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I recently read Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander’s book My Morning Routine, and I was relatively impressed with the content (and recommend reading it – it’s an easy read in a couple of hours). The premise is essentially based upon an interview with many magnates of industry, from General Stanley McChrystal to Arianna Huffington, discussing how many of them have standardized their mornings to establish a routine. This helps initiate success throughout the day, starting with the first things they do. However, as I read from missive to missive, I realized how one of the interviewees mentioned that he doesn’t have a “job-job,” and that, after further review, most of the people interviewed lacked a defined “start” and “end time” to their work.

Nowhere does that clash more than with education. Many of us have run through the school door only to find students waiting for us to open the door to homeroom. It’s happened to the best of us in the most extenuating of circumstances. Don’t read me wrong here; teachers are insanely regimented, methodical professionals who operate like clockwork time and time again. But, that being said… when your day begins at 7:00a, there’s bound to be room for improvement. Even for this writer.

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That being said – and not to gloat – but many of my colleagues often ask me “how do I get so involved with so many things?” I honestly think it’s because of my morning routine, which I’ve had in place pretty much since my freshman year of college (gulp! – nearly 2 decades ago). By setting my mind on goals to start the day, I set myself up to continue collecting them like “?” blocks on Mario Kart, and I’m always ahead of my checkpoint. So, though my morning routine isn’t perfect – and it’s become less perfect since adding 2 of my own kiddos to the household – I’m quite proud of it, and hope it’s something our reader-leaders can learn from.


What is your morning routine?

Every morning I wake up at 10 minutes to 5:00a. From there, I sit on the side of the bed and collect myself for about 5 minutes, just zoning out into the droning sound of our fan (a white noise I’ve used since I was a little kid). Then I pop out of bed, brush my teeth, get my first cup of coffee, and go to the gym. When I return, I make breakfast – I’ve been eating eggs for as long as I can remember – hop in the shower, get my older son breakfast and start-up an episode of something educational on our TV until my wife catches up with him. I’m then at school with about 15 minutes to spare to set-up for my lessons (which I do the heavy lifting at the end of the previous day) and dive into the overnight emails to see if any need to be answered immediately.

How long have you stayed with this routine? What has changed? 

In the past, I used to have a good 30+ minutes of writing or really digging into the news on my laptop. But the routine changed a whole bunch when my two little boys were added to the picture. Now screaming heads and poop strewn across the walls is a problem I’ve run into (just once… so far).

What time do you go to sleep?

I make it a point to be in bed by 9p, lights out by 10p, but I’m often asleep earlier. I worry about my colleagues who stay up to watch the Late Night shows, but for as much as I love them, I love my morning routine more.

Do you do anything before bed to make your morning easier?

I read something for at least 10 minutes. One important thing I’ve also learned is to eliminate as many decision as possible because we as teachers often suffer from “decision fatigue.” So I have a rotation for my clothes (just-cleaned clothes in the back pushes other stuff to the front) and alternate brown and black shoe days. The only thing I decide on is the color of my tie.

Have you always used an alarm to wake-up?

I’ve been using a slow-waking alarm clock since a friend suggested it like 5 years ago. It’s been one of the best additions to my routine.

Do you use any apps or products to help you sleep?

This is a change of less than 2 years, but my phone goes in another room. Best to remove the distraction.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

At least 4 times a week I mix in 10 minutes of cardio and 40 minutes of weight training. Once a week I go on a nice long walk by myself in my neighborhood, just looking up and staring at the stars.

How soon after waking up do you eat breakfast?

I wait until my workout is completed. Since participating in the keto diet last year, I learned how much my morning brain craves fats and proteins, so I try to hit them pretty heavy at breakfast (real cream in my coffee, real butter in the eggs, avocado, etc). Some people are fans of grains and so on, and some don’t eat at all. I think it’s whatever works for you. But I know one area of improvement is to work more vegetables into my breakfast – it’s one thing traveling to other countries has taught me.

How about morning meditation?

I’ve tried mindfulness, meditation, zen and so on, but my mind is just busy all the time and I’m not going to lie – I like it and perform at my best that way. So I zone out to some of my favorite podcasts (mostly news, historical, political, and educational) or jamming out to a playlist. Or just looking into my second cup of coffee.

How does your partner fit into the morning routine?

Oh God, I imagine this is pretty similar to other educators’ stories, but without her, I have no idea what I’d do. There’s no way I could get a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old to daycare for the 6:30a opening only to zoom to school and arrive by the skin of my teeth. While she’s a late-riser, she’s beyond vital (and she does most of the wake-ups in the middle of the night – I can’t help I’m a hard sleeper).

Do you follow this routine on weekends?

On the weekend I don’t have an alarm – the 3-year-old foot-thuds wake me up about 6:30a (I’m often up before that). My wife has a walking routine with the boys on Saturday; that’s when I either write or clean and then on Sunday I’m in charge of them as she sings in the church band.

What happens if you fail?

I yawn a whole lot more, but I don’t be myself up about it. Sometimes I just need to take a little extra care of myself, one of the kids, or the missus. There’s no shame in that.

What happens if you’re traveling it’s the summer? (I’ve altered this question since we teachers are not usually racking up the frequent-flyer miles)

During the summer, I change course big time. I wake up a bit later and focus on writing until the boys wake-up. Then I make breakfast and I get to take them to daycare/school. Afterward, I then go to the gym and then spend my time toggling half the day towards improving something at home, and the other half towards something on my computer (such as improving lessons or writing).

Again, while this is not intended to be specifically-laden advice for how to live in the morning, it’s my hope there’s something you pulled from this article. Look to an Educator’s Room Twitter chat regarding this topic in the near future – and look on how to make decisions to make the best you by signing up for our Teacher Self-Care Conferences.

Mr. Jake Miller is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, a 2017 NEA Global...

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1 Comment

  1. I really appreciate this article. I often read blogs on personal effectiveness and morning routines, but they’re going to the gym (or waking up) much later than a teacher. We have to fit a lot into that time before school. Nice article!

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