Organizing Your Life 202: Setting Yourself Up for Success by Creating a Morning Routine (and Sticking to It)

Virtually all of the leading business and lifestyle magazines regularly report on the critical role the early morning hours can play in determining the outcome of the rest of your day.  For this reason, having a set morning routine can literally change a person’s life. While it is true that some things are simply out of our control, we can largely control our mindset and how we respond to whatever our workday or off-duty time with family, friends, and neighbors throws at us. What we do within the first few hours of waking up sets the tone for the rest of the day. Therefore, creating a morning routine and sticking to it is one of the most impactful ways we can set ourselves up for success in every area of our lives.

 

Beyond Waking Up and Getting Dressed

Some of you may be tempted to say, “But I have a morning routine. I wake up every day. I take a shower, then I rush off to work.” While that series of tasks does, in fact, constitute a routine in the most basic sense of the word, there are ways we can super-charge our morning activities to give us a boost that will last for hours and help us become more patient, more alert, more focused, and ultimately more productive. The morning is also a very opportune time to implement activities that can help us achieve a greater sense of calm and a peaceful disposition prior to interacting with the overbearing manager, annoying coworker, or the digital mountain of repetitive emails that ALL require answers. Think of your morning routine as the moment you look up an address  (or find a destination on a map), then enter the address into your GPS and determine how you will get there.

Activities that Create a Sense of Calm

If you suffer from anxiety, the morning may especially be a critical time for you. Getting out of bed is a tremendous feat when you lack a general sense of physical or mental wellness, much less have the desire to leave the comfort and perceived security of your pillows and blankets. People who have difficulty getting out of bed for any reason may wish to begin each day with a combination of activities that both comfort and invigorate the mind and body. Immediately getting out of bed and taking an aromatherapy shower (there are several simple ways essential oils can be used in the shower to produce a fragrant steam) is a very gentle, but effective way to awaken the senses and lift the mood. Setting an alarm that plays uplifting music, then continuing to listen for 15 minutes can also help ease anxiousness and make getting out of bed a little easier. The rule is once you are out of bed, move on to an activity that will keep you out of bed and help you build the momentum you need to prepare for work (or whatever comprises your to-do list). At this point, moving away from the bed to meditate, have quiet reflection, or simply listen to or play music (if you enjoy playing an instrument) can further put the mind at ease.

Exercise

Some people prefer to exercise in the evening or at lunchtime, but for the first time ever, I (a non-morning person) challenged myself during the month of March to try working out in the morning. As a result of that personal “challenge,” I will likely never go back to p.m. workouts. Working out in the morning boosts endorphins, creates a sense that you have already accomplished something before the day even begins, and is beneficial to overall health. I do 30 minutes of cardio, but each person’s exercise needs and preferences will depend on the individual. Going for a 15-minute walk to get a healthy breakfast can also serve as a lower-impact alternative.

Plan the Day Ahead

I, personally, am a p.m. planner. I feel at ease when I write out my schedule for the next day on the night before (also a very effective way to boost productivity…and also a new habit I developed as a result of a person “challenge” to try a new goal-setting strategy).  Nevertheless, some people prefer envisioning the day ahead and writing out a schedule early in the morning. Planning can be incorporated into journaling and doing mindset work to shift from negative thinking to a positive mindset.

 

Drawing/Painting

People who are very creative may find it helpful to set aside 15-30 minutes to “create” something for the sole purpose of leisure and enjoyment before beginning the day. Anything from drawing and painting to composing music and writing can serve as a vehicle for eliminating anxiety, processing emotions, and building optimism about the day ahead.

Make Your Morning Routine Non-Negotiable

I know what many of you may be thinking: who has time for any of this? Answer: you. You just have to prioritize it.  Actively schedule time for your morning routine, even if it means going to bed earlier or managing your time better the day before. Try the morning routine out for a week, and evaluate its impact on how you feel as well as your overall changes in productivity. Most people find the sacrifices (waking up earlier, not staying up as late, watching less TV the night before) that must be made in the interest of sticking to their new morning routine to be well worth the trade-off.

If you need help getting started with designing a morning routine for yourself, join my Facebook group, or send me an email. I’d love to help you get started on the right track!

New Facebook Group

If you have not liked my Facebook page, please do so! In addition to the page, I recently started a Facebook group for like-minded professionals who simply want to be more productive at home and at work. I regularly offer tips and lead discussions on time management strategies, focus-building strategies, goal-setting, and general organizing.

This week, I am walking the group through setting monthly goals and creating a weekly action plan and daily schedule to break down the process of achieving those goals. Join us if you love talking about organizing and productivity or if you need a little help in those areas!

Why You Need a Rest Day

All over social media, I see entrepreneurs and professionals who boast about their 7-day work weeks and 12 hour days as if these things are the bragging rights of working for yourself. Hard work should be rewarded, celebrated, and praised. But are people who work non-stop ultimately cheating themselves? Their families? Even…their careers and businesses? I would venture to say yes. Here’s why.

Human Beings Are Not Machines

The title of this section is probably obvious to most of us. Nevertheless, it bears repeating: human beings are not machines; therefore, they need rest. We need rest. Furthermore, even most machines go on standby or require time to cool down or to be powered off. You and I are no different. When we work non-stop, there is a point at which we become less “sharp.” We become tired, and our mood deteriorates. We have to stop for food because we get hungry (and you reallllly should take time to pay attention to what you eat, chew your food properly, etc for health and nutrition reasons…but I digress).  Over time, you will not be at your best; this inherently means that while you are giving 100% of your time to your business (or career), you are very likely giving much less than 100% of your competence. Don’t cheat yourself, your teams, your customers, and don’t cheat your business or career out of being it the very best it can be. Rest.

Multitasking Kind of Sucks

Pardon my language. But the ability to multitask is another capability about which many of us love to brag. The truth is if you’re multitasking, you’re probably not focusing, which also means you’re likely cheating someone out of receiving your full attention to detail and level of competence. If you are giving time to your family, set that time aside and focus on them. If need to write important emails, schedule time to do that outside of listening to webinars, participating in conference calls, etc. Otherwise, you will retain only a fraction of the information that is conveyed during the webinar or call, and you also run a high risk of sending an email that lacks coherence or is missing important details and will ultimately frustrate the person on the receiving end. Let’s eliminate these errors by giving our full attention to whatever we’re doing. In fact, doing so will help you complete your tasks faster and more efficiently so you can move on to the next task much sooner.

But, Rolanda. How Am I Supposed to Do All This?

 

One word: planning. If you haven’t taken a look at some of my posts on scheduling and time management, check them out. As a first step, I recommend everyone spend a few days to an entire week keeping a time journal. Keep track of everything you do in a day, and note the how long it takes you to complete each task. Most people readily discover there are small pockets of time they waste throughout the day; these small pockets often add up to hours. Moreover, simply taking inventory of how you utilize your time and having the data on paper can be eye-opening on its own. Having a written account of how you spend your days allows you to interact with the concept of time more tangibly and to visualize different ways you can spend it. Once you’ve discovered exactly how you are spending your time, set boundaries. Set a bedtime. Schedule time for meals, family, and even idle time…because you need time for yourself. By setting a schedule and sticking to it, you will feel more balanced and recharged when it’s time to work, and the added efficiency will help you eliminate the need for those seven-day work weeks and 12-hour days.

 

If you need assistance with time management and scheduling, message me to inquire about my productivity coaching services available to individuals in all locations.

Please also join my new Facebook group to connect with individuals who are also determined to manage time more effectively and to achieve their goals in 2018!

 

The Life-Changing Power of Describing Your Ideal Day

This year I have begun to implement an exercise I read about in an entrepreneurship-themed group in which I participate online. The exercise basically calls for writing out how you would envision your ideal day. Since January 1st, I have been setting aside time to do this before going to bed each night. Here is how my process works:

Step 1: I write out a quick schedule of everything I need to do the following day and at what time I would like to begin and finish each task. This part is pretty straightforward.

Step 2: I skip some space below the quick outline of my schedule, and then I list the most ideal things I would like to happen. My list includes very basic things like collecting payment on time from a new client. It also includes major events like purchasing an apartment in a particular community that interests me. It includes gifts I’d like to receive, some obligations (i.e. “mail check to pay off xyz), and will also include charitable contributions I’d like to make [I literally just thought about this now and realized I probably should write those things down here…because generosity is very important to me].

Anyway, that’s basically the way in which I am implementing this strategy; some may refer to it as “daydreaming.” The strategy is also called by other names around various parts of the internet. Generally the same items (along with any new ones I add) appear on the bottom portion of the page until I can mark them off as accomplished.

This Strategy Can Change Your Life

It absolutely can. Much to my surprise, I found that many of the items on the “ideal” portion of the page were coming to pass and that additional similar events I hadn’t even imagined were beginning to happen. Why did I experience such a dramatic shift? I am a believer in mindset. Once you make up your mind to focus on a certain trajectory, and once you commit to that way of thinking by writing it down and mapping it out, your mindset will begin to shift to accommodate that desired trajectory, and you will begin to do things at the conscious and subconscious level to make whatever you desire happen. The same is true of negative thinking. Therefore,the moral of the story is: be very mindful and intentional with your thoughts. Set your sights and direct your thoughts in accordance with the life you would ultimately like to live.

Productivity Apps to Help You Get Stuff Done in 2K18

It’s a new year. We all, more or less, want to be healthier, wealthier, wiser, and more aerodynamic. I’ve highlighted a selection of productivity apps that will help you keep that fresh new set of resolutions you’ve recently made. All apps are available on Android and iOS.

Apps to Help You Save Time

Blinkist

Addicted to self-help books? Or perhaps you may simply feel like your self could use a loooot of help. No judgment. The Blinkist app may be for you! Blinkist works with non-fiction books and delivers a 15-minute audio or written summary. The app contains more than 2,000 titles by leading self-help authors in categories that include Personal Growth and Self-Improvement, Management and Leadership, Psychology, Communication and Social Skills, and Motivation and Inspiration.

Buffer

This one is for my entrepreneurs who use social media. Buffer is a social media management service that can be helpful if you manage multiple accounts. In addition to allowing the user to schedule posts, Buffer also supplies detailed analytics on Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, and other networks. Users may manage up to three accounts free of charge and schedule up to 10 posts per account. There is a premium option which allows for more posts and accounts.
IFTTT

Derived from the phrase, “If this, then that,” IFTTT allows users to automate repetitive tasks. The app can message a friend or family member when you approach their location (useful when picking someone up after work or school or notifying a roommate or spouse that you are on the way home). IFTTT can also work with smart home features to program lighting to turn on upon your arrival and off when you depart for work each day. The “if this, then that” phrase refers to the app’s ability to program tasks that are dependent upon certain conditions (i.e. if I’m not home by 4, then text my sister to say I’m running late).

Newton

A super-charged email app, Newton has built-in tracking capabilities, a “Send Later” option, and can even remind you to follow up with clients. The app can also keep your inbox tidy by weeding out newsletters and other extraneous mail.

 

Productivity Apps

FocusList

This app may work well for people who are interested in using the Pomodoro method to increase their focus. The app allows you to write your plans for the day and allocate time for each task. When it is time to complete a task, the app directs you to work in 25-minute timed intervals of complete focus followed by 5-minute breaks until the task is done.

Google Keep

Similar to post-it notes, Google Keep allows you to post digital notes on your phone, which will remain visible until you have completed the task and no longer need the reminder.

Momentum

An app that is geared toward habit modification, Momentum utilizes Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” strategy to help users build new, productive habits. Each time the user completes a specified healthy behavior he or she would like to turn into a habit, the app adds a new square to form a chain on the display. The chain remains on display via the “Today view” screen and is visually satisfying as it increases with each successful completion of a positive habit-forming activity.

Before downloading a new app, be sure to think about your ultimate goal and evaluate how well the app will support you in accomplishing it. The new year just got started, and there are tons of apps under the sun. Stay tuned for more reviews to help you live your best life by staying organized and productive!

The Pipeline

I have been conspicuously MIA in recent weeks, so I figured I would provide an update. Basically, business is growing, and I am finally able to shift my focus to creating the extensive knowledge base I have been envisioning! With that said, here are a few updates:

1. Definitive Guides: The Definitive Guide to Moving Supplies has received an overwhelmingly positive response and, frankly, has made life easier for me when I walk into situations in which clients are preparing to move. As a result, I have decided to create more Definitive Guides to streamline the organizing process and to better empower my clients to remain organized on their own. My aim has always been to “teach people how to fish…” but with shelving, decorative bins, and high-quality clothing hangers. 😀

2. More focused product reviews and recommendations: It occurred to me that I should probably post more real-world use cases for the products I recommend to give readers ideas on the different ways seemingly conventional organizing tools can be used around the home and office.

3. More video content!…More on that later.

Stay tuned, people! There is much, much more to come.

Let’s Get Personal

It’s safe to say the overwhelming majority of people who meet me, especially in a work capacity, view me as a “solutions-oriented” personality. The minute a problem arises, I quickly begin the process of finding and evaluating the best possible solutions. It’s pretty automatic. Sometimes process starts well before a potential problem can arise. Nevertheless, I recognize I don’t have all the answers […at least not immediately?]. In fact, I’ve found that my willingness to be “human” and to share the fruits of my own [admittedly sometimes wacky] trial-and-error episodes brings an added level of comfort and relatability when working with clients. I was at a workshop for startup founders and entrepreneurs tonight when the obvious occurred to me: I should be bringing that level of humanness to my blog. And with that, I’d like to introduce the #ItsPersonal tag!

My journey as an entrepreneur is fertile ground for the very same lessons and principles I impart to my clients day in and day out, week after week. I’m a believer in teaching and encouraging by example. Tonight, in a lightning bolt-esque moment, it occurred to me that others may also be able to learn and grow by getting an inside look at my own exercise in diligently applying the life-changing concepts I’m always sharing with others.

Through my #ItsPersonal posts, I will aim to share more of my personal insights as a young business owner (along with other more personal stories that impact me as an entrepreneur and as a pro organizer). I hope my stories will leave readers feeling motivated, inspired, (and maaaybe a little entertainment…).

In closing, I will highlight a particular principle that especially rang true for me today and inspired this post (…and the #ItsPersonal posts that will follow): sometimes you just have to pick a starting point and GO!

I’ve probably coached hundreds of people in taking the initiative to “launch,” whether it was the beginning of an organizing project, researching a next move, pursuing a dream, going abroad, applying for schools… But very recently, I’ve been quietly struggling with having several business-related ideas and choosing which to pursue…and in what order. After narrowing the  list down to the most immediately feasible, I still found myself procrastinating and unnecessarily dragging out the regular tasks on my daily to-do lists–anything to avoid taking decisive action.  Today, I was reminded that there comes a point at which there is one thing left to do, and it’s to take the first step forward. After taking that step, however large or small, you can always step backward, continue along the same trajectory, or even go left or right. But once you’ve planned, deliberated, and identified a goal, there is one guarantee: the act of standing in place won’t bring you any closer to it… #ItsPersonal