You can hear it in the background, the soft melodic chirping of…what is that? Oh. Yeah. Your alarm. Wait! What day is it?!! Argh, Tuesday! It’s Tuesday, and your alarm is going off because you’re supposed to get up and go to work. It’s all coming together: the week ahead, today’s to-dos, and the fact that despite getting decent sleep last night you feel exhausted.
You hit snooze and quickly fall back into a deep but dreamless slumber. 10 minutes later your phone goes off again. You hit snooze once more. This time your sleep is restless as you start to mentally work through all the things waiting for you when you get to work. But you just can’t bring yourself to roll out of bed just yet.
The next alarm sounds. Now you’re 20 minutes behind schedule. Why do you do this to yourself every morning?!?
Phone already in hand, you take a few minutes to check emails – might as well get a head start on the day. And there they are, the pressing requests from clients and bosses – the impending deadlines, the never ending requests for clarification, and suggested changes to the projects you spent all of last week completing.
If being 20 minutes late wasn’t stressful enough, checking your emails did you in. You jump in the shower, get ready for work and head for the kitchen. Thank goodness for coffee, you pour a hot cup of joe; this might just be the highlight of your morning. As you cram a quick breakfast down you swipe through your Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook accounts. All is as expected with the world.
Then it’s out the door and off to work without a second to spare. You know you’re cutting it close – that is, if you’re lucky…
The solution in six simple steps
You rush through your mornings, and you know it’s not good for you. You’d like to change that. You too would like to implement Arianna Huffington and Richard Branson’s morning routines, but somewhere along the way late night catching up on GOT episodes, morning wardrobe identity crises, and clamoring kids (human or furry ones), makes it awfully hard to get up at the crack of dawn, keep a gratitude journal, work out, and meditate all before you run out the door and into work.
Every guru, entrepreneurial giant, successful icon and pop-up celebrity out there has written about their morning routines and how it’s the key to their success. Try it, Google ‘morning habits of the successful’ you’ll get about 1.6 Million hits in 0.73 seconds. I’ve linked to a few of the best morning routines at the end of this post. But don’t scroll down just yet, because you’d miss my 2 cents, and these are über actionable, small steps even the most busy of us can take.
1/ Buy a real alarm clock
Stop using your phone as an alarm clock. There are so many good reasons to follow this advice, but I’ll give you a single one. If you don’t reach for your phone first thing in the morning, you’ll be less tempted to start your day off checking email, or wasting time on social media when you could be getting ready and checking-in with yourself.
2/ Start the day with a check-in
How can you take care of yourself if you don’t really know how you’re doing? Start you day with a simple check-in. Ask yourself how you’re feeling, what you’re most looking forward to and what you’re most dreading. This takes 2 minutes tops and is a three word process – how, why, what. H am I feeling? Why am I feeling like this? What will I choose to do about it?
This is the most common piece of advice my clients get from me. You’d think they’d be tired of it, except that they’re all converts. Take a second to breathe in the morning. You don’t have to mediate or learn deep breathing, all you need to do is breathe in and out of your nose a couple times. As you breathe out let go of the tension in your shoulders, chest, jaw and the back of your head. If you’re a busy, productive, driven human being, the second you wake up you start to build tension throughout your body. You’d be surprised how quickly your stress can get to you. Breathing is the simplest, least expensive and most effective way to de-stress.
4/ Ditch the screens
I love my phone, I love my computer even more, and above all else I LOVE my Kindle. But that love can be toxic, and like with any relationship it’s good to set limits. Not much, but giving yourself 30-60 minutes in the morning before you check your screens is not much to ask.
5/ Do nothing
Try spending 2 minutes (more if you can) just staring into space, doing nothing at all. Give your brain a few minutes to reboot and enjoy the calm before your day gets crazy.
My favorite times to do nothing in the morning are 1) while my coffee is brewing, 2) while breakfast is cooking, and 3) while taking the first several sips of my scalding, strong, smooth and delicious black coffee.
Get some tips for how best to do this + a ton more information about why doing nothing is essential if you want to thrive in today’s world in my free 7 day Art of Nothing tutorial [click here to sign up].
6/ Choose a single ritual
As I mentioned there are tons of suggested morning routines out there. Most of them share commonalities like getting up earlier than everyone else, working out/moving vigorously first thing in the morning, giving thanks – whether in a gratitude journal or while meditating, starting the day off with your hardest most demanding task, getting inspired – either through affirmations, reading, or setting personal goals.
It’s hard to cram a bunch of new habits into your day, especially when you’re not sure they’re right for you. So choose one thing, one single ritual or routine and start with that. See how it works for you, and only once you have it down, then choose another ritual to build in.
For me it started with getting ready before I went downstairs for breakfast. This allowed me to never feel rushed and uncomfortable with myself (especially on bad hair days). Then I added the Art of Nothing practice with my coffee – some days are better than others, but the best days are the ones where I take 5 minutes to sit outside while I drink that first cup. I’m currently working on making journaling a consistent thing, but that’s been hard.
Do you, but do something
If you don’t like something about your life, change it. Hate how rushed you feeling in the morning – do something about it. Fed up with feeling tired all week long – do something about it. Feeling trapped at work, feeling dazed and confused when you think about the next 30 years of your career – do something about it.
That something doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be something I recommend, or what everyone else is telling you to do, but you do have to do something if you want a change.
Your morning routine is a great place to start. I was dead serious when I said that how you start your day sets the tone for the next 16 hours. Get a handle on your mornings, so you can start thinking about making any and all the other changes you want in your life.
The 6 steps I shared are designed to be easy, accessible, realistic and effective. I would recommend starting with #1 and seeing how it works for you. Once you have that down, move on to # 2. By the time you get to step #6, ‘choose a single ritual’, you’ll be in a great place to choose a ritual that is meaningful and impactful.
If you want to learn more about slowing down and reclaiming your time check out the Art of Nothing – it’s 7 days of tips and advice to reclaim your life and say so long to stress.