It's been a while since I last wrote on here. Since the end of April, life has been fairly chaotic with moving house, busy things at work, and trying to create healthier habits for myself. It has been a good and necessary break to figure out what the next phase of life looks like for me. In personal news, I'm wrapping up my time at my job in a couple of weeks and moving into a new season where I am focused more on freelance writing and working out next steps. I have been working towards building routines that allow me to spend good time with good people and not cutting myself short on time spent doing the things that make my heart happy.
I've written before about being a reluctant morning person. My tendency is to be neither a morning person or a night owl, but to be the I-Love-2pm kind of person. But over the past year or so, I've discovered how much better my life feels when I make the effort to get out of bed early in the morning and get the most important things checked off my list while the rest of the world is sleeping. I don't think I will ever be the person who voluntarily springs out of bed at 5am – that's still a little much. But my productivity is never as consistent as when I have established a solid morning routine for myself.
These days my routine looks like getting out of bed around 6am on weekdays and making coffee while I sit down to write. I've been helping with leading the JuNoWriMo writing challenge (the distant June cousin of the legendary NaNoWriMo that happens every November) this month, and that has been an excellent motivator to get out of bed and throw some words on the page. I spend about an hour and a half writing and drinking coffee before properly starting my day. Some days I get a couple thousand words done, and some days it's only a few hundred. Either way, I am happy and feel better for having made time to write. From there, I have about forty-five minutes to shower and eat breakfast and be out the door. It has worked well to make sure that I get places on time and also exponentially increase my daily productivity.
I'm far from an expert on the subject, but I've trial-and-errored my way through a lot of different kinds of routines in the last year. Here's a bit of what I've learned about creating morning routines:
1. If you want to get up and be productive, you have to have a plan of attack.
I know that if I don't have anything planned, it will be almost impossible to get out of bed earlier than I absolutely have to. I will snooze my alarm clock an unnecessary number of times before work or avoid setting an alarm altogether. But if I have a purpose for being up early, I will get up with no complaints. It's totally a mind game I have to play on myself, and I am well aware of it. But it helps to know what motivates you and what you need to do to trick yourself into doing things that don't come naturally.
Making the most of your time requires some advanced planning. Without it, you will likely spend the entire time just staring at a wall half-asleep and wishing that you had just stayed in bed longer. While I believe that there is a lot to be said for including that as part of your morning routine, if you have other things that need to be done, it's helpful to make sure you're prepared for them so they actually get done. Make lists and set things out the night before so there are fewer excuses available.
2. If you do the highest priority things first thing in the morning, you will feel much less guilty for taking a bit of time off at the end of the day.
If you don't get things done right away, it becomes increasingly easier to push them off. Procrastination, by nature, does not go away over time. It will keep sucking you in, convincing you that you can get things done later until it's a mad scramble to get them done right before a deadline. It's how I ended up writing three term papers from start to finish in a day one time in university. (0/10, would not recommend) I know I have to beat procrastination to the punch by getting an early start, or I will constantly be waiting for tomorrow to arrive so I can work on the things I want to get done.
And evenings are hard. I know that by the time I get home from work, I am tired and often feel a bit like my brain has melted out my ears. It's hard to start new things or do chores when all I want to do is catch up with a friend or eat popcorn and watch Netflix. 8pm is never a good time for me to start working on things, but if I haven't accomplished the things I know I need to do that day, I'll feel guilty for taking time for myself. If I've made the effort to check the big things off the list already, then it's not as big a deal when I take an evening off.
3. It's only as complicated as you make it.
Maybe you want to get up hours earlier than you would need to in order to make it to work on time. Maybe you've got big projects that you want to get done that you know won't happen otherwise. That is where my current morning routine came from. I knew that if I wanted to get any meaningful writing time in, I was going to have to start getting up significantly earlier than I would have otherwise.
But your morning routine might also only be fifteen minutes long, and it might include things as simple as making sure you make your bed and turn all the lights off before you leave the house. It doesn't have to be a massive, complicated proposition. Whatever helps you get done the tasks you need to accomplish in the morning and keeps you from feeling frazzled and stressed once the day starts to take off and get busy.
4. You can't do it all at once.
There's a quote that says 'you can do anything, but not everything.' And it's true. You can decide to adopt any number of habits and priorities, but there are still only so many hours in a day. At some point you have to pick what actually matters to you, and what you are willing to forego so that the truly important things get the time and attention they need to be done well. Different things may be priorities at different points, and you have to choose what fits best during a given season.
It is not a bad thing to choose some things over others; it is a healthy, necessary decision to avoid burning yourself out or living in chronic disappointment over things not going as well as you had hoped. Working to keep realistic expectations for what you will accomplish will actually help your routine be stable and calming, rather than a frantic sprint to start the day as perfectly as possible. Don't be afraid to change up your routine if it isn't working for you, and bring in new or unexpected things from time to time. You have to find what works for you, what makes your days less stressful and creates healthy habits.
Building an effective morning routine has been quite a learning process, but it has helped me feel so much less frazzled and empty. Maybe it can help you with that too.
Have you found a morning routine that works for you? What is it? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.