Morning Rituals

Your Morning NOT-TO-DO List

Morning list(Estimated Reading Time: 4 min)

When we think about morning routines, we often think about what we want to do, add, or extend.

What’s also important is what we decide not to do in the morning.

Let’s call this our morning NOT-to-do list.

Over the years, my NOT-to-do list has grown as I’ve become more aware of the impact certain habits were having on how I started my day.  Some of these habits I now avoid, while most I delay until later in my morning.

Here are my main NOT to-do list items:

I don’t…

  • Look at my phone while eating breakfast
  • Respond to text messages (in the first hour, except emergencies)
  • Check social media (in the first 3 hours)
  • Check email (in the first 3 hours)
  • Read the news (until after 10:30 am, but usually later than that)
  • Lie in bed if I wake up early and can’t fall back asleep

Sometimes there are exceptions, but these NOT-to-do’s have all become habits that are mostly automatic.

There are plenty more I could add, but I try not to be too restrictive and only focus on the ones that are most important.

Here are some other ideas you may want to consider:

  • No caffeine in the morning
  • No snooze button
  • No waking up later than ________
  • No looking at your phone before spending time with your partner
  • No watching t.v.
  • No breakfast on the run
  • No screens until you’ve spent 30 minutes with your kids, partner, parents, etc

Strategies for Implementing your Morning NOT-to-do List

It’s all fine and dandy to create a NOT to-do list, what’s harder is to implement it.  Experiment with the following strategies to make your change happen:

Choose the right framing for you

One option is to highlight the bad habit you want to give up:

I won’t ________ until I _________.


  • I won’t check social media until I’ve stretched, meditated and read 10 pages.
  • I won’t check email until I’ve planned my day.
  • I won’t read news until I’ve exercised, made my bed, and worked on my business for 1 hour.

The other option is to frame it by focusing on the positive habit you are prioritizing:

Before I __________, I will ___________


  • Before I check social media, I will stretch, meditate and read 10 pages.
  • Before I check email, I will plan my day.
  • Before I read news, I will exercise, make my bed and work on my business for 1 hour.

Don’t worry about which way you frame it. Sometimes exposing our bad habits gives us the shame and motivation to change them. At other times focusing on the positivity of new habits is more of a motivator. The right way is the one that works for you to change your habits.

Add a why statement

It’s extremely helpful to remind ourselves regularly why we are choosing to make changes, especially when we start to encounter challenges. Adding a why statement to your habit change can be extremely powerful and motivating.


  • Before I check social media, I will stretch, meditate and read 10 pages because these are the habits that will have a much bigger impact on my happiness and success in life.
  • I won’t read news until I’ve exercised because I want my mind to be clear; I won’t read news until I’ve made my bed because I want to be in control of my time; I won’t read news until I’ve worked on my business for 1 hour because I want to wake up focused on my top priority.

Focus on few changes at a time

Don’t go crazy and try to implement your entire list at once. Try starting with 1-2 items at a time, and only moving on to next items once you feel like your new habits are pretty solid. You can also start small within each habit change. If you don’t want to check email or social media for the first 3 hours, start with 15 or 30 minutes, and then increase the time over the next several weeks. Combine this with the framing and why statement for that extra motivation.

Keep Track

One of the best ways to form or change habits is to keep track of it. I’ve included a morning rituals tracker at the end of the free guide ‘Love Waking Up: 5 Simple Strategies to Customize Your Morning Routine’. You can download and start using that right now.

Make adjustments

As you monitor how you are doing with your habit, make adjustments as needed. If you struggle to reach your goal consistently, try lowering the bar. If you are nailing your goal quickly, try raising the bar or move on to implement your next NOT-to-do list item.

Plan, act, track, adjust. That’s your model.

Your morning is about what you don’t do as much as it is about what you do.

What’s on YOUR NOT-to-do list? What are you going to do to make it happen?

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  • Reply P S July 11, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Before I start working on the computer, I will stretch for 10-15 minutes with my child. If stretching doesn’t work out for me I will find some other type of exercise to do instead. I’m hoping that starting the day with some exercise together with the child will get her creative juices flowing so that she’ll be better able to handle the hour that I want to work alone.

    I’ve tried the same morning routine for a long time now and it just doesn’t work out for us. I’ll keep an eye out for things NOT to do in the morning, but I think everything that I do has to be done. I start by feeding pets and family, which somehow takes me an hour or two. After that I’m in a hurry to start working on the computer, but the child keeps trying to make me do things with her instead. There might be things to NOT do during the breakfast hour or two, but I think everything I do is breakfast related.

    • Reply Craig July 22, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      Hi PS, thanks for sharing your routine and your struggles. Children definitely make mornings much more challenging as your time isn’t just about you… I LOVE your idea of doing some stretching or fun exercise WITH your child. That’s a great way to pair spending time with your child and doing something important for you. I wonder how you could make some changes to alter your breakfast routine, even though there may not be an obvious solution. Could you do most the prep the night before or earlier in the week? For example, I know someone who bakes eggs with veggies in muffin trays early in the week and then keeps that in the fridge for quick and easy breakfasts. Could you ask someone else in your family for help? For your child distracting you, is there any morning routine for them that will delight and occupy them while you start working – colouring time, a special play time, or even time that if they don’t disturb you for they get a special reward (I’m not sure how old they are an d what would be appropriate, but just some ideas….).

  • Reply Bronwyn Crawford September 1, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    You make many good points in this article. However I do struggle with the use of the word shame and do not believe encouraging people to shame themselves into change is desirable.

    • Reply Craig September 2, 2017 at 12:09 am

      Thanks for your perspective Bronwyn. I agree that we don’t want to encourage people to shame themselves to change habits. I’m suggesting we can use the shame that’s already there and transform that into motivation and action. Shame is something that certain habits will make us feel, which is why external accountability can be helpful for some people in some cases. As an example, I decided to track my urges to check Facebook and actual log-ins this past month as part of an accountability group I’m in. I had been trying to change this habit on my own before but suddenly when I knew I had to email my accountability partner about my actual cravings and tendencies, the shame acted as a motivator to be and do better.

  • Reply Deborah L Miller October 2, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Great Blog. I have also made the no phone, e-mail, test etc a rule for every meal.

  • Reply soulaimane January 30, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    i usually dont comment on blog posts , but this post was great enough , i cant just read and go , thank you so much !! i just made my morning not to do list , yay ! thanks again

    • Reply Craig January 31, 2018 at 5:37 pm

      Wohoo! Thanks for taking the time to comment:)

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