As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of mornings. I'm most productive in the morning, I'm happiest in the morning, and there are few things I love more than the early, quiet moments of the day.
Last month, I led a talk at a Rising Tide Society Tuesday's Together event and received a mix of loving giggles and groans from girlfriends in the audience when I referenced my love of mornings and morning rituals and routines.
While my love of mornings may be a little over the top, I stand firmly behind my feelings. I've found with 100% correlation that if I give myself the gift of a few reflective moments in the morning, my day is more productive, easeful, and joyful. And if I don't, my day feels more chaotic, more rushed, and out of control. And I'm not alone. If we look at the schedules of successful CEOs, presidents, actors, writers, and great thinkers, many of them follow(ed) a consistent morning routine.
When I talk about morning routines, the most frequent questions I receive are, "what do you actually do?" and, "how do you avoid checking your phone first thing in the morning?"
Here are the answers, in hopes that they're helpful for you as you experiment with your own morning structure.
Many people ask me if I use my cell phone for my alarm. I do! The trick: shut off the alarm, and then set the phone down. No checking Instagram, no looking at email, no checking Facebook, no checking messages, and no checking the news. I know, I know - just trust me on this one....
If you have a hard time not "checking things" first thing in the morning, I recommend:
- Turning off notifications for all of your apps
- Putting your phone on airplane mode
- Deleting highly addictive apps from your phone, at least for a couple days
- Turning your phone to black and white to make the pretty pictures less seductive (On the iPhone: settings >> accessibility >> accessibility shortcut >> color filters. Selecting this option will allow you to turn your phone to black and white by pressing the home button three times in a row, and return the display to color by pressing it again three times.)
- Turning your phone to "night shift" so that the colors are more subtle right before you go to bed and when you wake up (On the iPhone: settings >> display and brightness >> night shift.)
Hot water with lemon in the winter, and room temperature water with lemon in the warmer months. Confession: I'm a little inconsistent with this - I'd say my percentage is typically around 50-60%. There are many suggested benefits of drinking lemon water in the morning related to inflammation, digestion, and overall wellbeing. Some celebrities claim that lemon water is the secret to their flawless, glowing skin. My conclusion: they must be drinking a lot of lemon water, or have some magical lemons.
While "flawlessness" is a benefit I'll leave for the celebrities, my own finding related to lemon water is that I simply feel a bit better when I drink it. Preparing lemon water in the morning feels as though it adds a little extra boost of intention that then flows into the rest of my day.
Okay, now for the good stuff. Preparing and drinking a cup of coffee in the morning is without exaggeration one of my single favorite moments of the day. The smell, the warmth, the pause it creates while drinking it....I could go on and on.
Alongside my fierce love of coffee is awareness of the correlation that is often made between coffee and adrenal fatigue. While western medicine doesn't recognize adrenal fatigue as an accepted diagnosis, I can feel the direct impact of too much coffee, and I'm pretty good at creating stress in my life in other ways, so I've been working to cut back a bit. One cup of the real stuff, and then a switch to a caffeine-free alternative.
For coffee substitutes, I've tried many. Most haven't even come close to replacing the dark deliciousness of coffee and instead result in a hot cup of sadness. The only one I've found that comes close is Dandy Blend. It's dark, smooth, delicious, and almost tastes like real coffee. It comes in single packs, too, which are great for traveling.
Once all of the beverages are ready (a very important part of the morning), I spend a few minutes in quiet reflection. Sometimes this is a brief seated meditation, or sometimes it's just quietly sitting in my breakfast nook enjoying the sunshine (or today, the sound of the rain). These few precious quiet moments are sacred and grounding and create a bit of spaciousness and stillness that flows into the rest of the day.
Typically, after this reflection time, avocado toast also makes an entrance.
Planning and Intention Setting
Next, I take a few minutes to think about my day to set both intentions and priorities. My two favorite tools for this are:
While I'm a sucker for a great planner, a regular old notebook works just as well.
The key questions I ask during this part of my morning are:
- What are my intentions for the day?
- What are the 3-5 things I most want to accomplish?
Here, I also look at my schedule for the day and plan out meetings and logistics.
Writing, Creative Projects, and Strategic Work
If I'm going to get something important done, it will almost certainly be completed in the morning. When it comes to independent work that involves writing, creativity, and/or strategy, I do it first thing in the morning, before I do anything else. I do this before I check email, before I log into social media, and before I start checking off less-important-but-more-urgent tasks from my list. I do this for a number of reasons, including:
- I'm way more productive in the morning
- I believe in "creation before intake." This means that I like to give myself the time and space to think my own thoughts and have my own ideas before consuming any thoughts or ideas from other people. I believe that this ultimately leads to more authentic, joyful, and original work.
- It's easy for the "urgent" list of tasks to take over our days and ultimately our lives. If we don't create time for the "low urgency, high importance" tasks, they rarely get done.
On a really good day, I've completed my most important task for the day by 8 am. This doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's awesome.
Tips for Making Mornings Easier
On the surface this can look like a lot of time and a lot of effort. I often hear from people who say they don't have time for an hour-long morning routine. The good news is that this can all be done in as little as a few minutes. Often if I'm traveling for work, this routine is condensed into 5 minutes and involves a cup of coffee, some quick reflection, and jotting down a few thoughts before heading onsite. But even those five minutes have a massive positive impact on my day.
Some tips for making mornings easier, and making a powerful morning routine more accessible, include:
- Prep everything you need the night before. This means that you might grind your coffee beans, fill the water kettle with water, and set your journal out on the dining room table.
- Turn off your notifications before bed. There is nothing more seductive than an iPhone screen full of people who have SO MUCH AMAZING NEWS AND SO MANY BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS TO SHARE WITH YOU FIRST THING IN THE MORNING! Reduce the temptation by turning of your notifications. If you're feeling especially courageous, delete the apps altogether - at least for your first couple days of your new routine.
- Go analog. Many of us are on our computers all day long. For me, having a paper-based system for morning reflection and planning has helped me stay away from email first thing in the morning.
- Allow it to be fun. Morning routines don't have to be serious and heavy. They can be (and should be) fun. Think about what would bring you joy in the morning, and do that.
- Make it your own. The above system is what works for me. This might not work for you, and that's great. Give yourself permission to experiment and find the flow that feels right for you.
I'd love to hear from you as you experiment with your own morning routine - what works, what doesn't, and the things you find most impactful.