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!

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.

Organizing Your Life 201: Getting Organized to Go to Work – Winding Down at Night for a Better Morning

For many of us, getting out the door and arriving at work on time is one of the greatest challenges we face in a day. Nevertheless, the process of transitioning from home to professional life is also one of the most important tasks we have each day.

The Significance of a Good “Launch”

Leaving the comforts of home to interact with the world outside is a process that is not to be taken lightly. In fact, the morning routine is more analogous to a daily “launch” in contrast to the way many of us typically view our mornings: as a mundane process through we we drag ourselves from our place of comfort to a place of obligation.

Good and bad days both begin with how we prepare for the hours we will spend way from home (or in the home office for those who work from home; that is a separate post entirely). We could even go one step further and say the outcome of the following day is frequently influenced by the preparatory measures we take the night before. These measures may include getting enough sleep, finishing a work assignment the night before OR going to bed early enough to allow yourself time to comfortably prepare the next morning. Therefore, spacing and proximity are critical considerations when planning an effective schedule; a well-planned and executed schedule will consistently lead to better days overall.

Getting Started 

In crafting a morning routine that is most conducive to having the best day possible, the process begins with the here and now. First, think about all your pain points and struggles that regularly occur in the morning: do you you sift through closets and drawers to find the right clothes to wear? Do you skip breakfast and have difficulty concentrating or later resort to eating unhealthy snacks? Do you simply not feel like getting out of bed and, as a result, hit the snooze button too many times? Next, think about the most frequent reasons you may experience a bad day at work: are you too tired to peacefully coexist with an annoying supervisor or coworker? Do you simply not enjoy what you do for work? Do you miss deadlines or feel unprepared when required to complete assignments? Do you lack energy by the end of the work day? Believe it or not, each of these situations may be remedied by investing a little energy up front to execute effective schedule planning and by tweaking your morning routine.

Planning for Improved Logistics

Factors such as getting adequate sleep, getting dressed, having breakfast, and arriving at work on time are all part of the logistics of a successful morning “launch.” Thinking in terms of launching a space shuttle, the support teams don’t haphazardly drag the rocket out to the launchpad and lean it against the platform. A considerable amount of prep work takes place prior to a shuttle launch. Similarly, a well-executed start to your day will also require a degree of preparation.

Because logistical components like showering, dressing, and eating are largely based on effective time management, remedying related issues is somewhat of a straightforward process. Ensuring you have enough time to include each of these important components of your morning depends heavily on creating a schedule that realistically works for you. If you are unsure of where to get started with creating an effective schedule, see Organize U Lesson 103 for an example.

Getting Enough Sleep

To most people, a reminder on the necessity of getting enough sleep may sound cliche. However, ensuring adequate sleep the night before sets the tone for a more peaceful, productive morning, which is more likely to lead to a better day. Getting enough sleep starts with a plan. As discussed in Lesson 103, I highly recommend creating  a chart and dividing a 24-hour day into 15-minute increments. Using the time you are scheduled to leave work as a starting point, think about how you currently spend each 15-minute period from then until the time you typically got to bed. Then look for opportunities to optimize your afternoon and evening schedule to allow you to get to bed at a reasonable hour. This may require eating out less, spending less time at happy hour, or simply ending television-watching 15 to 30 minutes early to signal your body and brain to enter wind-down mode and fall asleep more easily at the preferred hour.

Crafting the Perfect Wind-Down

Speaking of sleep, many of us have difficulty getting there because we expect our bodies to go from full speed to an immediate stop. While there may be medical and deeply psychological causes that may prevent a person from getting to sleep at night, insomnia is also often caused by lack of an effective pre-bed time routine. For this reason, we must plan a “wind down” period into our nightly schedule. The components of an effective wind down will vary from person to person. Therefore, each individual must think about environmental factors that will help him or her relax. In general, relaxing in a comfortable setting with dim lighting and no electronics will help most people “unplug” from the digital world before going to bed. During this time, lighting candles, reading a book, and/or listening to music are favorable activities. Those who find baths relaxing may wish to use this time to bathe in warm water scented with lavender. Individuals who suffer from muscle tension or other physical ailments may find it beneficial to apply a scented heating pad or other therapeutic treatments to help reduce tension and pain prior to attempting to sleep.

The objective of the wind down period is to focus on calming sights, sounds, and smells to shift the mind from work responsibilities and other stressors to a place in which both mind and body can rest through the remainder of the night. Those who have difficulty shifting their thoughts may find it beneficial to repeatedly remind themselves that all work, personal, and social responsibilities will be there when they wake up the following day and may be addressed in due time. Moreover, an individual who has a well-rested mind and body is more capable of  finding and implementing solutions than one who is exhausted in both mind and body. After winding down, proceed directly to bed, allowing an extra 15 minutes prior to the scheduled bed time to actually fall asleep.

The next lesson will discuss setting the tone for the a successful, less stressful day by creating an efficient and enjoyable morning routine.