We’re starting the Beautiful Mornings Challenge this week, and it’s all about waking slightly earlier (actually, that’s optional) and creating a beautiful, simple morning routine. Making the most of the delicious morning light and quiet.

So let’s talk about how to get started this week.

This first week, we’re just going to pick one thing to do each morning. But before we talk about that, let’s talk about waking a little earlier.

Waking Earlier — Optional, and Non-Drastic

Optional: You don’t have to wake up earlier if that’s not your thing — maybe you like your wake-up time and already have a little room for a few simple things in the morning. Or maybe you already wake up at 5 a.m. and that works well for you. Don’t worry about waking earlier in those cases. For the majority of us, though, waking a little earlier will give us some space to do the things we want to do in our Beautiful Mornings.

How much to wake earlier: If you do choose to wake earlier, I want to stress that it should just be a little earlier. Not an hour earlier. Just 5-10 minutes, or 20 minutes at the most. Let’s take me as an example: let’s say I’ve been normally waking up around 7 a.m. … I could set a wake-up time for 6:45 for the first week. Then 6:30 the week after that.

However … if you have trouble waking earlier, just wake up at 6:50. Just 10 minutes earlier. And then maybe 6:40 or 6:45 in the second week. Make this a gradual change — if you do 10 minutes a week, you’ll be waking up 40 minutes earlier by the end of the month. That might actually be too much too fast, because it takes awhile to shift our sleep schedule. You don’t want to be sleep deprived and unhappy.

Go to bed earlier: This should go without saying, but it’s actually pretty common to forget that you should go to bed a bit earlier if you’re going to wake earlier. Again, we’re not talking about an hour earlier — just 10 minutes or so. If you want to wake at 6:45, you should probably go to bed by 10:30 p.m. Start winding down a bit before your target bedtime, shutting down your computer, brushing and flossing your teeth, cleaning up a little, writing out your 3 Most Important Tasks for tomorrow, and mentally reviewing what you’re going to do for your Beautiful Morning routine in the morning. No phones or computers or TV at least 30 minutes before bed, and an hour or more is even better.

What if I have a variable schedule: Some people have work or school schedules that require them to wake at different times on different days, sometimes drastically different. This makes a regular sleep schedule and morning routine difficult. There’s no right answer here, but if you know you need to wake at 11 a.m. on one day, and 7 a.m. on another day … just wake up 10 minutes before each of those times. Assuming that’s not going to leave you sleep deprived. If you need your sleep, maybe sleep to when you need to, but see if you can carve out 10 minutes when you first wake (don’t check your phone, for example) for your Beautiful Morning. It’s also entirely possible that some people won’t be able to do Beautiful Mornings — then maybe do it in the evenings if you have the time and energy.

Choose One Thing in the 1st Week

The key task this week is to choose something that you’d like to create space for in your mornings, and do that a little each morning. Ideally, it’s something nice and enjoyable, not like a crazy Crossfit workout — unless that’s your idea of meditation!

Some ideas to choose from:

But of course, you can choose anything that sounds lovely to you. Those are just some ideas.

Important guidelines:

  1. Pick something you can do in 10 minutes or so (or even 5 minutes). The idea isn’t to do your ideal version of it (45 minutes of yoga, for example), but just to get the habit started. Do the smallest version of it.
  2. Pick something you’re not already doing regularly — you can add to your current routine if you already have a decent routine. If you already meditate, maybe you’ve been wanting to add journaling after meditation. So do meditation then journaling.
  3. Visualize how you’ll do this activity when you wake up. Are you going to do it as soon as you get out of bed? Use the bathroom, wash your face, drink a glass of water first? Start your coffee and then do the activity?
  4. Where will you do it? Find a space.
  5. Set reminders. Both on your phone and visual reminders somewhere you’ll see it in the morning.
  6. Do not let yourself get caught up in computer or phone activities before you start the activity. Go straight into it without hesitation.

How to Make It Beautiful

For this month to qualify as the “Beautiful Morning Challenge,” we have to make it beautiful. Here are some ideas: