The internet is swarming with articles about the importance of morning routines. It seems successful people in just about every field have mastered the art of gracefully greeting the day, and many of them credit these A.M. rituals with their ability to consistently excel professionally, personally and creatively. This all seems nice, but from where we stand (...or lay TBH), our fragile messy buns dangling in our faces as we clumsily hit Snooze for the second time, these individuals might as well be unicorns. Now, it's not that we don't also want to be unicorns...
Of course we want to be one of those people; the ones who accomplish more before 9am than some of us do all day; who meditate or workout before even stepping outside...the ones who don't roll around groaning melodramatically each morning, desperately delaying that inevitable moment when they have to physically get out of bed.
When your 'normal' is frantically tripping over your dog while racing to the shower and simultaneously cursing yourself for having been too lazy to put gas in your car the day before, the idea that you are capable of transforming into one of those energetic, disciplined little morning-loving unicorns can seem, to put it lightly, like a bit out of reach.
When you're so used to scrambling through the wake-up process --or any process, really-- the prospect of adopting a more streamlined alternative can feel daunting...futile, even.
But, in the spirit of all that 'New Year, New You' hodgepodge, and in the larger spirit of overall self-care (a crucial component to being able to contribute to the world around us), we decided to take give 'becoming a morning person' another go. Full disclosure: these insights are the result of a lot of trial and error. Emphasis on 'error.' Eventually --albeit slowly-- we gravitated toward a few things that stuck.
The decision to make it work is the most important decision of all.
First thing's first: overnight progress plays no role in this. Expect it to feel weird. Expect your mind and body to bug out a bit as their comfort zone is challenged.
Friendly reminder: committing to a schedule overhaul isn't supposed to be easy. But we're here to tell you that even the most frazzled, easily distracted, sleep-obsessed among us can become morning people...and reap the benefits of everything that really does comes along with that.
Even before you embark on creating a morning routine, these simple, pre-sleep adjustments can help set you up for success:
Your cell should not be within reach. When that alarm goes off, you need some incentive to actually part ways with your bed. Maybe once you're a full-fledged morning person, this privilege can be earned back, but for now, it'll just make it easier for you to say 'F it' and roll back over.
Make sure you're actually getting quality sleep. Apps like Sleepytime can help you coordinate bedtime & wake-up times so your alarm doesn't go off in the middle of a sleep cycle, which causes increased grogginess.
Keep curtains cracked. Harnessing just a little bit of outdoor light will help you naturally easy into the day and make it harder to fall back asleep. Do it to it.
Carve out the time. This is a matter of personal preference, of course, but we found that waking up at least an hour before you have to get ready for work or head out for meetings makes it easier to get the most out of a morning routine.
Pre-Plan Your OOTD. This was sort of a revolutionary change, despite being one of the more obvious morning-person-in-training habits we landed on. Plan your outfit for the next day. Boom. That's it. Depending on your level of outfit ADD, this one change can *easily* save you 20-25 minutes of 'getting ready' time each morning. Which is kind of huge.
If you work from home or in a very casual environment, this is as simple as laying out a pair of comfy jeans (or yoga pants, if we're keepin' it 100...) and whatever shirt makes sense for the next day's weather. Since getting dressed for a more formal office setting typically requires more effort, consider setting aside an hour every Sunday to put a work week's worth of outfits together. Hang in a particular order or grab from them randomly each day. It takes way less time than you might think, and eliminates the time-sucking, logic-defying 'I have nothing to wear!' panic that most of us know all-too well.
On The Other Side Of The Alarm
Engage with the A.M
This is a vital motivator for early rising, even though at first you'll probably find yourself trying to minimize it for the sake of sleeping in. Out of that one hour chunk, designate 20-30 minutes to something that you consider genuinely interesting and/or entertaining. This indulgence will look different for different people, of course. Maybe for you it means watching something upbeat on Netflix (...it's kind of hard to yawn when you're busy laughing at the Bluth family). Or, if you find it hard to read for pleasure with an otherwise packed schedule, this might be the best time to knock a chapter out. Other awesome options? Meditation, catching up on your favorite blogs, writing, chip away at the DIY project you're in the process of; watch one of those recorded RHW episodes. Whether it's a (so-called...) guilty pleasure or mindful enrichment, your morning indulgence just has serve two straightforward purposes: wake up your brain, and, in the long term, help you associate mornings with positivity.
Move It, Move It
I'm sure you've heard this one before. We certainly had...and we weren't too pumped about it. But try to remember that getting your body moving first thing in the morning doesn't have to mean running 5 miles (...though for some mystifying, super athletic unicorns, it does). Simply put, one of the first things your routine should incorporate is movement. This can mean stretching for a few minutes while watching something or listening to your audio book. A quick yoga routine is also a great option. As is a self-timed, low-impact series of easy moves like lunges or standing elbow-to-knee touches. Try setting an alarm for just 5 minutes and do a combo of whatever feels natural. The point is to wake your body up.
Fuel For Thought
Within a half hour of getting up, eat a filling, energy-sustaining first meal. Make this easier on yourself (and less noisy for any still-sleeping significant others or roommates) by having a few easy-to-assemble options to choose from each morning. One fool proof option we love? Oatmeal with almonds and frozen berries. And of course, hydrate your little heart out. In addition to some h20, consider a digestion-friendly cup of warm water with lemon. One more thing...(sorry in advance) - it's best to avoid caffeine until a bit later in the morning - 10 am or so is ideal. Any earlier and it could mess with your cortisol levels. No bueno...
Review (and Dump!)
After you've sufficiently settled into the new day, let yourself briefly review any upcoming to-do's, which are hopefully up-to-date in the planner or electronic equivalent of your choice. General life rule we like to adhere to: write. everything. down. Any deadline, any phone call, any appointment; as soon as it is communicated and a date/time is designated, lock it in. This is really just a moment to reflect on what you can expect in the hours ahead. Once you've mentally gotten a sense of your immediate timeline, consider developing the habit of a morning 'Brain Dump'. Not familiar with this super-effective ( and slightly addictive) writing exercise? We broke the basics down for ya!
Essentially, 'brain dumping' is the process of auditing all the undone 'stuff' floating around your head; all the tasks and projects and commitments, whether very broad or super specific, that require your attention. This can be a particularly helpful tool for the scatterbrained among us, though just about anybody can benefit from it. There are a few variations of the exercise; some people prefer to do it last thing before going to bed versus in the morning ,etc. Our rationale for incorporating this into your *a.m.* routine? Your mind is likely about as alert as it will be all day; that clarity shouldn't go to waste!
Part of trying to #LiveLifewhile means maintaining a certain level of awareness about what's going on around us. It isn't enough that we mean well and wish for world peace or even try to be conscious consumers. Nope. Actually giving a shit about basic world events is a non-negotiable piece of the puzzle. Aside from the Google alerts and trending topics you'll surely stumble upon throughout the day if any breaking news occurs, first thing in the morning is an ideal time to check in with what's going on. It's as easy as flipping between (or reading) a couple of reputable news outlets while eating breakfast; you'll be up-to-date on the gist of things by the time you walk your plate to the sink. We know current events aren't always pretty, *but* neither is being out of touch.
Well you gorgeous little morning unicorns, what do you think? We'd love to know how these ideas work for ya, or if you have any other suggestions for making the most of your first few hours. Let us know below!