I’ve learned over the years that the first hour of my day has the potential to shape the remainder of it. If you asked a hundred people about their own morning routines, you’d likely get a hundred different answers. Some would say prayer is the most important element of their morning. Others would swear by exercise or a healthy breakfast. Others still watch the morning talk-shows. Everyone seems to have their own opinions about the most productive way to spend a morning. While I’m not here to tell you that any one task will put you on your way toward crushing the day, I’d love to present you with five easy tasks that might make your day a bit brighter. They sure do mine.
1. Find a time to wake up and stick to it.
This task is the first and most difficult of all the others. If you fail this first step, all the others will fall apart. Since moving into my new apartment, waking up at a decent hour has become more difficult. My bedroom has no windows, thus no natural light to keep me in rhythm. Here are a couple of suggestions that help me hop out of bed in the morning: 1) Buy an alarm clock. I got this idea from this interview with Simon Sinek. Be sure to place your alarm clock in a spot where you physically must leave your bed in order to reach it. My new alarm clock from Target improves my odds of staying awake drastically. 2) If you’re in a room with little lighting, invest in some smart lightbulbs. I recommend Philips Hue bulbs. Put them on a timer to turn on at a specific hour each morning. You’ll be more likely to stay awake with the lights on, and you’ll look like a tech genius around your friends.
2. Be completely unplugged for the first hour of your day
Scary thought, isn’t it? I listened to a podcast not too long ago where the interviewee claimed that people are now being told how to think, because their phones program them first thing in the morning, and right before they go to bed. This “brainwashing” comes in the form of advertisements, of course. If you wake up and check Facebook or Instagram before rolling over to tell your s/o “good morning” or “I love you,” what are you regarding as more important? Your actions tell a story. As a result, I’ve begun to sleep with my phone in a completely separate room. Not only does this step aid in my morning routine, but it helps me fall asleep better at night. Not convinced? Take this example:
Here’s a scenario I often experience: I’ll wake up and check my email straight away, only to find a client with an urgent need. I’m then rushed through the remainder of my morning, not to mention I’m stressed because a problem looms on the horizon just waiting for me to fix it. This example is just one way my phone can undo my morning and set me off on a path toward lower positivity, all because I couldn’t wait to check until I got to work. Sound familiar? Listen, you have to ask yourself: how often is there an issue or notification that absolutely couldn’t wait an hour for you to respond? The world won’t melt, I promise, and you’ll feel more connected to the world around you without your phone waking you up. Besides, you deserve one hour to focus on yourself.
3. Give yourself at least forty-five minutes to get ready.
Has anyone been watching Queer Eye on Netflix? For me, the most drastic change for the men on that show comes when they realize how to groom themselves, and grant themselves time to do so. You can literally see a light come into the mens’ eyes! Say what you want, but what we look like on the outside manifests itself on the inside. If we throw ourselves into sweat pants and a t-shirt, we’re eventually going to feel like sweatpants and a t-shirt. Take some time and give yourself the grace to groom and present yourself in a thoughtful way. Just five extra minutes a week for me means having trimmed nails and plucked brows. The difference is in the details, my friends. For years, if I’ve done one thing every morning, it’s been to shower, brush, wash, shave, and put together an outfit. You’ll feel the difference walking out the door, and I bet you’ll even be more productive and confident, too.
4. Write down three gratitudes
I heard this one for the first time listening to SuperSoul. One interviewee swore making note of gratitudes each day was the key to happiness. I decided I had to implement the idea, because it sounded so easy. For a while I’d think of a couple of items I was grateful for in my head, and make note. Then I’d forget if I’d done it a few hours later. I’d often skip days and find myself repeating the same old items I was thankful for. Then I decided to start recording those gratitudes in a journal. The act of writing allows our brains to visualize and process our thoughts. That’s why experts say to take notes by hand rather than on a computer. If you take the time to write out three new (different from before) gratitudes each day (in full sentences), I guarantee you’ll find more joy in your life than you had before. I sure have.
5. Clarify your goals
After I write down my gratitudes for the day, I tend to record three daily goals as well. When I first sat down to do this, I had an eye-opening experience. I realized something that was actually important for me, and had been missing. Now, as I sit down and write out my goals each day, one of the them will be will always be “have a fun day.” I realized once I started clarifying my goals, that having fun and laughing was important to me. I hadn’t been living my life with that in mind before. Sure, there are often less fun goals, like “Get Phyllis’s financing figured out.” However, this process can definitely be enlightening. It will tell you what you really want out of your day, and quite honestly, your life.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
While some mornings may feel rough, and may make all five of these items together seem daunting, choosing one or two will be sure to make a difference in the way you think and perceive the world throughout your day. Remember, life rarely happens by measurement of big leaps and changes. Little changes are much more common, difficult to measure, yes, but easier to make. Give yourself grace when you sleep past the alarm, but be sure to acknowledge and affirm yourself when you’re a productive early riser.