to wait another lifetime to watch a sunrise 🙂


  • Meg @ Adventures in Verdance February 18, 2015, 10:24 am

    My morning routine is pretty similar, but I sing to my plants. I totally get it. 🙂

  • Mark O February 18, 2015, 2:54 pm

    I must admit that I don’t fully understand the desire to wake at 515am especially if that means going to bed at 830pm. It feels like forcing yourself to live in a time-shifted way. I know that I’m a circadian being and that I prefer to sleep with the light rather than with alarms. Generally I wake at 7 having gone to sleep at around 1130. Those 7.5 hrs are quality sleep, no insomnia or trouble getting up. But 830 to 515 although a longer period would require alarms to enforce as waking in darkness feels so wrenching and there’s so much going on at 830, especially with children around it would be an utter indulgence to make routine. This has changed with age for sure. But I must admit I don’t understand the need to rip oneself out of bed in the dark early morning – it feels like a pious self-punishment almost. I guess I must be missing something here

    • Tammy Strobel February 18, 2015, 3:26 pm


      I’m sharing what works for me and offering tips and tools to help others, if they choose to get up early. For me, this isn’t about self-deprivation or self-punishment. I enjoy the mornings and feel better when I get up early. Over the years, I’ve discovered that I’m not a night owl. It’s not my best time of day. As always, I try to be encouraging in this space. Use the tools that work for you and discard the rest. 🙂

      Wishing you all the best,

  • Mark February 18, 2015, 2:54 pm

    I get up at 5:15, shave and brush my teeth, then dress in comfy clothes and pack my work clothes in a bag. I fix breakfast for myself and my wife, and she comes in and we have breakfast together. At about 6:15 I start my bike ride to work – this is the best part of the day, it is quiet, gets my heart going, and I can organize the day in my head. Once I get to work I cool down while doing e-mail triage, then shower and get dressed before the ‘real day’ starts.

  • Lindsey Shelley February 18, 2015, 8:17 pm

    I agree that mornings are peaceful and much can be accomplished in the wee hours, but I tend to be a night owl who loves my snooze! However, I do use my phone to play a favorite song that gently, but enthusiastically urges me out of bed by about 6am so I can get myself and my son to school on time. The 1st snooze is a given. On the 2nd snooze, I turn the heat on with a remote to warm up the room. On the 3rd snooze, I turn a bedside lamp on to wake my brain up. By the 4th snooze I’m generally ready to face the day. Around Christmas, I plug sparkly lights into a timer that comes on before my alarm to set a joyful mood to waking up. I keep cotton shorts, a cozy sweater, and fleecy slippers next to my bed to snuggle into right away while I set water to boil for tea (or coffee). I sip my morning tea and just enjoy its warmth with a grateful feeling, sometimes with a tasty biscuit for dipping. This moment to just “be” with my cup of warm goodness is usually the most peaceful part of my day and my most grounding ritual.

    • Amber February 20, 2015, 11:43 am

      I love reading your morning routine. I could almost feel myself sipping that cup in a cozy sweater. 🙂 It’s also nice to read the routine of someone who needs that snooze button the way I do. I may have to try the idea of lights on a timer. It sounds wonderful to wake up to.

  • Jeff Bronson *Kraven* February 19, 2015, 2:03 am

    It’s tough to stick to a routine, but pays off once we can do it. Currently I left my U.S. job and am in Goa, India. I try to create a routine, however the environment often dictates how my day will go. Meaning frequent power, water outages, bad Internet, weather issues etc.

    It’s nice though, the security of looking forward to a self created routine.

  • CJ February 19, 2015, 8:03 am

    Some great ideas here. Actually just did a podcast with Christopher Carson Smith, creator of Tiny: A Story about Living Small. and he talks about some of this stuff. Check it out!

  • Natalie February 19, 2015, 10:23 am

    I started getting up at 4:45 am a few months ago and while at first it was a bit difficult, I really enjoy my morning routine now. I am naturally a morning person but I always struggled with waking up even earlier, because I felt I already got up early as it was. I use the time to exercise with my hubby, journal, meditate, blog, do yoga or play with our dog. Last night, I was rebellious and went to sleep at 12 am! Today, I am regretting it because I missed out on my morning routine. Never again! 🙂

  • NYCAnnie February 20, 2015, 6:56 pm

    I had to learn good sleep hygiene years ago when I worked retail. My shifts were early (7am to 5pm) one day then late (11:30am to 9:30pm) the next and my days off were unpredictable. It wreaked havoc with my sleep schedule and I began to suffer frequent migraines as a result. I had to change jobs. Now I’m up at 6am each day and usually jump right into my day starting with a shower, getting dressed to some good jazz on the radio and then it’s off to work, or breakfast with my husband on weekends. We are homebodies so there aren’t many late nights, but when I do have to be up late I still get up at 6 the next day and then go to sleep a little earlier the next night if I am really tired. My migraines are few and far between and I sleep better too.

  • Meg @ Adventures in Verdance February 21, 2015, 1:47 pm

    I grew up in a family who all stayed up into the very late hours of the night (yes, my AARP qualified parents still stay up past 3 a.m. on the regular). But I love the feeling of waking up early to accomplish a million things before noon. So, to keep it short, I try and try to wake up around 7 or 8, but can never manage to do it naturally. I always feel like I’m missing something if I go to bed too early. Someday I’ll get it!

  • Cody Doll February 23, 2015, 7:44 pm

    I have finally got to the point where I feel I can have a morning routine (it was way to hard for me in high school). I think I have a good idea but I guess it all depends on what my natural rhythm will show.

  • Merlene Campbell February 26, 2015, 10:16 pm

    Great plan for optimal productivity from a day. Also don’t forget to celebrate your success. The more you celebrate and acknowledge yourself, the more productive you’ll be as well. It will start to anchor those emotions of success to taking action, which is what you want.

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