Author and time management expert Laura Vanderkam tackles the morning routine in her book What The Most Successful People do Before Breakfast.
Waiting for the Perfect Morning Routine
I have a perfect morning routine in my head. It would start before the kids get up and include time to work, exercise, eat breakfast and enjoy a chapter of my current read. I could smoothly transition from there to a mid-morning of chores, errands and other work tasks that have to be done during office hours, like making phone calls.
This morning routine will be possible… in September when my last baby starts kindergarten.
I’m trying hard not to waste these last months that I will have a kid that is not in school. This is my last chance to go the park at 10am or spend a weekday at the children’s museum. It’s also her last chance to have extended time alone with an adult. It probably won’t happen again until she’s 16 and the older kids have left the house. Then she will have no desire to hang out with me at all, so I better soak it up now.
If I can’t have my ideal morning routine now, that doesn’t mean I can’t have a routine at all. It just means I need the best morning routine for right now. Knowing that I have limited time to do whatever I want, I need to be even more judicious with my time.
Small Changes for Big Results
What if I didn’t have to wait for it to be perfect. My Enneagram Four is showing when I have spent hours thinking about what the perfect morning routine is and then am disappointed when I can’t implement it in the exact way I want.
I tend to get discouraged reading some of the time logs in this book of people who don’t have to get their children to school every morning or have other people prepare their meals and fold their laundry. Those people have just as many commitments, they just take a different form.
As a busy working mom, I need a routine just as much as anyone else. Maybe more. Even my to-do list has categories. As Laura reminds us in this book, if it’s important, we have to plan for it. And if it must be done today, it needs to be done first before other things have time to “pop up” and interrupt.
The first thing I have decided is that I need to get up earlier. This pains me to say. I really love sleep.
However, on school mornings I have to wake my kids at 6:15. If I roll out of bed and immediately start managing the school routine, I’m already in a bad mood. I always feel like I’m behind.
The past few weeks, I’ve been getting up at 5am. And trust me, it’s really freaking early. Especially in the winter when I feel like I’ve been up for six days by the time the sun rises. But this extra time has changed everything about our mornings. I’ve had time to write when there are no kids begging for my attention. I’ve been dressed and had a cup of coffee before I have to start looking for shoes and breaking up fights about who will eat the last bowl of cereal.
I’m tired and ready for bed when the kids go to bed, but it makes my day start so much better. I’m never pressed for time or turning my alarm off when I need to wake the kids for school. It’s not my favorite things to do, but it’s proven to be a valuable habit.
What to Accomplish During a Morning Routine
Vanderkam has found that people with successful morning routine do one or a combination of things in three areas in their early morning hours:
- Nurturing your career
- Nurturing your relationships
- Nurturing yourself
With this in mind, I’ve drawn up a list of things I want to do first thing in the morning before the day becomes packed with the needs of everyone else. I want to spend some time writing, both for my job and for this blog. Maybe even for enjoyment. I also use it for exercise or meditation. Then, if one kids gets up earlier than usual, I can use it as one-on-one time just for that child.
Any of these things is a bonus and a great start to my day. Each is something important that I can now ensure gets done because it’s done first.
The Flexible Morning Routine
Unlike some of the interviews I’ve read about morning routines, this book encouraged me to take a more relaxed approach. I don’t need to have a minute by minute plan. It doesn’t have to ruin my day if I get interrupted by a child waking early. And if I sleep a little later one day a week, it’s not the end of the world.
I had left a blank page in my bullet journal for at least six months. It had nothing but Morning Routine written at the top. I was afraid of putting down on paper a routine I knew I couldn’t keep.
So I changed my perspective. Maybe I don’t need to be as specific as someone who knows they will be at the gym by 5:15 or the office by 8:20. Instead I produced a rough outline of what my mornings could reasonably look like. From five to six, I want to write. From six to 7:30, I need to get the kids ready and to school. At 7:30, I will get breakfast for myself and my youngest child. And at eight, I’m going to start my workout, which most days ends with meditation. At nine I want to start my highest priority chore or task for the day.
If I wanted to micromanage those minutes, I could probably fit more in. But I would also be disappointed most mornings when I don’t get all the things done. As a mom of four, one of the most important characteristic in my life right now is flexibility. Nothing goes as planned. If I have a routine, but allow myself to have some wiggle room, I feel like I can stick with it.
What can you do to create a flexible morning routine for yourself?
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