Most Morning Routines & Productivity Lists Completely Miss One Critical Life Skill
It's essential to your well-being and life happiness, but it's nowhere on any of our modern to-do lists.
Picture your ideal morning routine. What does it look like?
Ask anyone on the Internet, and the collective blog-o-sphere will tell you the list of ways you should wake up and care for your self and your soul. If you search the hashtag #morningroutine, you’ll come away with the conclusion that there’s somehow a “right” way to approach your morning routine.
Yet most morning routines have a perspective missing that, when you see it, you can’t unsee it. I first heard this idea when I listened to Tara Sophia Mohr's Sunday Session from January 9th, 2022. She’d stumbled across someone posting about their productive personal growth morning and their spiritual routine.
What was on the list was a lot of what you’d expect, including many of the latest fads: reading, bullet journaling, a set number of minutes of yoga, meditation, prayer, specific supplements, fasting routines, and even clothing routines to make decision making easier and simpler.
"My first thought was, who is this person who has this kind of time?” She said. But something else was bothering her. She noticed that the entire list had something in common. Everything on the list was an individual endeavor. Not one thing involved building, maintaining, or growing a relationship with another human being.
"In this long list of things—there were probably 20 things on this daily todo list—there was not one thing that involved another human being." — Tara Mohr
On this list, “There was not ‘I apologized when needed,’ or ‘I gave something to someone else,’ or ‘I asked someone how their day is going,’ or ‘I listened carefully to another person,’” Tara reflected.
Many spiritual and soul undertakings involve individual practice, of course. But life is not about everything being done in isolation. What these lists routinely miss are our collective intersection, and our capacity for inter-relationship. Relationships—friendships specifically—are one of the biggest factors in lifelong happiness and satisfaction, but the majority of adults report having very few friends at all.
When it comes to personal productivity, today’s pop culture focuses on a quantifiable, check-off-able "to-do" list, and the things that make the list are largely self-centered. These lists have very little to do with our ability to be in relationship to other people.
“We have set the conversation up in such a way that this person could feel like they had checked every box,” Mohr said, “without anything having to do [with] giving, [or] enhancing their capacity to love and be loved.”
She goes on to explain that thinking about love, interconnectedness, and relationship is not about taking the idea of productivity in some strange direction, however. The whole intent of morning lists, the deeper aim of creating one in the first place, is to help us feel better. We make these lists as a way towards feeling more secure, alive and fulfilled. The work of interpersonal connection and relationship building is essential to our own wellbeing. “It’s core because it is what helps us feel better in our lives, and it is what helps us stand stronger, and it is what helps us heal,” she said.
Does your morning routine include anyone else?
Being in relationship, learning about emotions, connecting and supporting other people—these are some of the components of a full, well-lived, well-loved life.
So often these productivity lists are about LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE, yet one of the deepest most meaningful things you can do with your life is find and explore feelings, emotions, connection, and love.
Instead of looking at a new year or season and striving for things about ourselves that we can “polish up and whip into shape,” Mohr says, think about the upcoming season in terms of how you want to invest in, extend towards, and be in relationship to other people and other expressions of life.
A productivity list that includes relationships could involve:
I cared for someone else.
I got deeply in touch with an emotion and felt it rise and fall and release.
I spent time learning to be in relationship.
I set a boundary that needed to be set.
I went to therapy / worked on my mental health.
I connected with someone I care deeply about.
Perhaps what we need more of—in the apps and lists that help us build our morning routine—are notes to spend time with your friends, your family, and to cultivate new relationships, mess and all.
Our morning routines are for a purpose, often for greater connection and love. For those with young children, aging parents, or other loved ones we take care of, our routines can often be chaotic or at the discretion of the day.
To that end, it’s okay if you wake up and spend time with the ones you love, grounded in the present. You don’t have to jump out of bed and fulfill a list of extra tasks to do a “good” job in the morning. Being flexible about being woken up, feeding children, taking care of parents, and responding to the day in relationship to others is a beautiful thing. Parents, especially of young kids, rarely have time to execute an organized, linear, personal-facing todo list. Parents are often meeting the needs of other people around them, and that is quite a todo list. Especially when it comes to giving, sharing, and receiving love and support.
Make sure you account for all that you already do. Put all that relationship work on your todo list if you haven’t already. I know it will be on my list, right next to “shower,” and “make coffee,” because I’m going to need to cross things off to get the ball rolling.
— Sarah Peck
CEO & Founder
Startup Parent is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Shower, coffee, hug the children, kiss the loved ones, text the friends. Write my joys, make the lunches and breakfasts, leave comments of support for people I’m proud of.
A FUTURE OF WORK TO BELIEVE IN
At Startup Parent, we believe that parenting shouldn’t be at odds with work—and the insights from your parenting journey propels you as a leader that this world needs. We disrupt the myths of parenting to tell true stories of motherhood, fatherhood, and parenting today.
The Startup Parent Podcast is an award-winning podcast ranked in the top 1% of podcasts globally. Join us as we interview parents about what the future of work, life, and leadership look like. Click here to add the show to your player.
If you're a working mom looking for a community that understands you, apply to join The Wise Women's Council, our leadership incubator for entrepreneurs, executives, and managers who are also moms. The program runs annually and we open for applications twice per year. Click here to apply.