The older I get the more I crave a routine. Oh, I still like change. No worries there! But I find myself drawn to and captured by the idea of routine, particularly in the morning. There is a website I’ve found that documents the morning routines of people (https://mymorningroutine.com). It’s great to get ideas about how to structure my morning in order to get the day off to a good start.
For me, it’s more about focus than productivity. Although I enjoy being productive, that boat sailed long ago for me in terms of defining my success by how much I get done. Being a pastor often means your day or week gets determined by things well outside your control. So productivity is not my goal. But focus…that’s another story. As a person who often gets distracted and even finds ways to distract myself when I’m not careful, I have found that routines help me stay on task and focused. In addition, because my day/week can be so unpredictable, focus is key to making progress when I do have the time.
So here goes. I offer to you my morning routine not as a bar for you to get over but in hopes it will give you some ideas and maybe even encourage you to document your own and work on it.
Monday through Friday finds me waking at 5:30 to begin the day. My first step is to drink a glass of water and make coffee. There is always coffee associated with my morning. I like to start with water to rehydrate after the night and to wake my system up. Afterward, depending if I have a breakfast meeting or not I’ll make a green smoothie (email me if you want my recipe!). At this point, I normally take Susan to work (Monday-Friday) around 7:00 and head to my office/study in Rokeby Hall Downtown where I begin my morning devotions. Once or twice per week I’ll take the bus Downtown and use that time to start my devotions by reading the Lectionary passages. I love riding the bus because it gives me 20 uninterrupted minutes and allows for great focus. My daily devotions consist of 1) reading the weekly Lectionary passages, 2) conducting an examination of conscience of my body/mind/spirit/relationships/emotions, 3) writing an intercessory prayer chart, and 4) praying over my day. From time to time I’ll add other things such as a gratitude journal, or Scripture memory but the above is my go-to regular. I also keep a chart tracking what I did the day before. Right now I’m tracking how much sleep, exercise, weight, reading, sermon prep, and deep work I was able to do the day before. I have weekly goals for all of these areas and find tracking daily helps me stay on task. All in all it takes about 75 minutes to complete my morning routine. If there is interest, I would be happy to share in more detail about one or more parts of my devotional time. It’s something that is always a work in progress and has become the most important part of my day. If there is one area that I’d encourage you to start with it would be a devotional routine and work from there.
Saturdays are a grab bag. If there is family stuff going on, I may not get anything in before we head out to a ballgame or something else. So I do what I can when I can and not get wigged out except for the workout. For some reasons working out on Saturday is a must for me.
My Sundays are a completely different animal. I normally get up around 5:30 as usual and then immediately begin focusing on what I need to do to get ready and prepared for Sunday services. I try to stick with my eating and drinking routine but everything else goes by the wayside. I am too keyed up to do much more than pace my study and work through my sermon and gather my thoughts.
What about working out? Good question. I use to workout most mornings, but I’ve started doing that later in the day. I found that a good workout often drags my energy level down for a few hours. And the first few early morning hours of the day are my best mentally. So now I try to take advantage of my energy level and mental focus for writing, reading, and other content creation by getting started early, not working out, and guarding my calendar until 11:00am each day.
What happens when my routine is thrown off? That happens a fair amount. Between morning breakfast meetings, family stuff, and pastoral care situations, I do well to stick to my routine 3-4 days per week. Those days I go with the flow and not stress out. Often if I know one of those non-routine days is coming I’ll get up extra early and workout so I at least know that is done for the day. I’m lucky that very few people want to do breakfast at 5:30! The non-routine days have a great upside. They make me appreciate and cherish the days I do get to do the routine.
What happens when I travel? While I don’t travel much, I try to stick with an early morning workout and a few minutes of Scripture and prayer prior to my day starts. That leaves me flexible to focus on where I am and who I am with.
Here is the upside I have noticed by developing a morning routine and sticking to it. I am more connected to God. My routine assures me that I start most days in prayer and Scripture which are essential to not only my personal journey but absolutely vital to being a pastor. For I can only give what I have received. And the same goes for you as well.
One last thing…no part of this feels legalistic to me. That may be surprising to you and it has been to me too! One of the reasons I pushed off doing a routine is that I thought I’d be too caught up in checking it off rather than doing it for the right reasons. My morning routine is an act of joyful obedience to God and not a guilt-ladened duty.
I hope this has been helpful or at the very least you know what you don’t want to do!