I read a ton (a TON!) of articles entitled things like “5 Tips of the Super Successful” or “8 Things Sheryl Sandburg Does Before 8am”. That kind of thing. I just can’t help reading that stuff. Moth. Flame. All that.
And the one habit you almost always see in these articles is that super successful people get up at 4 or 5am and do tons of stuff before their kids get up.
And I sigh.
This has just never worked for me. And it’s not because I just can’t wake up early.
Ok, it’s partly that.
But mostly, it’s because the hour between 6am and 7am has always, for 17 years, been an hour of quality time for me and my husband to be together. Even if the rest of our day is so busy that we can barely look at each other, we’ve held sacred that first hour. And that works for us, for our kid situation (we don’t let our kids leave their rooms before 7am) and our love life.
But that presents a problem when everyone is telling me that I’ll only join the ranks of the uber-productive if I can get up at 4am.
For a long time I was ok with it, but then I read the book and website called The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. I loved how he talked about making sure we get some time to journal, reflect, read and move our bodies before the hustle and bustle of the day took over. And that it didn’t have to take a ton of time.
I knew I had to find a way to create a morning routine.
And the way I did that was to realize that it didn’t matter the time of day exactly, it mattered that I crafted a few minutes each day devoted to the things that mattered to me.
So this year, I decided to grab the 30 minutes that I have between when my husband takes our son to kindergarten and when he returns to start our workout. It is only 30 minutes, but I was going to make it count.
So, for me, that includes the following:
- A quick minute to reflect on the things that matter to me,
- Some time to journal one thing that is causing me anxiety and 3 things for which I’m grateful,
- 15 minutes reading a book that improves me in some way, and then
- a quick look at my calendar for the day to orient my mind with the intention I want to bring to the items on my calendar
A few details about the items above.
The journal I use: I use an Erin Condren notebook for my Morning Routine journaling. It works perfectly for this task. The size of the pages is just right to do 2 days of journaling on on each page. It’s nice and roomy with an easy spiral binding that makes it effortless to write on either side of the pages. There’s no resistance on those back pages, if you know what I mean. And you do.
For notebook nerds (like I am!) I’ll also say that I love the 7×9 size and the dot grid layout. That’s just my jam.
1) To start my day by reflecting on the things that matter to me, I first open my notebook and, in the very first right side page, I’ve pasted in a graphic I created using Pinterest and Canva of my favorite quotes/thoughts for the month. I create a new one every month and it keeps top of mind the things that are important to me in the near- and longer-term. If you want to follow the board on which I collect these nuggets, you can do that here.
2) I take just 5 minutes to journal a couple things. First, I list the top 1-2 things that are causing me anxiety. For me, this is big. I have a lot of what’s called “Magical Thinking” around my anxieties, so I tend to bottle them up out of superstition. By writing them down, it takes some of the fear out of them. Takes their teeth, if that makes sense. This has been a really effective part of this exercise. I then journal 3 things for which I’m grateful. This is fast and easy, so much to be thankful for, even small things like a warm cup of coffee sitting next to me. Then, I affirm a mantra. Lately, it’s been “Progress, not perfection.” You can listen to me talk about this on the Sorta Awesome podcast episode 85.) The whole show is pretty interesting, but I talk about this concept at 37:37.) I think on that mantra and then quickly jot down the tangible progress the previous day has brought. Again, this little exercise has had HUGE results for me.
3) Then I ask Siri to set a timer for 15 minutes and I read a book that improves me in some way. It’s amazing how much progress you can make through a book in just 15 consistent minutes per day.
Some books I’ve enjoyed in my Morning Routine are:
- Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
- 10% Happier by Dan Harris
- Overwhelmed by Bridgid Schulte
- The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
- Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
I always post my Morning Routine books in my Instagram feed, along with some thoughts when I finish them, just FYI if that’s interesting to you.
4) I finish up by glancing at my calendar on my phone to orient my mind on my schedule for the day. This includes meetings, appointments and my major To Dos, which are based on my block schedule. I then close my eyes and concentrate on imbuing those tasks with the right energy, making sure I’ve always got my eye on what matters. I’m centered now.
I work out right afterwards for 45 minutes and do 10 minutes of my Headspace app in the afternoon to refresh my spirit.
That’s what my routine includes and the timeline that works best for me. You might choose different things and a different time of day. But the key that is YOU decide which items will get YOUR morning going the right direction. And you decide WHEN you do them. It ain’t gotta be at 4am.
Any way you go about it, I bet you’ll start to look forward to that time each day. You’ll start need it like medicine. And to see the benefits of it, too.