Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Morning Routines Fail.
But that’s ok.
I am not a morning person. I repeat: I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON!! However, I can see the benefit in having an adequate amount of time to prepare one’s self for the day. I had been feeling as if I was merely going through the motions of life, not really being an active participant. I had been longing for a routine that plans for self care and relaxation. I wanted to feel in control of my life. Since my schedule involved working until 5pm and then going to class until 9pm, taking advantage of the hours at the crack of dawn could help utilize my control and organize my life a little better. Transitioning into this new lifestyle proved very difficult for this night owl.
Step 1: Find 30 Minutes
I started with waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual. Seems easy, right? My first attempt resulted in me resetting my alarm in a morning haze and then realizing I had actually turned it off and woke up with only 10 minutes to rush to work…. Eventually I accomplished responding to my alarm at the new start time (success!) but still laid in bed far too late (fail.). Then it morphed into waking up earlier but lollygagging (I have plenty of time to finish the show I started last night, right?!). Finally, I was able to wake up with plenty of time to do my hair and simple skincare routine before leaving with enough time to drive to work without speeding. Success!!!
Step 2: Add an Hour
The new goal, definitely a reach goal, was to wake up an additional hour earlier than my previous half hour and squeeze in a morning workout. Being a member of a gym that is less than 2 minutes from my business office, it seemed doable so long as I packed my gym bag the night before… a detail I had not considered until rolling myself out of bed at 5:30AM. I didn’t quite roll,... it was more of a slug’s pace slither, a response to oscillating between resisting and giving in to gravity. Oddly enough, once out of bed, my heart was racing., not with excitement, but with sheer panic and dread. The goal plan was to do a mile run along with aerobic exercises, and I did it! The run felt pretty good, especially when it was over, and I felt like I gave the aerobic work a good effort! After a shower, I was feeling pretty good about myself already being able to cross off some items from my to-do list. Hair wet and longing for dry warm clothes, it dawned on me. I did not pack for work. Mildly panicked as time ticked away, I threw on the old t-shirt and lounge pants from my bag and ran to my car. Rushing to the nearest discount department store, I bought a blouse and pants from the clearance rack. and I went the whole day in a sweaty sports bra hoping no one would smell the evidence of my morning.
Step 3: Add an Eisenhower matrix
Now that I had established a new workout regimen, I wanted to start being more intentional with my time throughout the day. I decided to use an Eisenhower matrix to help stay focused by planning my goals for the day. For those who are unfamiliar, An Eisenhower matrix organizes your to-do list by importance and urgency into four categories:
Important and Urgent: Do immediately.
Important, but Not Urgent: Plan time to accomplish these tasks
Not Important, but Urgent: Delegate to others if possible/ Plan time to do after previous category)
Not Important/ Not Urgent: Eliminate (I use this category as a reward for accomplishing the other tasks.
The first morning I used this tool, I had about 8 items scattered across the different fields. It was written beautifully in a journal I set aside for exactly these types of organizational entries except…. I left it at home. I had no idea what my goals were that day and did very little in service to them. Eventually, I started taking pictures of my matrix each morning and made it the screensaver background for my phone. That way, I could keep my goals in mind throughout the day and utilize my free time to work toward those goals. It may seem like a bit much, but I get a great sense of joy in creating these little matrices. From attempting to draw perfectly straight lines, to making sure the fields are all the same number of spaces, doing this every morning makes my week feel purposeful and organized.
Don’t get me wrong, I can still fall back into the “sleep in, rush later” chaotic routine, but being able to know exactly how to curb my anxiety for the next day is really empowering. The biggest disrupter to my routine is setting boundaries with myself and with others when it comes to my nightly routine. Here are some of the ways I fall off:
Binge watching a show.
Late night calls (for me) with friends on the West Coast.
Always listening to one more song (which turns into two or three… or four).
Pushing myself to read one more chapter.
Putting off homework until the last minute.
Or a whole host of other excuses we give ourselves.
All of these were ways in which I denied myself the ability to show up for myself. The shows aren’t going anywhere. Setting boundaries with friends is important. Just because the time is convenient for them, does not mean it is convenient for you. Music is and will always be a difficult one for me but it will always be there.
A morning routine may not resonate with you as a way to show up for yourself. And it’s fine if it doesn’t. I think it is important for people to set time aside each day so they can focus on their own personal goals coupled with daily self-care. This could be in the form of going for a run to decompress after a long work-day, or quiet meditation, or even simply pausing to just take a few deep breaths, just for you. Too often, our time is allocated to what others deem as immediate, which can cause us to lose sight and urgency of our dreams and desires. So, I challenge you: How will you give yourself the space to acknowledge your own intentions? Make the time for yourself. Show up for yourself in a meaningful way each day, even if just for a moment.