By: Adrienne Thoman Central Penn College | Article from 2020 Spring CLT Magazine

Ok, I get it. In our world, things get busy (hello, understatement of the year). We book vendors, troubleshoot tech, call BINGO, get duck taped to walls, fundraise, research, teach, collaborate, all the while mastering that pizza-to-people ratio and inspiring student leaders.

With all of the chaos our jobs can entail in a typical day, it’s important to put some practices in place to protect our sanity, shun burnout, and allow us to appreciate and maintain the joy that comes with our roles. I love my job in Student Engagement (#bestjobever), and I want to be able to continue to do it for many years to come! I’m guessing you feel the same.

I am huge on personal and professional development. I’m always trying new techniques and strategies to enable me to be more/do more. But when I think about the habits that have allowed me to sustain the busy seasons, there is one that I have found to be key (WARNING: it may challenge you to get up early, but hear me out)… developing a morning routine.

I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s hard to balance late night pancake parties with an early morning wake-up call, but your morning is gold. Many (most) of the leading personal development leaders profess the benefits of a strong morning routine. It’s the least likely time to get hijacked by your to-do list, there’s rarely a student activity scheduled, and if you do it right, it will set the stage for you to truly own your day.

Since I’ve initiated a consistent morning routine, I’ve seen a major difference in my energy and productivity. I’ll share my routine, which has been pieced together from Tony Robbins, Rachel Hollis, Robin Sharma, and Mel Robbins (they are great – read all the books). Disclaimer: I made a process that works for me, but it’s not one size fits all. Try it out and adjust to what works for you.

Here’s my simple four-step process:

1. When your alarm goes off, get out of bed. Do not hit snooze. Do not pick up your cell phone (in fact, sleep with it in another room if you can). Just get out of bed. Check out Mel Robbins and the #5secondrule if you need some additional motivation in this area. She shares a ton of great research about why hitting snooze is bad for your brain.

2Move (20 min.) – Before your brain has the chance to convince you otherwise, start moving. Sleep in your workout clothes if you need to. If you are a gym rat, go there. If you like workout videos (I’m a HUGE Sweatin’ to the Oldies fan), turn on that DVD player. Like the outdoors? Take a walk. We are all different. We all have different levels of fitness. Just move. Do what you can. Starting out your day with exercise will release endorphins, clear your mind, reduce stress, and get you pumped up and ready to start your day.

3. Reflect (20 min.) – There are lots of ways to do this and no way is perfect. Just play around until you find what works for you. Tony Robbins has a daily ritual called “priming” that includes lots of visualization and breathing. I’ve tried it (It’s available for free online, and I encourage you to try it as well), but it wasn’t something I could commit to daily. After trying out a few different recipes from various leaders, here’s where I landed…

Each day in my journal I write the following:

Gratitude (The club president that is finally starting to use an agenda for his club meetings, a former student stopping in for a visit, my sweet French Bulldog, etc.). Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” So focus on the good stuff and challenge yourself to find a sliver of gratitude even from challenges you may be facing. I know, not easy, but positivity breeds more positivity. (FYI… any time you are feeling stressed is another GREAT time to do this.)

Goals. Write ‘em out. This part came from Rachel Hollis. She writes out her top 10 goals every. single. day. Big goals, audacious goals, “I am President of the College (or the country)” types of goals. The idea is to think of your ideal self ten years from now, then figure out the ten goals you need to set to get you there. Then write them down in the present tense like you’ve already achieved them. *Google Rachel’s 10-10-1 plan for more details!

Affirmations. I close each journaling session by focusing on how I will be the very best version of myself in the day ahead of me. Maybe even check your calendar to see what roadblocks are heading your way and envision yourself tackling them with ease. Again, write this down like you’ve already achieved it (no “I will”). I am stronger than the free pizza and eat a nutritious salad in the café. I am patient when I explain (yet again) why we can’t bring Nicki Minaj to Homecoming. I am an unstoppable student activities powerhouse! You get the idea.

4Learn (20 min.) – Readers are leaders! And the benefits of reading just 15 minutes a day are profound. This year alone, I’m positioned to read 75 books thanks primarily to this new reading habit. 75 books filled with theory, entertainment, inspiration, new ideas to implement, and new perspectives to consider. And I’ve been able to reach that much primarily because I am in the habit of reading just a little bit every day. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Four tasks. One hour. Every day. Try it for just one week, and see what happens. Every single day get out of bed without hitting snooze, move, reflect, and learn. Listen, I know the idea of spending one hour every day on yourself may seem challenging – especially with the schedules that we keep in our roles. But what if? What if you entered into each workday with more energy? What if you walked into each team meeting with a new idea? What if your positive mindset allowed you to connect with your students better? What if the return on your one-hour investment extends not only throughout the day, but throughout your life?


Adrienne Thoman is Student Engagement Director at Central Penn College, located in Summerdale, PA. She is co-creater of The Pirate Life Podcast (available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play), a licensed Zumba fitness instructor, and marathon runner (well, she ran one). She resides in Harrisburg with her husband, Shawn, and French Bulldog, Sookie. FYI.. She’d love to hear how your morning routine is going! Email her at