If you do any sort of research on what makes people successful, you’ll find one thing that most have in common: they have a good routine. Most successful people will wake up early in the morning and start with some form of meditation, movement, and reflection. Over the years, I’ve experimented with many different rituals and routines and the main lesson I learned from all that trial and error was that having a routine definitely helped me be more productive, but what that routine consisted of was entirely up to me.
I went through years where I would wake up to my blasting alarm and the first thing I would notice was my heart racing. Right after that, a barrage of thoughts would flood through my mind.
- I can’t believe it’s time to wake up already.
- I wish I could sleep in.
- I shouldn’t have slept so late last night.
- I shouldn’t have had such a big dinner.
- I have so much to do today, how will I get it all done?
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Waking up feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unrested did not make for a positive start to my day at all! I would start each morning feeling frantic and rushed. It soon started to get too much for me. It was just too much angst to start each day with. I came to realize that even though a steady morning routine was supposed to help set you up for a good day, the real trick to having a more peaceful, calm start to the day started from the night before.
Basically, I found myself thinking back to when I was in elementary school and my mom would tell me to pack my bag and get my clothes ready for school the next day. Well, what do you know, another lesson from elementary school still holds up today.
These are a few things I’ve been trying and they’ve been working quite well for me:
- I brush my teeth right after dinner. This helps reduce the temptation of any late night snacks.
- I cut down on TV time. I love unwinding in front of the TV at the end of the day. However, I have found that it’s easy to lose track of time and wind up watching one too many episodes of whatever it is I’m watching. Watching too much TV means getting to bed later than I should, which means waking up feeling unrested. The time saved by not watching an extra episode can be put towards setting yourself up for a great start the next day.
- I prepare my things for the next day. I get my bag(s) ready and lay out my clothes. If I’ll be out for most of the day then I either get my food ready or I make a mental note of where (and sometimes what) I will be eating. I found that it helps to put everything I need for the next day by the door so that I save myself from a last minute frenzy of looking for my keys or wallet.
- I do a 10-minute room sweep. This is not a time for a deep clean of the house. Rather, I quickly go from room to room and make sure the basics are in place – kitchen sink is empty; desk is cleared; clutter is picked off the floor; sofa cushions and throws are fluffed and folded. Even though things may not be completely organized, I found that the more I am able to tidy up (even if it’s just on the surface), the calmer and more relaxed I feel in the morning. Imagine the difference between waking up in the morning and walking into a messy kitchen with dishes piled in the sink, a bunch of recycling that hasn’t been put away, and mail/papers scattered on the counter. Now imagine walking into that kitchen with everything put away – the sink is empty, the recycling has been sorted, and the mail/papers have been put where they belong. It takes a few minutes, but it makes a big difference. Plus it only takes a few days of doing this consistently before it becomes a time-saving habit.
- I write down my top 3 tasks for the next day. I started getting into this habit a while ago. I’ve found that it both helps me feel less stressed before going to bed and more focused when I start my day.
- I try not to go to bed stressed. I’ve found that doing calming activities before going to bed really help me get to sleep faster and sleep better. Some of the things that have helped me are: journaling, meditating, reading, listening to music, or doing a puzzle (crossword or sudoku). I’ve even found meditative coloring to be quite relaxing!
clothes laid out for the next day
As with anything, habits take time to put into practice. You’ve got to start with a commitment to try. Once you start implementing a few habits, you’ll see that it will soon be part of your routine. It’s important not to try to do too much — you don’t want to spend the last hour of your day exhausting yourself with tedious chores. Instead, choose 5 things that you will absolutely do each night and get them done. You will end the day feeling productive, and you will wake up ready to start your day.
would makes you rise and shine?
Now, those are things you can do the night before, but what about once you wake up? Here are some things that may help you feel like you’re starting the day off right:
- Wake up with a positive thought. It’s a brand new day. Start your day off with a thought or reflection that makes you feel positive and empowered. Even the simple thought of, ‘Today is going to be a great day!’ can get you off on the right foot.
- Drink water. Our bodies need water. There are thousands of articles out there that confirm the importance of drinking water, but simply put, when we’re sleeping, we’re not drinking water, so we wake up dehydrated. Rehydrate yourself by drinking at least 1/2 L of water first thing in the morning. Water also fires up your metabolism and helps your body flush out toxins. Keep a bottle of water by your bed so you can hydrate as soon as you wake up. Don’t like the taste of water? Start with small sips and build up your intake. There really is no better substitute.
- Give yourself 15 extra minutes. I know this might sound like a killer. When sleep and time are both precious, waking up 15 minutes earlier may seem like an enormous ask, but trust me, it will help. You don’t necessarily have to have the most productive 15 minutes, but waking up a bit earlier will ensure that any last minute things you may have to get done aren’t rushed. Plus, waking up a bit earlier will give you time for #7 & #8 below!
- Resist reaching for an electronic gadget. I am so guilty of reaching for my phone first thing in the morning. I have been trying very hard to break this habit. Emails, Facebook updates, Instagram posts – they can all wait. Minute (hours?) of our lives can get sucked away through mindless surfing of social media. Don’t get me wrong. I love social media and I love to be/stay connected with others, but balance is important. As for the TV, well, I think it’s great to stay informed, but personally, with so much tragedy and devastating news around the world, I think it’s ok for me to be selfish with my morning and keep it chaos-free. The news can wait. For the past year I have turned off all notifications, except for WhatsApp, on my phone and it has made a big difference! I’ve also moved all my social media icons off the front screen on my phone; that also helps!
- Make your bed. I make my bed every morning, but I hate doing it. I really do. I love seeing it made and done, but the actual process, well, it makes me feel like a grumpy teenager who does not want to do their chores! Although it’s a habit I had already developed, one thing that had quite a positive impact on me was Naval Adm. William McRaven’s commencement address at the University of Texas (May 2014). His speech (20 minutes long) is really worth listening to. Here’s what he said about making your bed: If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have had a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made – that you made – and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” For some reason, his words just stuck to me – and so each day, I make my bed.
- Meditate. It’s so easy to wake up and hit the ground running and then wind up at the end of the day feeling like you had no time to even breathe. I’ve found that taking 10 minutes in the morning to meditate not only calms my mind, but it reminds me that I am in control of my day. Even if my day is jam packed with things to do, by starting off slow, I remind myself that I set the pace and that I am in control. That always feels good to me!
- Listen to music. Choose a few tracks that put you in a good mood and sets you up for a good day.
- Stretch. Take 5 minutes to stretch. It doesn’t have to be a complicated yoga routine, just a bit of movement to give your circulation a boost – a few neck circles, shoulder rolls, hip circles can do wonders.
- Exercise. Yes, that’s right – exercise. I know morning exercise isn’t for everyone, but it really is a great way to jump start your day. The trick is to do something you enjoy. Whether it’s a 10-minute dance part or a jog around the block, if you find something you enjoy doing, it’s much easier to get moving.
- Review your top 3 list. If this is part of your bedtime routine, then you will have written down your top 3 tasks of the day. Reviewing them keeps you focused.
Now, there are a lot of suggestions in this post. Here’s the thing, a routine or ritual will only be successful if it resonates with you, if it means something to you. So take the time to figure out what you need to have a good start to the morning and how you can help yourself prepare for that the night before. Keep it simple so that you can be consistent.
Another round of the Whole Life Challenge begins soon, which is a perfect forum to help you establish good daily habits. Join my team, the Worldwide Warriors, for encouragement, support, and guidance by clicking here or the image below. If you have questions, please feel free to get in touch.