It comes down to eliminating distractions and preparing for optimal efficiency.
"At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets." — Steve Maraboli (via Twitter, My Morning Routine)
It's that lovely time of year when we can make New Year's resolutions and feel newly motivated about becoming the person we always wished to be. For me, developing a better morning routine is a top priority. There's so much to do in a day, but the way in which the day starts sets the tone for the remaining hours. Based on reading I've done, what follows is a list of my own goals for a better morning routine in 2018. (Some of these habits I've incorporated into my morning routine in recent months.)
Leave phone downstairs and don't check it.
My phone does not come into my bedroom anymore. I use an old fashioned alarm clock radio with a snooze button. I plan to set that alarm clock for 4:45 a.m., allowing myself a single snooze cycle before getting up. It's not as awful as it sounds, as long as I'm in bed by 9:30 the night before.
Upon coming downstairs, I make myself a cup of green tea, but I avoid my cellphone charging on the countertop. It feels depressing and dangerous to start scrolling through social media and news that early, and I'm not alone in this. Fast Company agrees, putting it at the top of its list of things successful people do with the first hour of their work day. It's even the title of Julie Morgenstern's work management book, Never Check Email in the Morning.
Start strong in the morning.
That first hour or two will be the most productive. Your mind is refreshed, willpower is highest, self-control has been replenished. Use this time to do something that requires focus. That's why I dive into writing immediately; my goal is one article completed before 7 a.m.
Not everyone agrees with me, saying these early hours are better used for meditation, yoga, journaling, reading, or exercising; but I find I do my best, most efficient writing in the silent darkness of the morning. I prefer to save 'easier' activities for later in the day, once the mental exhaustion sets in.
This has the added benefit of feeling productive and, therefore, more present for my young kids once they're awake. I'm more cheerful and focused on them for the two hours before school begins, knowing I've completed nearly a third of my workday by that point.
Prepare for the next day.
Preparation takes several forms. Going to bed on time is arguably the biggest factor for me. I need at least 7 hours of sleep, so I have to begin winding down at 9 p.m. This is hard. Usually I could keep reading or watching a movie for another hour before feeling tired, but then getting up would be impossible. Avoiding my phone at night is key.
I want to get better about making a 'tomorrow list' of things I want to accomplish. This advice comes via Gina Tripani, Lifehacker founder. She says:
“Choose your frog [a.k.a. project], and write it down on a piece of paper that you’ll see when you arrive back at your desk in the morning. If you can, gather together the material you’ll need to get it done and have that out, too."
For me, this will take the form of planning out at least one of the articles I plan to write the next day, instead of sitting down to a blank slate. Rather than wasting precious, productive early-morning time trying to figure out a topic, I'll be ready to jump in.
Eat more and eat better.
Breakfast doesn't happen till 8 a.m., once my kids are up and have done a half-hour of supervised music practice. Then it's a mad scramble to get some food into me, usually with unsatisfactory results. My goal for 2018 is to be more disciplined about eating a large, hearty breakfast, which I need to get through the morning without getting hungry and to support my 4-times-a-week CrossFit habit. This will likely be a bowl of granola with yogurt and fruit, followed by several fried eggs, kimchi or kefir, a toasted bagel, and a healthy-gut protein shake. (Like I said, I need a lot of food!)
Keep reading about morning routines.
I find it helpful to read continually about other people's morning habits; it keeps me inspired and on track. My favorite website for this is My Morning Routine, which publishes a new routine weekly. I enjoy habit-building books, such as Stephen Covey's now-famous "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and Gretchen Rubin's "Better Than Before" (reading it now).
I've begun writing down my morning start times in my planner. Seeing those times can will (or shame) me into doing a better job at getting up promptly. My husband helps, too. When I've told him I need to be out of bed before 5, he gives me that extra nudge in the morning that I need (mostly because he doesn't want to hear the snooze kick in repeatedly).
Do you have a set morning routine? Which habits can you not live without, and which would you love to banish forever?