Why morning routines protect your executive function – and why I follow mine every day

Do you you ever wake up and ask yourself: What do I need to do today? What shall I do first? Have I had my meds or not? What shall I have for breakfast? What shall I wear?

Asking yourself these questions drains your battery just as the day is starting. Trying to make decisions – even ones that are supposed to be easy – takes significant power out of your mental reserve.

An unplanned and unstructured start to the day can impact your executive functioning.

Executive Functioning

If the term is new for you, executive functions are mental skills and abilities that help you to do what you’d like to do throughout the day – things like working memory, attention, motivation, and focus. (Basically, any brain stuff you need to achieve your goals.)

We have the best control over our executive functions when we are fresh and rested, our batteries are full, and we are not stressed.

Lots of things can deplete executive function, though. For example, if I stop myself from eating biscuits all day, I’m very likely to be unable to refuse an entire pizza later on.

As mentioned above, making even small decisions at the start of the day can use up vital energy that we need to conserve if we have problems focusing or motivating ourselves.

How my routine helps

So that I don’t ruin my executive function early in the morning, I use a very carefully crafted morning routine every day. I follow it to the letter and rarely deviate from it. I do this so that I can use my executive function for things that actually matter to me – work, coaching, my research and my animals.

I do this routine so I have a better shot at achieving my goals for the day.

I don’t need to worry about whether I took my supplements or not – the routine reminds me to, and allows me to check easily whether I have or not. And because completing the list feels good, I rarely put off meditating because I like the satisfaction of achieving something so early in the day.

The routine has the added bonus of making sure that I do important self-care activities such as taking medication or meditating. I don’t have to rely on my occasionally shoddy memory to carry me though. (I am now on day 178 of meditation and I’ve remembered to take vitamins and medication for a couple of years now!)

I’ll write another blog post on how to set up a routine in a way that is easy but likely to work – that’s another story. I just want to convince you here that if you’ve got a limited reserve of attention, focus or energy, there are things you can try.

For £4, I got it designed

A white and yellow water colour document which shows part of Becci's morning routine and daily check-in document.

To save even more time and energy, I spent £4.00 and 30 minutes of my time briefing an affordable designer on freelancing site Fiverr to create some customised routine and work planners to make the whole thing even simpler for me. I imagine talented artists and bullet-journal fans could make something themselves – I had to get some help.

Finally, another great advantage of my planner is that it makes me review mood, sleep and anxiety levels to give me the self-awareness that I sometimes lack due to…executive function!

What do you do?

Do you have a morning routine already? If so, what is it and how does it work for you? If you don’t, that’s ok. Not everyone needs one. I just like to share things that work for me on the off-chance someone else finds my ideas helpful.

Look out for a future blog post on how to embed an easy, effective and DO-ABLE morning routine.