You know those days when you wake at the sound of your alarm, hit snooze two or three times and then could kick yourself later because you wasted precious hours sleeping that could have been used to check items off your never ending to-do list? I hate to say, but I have had more of those days than any other. I’m really good at making a huge to-do list, setting my alarm for the crack of dawn, and then staying up way too late the night before – which makes it impossible to get up and moving the next day. With so many things on my plate, I often feel like I need to cram as much as possible into each day and usually that means staying up after everyone else is asleep so I can have a few hours to work. What I’ve found though is that no matter how late I stay up, those hours are much less productive than if I plan properly, go to bed at a decent time and start my day off with a productive morning routine.
I recently had a major breakthrough in this area of my life after reading The 5 AM Club which prompted me to start a productive morning routine that included some key steps and left out some bad morning habits I had developed. After I stopped and thought about the distractions I face each day, the time wasters that suck me in and what it takes to get me focused and on task, I created my own morning routine to ensure I start each day off in the right direction.
Ok so I lied, this routine actually starts the night before, but you’ll see where I’m going with this….
- Lay out tomorrow’s necessities
Ok, so this probably reminds you of a school child who has to lay their outfit out the night before school to ensure they aren’t late each day. I’ll admit, when A was in public school I did make her do this same exact thing – she had a special drawer organizer that held one week’s worth of outfits to ease the morning time struggles just a little bit. When I sat down and thought about it though, having an entire outfit and accessories ready to go really did make the morning a little less chaotic. Why couldn’t that work for me as well? Well let me tell you, as long as the weatherman is on his game the day before, having my outfit ready to go when I wake up saves me a lot of time, frustration and actually makes getting ready each day feel a tad more luxurious. Let’s just say I may or may not pretend my personal stylist has hand chosen each outfit for me 😉
- Tidy up the house
Cleaning up after everyone else is definitely the last thing I feel like doing at the end of the day, BUT it’s a lot less painful than waking up to a messy and unorganized house each morning. I try to keep up with “picking up” throughout the day, but I also take 15-20 minutes after the kids have gone to bed to walk through the house and straighten things up. This includes wiping down the kitchen for the night, loading the dishwasher and washing machine, and tying up any loose ends from the day. I’ve found that waking up to a tidy house can tremendously affect your mood and your morning productivity!
- Get to bed at a decent time
I am totally willing to stay up until 1, 2 or 3 AM if it means a few hours of uninterrupted work time. However, my body really disagrees with pulling late nighters anymore. It seems like I actually accomplish WAY less because I have such a hard time getting moving the next day. I try to make sure I’m in bed before 10 PM each night – even earlier if possible. If I make it before 10 PM I will sneak in a few minutes of reading before calling it a night.
- Wake up at the same time
This goes right along with getting to bed at a decent time. If I can keep myself on a nice bedtime schedule then my internal clock seems to wake me up around the same time each morning and more often than not, I wake before my alarm goes off. Definitely check out The 5 AM Club – there’s an amazing theory on waking up very early each morning and how it completely affects your focus and drive.
- Set a gradual alarm
I use an app on my phone called Sleep Cycle which is a much less harsh type of alarm. (No joke, I used to wake up to “On Top of the World” by Ludacris and TI because I thought I needed something loud and obnoxious to ensure I got up….ask Frankie how he liked hearing that at max volume each day!)
To use Sleep Cycle, you set the alarm to wake you up by a certain time. It will start the alarm 30 minutes before your desired wake time (more or less if you’d like) and reads your body and breathing patterns and wakes you when you are in the lightest phase of sleep. It sounded like one of those crazy concepts, but it actually works really well for me.
- Resist technology
It’s hard to do – trust me I know! Grabbing your phone off the night stand is usually the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning. I was totally guilty of grabbing my phone “just to check the weather” or to “peek at my messages real quick” but it always turned into a huge time drain for me. Plus, taking in all that info before my feet even hit the floor often left my brain on overload and made my morning stressful and less productive. Now I leave my phone on the nightstand while I complete the other steps in my routine. The messages are still there when I am ready to start my day and I don’t get caught up wasting my morning reading the latest gossip or scanning my inbox for online sales.
- Reflect and read before my feet hit the floor
This is one of my favorite parts of my productive morning routine. Since I’m not getting sucked into checking my iPhone, I take some time to either write in my gratitude journal or read. What I’ve found after doing this for a few weeks now is that I really missed reading. I was still reading here or there, when I could squeeze in a few pages, but having this quiet time, still curled up in bed to enjoy writing or reading while the sun is coming up is extremely relaxing. It’s been great being able to jump back into reading and I’ve been really enjoying lots of new books (See my book list here). Currently I’m re-reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, just because you can’t go wrong getting a refresher 🙂
- Take 15 minutes to enjoy, meditate, pray, nourish
After I’ve grabbed my robe and slippers, I head for the kitchen to fix my coffee. Our new coffee maker has an automatic start so I’m able to wake up to a cup waiting for me (I actually set it to brew before I’m even awake because I’m a weirdo and have to drink my coffee warm). Now that the weather has finally started to warm up, I grab my favorite chair on the side porch and enjoy my coffee and sometimes a snack. No phone…no television….just me, Cocoa, Rocky and the sunshine. This might be one of the very few times throughout the day that I’m completely alone and can hear myself think!
- Look at the day ahead
Waking up late usually meant that we spent our morning running around like crazy people because we were going to be late for an appointment or short on time to complete the day’s tasks. With the extra time that I now have each morning I take a few minutes to look at my to-do list for the day and jot down any things that I need to remember or want to accomplish. This few minutes of focus has upped my productivity tremendously because my mind is clear and I’m making my list with a stress free brain.
- Set up everyone’s day
To “finalize” my morning routine, I do a quick walk through of the house and make sure everything is in order for when I wake the troops. This usually consists of laying out the girls’ schooling and projects for the day, prepping for breakfast, organizing anything needed for appointments or activities for the day and throwing a load of laundry in the dryer.
So there you have it – my productive morning routine to ensure that I stay sane and on task each day. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but honestly it has changed my day to day attitude, my relationships with my family and really made an impact on my productivity! I hope you find some of these steps helpful and will try incorporating them into your morning routine also!
To create your own productive morning routine think of all the distractions you face daily, the tasks that seem to never get finished, and the goals you have for your family. Write down what an ideal morning looks like to you – one that would help you achieve ALL the things. Would starting your laundry before the house wakes up put you ahead for your day? Would a 15 minute prayer/meditation session help you focus and remain on task? Does waking up to a clean sink with no dirty dishes put you in the best mood ever? Take these things and schedule them into your morning as non-negotiables. Try it out a few days and see how it goes. You’ll have to tweak your routine to get it just right and remember, it takes 21 days for something to become a habit so stick with it!