I love mornings.
Each new day brings new opportunities and it’s a chance to start fresh and do better. How you start your day, or more specifically how you spend those first few morning hours has a big impact on the rest of it. Think of it as setting the tone for your entire day. That’s why making over your morning is so important. It’s about much more than those first few hours. Different stages of your life set the environment and priorities, your children are small, they are in school, then they fly the coop. Or you are busy with your career and you are starting to feel the stress of it. There are many many things that will impact your environment, but these are all things that are doable. Back to it…
Let’s use the snooze button as an example. You set an early alarm to make sure you have time for exercise, meditation, or simply some much needed “me time”. You have every intention of getting up and doing whatever you’re setting out to do when you set the alarm in the first place.
Some mornings – hopefully, most mornings – you get up when the alarm chimes and go for that walk, do your meditation exercise, or read a book for twenty minutes. Then there are those days when you just can’t make yourself get up. You hit the snooze button multiple times, or turn the alarm off altogether and go back to sleep.
Think about how the rest of those days went. Did you notice a difference in how you felt? How much did you got done on the mornings when you got up with your first alarm? Were you able to do all the things you set out to do? How did those days compare to the ones when you hit the snooze button over and over again?
If I had to take a guess, I’d say that the mornings when you got up as soon as the alarm went off went a lot smoother. I bet you accomplished what you have planned to do, too. Chances are that sleeping through the snooze button didn’t just affect your morning, but the entire rest of your day. You set the tone for how your day is going to go first thing in the morning. That’s what the old saying about getting up on the wrong side of the bed is about. Let’s make sure we get up on the right side and start our day off in a positive and productive way.
I want to guide you through the process of making over your morning. As we’ve already established, this is an important task and a good thing to work on and pay attention to. Not only will you enjoy your mornings more even if the alarm goes off much earlier than you’d like, it will make the entire rest of your day go much smoother.
Define Your Perfect Morning
Answer me this…. What’s most important to you? What is the one thing you really want to do on a daily basis that would make a big difference, but you just can’t seem to find the time for?
In short, what good habit do you want to cultivate that would make a real impact on your life? Think about this for a moment. It could be in any area of your life from exercise and healthy eating to self-improvement or getting ahead in business or at your job. It could be working on your relationship with your kids, finding time for creative pursuits, or getting in the habit of reading every morning.
Once you’ve figured out what you want to work on, what you want to improve, and what’s important to you, we’ll think about how you can make it part of your morning routine. Sit back and imagine your perfect morning. It isn’t stressed or rushed. Most importantly it’s a day when you have time for everything on your list. Maybe it means having time for a long shower. Maybe it’s going for a run before breakfast. Maybe it’s having a few minutes to connect with your spouse over coffee or maybe it’s carving out an hour first thing in the morning to work on your side-business.
That’s a lot of “maybes” but the key is to start with what’s most important to you and think about how you could fit it into your morning routine. Remember, you’re just dreaming and imagining at this point. We’ll work on figuring out where to find the time to fit it in and how to make it all work out later on. For now, I simply want you to paint a vivid picture of what your new morning could look like.
I want you to become very clear on what you want that perfect morning to look like. Imagine it in as much detail as you possibly can. Write it down in a journal or on a piece of paper that you can refer back to as needed. In short, define your perfect morning.
Why is this so important? Because you can’t start to make any meaningful changes until you know what your goals are. You need to know your destination before you can start to pick a route and figure out how you’ll get there. Don’t stop until you have it figured out and firmly pictured in your mind.
Finding Time In Your Busy Morning
Mornings are busy and they can be quite chaotic. If you have a young family and plenty of people to get ready and out the door, you know this first hand. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way, no matter how busy you think you are first thing in the day. Earlier I shared with you how the first few hours in the morning set the tone for the entire rest of the day. Do you want that to be rushed, frantic, and feeling like you’re constantly running and trying to catch up? Or do you want it to be calm, collected, productive, and with a feeling that you’re in control? It’s up to you and it’s all about embracing two simple concepts.
Get Up Early Enough
It’s tempting to hit the snooze button and catch a few more minutes of sleep, isn’t it? It’s even hard to set the alarm early enough that you have plenty of time for everything you want and need to get done. I get it. If you’re not a morning person, moving up the alarm by 30 minutes to carve out a little extra time can be tough. Trust me though, after the first few mornings it’s not nearly as hard as you think and something you’ll quickly get used to.
Getting up early enough and avoiding the snooze button at all costs is the key to an unrushed morning. Here’s the problem with cutting time too short, or worse hitting the snooze button a few times. It gets you behind from the very start. You have to rush to make it out the door in time and any little problem or speed bump along the way turns into a huge problem. Not being able to find the car keys is suddenly a major crisis because it could cause you to be late for work and the kids to be tardy at school. Remember, your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. If you start it chasing down time and things, that’s likely how you’ll spend the rest of your time.
Getting up early enough, on the other hand, puts you ahead of the game. You’re in control. You can take care of everything that needs doing in a calm manner and still have time for the important things you want to work on. In short, getting up early enough sets you up for an amazing, productive day.
Restructure Your Routine
Spend a little time thinking about your current morning routine and where you’re spending time. Look for things you can change and tweak to find more time for the things you really want to do. For example, if you want an extra 20 minutes in the morning to meditate, look at what you could take care ahead of time, eliminate, or delegate to make that time. If you spend a lot of time getting breakfast for everyone, get in the habit of setting the breakfast table the night before. Get your spouse to get the coffee ready, so all you have to do in the morning is push a button. Teach the kids to make their own breakfast and take the dirty dishes to the sink, rinse them, and put them in the dish washer. Make sure clothes are set out the night before (including yours), and that book bags, purses, briefcases, and car keys have a designated spot and that there where they need to be before you turn in for the night. Small changes like this to your morning routine can make a big difference. I challenge you to come up with a few small tweaks that will save you at least 30 minutes in the morning.
Determining What You Should Be Doing Is Crucial
We have been talking about finding the time in your busy morning to do the things that are important to you. Now, I want you to think about what you should and what you shouldn’t be doing in those first few hours of the day(you knew this part was coming right?!?). It’s an important idea to ponder. So often we get stuck in a rut or a routine and do things because that’s what we’ve always done. We do it without really thinking about whether or not it’s the best use of our time.
It’s Not About Cramming More Things Into Less Time
Making over your morning isn’t about figuring out how to cram more tasks into fewer hours. When you read books and articles on productivity and time management, that’s often the main message and gist of it. While it can help in the short term, it isn’t a good long-term strategy for meaningful change. Very soon you’ll hit the limit of how much faster and how much more efficient you can get.
Shift your thinking and don’t try to add to what you do in the morning. If you want 15 minutes for bible study, meditation, or exercise, don’t just think about getting up 15 minutes earlier, or shaving 15 minutes off your morning routine by showering faster, getting dressed in record time, and rushing through breakfast. In other words, don’t add to your already lengthy list of things that need to get done. You’ll only feel more rushed and stressed if you do.
It’s About Making Smart Choices About Using Your Time
Instead, what you should be thinking about is the best use of your time in the morning. Compare your perfect morning with your current morning routine. What aren’t you doing on your ideal morning? If you can start by cutting things out, finding time to do what’s important to you becomes much easier.
There are two great ways to find things you can stop doing. The first is to look for busy work. This is something you do out of habit that doesn’t necessarily need doing every day. Maybe it’s checking your email first thing in the morning or playing around on Facebook for half an hour while you drink your coffee. If that’s how you choose to spend your time, that’s perfectly fine, but if you’re doing it out of habit it may be time to rethink it.
The second way to quickly earn back time is to see if you’re doing things or others that they can do themselves. Kids are the perfect example. We start out fixing their breakfast, making their lunch, cleaning up after them, picking out their clothes, and making sure their backpack is packed and ready to do. When they are very small, we have to do these things, but all too often we continue to do them long after they’re capable of doing things on their own. The same goes for things we do for our spouse. Maybe there was a time when you had less to do in the morning and it made sense to take on the majority of morning chores. Did things change and if so, is it time to lighten your load and get help from your partner? A few small changes may be all it takes to make the time in your busy morning for what’s important to you.
Come Up With A New Morning Game Plan
Now, that you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do in the morning, what you don’t want to or need to do, and where to find the extra time needed, it’s time to put it all together in a new morning game plan.
The best place to start is with the new set of tasks that are most important to you. Figure out a preliminary time during which you want to get them accomplished. If your goal is to go for a run in the morning, you may decide to do that first thing before getting a shower and having breakfast. If your goal is to meditate each morning, you may decide it would work best after you’ve had a cup of coffee. If your goal is to find some time for reading or your favorite hobby in the morning, you could carve out some time before everyone else gets up and while you enjoy that first coffee. The same goes for wanting time in the morning to work on your business or learn something new.
Then work the rest of your morning chores around these new plans. It may take some shuffling around and mixing up of your current routine, but with a little creative thinking and a bit of flexibility, I’m sure you can come up with a working plan.
Making over your morning and turning it into a new routine isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us. It takes a little while to get into the groove of things. We’ll look at this in a little more detail tomorrow. For right now, my suggestion is that you write your new morning game plan down. It’s easy to forget what you’re planning to do. Writing it down will not only give you a reference to refer back to, but also solidify your new plan in your mind.
Put the note or notebook where you jotted down your new plan on your night table or somewhere else where you’ll see it first thing in the morning. It will serve as a reminder of what you’re intending to do and do differently in the morning now. I set my phone up with reminder alarms, I have one alarm for waking up, one alarm for getting in the shower, one alarm for getting dressed and one alarm for walking out the door. I am able to work my other important activities into those windows.
Even though you’ve written your plan down, it’s important to realize it’s not written in stone. The well-laid out plans don’t always work when put into action. Adjust it and make changes as needed until you come up with a new morning game plan that works well for you and the rest of your family. Once you have that it’s time to make it the new routine.
The Importance Of Habits And Routines
With your new morning game plan figured out, it’s time to not only put it into action but make it your new morning routine. Why is this important? Because you want to make sure your new plan happens every morning without fail and turning into a routine is the best way to make sure that happens.
Before something becomes a habit or a routine, it takes a lot of willpower to things happen. That’s energy that you will need for other things throughout your morning and busy rest of the day. Yes, it will take some willpower, mental energy, and drive at first to create the new morning habits, but once they are set, it will become automatic like brushing your teeth before bed.
Once you come up with a good working morning routine, stick to it for a few weeks. That’s the best way to turn it into a strong habit. Before long, it will feel like the new normal and you no longer have to remind yourself to do each thing along the way. It will have become a habit and a routine you’ll follow automatically. It will take a lot less effort and mental pep-talk to get things done… even if your new routine includes a 30-minute run, or getting up at the crack of down to work on your most important business task for an hour.
Watch out for moments when you slip back into your old habits and routines. It’s going to happen. The key is to catch it early and get back on track as quickly as possible. For example, let’s say you’ve been doing well with waking up 30 minutes earlier and going for a run before you start your day. Then one day you oversleep and can’t make it out there. Or the weather turns too bad, you get sick or hurt, or something else pops up that keeps you from going on that run. That’s life. It happens. What’s important is what you decide to do the next morning.
Your most important job whenever life gets in the way of your new morning routine is to get back on track as quickly as possible. Do what you can as soon as you notice the disruption. If the weather is bad, do a quick workout at home, or head to the gym to run on the treadmill. If you overslept, try to squeeze in a few minutes of meditation or doing something to grow your business before you get back to the rest of your day. Most importantly get back on track with your regular morning routine as soon as possible. Get back into your new habits the next morning if at all possible. Actively remind yourself to get back on track for a few days until it routine is firmly back in place. You’ll be glad you did when you start to see the results you’ve been hoping for.
Take Time To Review Your Morning Routine Regularly
Creating routines and habits for your mornings are a great thing. They allow you to do what you need to do to move ahead without having to spend a lot of energy and time thinking about it. That’s a good thing. It can also be a dangerous thing when you’ve focused on the wrong things and are in the habit of doing things that don’t help you reach your goals.
When we get into a routine, it’s hard to stop and ask ourselves if it’s working as well as it could be. Even more importantly, with a routine and a set of habits firmly established, it’s easy to keep going even when the circumstances change. That’s why it’s important to take some time every now and again to review our routine and habits, including the new morning routine.
Set aside a little time every few weeks, or even months to review your routine. Put it on the calendar and make sure you do it. It won’t take long and it will be a very valuable exercise in the long run. Our lives and circumstances change. Our routines should change with it. Just because something has served us well over the past few weeks and months, doesn’t mean it will continue to do so. Which brings up a good point…
When you sit down to review your morning routine (or any routine or habit you’ve been working on for that matter), ask yourself this:
Is it working? Is it working really well?
If it is, simply carry on. If it isn’t, it may be time to make some changes and tweak it until you find something that works well for you at that particular point in time.
Another way to look at it is to find what you love and what you hate about the new morning routine. Change it accordingly until you get as close as possible to loving everything about it and still getting the results you want.
Remember, this morning routine will change and evolve over time as you, your circumstances, and the people in your life change and evolve. Embrace the changes and look at them as an indication that you’re making progress.
Keep tweaking and improving your morning routine and don’t be afraid to mix up your goals for it. Maybe you started out by making exercise a priority first thing in the day. As time goes by and you become more fit and make time for it later in the day, your focus may shift to meditation, or learning a new language. Keep evolving, keep changing, and keep using those precious first few hours of each day to establish some positive change in yourself and those around you.