Yesterday we talked about finding the time in your busy morning to do the things that are important to you. Today I want you to think about what you should and what you shouldn’t be doing in those first few hours of the day.
That’s an important idea to think about. As humans, we tend to do things because that's what we've always done. This means we can get stuck in a routine without even realizing it.
I used to watch TV every night before bed. It was part of my routine and it didn't feel right to go to bed without watching a show. Sometimes I didn't even like the show I was watching. But it was part of that rut I was stuck in.
We do it without really thinking about whether or not it’s the best use of our time and we fail to ask "why"? So what should we actually be doing in the morning?
Eventually, I took a giant step back in my life and realized that I didn't want to watch TV before bed. Instead, I wanted to watch the shows that I actually like earlier in the day because I'm more likely to absorb it. And I ditched the shows I didn't like.
Now I have a lot more time at night. There was a time I used to watch my recorded shows in the morning. I don't do that anymore either because it was causing me to rush around.
It's all about asking yourself why you do certain things. You'd be amazed at what you can cut out!
This blog post is part of an email challenge called "Morning Makeover: The Smarter Way". You can read other posts from this series here:
It’s Not About Cramming More Things Into Less Time
Making over your morning isn’t about figuring out how to cram more tasks into fewer hours. When you read books and articles on productivity and time management, that’s often the main message and gist of it.
Spoiler alert: It doesn't work.
While it can help in the short term, it isn’t a good long-term strategy for meaningful change. Very soon you’ll hit the limit of how much faster and how much more efficient you can get.
It's like building a house of cards. When you build anything up, you need a strong foundation. Hacking your life so that you do more in less time can help you build up a tower, but one slight breeze and it all comes down.
We want strategies that will work long term. We want a system of tweaking our mornings so that we can repeat it in the future.
Life changes constantly. What works today may not work tomorrow. The secret is to have a system that allows you to adapt to that change.
Unfortunately, getting more done in less time isn't that strategy.
Shift your thinking and don’t try to add to what you do in the morning. If you want 15 minutes exercise, meditation, or passion projects, don’t just think about getting up 15 minutes earlier.
Likewise, shaving 15 minutes off your morning routine by showering faster, getting dressed in record time, and rushing through breakfast won't work either.
In other words, don’t add to your already lengthy list of things that need to get done. You’ll only feel more rushed and stressed if you do.
How do I know this? I've been there. Getting up earlier can really help. But let's say you want an hour to read every morning, and you want to be able to finish getting lunches ready, and you also want to be able to wash your hair every morning.
If you keep waking up earlier and earlier to do these things, eventually you're going to stop sleeping all together! We need to be strategic about it. Wake up earlier when it makes sense and you know it's for the right reasons.
It’s About Making Smart Choices When Using Your Time
Instead, what you should be thinking about is the best use of your time in the morning. Time to take out your journal again.
I want you to write down what your current morning looks like. How do you feel? Again, if you aren't into writing, draw how it feels. Remember, this is just for you.
Compare your perfect morning with your current morning routine. What aren’t you doing on your ideal morning?
If you can start by cutting things out, finding time to do what’s important to you becomes much easier.
There are two great ways to find things you can stop doing. The first is to look for busy work. This is something you do out of habit that doesn’t necessarily need doing every day.
Some examples of busy work include checking your email first thing. I have a confession. This used to be a major problem in our house.
In our home, sometimes stressful emails would come through late at night or extremely early. These emails were things like "This number on a spreadsheet is wrong and our whole process needs to be reworked!" Checking email first thing meant that the whole day was started on the wrong foot.
In this example, there's nothing to be done about the problem before getting ready for the day. The problem can't be solved before getting dressed and heading into the office. So instead there's just a lot of stress and rushing without concentrating on the task at hand, getting ready for the day.
These are the mornings that coffees get left behind, the wrong set of keys are taken by accident, or laptop bags are left at home. These are the rough mornings that can throw off entire weeks.
Or maybe you like playing around on Facebook for half an hour while you drink your coffee. If that’s how you choose to spend your time, that’s perfectly fine, but if you’re doing it out of habit it may be time to rethink it.
What's the point of social media? I'm going to argue that it's to be social. It's to catch up with family and friends we may not see on a daily basis. I use social media to share ideas with my friends and to keep up with family.
Are you being social first thing in the morning? Maybe you are. But chances are, you aren't. I know for me at least I was just scrolling without responding to anything or sharing anything. I hadn't finished my tea yet.
Cutting out social media has freed up a lot more time for me to do things that are a higher priority for me. And again, we don't have to stick with it forever. Try it out for a week. If things seem easier, great! If not, then go back to your scrolling and try something else!
This is a great place in your morning to cut the busy work and find ways to automate. I automate the news I want to get, getting my tea ready to go, and I set reminders to keep me from getting sucked in to one particular task.
Eliminate and automate as much as possible. It will revolutionize your morning and free up so much time!
The second way to quickly earn back time is to see if you’re doing things for others that they can do themselves.
Kids are the perfect example. We start out fixing their breakfast, making their lunch, cleaning up after them, picking out their clothes, and making sure their backpack is packed and ready to do.
When they are very small, we have to do these things. However, often we continue to do them long after they’re capable of doing things on their own.
Storytime! When my daughter was younger, we spoon fed her everything, including her oatmeal for breakfast. Then one day I noticed her reaching for the spoon. So I gave her another spoon just for her.
Over time, I noticed that she could get the oatmeal into her mouth in the mornings without me spoon feeding her. Fantastic I thought! Our mornings would be so different!
When they didn't seem to speed up at all, I wondered why. Then one day I noticed that my husband was still spoon feeding her. She was capable, but I hadn't told him about my new trick so he continued to stay in his old routine.
Now, she feeds herself breakfast and it freed up a LOT of time in the morning. We still have to pack her bag and get her dressed, but she can do more and more on her own. Soon she'll be able to get herself ready in the morning.
Not only does it give us more time to do other things in the morning, but it's also a great skill for her to have. Part of growing up is becoming independent. It's a great life skill for her to have AND it helps us out.
Rachel at Smart Moms Smart Ideas advocates for keeping things simple, which is perfect for smaller children. Simple breakfasts can be handled by themselves and it frees up a lot of time for you.
The same goes for things we do for our spouse. Maybe there was a time when you had less to do in the morning and it made sense to take on the majority of morning chores.
Did things change and if so, is it time to lighten your load and get help from your partner? A few small changes may be all it takes to make the time in your busy morning for what’s important to you.
We used to have a routine in our house that was set. We would load the dishes at night. The next morning my husband would empty the clean dishwasher before leaving for work. It was a good system at the time.
After our daughter was born, things changed. My schedule was a bit more flexible (I work part-time) so I was already spending a lot of time with our daughter. My husband, on the other hand, felt like he didn't have enough time.
When we took a look at our mornings, it made a lot more sense for him to spend time with our daughter in the morning and for me to take over the dishes. That simple switch has made our mornings a lot more enjoyable (especially for my husband and daughter).
When trying to make over your mornings, have a conversation with your partner. Explain why you want to change things up and what you hope to accomplish. This small conversation can go a long way and can give you a great source of support!
OK, now what?
At this point, we've figured a lot of stuff out. We know how we want our mornings to look and feel. We've gotten ideas on how to create space in our mornings and what not to do. We have a good idea of what we should be doing to have the mornings we want.
If you've been keeping track in a journal, you have all the pieces you need to come up with a new game plan. We're going to start on this tomorrow. Just remember, this isn't a quick solution.
You're going to have to rework things from time to time. Life changes and your morning will change with it. We want to get the system down so that we can do this again when we feel we need to shift around again.
And also remember that it's OK to try something and have it not work. We can always try something else.
Just because we try something that doesn't work doesn't mean we failed. It means that we learned something new.
Tomorrow we'll come up with a new plan and start putting everything into place to have the morning you want!