I am a firm believer in the power of a morning routine. I’ve been spending much of 2017 so far tweaking mine (and, quite honestly, have a ways to go. There are definitely some mornings when I still roll over and instantly check email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram … and maybe even play a round or two of Candy Crush. And do you know what kind of day I generally have on the mornings I succumb to my smartphone?
A crappy day, that’s what!
As I’ve experimented with various routines, I’ve learned the more mindful my morning is, the rest of my day generally goes smoothly. I feel more confident and capable when issues arise at work or in my personal life.
Now, I’m a single woman with a dog. I don’t have to worry about a spouse or children or any other responsibilities in the morning, and I recognize that I am fortunate as far as that goes … I can take all the time I need. On the other hand, we all want a streamlined, more efficient and effective way to start our day. And I think what I’ve found is that all you need is 22 minutes to complete five tasks for a morning that will set your day on fire.
- Right after you wake up, before anything else – before you even open your eyes – pray. I’m fond of this prayer inspired by “A Course in Miracles“: What would you have me do today? Where would you have me go? Who would you have me see? What would you have me say?
I’m also a fan of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where these is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.
Whether you believe in a specific power of God, the general oversight of the universe, or the inner strength of yourself … a prayer in your mind helps set the tone for the day. Total time: 1 minute
- Meditate. To me, prayer is you speaking your intent. Meditation is the time to listen. Now, in the evenings I use meditation as a way to relax and ultimately fall asleep, but that won’t work in the morning! After I get up and get my dog walked and settled, I sit down for at least five minutes. Sometimes, I simply focus on my breath. Other times, I set a specific intention for the day and focus on that. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to meditate, but using just a few moments early in the morning helps clear your mind for the day ahead. Total time: 5 minutes
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Don’t use the excuse that you’re not a breakfast person. Even if it’s just a cup of tea or hot lemon water, take those few minutes to sit down and introduce your physical body and mentality to your healthy intentions for the day. Personally, I love breakfast, and take the time to cook up some eggs and chicken sausage nearly every morning. I usually add some avocado for an extra dose of healthy fats, and sauerkraut for gut health. Now, maybe that kind of savory breakfast isn’t for you … maybe you’re more of an oatmeal and berries person. Whatever you do, don’t rely on a drive-thru window for your morning sustenance on a regular basis. And again, even if you don’t generally eat breakfast, take a few minutes for a cup of tea or hot lemon water. It’s not only about fueling your body, but about training both your body AND mind to anticipate nutritious choices throughout the day. Total time: 10 minutes
- Stretch. Guru Singh said this delightful term in one of his videos: “Stretch into your body sock.” I can’t stress how much I love that phrase and the idea behind it! It is our duty and honor to take care of our bodies, the physical vessels our souls have here on Earth. Regular stretching helps you get in touch with your body and the many capabilities you have. I like finding short video clips on YouTube, or just follow my own routine. Total time: at least 5 minutes
- Make your bed. Many experts recommend making your bed every single day. Surveys show that the people who make their beds daily are generally happier than people who don’t. Self-help gurus also suggest that having a neat and tidy bedroom helps keep your mind “neat and tidy” as well, and it’s also a gateway to other good habits. Is that all really true? Who knows, but for something that requires minimal time and effort, I’m willing to take a few seconds every morning. Total time: 1 minute
Have some more time in the morning? Consider adding these additional activities:
- Exercise. Along with stretching, if you can carve out 30-60 minutes of exercise every morning, both your mental and physical health will skyrocket. Plus, you won’t have to worry about fitting it in later in the day. Total time: at least 30 minutes
- Journal. I have two journals – one that I use at the end of the day, to chronicle what happened and work through any emotions/issues. And I have a small notebook that I call my prayer journal. I use it in conjunction with my morning meditation. Along with setting my intentions mentally, I take a few minutes to jot it down and get it on paper. This is just an extra way to firm up your intentions for the day, and solidify your focus. Total time: 5 minutes (at most)
- Read. “Leaders are readers.” It’s a cliche because it’s true. Many of today’s leaders and high-level thinkers are advocates of reading. You’ll learn more by reading (even fiction) than by turning on the morning news first thing. Total time: at least 20 minutes
Image courtesy of Johan Larsson.