Do you ever feel like your day grabs you by the hair and just pulls you through it?
I used to feel like that almost every day. It was as though I had no control, I simply responded to one deadline after another. And at the end of the day, what had I accomplished? I had kept my head barely above water at work, made sure that my kids were clean and fed, and then fallen into bed to rest up for the next day of demands.
You, too? Not a good feeling, is it?
For me, the key to turning around this chaotic existence was to take control of my early morning. By creating some non-negotiable daily rituals, I could accomplish the most important tasks first. Instead of letting the demands of the day dictate to me, I can now determine how my day unfolds (mostly).
Here are my seven morning rituals. Yours may look different. My point is, master your morning, and the day will follow.
The key to turning around this chaotic existence is to take control of your early morning. #writermom
1. Begin the night before.
Visualize what you want tomorrow to look like, and make a plan. Exercise will be on your agenda tomorrow morning.
- Lay out your workout clothes tonight.
- Pull out your work clothes and your kids’ clothes, too.
- Pack lunches and place them in the fridge. You will save so much time tomorrow if you don’t have to argue about what your daughter wants to wear to school or eat for lunch. And you’re more likely to exercise if your gear is right there, ready to go.
- An hour or so before bedtime, begin winding down.
- Stop checking email, Facebook, etc. and put your electronic devices to sleep.
- Take a warm bath or shower and climb into bed knowing that you have done your best today.
2. Wake up before the rest of your family.
Your morning rituals are for you alone. Not a morning person, you say?
I have news for you.
Humans are designed to function from morning till night. Although there are plenty of jobs that require working overnight (including mine sometimes), this schedule does not fit easily with the rest of the world, or with your kids’ activities.
And morning energy is different from daytime or evening energy.
It’s filled with possibility, not regrets. If you are not a naturally early riser, get started by going to bed 30 minutes earlier and getting up 30 minutes earlier until you are where you want to be. Getting up before your family could mean getting up at 5:00 and going to bed at 9:00. I know this sounds outrageous, but if it’s 4:30 am where you are, it’s 6:30 or 9:30 somewhere else in the world.
The number on the clock isn’t really meaningful.
It only has the value that you give it. And you will be getting so much done in the first few hours of the day that you will begin to treasure this quiet morning space.
Humans are designed to function from morning till night. Although there are plenty of jobs that require working overnight, this schedule does not fit easily with the rest of the world, or with your kids’ activities.
3. Exercise. No excuses.
At home, at the gym, riding a bike, walking in your neighborhood, whatever and wherever works for you. For 20 minutes or 30 or 60. In general, you want at least 20 minutes of cardio, then some weight training.
Develop a routine – Monday, walk then lower body training; Tuesday, bike then arms; Wednesday, walk then work on core strength; start over on Thursday. Pinterest has lots of simple, doable routines.
Check them out.
I don’t usually recommend multi-tasking, but listening to a podcast or watching a video while exercising can be great. I watch a lot of TED talks. They are typically short, and almost always inspiring.
4. Meditate and/or pray.
Just take 5-10 minutes to sit still.
Slow your breathing. Give thanks for your life and your family. Ask for courage, compassion, wisdom – whatever specific need you have for this day. Know that what you need will be given to you. Feel the morning beginning to take shape.
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5. Shower and grooming.
This is a good time for me to mention the importance of a simple beauty routine.
Do you love your long hair but it takes forever to wash and style?
Maybe this is a period in your life where a cute short style may work better for you. Not forever, but maybe just for right now. Minimal make-up. Admire yourself.
Now get dressed.
6. Create a uniform.
Think about Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman. She wears jeans, a tunic, and cowboy boots.
When you figure out what works for you and your body, getting dressed in the morning becomes easy. You don’t have to be boring but work toward a basic simple style. For me, this usually means dark-wash jeans and a top with a cardigan (no matter what time of year, hospitals and office buildings are always cold).
7. Now write something.
What do you dream about writing?
A book? An article? An online course? Before your family is up, get something down on computer or paper. This one action will move you toward reaching that dream, even if it’s just a tiny step forward.
William Faulkner is quoted as saying,
“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes at nine every morning.”
I know you've heard this before, but a daily writing habit creates momentum.
Even just a few words. Even bad writing.
These little steps add up.
My friend Jeff Goins tells a story about John Grisham in his book Real Artists Don’t Starve. When Mr. Grisham was a busy attorney with small children, he got up an hour earlier and wrote a page every day. Within a few years, he had completed a novel.
A page every day is totally doable for us, too. And when you start your day thinking about your big goal, you will keep it in mind all day.
To help catch and keep ideas that bubble up during the day, there’s a great computer/mobile app called Bear – you can jot down ideas and fragments of thoughts on your phone while you’re waiting in the carpool line, grocery shopping, or watching T-ball practice.
Why are daily rituals so important?
Because you are dedicating yourself every day to what matters to you, and putting this first. Even though you can survive in your usual crisis-response mode, your dreams aren’t going to happen if you wait for an opening in your already crowded day.
You have to be intentional.
These morning habits move you toward a goal. You will be making incremental progress toward something big. Think about that when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning.
And don’t push snooze!