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!

How to Avoid Getting Stuck “In the Meantime”

Rolanda L., explains how to avoid common pitfalls associated with getting stuck in “in the meantime” situations.

We often commit to things for which we lack passion. We take jobs that aren’t in our intended career field because we need to make ends meet. We spend time in less-than-ideal settings with an incompatible social group because it’s “better than being alone.” We go on dates with people who probably aren’t appropriate matches from the outset because “you never know who will be the one (…debatable…you can often tel who is NOT the one).” We remain in dysfunctional relationships of all varieties because “it could be worse.” This sort of thinking has its time and place. Unfortunately, for many of us, it is often applied virtually all the time in many of the wrong places.

Choosing “in the meantime” situations is only appropriate when combined with an exit plan that leads the individual closer to his or her ideal goal. “In the meantime” is not an adequate substitute for the lack of a goal or plan. While it is true that plans are sometimes delayed or even derailed, an exit strategy must also be malleable enough to accommodate the unexpected hand life may sometimes deal. Otherwise, there may be a great temptation to remain focused on the immediate term instead of looking out onto the horizon and making plans according to the terrain that stretches forth. It is when a person submits to the temptation to remain focused on the immediate term that the risk of encountering long-term lack of fulfillment sets in.

Unfulfilled Life Ambitions Often Lead to a Vicious Cycle

Remaining in an “in the meantime” situation that is not congruent with your overall desire for your life may seem comfortable at first, but eventually, the effects of not actively working toward your goals will emerge in other areas. Working a steady job, but uncompelling may pay the bills at first, but spending large chunks of time in a role that does not feed into a greater passion is oftentimes accompanied by added stress or even feelings of “numbness.” People often utilize their hard-earned income to alleviate stress and avoid numbness by pursuing other outlets, including expensive vacations, drinking, gambling, shopping, or other activities to create a greater separation from “work” during off-duty hours. There is nothing inherently wrong with leisure activities. However, knowing that you are committed to working 5 days a week in a capacity that is in conflict with your life goals can intensify the urge to get as far away from work as possible when you’re not working. The cycle becomes vicious when you realize are spending so much of your income on activities to get away from work, that you find yourself having to work more to maintain your basic, everyday needs throughout the work week (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, electricity, transportation, etc.). Entering the cycle often means having to delay your desired goals even longer.

 

Avoiding the Cycle of Unfulfilled Ambition

The cycle of working to make ends meet and spending the rest on activities that help us forget about work is alarmingly common among many of us. While most people mistakenly think the key to avoiding the cycle is to either be independently wealthy or very lucky, it is not only feasible for some people to avoid the pitfalls of working in an unfulfilling job altogether, but it is even possible for those who absolutely must work an “in the meantime” job and leverage it to pursue a life goal.

 

The Role of Detailed, Yet Flexible Planning

Plans are made and broken all the time. However, attempting to reach a desired destination without utilizing a map is the least efficient way to get there. Similar to traveling to a new restaurant or shop on an unfamiliar side of town or visiting a friend in a new city, employing the use of a “map” when working toward a goal can be very beneficial. When working to achieve career goals, an action plan or “career map” might include the level of education required to achieve the ultimate goal, schools that award the required degrees or certificates as well as their entry requirements and tuition costs. In addition to education, a plan might include related part-time jobs that will not only help cover the costs associated with achieving the goal, but also help develop skills that can be used in pursuit of the ultimate career destination. Internships and related postgraduate entry-level positions may also be included in the plan.

Planning is not only helpful when working toward a fulfilling career. “Mapping” is also effective when navigating the road to personal and relationship goals. A person who would like to dedicate more of their resources to philanthropy may wish to map out a course to working for a non-profit organization or create a detailed budget to determine how to achieve a goal of giving a certain amount to charitable organizations each month or year. An individual who wishes to allocate a certain amount of time to community service projects may start by creating a detailed schedule and determining changes that may need to be made in the interest of freeing up time to do volunteer work. When seeking new friends or a romantic relationship, mapping out shared interests you would like to have with a potential friend or partner and planning to participate in related activities is an excellent starting point for meeting like-minded people.

Conclusion

Whether you are feeling stagnant in your job, relationships, or any other area in your life, take a step back, evaluate where you are in relation to where you would like to go, and plan accordingly. By continuing to reassess your current whereabouts and reevaluate your plan, you will eventually end up where you would like to be.