A SIMPLE MORNING ROUTINE FOR A CALM + PRODUCTIVE DAY
I always have been and always will be a creature of habit. I thrive best on 80% routine with the other 20% left over for the odd surprise here and there to shake things up a bit. But not too much.
Having been a nine to fiver since the age of sixteen, I found it incredibly easy to live by the deadlines and demands of the regular working day. So when, by a serendipitous chain of events, I found the blog taking off and I became my own boss, the adjustment period was (and sometimes still is), huge. Having no one but yourself to answer to for the most part and a whole host of distractions waiting to sidetrack you can be the perfect recipe for a lot of unproductive days.
I’ve chalked up way too many of these in the past. I dread to think of the hours wasted as I flitted, happy as an online bumblebee from one internet flower to another, when I should have been getting into the mindset of actually producing something akin to work!
But the good news is, you just keep learning more about working for yourself as you go along. And the one single thing that’s helped more than anything in getting the day off on the right foot, has been establishing a definite morning routine. Get it right and it acts as the perfect transition from sleepy bed-headed woman to determined female in charge of her own destiny. Kind of. Get it wrong and the whole day never really takes off beyond that initial, short-lived coffee buzz.
Before you worry that I'm about to get all Gwyneth on you and tell you that everyday, upon rising I wash my hair in the dew, milk the goat, make quinoa porridge and steam clean my *dishwasher*... don't panic. I'm not. This is me we're talking about here. And close call there with the Gwyneth/steam cleaning reference.
Since H started senior at school nearly three years ago (Holy Cow! Three years??) these are the habits that I've slowly grown into and they make an enormous difference to my productivity levels. And they're not rocket science…
Be The Early Bird
The main ingredient in all of it is as simple as that. If I get up early enough, I feel like I’m in an organised enough place to start work at 8.00am. Then I can begin from a calm place. If I press snooze more than once, the whole thing goes to pot and I end up frazzled by the time I make it to my desk. We seem to have fallen into a natural running order with Patrick providing tea upon my exit from the shower and then he goes on to sort the dog out before leaving for work. My zone involves shimmying the teen along until she successfully exits the front door on time for the school bus. This in itself brings with it a few challenges.
In all honesty, I struggle with the whole teen approach to sleep. It seems its part and parcel (and I read this somewhere recently), of their growth and hormonal development that they won’t go to bed and then they won’t get up either. I’m still trying to achieve the right balance here between advising and insisting. But that’s a whole other post!
My zone of the morning generally goes a little like this:
Wake up H (she sleeps through an alarm), get dressed, repeatedly wake up H, apply makeup, wake up H once more… and then run for cover. I don’t set about the downstairs stuff until I’ve ensured her bed has actually been vacated. In all honesty, now she’s fourteen this part really needs to change....but like I said… a whole other post.
Clear The Domestic Decks
I've come to realise that I’m way too easily distracted by my environment and if that environment is untidy, I may as well just not bother sitting down to work at all. As un-domestic as I am, I find that I settle down at the desk a lot better knowing that the washing up is done or that the laundry load is out of the machine and hung out to dry. Otherwise it nags away at me and I just end up getting up to deal with it mid-way through the morning.
When my desk was in the living room I’d make sure the dining table was clear, even if I did just clutter it up later on with work paraphernalia, the cushions on the sofa were where they're supposed to be, Spotify would be on with a playlist to suit the mood and in winter, there would be a scented candle ready to light. Now that I’ve moved my desk upstairs and we’re in the process of creating some office/studio space in the spare room, I shouldn’t need to be quite as obsessive. Although music, candles and coffee will still feature before any work begins!
This may all sound like it’s bordering on obsessive to some and perfectly normal to others. I know that I work way better in a calm tidy environment than I do a messy, cluttered one and so have become a creature of habit. It forms part of my scene setting ritual for the day and I've actually grown to love it.
Check In Rules
I wrote more about this here but for the longest time, upon waking I would roll over, switch off the iPhone alarm and sleepily check in with Instagram, Twitter and email. Talk about putting myself on the back foot straightway. I wouldn't have rocked up to an early morning meeting in my PJs back in my office days so why do that now?
My FOMO and twisted thought process deemed this to be me getting ahead of the game when in actual fact, it was just tripping me up and making the start to the day a lot more stressful. By focusing first on the home front and then the work stuff when I’m ready, I become instantly more efficient at both. Now there's no checking in until I'm at my desk and ready to deal with whatever the inbox throws my way. And the iPhone is no longer my alarm - I resorted to the old fashioned clock method for that.
8:00 a.m. Golden Hour
I used to be so relieved to be back at the centre of calm that is my desk that I’d spend time between 8:00 and 9:00a.m fannying about on Pinterest and Instagram, all in the name of topping up the inspiration levels for the day. This turned out to be quite dangerous on the Internet rabbit hole front and before I knew it, it was midday and I had nothing to show for my efforts except perhaps a whole board full of beige pictures and a conversation on Instagram about… well… the merits of Instagram.
This time of the morning is when I'm most at my most productive and determined. And therefore way less likely to procrastinate on tasks that have been hanging over my head for some time. So no more avoidance. This is the slot when I deal with the boring must-do’s, the email I’ve been writing and re-writing in my sleep the night before or the piece of content that, because it comes with a looming deadline, has for no reason whatsoever (other than the deadline itself), become my nemesis.
Breakfast With A Side Of Inspiration
During the week, we all breakfast at different times in our house as we're all on different schedules. Contrary to what you might read, this doesn’t make us a dysfunctional family - it just makes us a realistic one. So by the time I actually feel like eating anything, it’s generally gone 9:00a.m. Having gotten any nasty but necessary jobs out the way earlier, now I feel like I can enjoy a desk breakfast whilst browsing wherever that creative rabbit hole wants to lead me. And I enjoy this part all the more knowing I’ve already taken care of the not so fun stuff. I do set a timer on the browsing part though otherwise there’s a risk you’ll still find me in the same place come 5:00pm!
One of the benefits of midlife is that generally, I find I can get up earlier now and have become much more of a morning person. This goes down really well with the dog. The teen… not so much. I remember reading The Miracle Morning a while ago and feeling inspired by the idea of getting up earlier to make time for a few more extras. Exercise, five or ten minutes with a meditation App such as Rituals or Headspace and some journal writing.
The reality of that hasn’t yet transpired but who knows, perhaps by the time I make it through the next couple of years, I’ll be that absolute paragon of morning virtue… and have a teen who’s able to get herself out of the house without so much as a whisper from me...
Photography: Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash