I haven’t always considered myself a very disciplined person. When I first moved to New York, I put my alarm on snooze and skipped a lot of auditions that would require me to wait outside at 5:30am. I skipped warming up and practicing because it was zero fun. (I later learned everyone hates practicing, but the professionals do it anyway…whoops) But once I was my own boss, I had to get super disciplined and super consistent if I wanted my business to succeed. And the secret sauce is and will always be… how you start your morning.
I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, and over the last few years have found the routine that works for me. It keeps me energized, focused, and checking off my to do list--which is so fun and satisfying that it’s almost embarrassing. Truly. Don’t worry, this article is not me telling you that you need to get up at 5AM to win the day. I just want to point out a few steps you can take to start your morning in an empowered place.
Keep your cellphone out of your bedroom
For anyone who argues that they don’t have time in the morning for meditation, or writing goals, or whatever I’m about to suggest, I want to see exactly how they spend their first fifteen minutes. (In a non-creepy way) My guess is, they’re on their phone checking emails or scrolling social media. I’m sure your correspondence is extremely important. I’m sure someone commented on a post and you just have to read it. But I’m also sure that it is a time and energy suck. Ever been in bed checking your phone without realizing 30 minutes have gone by? I thought so. Me too. Studies have also shown that people check their phone in the middle of the night. It’s even messing with your sleep! So quit it!
Also, everything coming at you from your phone involves someone else’s needs and someone else’s priorities. It does not involve you or your dreams. What if you took your first fifteen minutes of the day to quickly center yourself, remember what’s most important to you, and jot down your goals and/or to dos for the day? What if you waited to check email until after your morning coffee? Wouldn’t you be more centered, more intentional, and way less reactive? Also, imagine you get a rude email response or perhaps are just… reading the news. Are you really going to let that set the tone for the day? You have life changing dreams to think about and make possible! So please, I beg you to put your phone outside of your bedroom, and give yourself at least 15-30 minutes of ‘me’ time before letting the world in.
If you’re a parent or an on-call doctor and need your children and/or work to be available to you, I suggest doing what Mel Robbins does. She puts her phone in her bathroom on Do Not Disturb. If there’s an emergency, her kids’ numbers come through and her phone will ring. Ta-da! If your phone is your alarm, you can still keep it in the bathroom. If you don’t have an ensuite bathroom (yet) invest in a traditional alarm. Now they make these lovely alarms that mimic the sunrise to gently coax you awake. The extra fancy ones even have birds chirping as the alarm tone. Can you imagine the peacefulness of waking up to that? I love that my alarm is never startling me awake. With the light slowly brightening, my body is ready to get up by the time the alarm rings.
Quit hitting that snooze button
One of my dearest friends and former roommates is a chronic snoozer. It’s been a sore subject for us, as I passionately tried to convince her to stop, and she owned that crap out of snoozing, and still lives a fabulous life. (See? Own your morning routine!) That being said, it can really kill your productivity in the morning. If you hit the snooze and go back to sleep, your body actually starts another REM cycle, which can take 45-90 minutes to complete. If you’re woken up in the middle of that cycle, your body is startled awake, and you’re in a sort of ‘sleep fog.’ It can take hours to get your brain to fire on all cylinders, meaning the first few hours of the day are wasted on playing catch up. This is particularly dangerous, because your brain is most productive within a few hours of waking, so don’t miss out! The best trick to keep yourself from snoozing is to keep your alarm away from your bed (which hopefully you're doing anyway). It will force you immediately on your feet. Second, down a 16 oz. glass of water. Your body is dehydrated from not drinking for the last eight hours, and this can be surprisingly effective in restoring your energy.
Work on your big goal in the morning
My restaurant job has crazy long hours. I have to be at work sometimes as early as 6:30am, and I’m there sometimes as late as 5pm. Once I’m home and sitting down, I do not feel like working my online business. So for awhile… I didn’t. As you can imagine, that didn’t turn out well, and it also didn’t feel good. Then, in a stroke of brilliance, I decided to add just 15 minutes of work in my morning routine before heading to the restaurant. Whatever your lifelong goal/dream is, I bet you can boil it down to one small action you should be doing daily to move your life forward. For me, it’s ‘asks.’ For you, it may be writing a few pages, doing a quick workout, sending out your resume, whatever. What’s that thing you know you need to do every day that you never end up doing? That’s what those fifteen minutes are for. So, I started asking people to take a look at my business for fifteen minutes in the morning (don’t worry, I wasn’t calling them on the phone, I’m not a monster). And then I’d head off to work. And here’s the amazing thing: my entire mood changed. I had already gotten the most important thing done for the day! I would get responses from my reach outs, and have a quick scheduling session when I got home, and then I was done. If I wanted to spend the rest of the night having dinner and relaxing with my fiancé, I could! And because my business now felt in control, I felt empowered and was attracting a lot more business.
If you’re having trouble knowing what the one tiny thing for your goal is, work from the big thing to the tiniest thing. So you want to have a best-selling novel? Great, you’ll probably need a novel to be written in the first place. So what’s a daily action to complete that? Write a little bit every day. Voila. It’s that simple. Even doing 15 minutes of exercise every day can significantly change your health. Pick your thing, and stick with it.
Experiment with your routine
I’m so grateful to Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner, because every three months, you write your morning and evening routines anew. It gives me a chance to reflect on what worked and what didn’t last quarter and adjust accordingly. I’m not saying you have to buy his planner, but I am saying map out what you want your morning routine to be. And then try it. Try it for at least a month. If it’s not working for you, then change it. Miracle Morning is a great jumping off point. It is a fantastic book that lays out the secret to becoming a superhero in your morning routine. It uses the acronym SAVERS to layout its suggested routine. Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing. All of these are incredible ways to start your morning. But this can also end up being a rather long morning routine that hasn't worked for my early work days… I’ve combined and condensed my routine to always include silence/visualization, and affirmations/scribing. The rest, I fit in when I can. It took a long time to find what works, and what works this season may not work the next, but it took experimentation. A great place to start is with some guided meditation, and writing down your current goals. From there, try something else, switch it up, and then own whatever you choose.
I’m so excited for all of you to start your day feeling more centered and empowered. As they say in Mulan “Once you find your center, you are sure to win.” I’d love to hear about your own morning routines and how the experimentation goes! (And yes, I did just quote Mulan.)
If you want to go deeper into what to have in your morning routine, or if you’re not sure where to start, check out these books:
Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod (they have book specific to each industry as well, so check those out)
5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins (Most facts about phone use/morning brain come from this baby)
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis