Routines are described as sets of behaviors that are regularly repeated, usually in the same time and place. They're steeped in habit, vigorously reiterated throughout the course of our lives. Most of our routines have been part of our daily rituals for years, if not decades.
The quality of our lives is very much derived from the same routines that we repeat daily. But of all the routines that we might posses, it's our morning routines that are quite possibly the most important. What we do in the morning helps to set the pace for the day.
And, while we would all love to have empowering morning routines that might include 30-minutes of exercise, eating a healthy breakfast, and writing out our gratitudes, it clearly doesn't always work out that way.
In fact, most of our routines at the outset of the day can't be described as empowering; they can only be labeled as chaotic. Because usually, it's a frantic rush to get ready for the day, multi-tasking our way out the door.
If you have children, then your morning routine is probably even more jam-packed. It likely involves getting the kids ready for school, making them breakfast, and ensuring they have a healthy lunch packed. Usually, this leaves little time for much else.
Yet, the mornings are the single most important part of the day. What we do in the morning helps to shape the trajectory of our lives, defines our priorities, and helps determine our likeliness to achieve our goals. Small wins and a little bit of momentum in the morning can push us a long way.
But if you feel frustrated with your morning routine, and are filled with a general sense of anxiety, fear and stress when you leave the house, then it's time to make a change. These five steps to a better morning routine will help to drastically improve our lives.
Step #1 -- Get Organized
When chaos ensues in the morning, it's usually because we lack organization. When we're organized, we can leave room for personal development. But, when we lack organization, just the opposite happens.
Yet, getting organized is easier said than done. Often, it involves a complete overhaul of our homes and our schedules. However, if you've heard the saying, "clean house, clear mind," then you know just how true this is.
Recent studies have even confirmed that clutter creates chaos. Researchers at thePrinceton University Neuroscience Institute determined that clutter prevents the mind from focusing properly, and usually ends in frustration. When we're frustrated, we often opt for silent resignation, allowing things to control us rather than tackling them offensively.
Specifically, they stated the following: "Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system."
Start by organizing your home one section at a time so you don't feel overwhelmed. Pick a drawer and organize it, or pick a small space such as your cupboard and organize that. Go out and buy a cork board you can pin items to or even a chalk board you can write on. When you can visually see the things that need to get done, it's far easier to follow through.
By organizing small spaces, one at a time, we don't feel overwhelmed and we build momentum, slowing gaining more confidence.
Step #2 -- Manage Your Time
Time management is a skill that some might even call an art form. But if you're juggling multiple responsibilities all at once with little room for "me time," then you need an effective time management system.
The most popular one is the Quadrant System, initially introduced by President Dwight D. Eisenhower but later popularized by Stephen R. Covey in his book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."
The system categorizes all of our activities based on two factors: urgency and importance. Things are either (1) both urgent and important (short term crises and problems), (2) not urgent but important (long-term goals), (3) urgent but not important (distractions or interruptions), or (4) not urgent and not important (time-wasters).
Take one week to audit your time. Jot down every activity you do in the day and next to it write the quadrant it's associated with and circle it. How much time did you spend on things that could have been avoided (quadrant 3)? How about on your long-term goals (quadrant 2)? And, how much time did you waste with quadrant 4 activities?
This should give you a strong sense on where your time is going, and allow you to better manage the little amount of time that you do have. By better managing your time, you can remove some stress and anxiety, and better prepare for an empowering morning routine at the start of your day.
Step #3 -- Wake Up Early
It goes without saying that in order to develop a better morning routine, you need to wake up early. Simply crawling out of bed at the last minute won't cut it. You need to train your body and your mind to wake up early.
How early? That's entirely up to you. But you should leave yourself with at least one hour of quiet time before things get hectic. Don't know how you'll manage to wake up at least one hour earlier? Try starting with 10 minute increments.
For example, you could set your alarm clock 10 minutes back for the first three days, then another 10 minutes the next three days, and so on. Habits build slowly over time. And if you want to instill the habit of waking up earlier, you might not want to do too much too fast.
If you increment slowly by waking up earlier by 10 minutes each time, you can rewire the neural pathways in your mind over time. Even if you're not a morning person, this process will still work for you.
Think about strengthening the tension on a guitar or piano string. By doing too much too fast, the string can snap. But, if it's slowly tightened little by little, that tensions sets in, making the string slowly adapt. And the mind works very much in a similar way.
Step #4 -- Set Goals
If you've set some goals in your life, then waking up early should become a priority. But you can't just set goals in your mind; they need to be written out before you. The act of actually writing out your goals makes a significant difference in your ability to achieve them.
Set goals that are specific, measurable, and time-based. Come up with some strong enough reasons on why you must achieve those goals. As long as your reasons are profound enough, you'll do what it takes to follow through.
Building your empowering morning routine, then, should involve tackling things that can help to advance those goals forward, also known as quadrant 2 activities when it comes to effective time management.
As long as you can organize your space and manage your time, you'll leave room to work on the things that will matter most to you in life. Strong goals will help inspire you to move forward and slowly build momentum over time.
Step #5 -- Focus on Health Wellness
Your morning routine should also be focused on health and wellness. You need to ensure that you're targeting a sound mind, body, and spirit. There should be an exercise component involved, no matter how small it might be. Even 10 minutes of brisk walking is enough to develop the deeper habit of more strenuous exercise over time.
Another component of your morning routine should involve gratitude. Find everything you can be grateful for in your life, and write it down in the morning. Have nothing to be grateful for? There's always plenty to be thankful for when we truly search.
The act of writing out our gratitudes for even 5 minutes in the morning helps to shift our focus from what we don't have to what we do have. That move from a state of lack to a state of abundance translates into everything that we do because our thoughts are that powerful.
Other things like eating a healthy breakfast, meditating for 15 minutes, and creating a massive action plan for the day should take center stage. But none of this can be done without waking up early, and in part ensuring that you get enough sleep.
Building an empowering morning routine doesn't happen overnight. But, over time, with the insertion of small changes, it does evolve into something wonderful. The biggest hurdle is not to allow bad habits to creep back in and to revert back to our old ways.