This idea for this post came to me quite unexpectedly. I was talking to a friend about how I want to improve my productivity and morning routine (one of my many goals for 2018). She said “Me too! I just find it so difficult to get up in the morning. I hit the snooze button two or three times every morning“. When I mentioned that I’ve actually never snoozed my alarm clock, she was visibly shocked! She asked me about my typical morning routine before concluding “Most people don’t do all those things! You already sound really organised and productive!”. Her comments made me think that perhaps my habits were worth sharing. I know that many of us are looking to adopt new routines, especially at the beginning of the year. In this post, I’m going to share what I currently do, what I’d like to do more and other habits that might interest you. The content of this post may not be ground-breaking, but the ideas are all practical and easy to implement, saving time, reducing stress and making your mornings less painful!
Before I begin, let me clarify something: what works for me might not work for you – and visa versa! It will take some trial and error before you find a routine that suits you. Try not to force a dozen new activities into your morning routine from one day to the next. Instead, test out a new habit one at a time, trialling it for ideally two or three weeks. Scientists argue that it can take between 21 and 66 days for a new habit to become automatic behaviour, so give it time. You can find thousands of articles, blog posts and Youtube videos about productive & healthy morning routines, making the most of your mornings, how to wake up at 5am and so on. Use these resources for ideas and inspiration, but don’t overdo it, or berate yourself if something just isn’t right for you.
My morning routine
What’s the secret to a productive morning routine? For me it comes down to two points:
1) Sleep well the night before.
2) Reduce the number of decisions you need to make.
In order to get a good night’s sleep, avoid screens for at least thirty minutes before bedtime (both computer and phone screens). Set your alarm well in advance so you don’t need to use your phone immediately before bed. This is something I really try to do because whenever I slip up and find myself reading some random article right before bed, I find the topic lingers on my mind and interrupts my sleep.
Every evening I do a lot of preparation for the next day, dramatically reducing the number of decisions I’d otherwise have to make first thing. This enables me to sleep much better with less to think or worry about. This preparation includes:
* Write a detailed to-do list. If I have a lot on my mind, it can really interfere with my sleep until I put it down on paper. I have a handwritten to-do list and also jot down tasks in my phone’s “Notes” section during the day. Make a detailed list of everything you must do tomorrow (and over the next few days and weeks), breaking down each task into small, manageable steps. One of my favourite Youtubers – Muchelleb – recommends dividing your to-do list into three parts; things you must do, should do and want to do – which seems a really good way to prioritise and organise your tasks.
* Selecting exactly what I’m going to wear the next day – If you haven’t already read my post about decluttering your house, you can find it here. Decluttering definitely helps to streamline your morning routine – if you have fewer clothes and accessories, you spend less time deciding what to wear, looking for items and preparing your outfit for the next day! Also remember to check the weather forecast the night before so there are no nasty surprises when you open the curtains the next morning.
* Laying out my entire outfit – Including tops, bottoms, underwear, jewellery and accessories. There’s nothing more annoying than getting dressed and realising that what you were planning to wear needs washing or is already in the washing basket. Same with discovering the tights you were about to put on have a huge ladder in them!
* Preparing and packing my lunch in advance: I often make a huge curry, stew, soup or chilli on Sundays, refrigerating individual portions so I can take to work during the week. I also take leftovers from our mid-week meals. That means every morning I just need to grab my Tupperware and some fresh fruit, then I’m all sorted for the day.
* Packing my work bag the night before. No more frantic rushing around looking for things and worrying about being late for work! I sleep much better knowing my purse, travel card, kindle, work folders are already packed.
* Putting my keys in their designated spot. We have a very convenient hook on the back of our front door, so we hang our keys there every evening. Alternatively, place a small bowl on your hall table and start putting your keys there immediately after arriving home from work.
* Showering the night before. When I live in Italy, I had to shower in the morning because our apartment became swelteringly hot, but now we’re in Northern Germany, that’s really not an issue. So I shower the night before, which allows me to sleep for longer. If you find it very difficult to function in the mornings, a cool (or cold!) morning shower will help to wake you up.
What I do every morning
1st) Turn off my alarm and immediately get out of bed. Don’t linger in the warm, comfortable cocoon of bedcovers, even though it’s very tempting! The sooner you’re up and dressed, the easier the rest of the morning will be. If you set multiple alarms and tend to snooze the first few, put your mobile phone/alarm clock on the other side of the room so you must force yourself out of bed to turn it off.
2nd) Get dressed. I never have breakfast in my PJs during the week. Instead I’ll put on my work clothes as soon as I’m out of bed, as it helps me mentally prepare for the work day ahead.
3rd) Go to the kitchen. I have the same breakfast every morning (Wheatbix with milk, in case you’re wondering) which is one less decision to make! I usually make an espresso the night before and leave it in the fridge to drink cold with my breakfast. I know this is a bit strange so by all means, make yourself a hot, fresh cup of coffee! I drink a big glass of water, take a multi-vitamin tablet and an iron tablet. Lots of people rave about warm water with a slice of lemon first thing in the morning. You can read about some of the benefits here. Timesaving tip: put your cereal bowl, spoon and coffee cup on the counter the night before, so they’re right where you need them at breakfast time.
Sometimes I heat up leftovers, before sitting down for breakfast. I am often away from a kitchen at lunchtime so my Thermos means I can enjoy hot soups, stews and curries on the go. If you have access to a kitchen at work, make use of it! Take some bread and sandwich fillings and assemble them there to save time in the morning (same with salad ingredients).
4) Go to the bathroom. After brushing my teeth and hair, I apply my makeup. I keep the products I use everyday right next to each other on the shelves, meaning I don’t have to search for anything in the morning. I don’t use many creams or cleansers, but when I do, I apply them the night before.
5) Grab my lunch, phone & backpack, put on my coat, scarf and shoes… then off I go!
What I’ve tried and want to do more often
* Waking up earlier: Giving myself an extra thirty minutes in the morning in order to tick off more tasks off my to-do list, study German and Italian and watch some educational videos. I email website URLs to myself the night before (such as articles I want to read or Youtube videos I want to watch), so I can quickly and easily find what I’m looking for, avoiding distractions.
If you decide to set your alarm earlier, really think about WHY you want this extra time. How will you use it? What would you like to do more of? Set specific goals and introduce time limits, such as the 20 + 20 + 20 method; 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of planning/reviewing/goal-setting and 20 minutes of reading or listening to something motivational and thought-provoking.
* Avoiding my phone: Getting ready without looking at any websites or social media. After quickly checking for any urgent emails, I avoid my phone until I’m out the front door, checking social media and replying to friends’ messages on my way to work.
* Meditation: I downloaded the Headspace app, which gives you ten days of free meditation sessions. I’ve also had the Calm app recommended to me – I’ll try that one next then decide if I prefer Headspace or Calm.
Other good ideas I’ve read about
- Exercising! Lift weights, put on a workout video, do mat exercises, Pilates or yoga – anything to energise your body and release those endorphins!
- Journalling – a chance to put your thoughts onto paper and track and review your thoughts, feelings and personal progress over the weeks, months and years. You can write in your journal at the start or end of the day. Popular topics include things that went well the day before, how yesterday could have gone better and what you are grateful for.
- Morning pages – write three pages in a notebook every morning. You could write about your plans for the day, things you’re looking forward to, things that are worrying you or causing you stress, things that went well or badly the day before etc. Don’t worry about it making sense or being grammatically correct, allow the words to come out in a long stream of consciousness.
- Writing in a bullet journal – the latest craze of 2018!
- Reading ten pages every morning – inspirational, interesting texts which will motivate you for the day ahead.
I hope this post has given you some good ideas. If you’ve got any other morning habits you’d like to share, please add them in the comments below!
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow