You wake up each morning and still feel tired, even if you’ve been asleep for more than eight hours.
Sometimes, you wake up but just can’t bring yourself to actually get up. So you lie in bed staring into space with little energy to do anything worthwhile.
Eventually you check the time and realise you just can’t stay in bed any longer. So you get up. Not because you want to, but because you have to.
Throughout the remains of your morning, nothing goes right. You rush through getting dressed and making coffee but have no time remaining to do anything meaningful before you start your busy routine.
Why your mornings are important (and why you should be making the most of them)
Regardless of whether you consider yourself an early bird or night owl, the benefits of awaking up and being active in the mornings cannot but understated;
• Mornings are typically peaceful and quiet and a perfect for being focused
• Mornings are a good opportunity to enjoy your free time before you go to work
• Mornings are an ideal time to do creative and meaningful work while you still have energy to do them
• Just as having a bad morning can effect the rest of your day, having a good morning can improve the rest of your day
Before I made the decision to improve this area of my life, my morning routine did little to help me.
I’d lie awake in bed for hours until realising I’d be late for work if I didn’t get up. Whatever time I had left was often used for wishing dirty dishes from the night before. And then when I’d finally head out, I’d never feel happy or satisfied. Because I knew, that my time had not been spent meaningfully.
Now, I wake up at 5AM every morning and I get up without feeling tired or fatigued. I use my mornings to write for two or three hours and don’t let anything distract me. And almost every day, I feel satisfied knowing that my morning has been productive, enjoyable and meaningful.
Between these times, nothing magical happened. I simply realised that I was unhappy with how much time I was wasting and took specific actions to change it. And there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to wake up at 5AM like I do. That’s just what time I like to wake up. Your ideal morning routine may involve getting up a little later and that’s completely fine just as long as you have more than enough time to do everything that you want to do.
Whether you think you’re an early bird or a night owl isirrelevant. What’s more important is the actions you take in order to get the most out of your mornings.
Let’s talk about some of those actions.
Before your morning begins
In my experience, most of what goes into an effective morning routine actually takes before your morning even begins. Here are some things I’d recommend doing to improve your upcoming morning;
Improve the quality of your sleep
If you want to wake up early and be productive, quality sleep is a must. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just setting your alarm an hour earlier than normal and expecting your body to just adjust without resistance.
While I’m no sleep expert, I do know of some simple things you can do to improve the quality your sleep;
• Stop consuming caffeine eight hours before bed
• Stop consuming liquids two hours before bed
• Stop consuming food two hours before bed
• Stop using screened devices at least one hour before bed
If you can ensure that your sleep is of sufficient quantity and quality, then getting up in the morning becomes less of an uphill battle.
Develop a wind down routine
This kinda falls under the last point, but I figured it was important enough to get it’s own point.
In order to sleep effectively, it’s important that you have a regular wind down routine that lets your body know that it’s time to sleep soon.
Very rarely does a person get quality sleep after working all night and even more rarely does that person wake up full of energy.
Some parts of your wind down routine will be common such as brushing your teeth and everything else you do in the bathroom. Other things will be entirely unique to you.
For example, I make it a habit to tidy every inch of my home so I don’t have to do it in the morning. I then lie down and listen to fiction audiobooks just before going to sleep.
Whatever you do to wind down, make sure it’s relaxing and not mentally strenuous. You want your body to be relaxed, not restless.
Plan your morning
The less mental stress you experience when the morning comes, the more effective and enjoyable your routine will be.
Create a to-do list at some point before you go to bed so that you know exactly what you’d like to do each morning.
If it helps you, be as detailed as possible and include even the little things like “make a cup of coffee”.
The less thinking that you have to do, the more you can focus on enjoying your time.
Prepare your morning
This has probably been the most effective action I’ve ever taken to improve my mornings.
If you intend to be focused, productive and creative in the morning, preparation is crucial. The less things that get in your way and distract you, the less stressed out you’ll feel and the easier it will be to get on with your routine.
If you like to read in the morning, place your book/e-reader in the place you normally read. If you don’t like doing cleaning in the morning, make sure you clean your home before the morning comes.
Do everything you can to help your morning routine progress as smoothly as possible.
When your morning begins
Use a soft alarm tone
Some suggest setting an alarm that’s loud enough to wake you up and placing it far away from your bed so that you have no choice but to get up in order to silence it.
While I agree with some parts of this method, I’ve also found this approach can also cause unnecessary stress.
Therefore, the approach I’d suggest is a little more middle ground. Keep your alarm far away from your bed so you have to get up to silence it. But use a tone that’s soft and fades in gradually instead of one that’s loud and sudden.
My personal preference is to use Apple’s Bedtime feature in the iOS clocks app which I set to play bird song when it’s time to wake up.
Drink water before coffee
Many people suggest drinking coffee first thing in the morning. And while agree that coffee has it’s benefits, I wouldn’t suggest it be your first drink of the day.
As beneficial as coffee can be as a stimulant, it is can also dehydrate you which doesn’t help the fact that your body is likely dehydrated in the mornings already.
Before you consume anything caffeine at all, be sure to drink no less than half a pint of water. I do this straight after silencing my alarm and I do every morning without fail.
If you do this, you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel and how much more energy you will have.
Journaling first thing in the morning has become a popular piece of advice within the self-improvement industry. And for good reason.
Here’s a quick overview of how journaling can benefit you;
• It helps you know yourself better
• It helps you generate ideas
• It helps you solve problems
• It’s therapeutic and can reduce stress
Of course, there are several different styles of journaling to choose from.
The method of journaling I personally favour is one I learned from a book called the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
In the book, Cameron suggests that upon waking up, you write three whole pages of whatever comes to your mind in that present moment.
She called these your ‘Morning Pages’, however, the activity has also been referred to as writing streams of consciousness.
Sometimes, you’ll find yourself writing about painful experiences, other times you’ll write about brilliant ideas. You may even find yourself writing about complete nonsense, and that’s okay.
The great thing about this, is that there’s really no wrong way to do it. Yet the act of doing it can still give you the benefits.
Do what is most important to you
What is it that inspires you to get out of bed every morning?
Whatever is most meaningful to you, centre your morning routine around that.
There’s no better way to start the day than to do what matters most to you. Whether that’s to read a book, go for a run or make a delicious breakfast for you and your family.
Finding time to do anything is difficult enough as it is. So whatever time you have in your morning, be sure to make it count.
Craig Link is a minimalist and technology enthusiast with a passion for finding and sharing practical ways to live a simpler life with more time, money and energy for what’s most important to you.