“The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom . . . the time of rising and going to bed every day . . . are subjects of express volitional deliberation.” —William James, writer (1842-1910)
When we tend to our morning routine and cultivate one to center us, we proceed into the rest of our day as best as possible. Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson teaches in his book Hardwiring Happiness, “When you feel centered, it is harder for others to provoke you.” The opportunity to find our center begins when we wake up to a new day. Our time with ourselves in the morning is the most malleable part of our day. Why not make it work for us in the best possible way?
Over the course of this summer, I have been playing with the handful of what I will call puzzle pieces to see which order they best fit for a great start to my days. While I work from home, what has been helpful ensuring I begin my day in the office around 9am is that my contractor and subtractors arrive at the house at about that time as well, so I need to be ready to work with them as need be, but mainly be in my office (view the progress of Le Papillon’s customization so far in this month’s A Cuppa Moments).
Mentally I took notes over the past eight weeks or so. Noting how I felt when I sat down to work, how I felt at the end of the day, the productivity rate, at what time I feel most rested upon waking, etc..
While we may not be able to entirely tailor the time at which we begin our work day, we can schedule everything prior to when the day begins, and knowing that, as well as knowing how powerful a great morning routine can be in relationship to a wonderful rest of the day, prioritizing figuring out a morning to help us thrive is not a bad idea.
1.I give myself enough time to sleep deeply and awake rested without the assistance from an alarm clock
“Productivity and positivity surge with good sleep. Depression diminishes. Do you state of mind a favor and prioritize slumber.” —Dr. Frank Lipman, author of How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life
How do you know if you’ve found a sleeping pattern that benefits your health? Dr. Lipman simply states, “Fall asleep within thirty minutes and rarely toss and turn for more than fifteen minutes during the night? . . . You’re ‘on track’ with your sleep.” I have found most mornings I wake up between 5:30 and 6 once I am off of the teacher/classroom schedule during the school year. Even without an alarm, that is when my body wakes up even if my dogs are already awake (I finally learned to take Oscar’s collar off when he sleeps, otherwise it is a bell that wakes me up much like an alarm clock would if he wakes up earlier than what my sleep clocks prefers). However, there have been mornings, when my body and mind, upon reflection, need more sleep even after going to bed at approximately the same time the night before. Waking up at 7:30 or 8 is rare, but it happens, and I respect what my body needs. I also take note on these occasions and assess what may have caused me to need more sleep. Knowing how my body works and what it needs helps me to make better decisions in the future, knowing what the effect will be.
An interesting finding by Benjamin Spall who studied 300 high achievers for his book My Morning Routine, the average wake-up time for [everyone in his study] is 6:27 a.m. — successful people like to experiment to find the sweet spot that works for them.” And that is great advice for each of us. Experiment and see how you too feel waking up at slightly different times. As well, when the seasons change, and the light arrives earlier or later, you too might adjust your rising or morning schedule.
2. A hot cup of lemon water
Not only a healthy choice (aids digestion, freshens breath, improves quality of the skin, supports weight loss, a delicious way to hydrate and is a source of vitamin C), drinking a hot cup of lemon water is also a simple choice to gentle wake you up. I will often boil a kettle of water both for my lemon water and my steel oats. Upon pouring the hot water into my steel oats for simmering for about 15 minutes, I will take my hot cuppa lemon water into the office and begin checking emails. The time limit given by the steel oats ensures I won’t be in the office for a long time, and it gives me time to be still, sit and sip.
3. Enjoy a healthy, satiating breakfast (the same one each work day for me)
Over the past five years I have shared how I have enjoyed the same breakfast for nearly 15 years during the work week. The topic even became an episode of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show. And as mundane and boring as the same breakfast may sound, I still look forward to eating what I prepare each day. Why? It satiates my appetite and keeps me feeling full until lunch, it’s balanced in its nutrition and it tastes great!
As we wake up in the morning, even if we are a ‘lark’ as the term has been given to early-birds as opposed to ‘night owls’, our minds are still waking up. The writer William James’ quote to begin today’s post includes much wisdom, for when we automate more aspects of our day (ensuring they are beneficial and healthy for the life we wish to live), we free the mind to work on the creative, the pressing, the challenging, the desired work we love to do.
4. Know yourself and design according to include energizing rituals
Below are my go-to, must-do rituals that I look forward to, wake me up, and settle my mind each morning:
- a mini crossword puzzle (free and takes fewer than three minutes – on a good day :))
- reading a daily news briefing from my two go-to national and international news organizations
- perusing the latest blog posts from my favorite blogs
- meditation – 5-10 minutes – with Norman, gazing outside or actually sitting outside
- I incorporate the tiny habit of a short series of strength exercises – abs, legs, etc. – takes 5 minutes at the most, and I do this every work-day morning (learn more about the benefit of tiny habits here in episode #272 and explore how to create your own strength routine here)
5. Step outside and exercise
Snow or sun, I am outside nearly every day living in Bend, Oregon, which is why I moved here. Norman loves it, Oscar used to as well (but partakes in shorter walks around the neighborhood as he as advanced into his late teen years). Upon moving to Bend, I consigned my treadmill and never once considered joining a gym. Mother Nature at my back doorstop (front doorstep in my case) is my gym, and I am very grateful. I know how fortunate I am as previously I used to live in a town where I did have to have a treadmill in my home or become a member at a gym. What I find doubly beneficial about doing my workout outside (I walk, hike, paddle or ski) is the holding me in the present that occurs when I am outside with the seasons, the birds, the weather, and my mind clears, my mood improves and I am oh so ready to return to the office and dive in with new ideas or approaches I perhaps had not considered before.
As well, tending to my exercise at the beginning of the day ensures it won’t be squeezed out if my schedule runs over with projects, meetings, and appointments.
Not only do I appreciate this necessary detail in my morning routine, but Norman does as well, as upon returning to the office, he promptly finds his bed under my desk and takes his morning nap.
During the winter months and shorter days: I purchased a headlamp for walking in the early morning hours prior to the sun’s rising, and as I know my neighborhood and the paths I choose to walk on at dusk, I not only feel comfortable but am able to see well. Usually, the day breaks by the end of my walk, and now that I don’t have to wake up super early as I am on my own schedule throughout the entire year, I likely will wait a bit longer for the sun to peek over the horizon before stepping outside.
6. When the morning routine does come together – savor what you have created
More than anything, the reason you create a morning routine is to support your ability to live the life you enjoy living and to do so well. As Benjamin Spall points out, life happens, our routine must be adjusted (an early departure time at the airport, a client overseas who needs to talk to you at 6am your time and 4pm their time). In such cases, I have found it becomes even more evident how helpful and beneficial adhering to my designed morning routine is for my life. However, I appreciate that sometimes we have to adjust, so long as we always return to what we know works best and as quickly as possible.
As well, simply because your morning routine has to change, doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate what makes you feel your best at a different time during the day – a workout in the afternoon or at noon, enjoying a different selection for breakfast but making sure the basic elements are present – fibre, protein, etc..
7. Back to my morning routine – make a teapot full of my favorite tea
My work day is just about to begin. Upon returning home, I boil a teapot of water, prepare a small tray with a teacup and saucer, teabag holder and teapot. While the water boils, I change out of my workout clothes and get dressed (if a shower is needed, I shower prior to boiling the water). Selecting a favorite tea – usually F & M’s Earl Grey or Twinings English Breakfast, often alternated with green tea from Mariage Frères, the boys head to the office and I turn on the light on my desk, and settle in to write, plan and create.
Simple? Absolutely. Intentional? Most definitely. And waking up to a fresh vase of flowers, no matter how small, never hurts to immediately begin the day with a smile and a good step out of bed (the top pic was captured recently of my bed-side table with three simple blooms of Buttercup roses from my garden). Add simple, yet intentional touches for your well-being that you know will jumpstart a great day. This is your time to make the day as awesome as it has the potential to be. You’ve got this. 🙂
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8 Ways for Introverts to Thrive in the Workplace, episode #68