If there’s one thing on TikTok that seems to unite everyone from entrepreneurial tech bros to crunchy wellness gurus, it’s an obsession with dialing in the Perfect Morning Routine.
The hashtag #MorningRoutine has been viewed 10 billion times.
Driven by videos like this 13 second one from @victoriaoglass that’s been liked more than a million times and features nothing more than a woman making her bed, drinking some green juice from a wine glass, and hitting the gym.
Or this one from user @hausskris showing how she wakes at 6:00 am, attends a pilates class, cleans her apartment, and starts work on her computer by 9:00am sharp (at a treadmill desk, no less).
After recently going on a binge of these routines, I found that the order of operations they showcase are, for the most part, so banal, unsurprising, and similar that they’re practically indistinguishable from one another.
Despite this fact, and despite the obvious absurdity of wasting my day watching other people optimize every minute of theirs, I have to admit there’s something kind of hypnotic and soothing about watching them.
As if, in the throwing open a window, the slicing of a pineapple, or the jotting down of a task list, the creators are showing me the secret to success.
Some include explicit tips, while others just imply a template to follow.
Either way, their message is simple, but their promise is enormous: spend 30 minutes on these steps and your entire life will fall into place.
With that smoothie (and sketchy green powder “available through the link in my bio”) will come perfect physical health. With meditation, inner peace. With alkaline water, beauty. And with a manifestation exercise, untold riches.
While most of the routine videos relate to productivity, a subset of creators specifically focus on the supposed link between a tight morning and financial success, such as user @tanner.chidester whose “Millionaire morning routine” shows him waking at 4:00am, hitting the gym, and managing his team from his home, or @robmooreprogressive, who synthesized Five Morning Routines of the Super Successful.
The public’s fascination with the routines of the wealthy predates and extends far beyond TikTok.
I even contributed to this Routine-Industrial-Complex when, in 2017, I wrote about trying out different morning routines for Medium in a post that’s now been viewed more than 200k times.
On the surface, many of the tips do have some evidence to support their benefits (though those also tend to be the most obvious, like drinking water).
What I would question is how much obsessing over the first hour of our days – a time when you may still feel half-alive – can really make a dent in the biggest challenges we face.
When it comes to building wealth, for instance, Americans face enormous hurdles that include, but are not limited to:
- Having underpaid jobs due to numerous sub-reasons such as:
- Decades-long wage stagnation
- The weakening of the labor movement
- Systemic sexism and racism
- A housing affordability crisis
- A child care affordability crisis
- A healthcare affordability crisis
I could go on, but I’m not here to depress you.
I’m just here to remind you – and myself, maybe – that these issues are so much bigger than religiously drinking Matcha at exactly 6:15am.
And while there is nothing wrong with drinking Matcha, I think that fixating on the routine can really miss the forest for the trees.
Perhaps the truest thing about these videos’ promise of wealth is that there does seem to be potential for getting rich through making them.
Provided they go viral and get you a bunch of followers to which you can hawk products.
In the captions of many popular routines videos, users link to protein shakes or supplements with which they have affiliate partnerships, meaning that they’re paid a small amount every time someone purchases the products. Others sell more explicit services such as courses or coaching.
Maybe I’m just a little bitter because, as the parent of a one-year-old, the promises of these videos are especially inaccessible. The morning at my house begins abruptly with feeding and cleaning up poo. (And yes, snuggles and giggles…but also, poo).
But I can also attest to the fact that even after having the most chaotic, un-aspirational morning possible, I sometimes still get a lot done.
Meanwhile, the things that have made or will make the biggest impact on my financial situation – namely, how the overall stock market is doing, policies around student loan forgiveness, which jobs I apply for and get, and frankly, having received a fair amount of family support over the years – feel either wholly or largely unrelated to what kind of juice I had for breakfast.
That billions of people like these videos says something about our collective sense of inadequacy. It’s as if we’re asking, “Can somebody, anybody, please just tell me exactly what to do at every minute to be successful, or even just okay?”
In our largely secular age, wellness and self-care, (and wealth for that matter), can take on a pseudo-spiritual element. Many understandably seek to fill a void that, for whatever reason, organized religion, local community, interest-based groups, and other forms of collective purpose do not fill for them. I believe that is to some extent what’s going on here.
On a personal level, I get it. The roots of my financial anxiety are so big, and can feel so overwhelming, but starting the day with a healthy shake? That might be doable. If watching routine videos is an emotional balm then, sure – whatever works!
But if it ends up being yet another reason to feel like your day and life aren’t measuring up, keep in mind: a) that the creators, like everyone, have an agenda, b) it’s maybe just not that consequential, and we’d be better off focusing on the aspects of our financial lives that are.
That might mean beefing up your investing knowledge, learning about budgeting and saving strategies, focusing on your long-term career goals, or keeping up with macroeconomic issues and supporting candidates that align with your views.
And if you can’t seem to quit hitting the snooze button 5x only to roll out of bed and log bleary-eyed into work – your bank account probably won’t know.
Annie Midori Atherton is a writer, content producer and parent living in Seattle. She’s interested in exploring how our broader culture impacts everyday life and questions of why we are the way we are.
If you know someone who can relate, please share.
Image: Justin Case/Stone via GettyImages