Picture this: Sunlight streams through the cracks of your curtains, gently waking you up from slumber. You roll over, blinking as the sun works to clear your bleary eyes, and smile as your arms stretch high above your head . You’ve had a good night sleep and are energized to face the morning. All is quiet in the house as you pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and step out onto the back deck or stand by the sunniest window, letting the warm rays and hot beverage seep peace into your mind. Perhaps you take the morning to practice some mindfulness, or to pray, or to read a few chapters in a new book. The world is alive and you are ready to conquer the day. The quote from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables comes to mind: “Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”
That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Tranquil, beautiful, soothing… If that’s a true representation of your morning, then I’m happy for you and encourage you never to let it go.
However, this is probably a more accurate depiction of your morning:
The alarm goes off. You groan and hit snooze, wincing at the bright sunlight that’s managed to escape your black out curtains, and cover your head with the blankets. Within five minutes you’re almost asleep again, but that obnoxious, heart-attack inducing buzzer goes off once more, and you nearly throw your clock/phone across the floor. You drag yourself out of bed and into the kitchen; some may say good morning, to which you will grump, or others may avoid your zombie-like appearance all together, knowing not to say a word until your first cup of coffee. You suddenly realize you’re running late, and everything goes into panic mode. You scarf down the coffee, burning your throat, stuff a protein bar into your mouth, throw on some clothes, and search to high heaven for your keys, all the while grumbling to those around you — whether it be your family or your poor dog who has been chasing you around the house for the past 15 minutes — about your busy schedule and how late you are.
Just writing that made me tense. Obviously, the first depiction is the one we all dream of having one day, but we make so many excuses (you each know your own) as to why such a morning is unattainable.
I want to show you that having a quieter, relaxing morning IS possible and essential to the rest of your day. Here are eight strategies I utilize in making my morning as pleasant and productive as possible.
1. Wake Up Early and Consistently
Don’t run away screaming at this thought. I’m a night owl myself, and due to insomnia and chronic fatigue, I never feel rested in the morning (no matter if I’ve had a rare good night’s sleep). However, the earlier you wake up, the more time you have in the morning to get things done either before the rest of the household stirs or before you begin work. If you can have at least 30 minutes to sit quietly, drink coffee or tea, do some yoga, or do anything else that qualifies as YOU time before the crazy morning begins, then it sets a tone for the rest of your day.
Waking up at a consistent time each morning will set your internal body clock and in turn relax your mind. Currently, my alarm is set for 7:30AM Monday-Saturday (yes, even Saturday), and my goal is to work backwards even earlier.
2. Stay away from your phone at least 30 minutes after waking up. Getting on your phone or computer first thing in the morning means you are focusing on a million other things rather than yourself. You don’t need the screen time or the stress that the internet can bring. Plus it’s better for your tired eyes.
3. Eat a Good Breakfast
I used to be the queen of unhealthy breakfasts. More often than not I would just eat a granola bar, and even that would be pushing it. Since going on a liver detox diet these past few months, my breakfast appetite has returned and now I eat a healthy breakfast every morning.
Note – I wrote this a week ago, and today I fell back to eating a rather unhealthy breakfast that didn’t consist of much, and I’ve not only felt extremely sick all day but haven’t been able to concentrate on anything. Taking the time to care for your body first thing will give you energy and lift your mood.
4. Treat Yourself
Make yourself a giant cup of coffee or a mug of your favorite tea. Put it in a travel mug if you leave the house for work or bring it to your workspace as a comforting and energizing boost to your morning. I don’t often drink caffeine, but I love drinking either green tea with a bit of honey or jasmine green tea in the mornings as I’m working on my blog. Do something that helps make the work a little more exciting.
5. Make a List
If you don’t already, make a list of everything you need to do on a certain day. Either order the list so it is broken up between big and little tasks or number the list from urgent -> important -> needs-to-be-done-today -> least important.
6. Use Time-Management
I’ve just found an app called Brain Focus and I’m in love. It’s simple to use and has already been helpful as this morning I’ve been trying to catch up on writing all my blog posts for May.
The app is a timer. The first timer goes off for 25 minutes for you to work on whatever task is before you. After the 25 minutes, the timer goes off and you get the option of taking a 5 minute break or working for another 25 minutes. It keeps track of how long you worked and how many breaks you took so at the end of the day you can see your accomplishments. You can also use a plain timer/alarm for this, but I just enjoy the way the app is set up and that I don’t have to think about resetting the timer myself.
Setting aside the same amount of time to work each morning can help you establish a routine. I usually get on my phone/computer at 8:30AM, and I may begin working then or give myself a half hour to catch up on social media and then start writing at 9AM, and I like to write until lunchtime.
7. Control Your Environment
I realize this may be the hardest yet. If you work in an office, you can’t keep other coworkers from interrupting you or clients walking in, and if you work at home and have little ones that aren’t in school yet…well, God bless you and I’ll pray for your mental sanity. But keeping your work environment organized and quiet will help you get work done quickly and efficiently.
I work at a desk in my bedroom, and I often keep the door closed and play music while I’m working. This doesn’t deter the dog from interrupting me mid-epic-scene, but otherwise this usually allows me to write for however long I want with minimal interruptions. I keep my desk as tidy as I can, and one thing that helps me is to keep my bed tidy. My entire room can be a shambles, but if I’m spinning in my chair, thinking up new ideas, and my bed is neatly made, it calms me.
If you prefer hustle and bustle around you or simply don’t have the privacy to work at home, a library or cafe are perfect retreats. Try finding one or two that you love and can resort to at anytime. If you work in an office, using breathing techniques for relaxation and perhaps daily mantras, something as simple as “I focus my attention on what is happening in this moment,” may help you keep on track of your daily goals.
8. Be Grateful
Not every morning is going to be sunny and beautiful. The first day you decide to try a morning routine, you may not wake up peacefully to sunshine streaming through the windows — it may be grey and rainy and impossible to get outside to soak up the sun. You may get called in early to work. Your kids might be sick… or extra energetic. Don’t let it discourage you. Remember that the earth needs whatever weather it is outside, just like some days you need a respite from your busy, active days, you can still practice being calm at work, and any extra time with your kids is a blessing. Be grateful for the day and learn to appreciate the mornings — every day brings something new.
“Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”