When I was in high school, I had a morning routine that I went through almost every day. On slow days, it was a way to start my day calmly; on the days where I woke up early, it was a time to be productive. But by the time I started college, I had a gap year behind me, and I was ready to sleep in as much as possible. Because I missed out on that productive morning time, I’d stay up late to finish my work, creating a cycle that left me tired and unmotivated.

By my sophomore year, I had figured out that I missed my early mornings, so I started waking up an hour earlier to read and work out. Just that practice alone made a huge difference in my day-to-day; I was more active throughout the morning and afternoon, and I felt less frazzled because I’d had some time for myself. I’ve since experimented with different morning routines, on-and-off, and today I’m sharing five methods I’ve learned for improving your morning routine.

Before we get into the methods, I want to share my latest project, #sunrisewithsara on NextBeat. Since I recently started a new morning routine, I’ll be sharing moments from my morning along with motivation and encouragement for others looking to start their day on the right foot. Join me there and let’s make our mornings count!

Prep the night before

The easiest way to make sure you get out of bed in the morning is to prepare your routine the night before. Fill up your water bottle, put your shoes next to the door if you’re going to go for a run, or put your journal or reading material out before you go to bed. Having these items ready will get rid of a lot of the starting energy required to begin your day. How you do this is up to you, but in case you need some inspiration, here’s how I structure my evening routine:

  • Put out tomorrow’s outfit and exercise gear
  • Choose my Big 3 tasks to focus on tomorrow
  • Journal for five to ten minutes about anything that’s still on my mind
  • Brush teeth
  • Affirmations
  • Sleep

Start with silence

The next morning, after you get up, give yourself a few minutes of silence. This might sound counter-intuitive, because after waking up, a few minutes of silence might put you back to sleep! But starting with a few minutes of reflection, prayer, or meditation can set the mood for your whole day. I find that when I start with this silent time of just a few minutes, I feel calmer and less rushed throughout my morning.

Read

Next, read. I know so many students who wish they read more for fun, but can’t find the time for it during the day. By making time to read in the morning, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to either relax and enjoy yourself (if you love reading), or expand your mind and abilities (if you don’t). Most of us would agree that we could stand to be more aware and better-read, so whether you’d like to read an article, a sacred text, a novel, or something else, make the time.

Get active

Next, get active! Exercising early in the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, jumpstarts your day, gives you a quick energy boost, and (in my own experience), encourages more activity throughout the day. You could try to exercise in a few of the following ways:

  • A morning yoga routine (there are tons of free videos on YouTube from 5 to 15 minutes!)
  • A quick walk
  • A quick run (I like the free C25K program if you’re new to running — just make sure you go slow!)
  • If you’re ambitious, a trip to the gym

Get inspired

An essential and often-overlooked part of any morning routine is getting inspired for the morning and the day ahead. Without some positive feelings about my plans and the day ahead, it’s easy for me to get bogged down in sleepy feelings and frustration. If I start with some inspiration, whether that’s in the form of a meditation track, an encouraging text from a friend, or an article that motivates me, I usually have a much better day as a result.

Because I like to start my day with a positive moment (and because I like to share my positivity with you), I’ve started sharing morning motivation over on Nextbeat. I add quick little videos throughout my morning with thoughts, inspiration, and motivation for you so you can have a more meaningful morning, as well. If you want to join in, you can subscribe to me on Nextbeat at @sara, where I use the tag #sunrisewithsara to share my motivational morning content.

Join #SunriseWithSara

Those are the five steps I take each day to make my morning routine better. I’d love to hear how you structure your morning routine; leave a comment below or on my Nextbeat channel to let me know about how you start your morning!

Sara Laughed

Sara is the founder of College Compass and an alumna of Wellesley College and Oxford University. She runs the popular blog Sara Laughed. Her greatest aspiration is to live a creative life fueled by love and coffee. Follow her onTwitter and Instagram at @SaraLaughed.