5 Simple Ways to Start Your Morning Strong

*Article I wrote for Conscious Magazine originally published on April 26th, 2016*

It’s 9AM on a Wednesday. Read a chapter in a John Steinbeck novel, finished cooking a blueberry pancake breakfast for my two roommates, and now I’m curled up with a cup of tea and my laptop hoping to write something helpful about productive mornings.

I know, this isn’t a typical midweek rush-and-go kind of morning. In fact, I feel almost guilty that I’m not being productive enough.

Up until now, my mornings have been frenetic events of throwing together food into tupperware, mumbling sleepy “good mornings” to the roommates, and running to catch the bus while scrolling through The Skimm. Now that I’ve been handed an opportunity to work freelance while starting my own apparel company, I’m almost overwhelmed by the freedom. There’s a deep rooted insecurity that I’m not qualified to design my own schedule, especially that of precious mornings.

I ask myself daily questions like: Is this the best way to spend my next hour? Should I write an email or an article? Do I need to run first thing in the morning or can I do it in the afternoon? Should I squeeze in consultant phone calls now or maybe read that book on bootstrapping?

In my anxiousness to measure my productivity levels and making To Do lists for my To Do lists, I’m moving from task to task but not quite feeling accomplished.

I’m protective of my mornings to a fault and growing exhausted from forcing them into a structure that stems from fear. Fear of not feeling and looking like the rest of a rushed American culture. Fear of being left behind and missing out. In this battle with my pride, I’m realizing that rushed mornings are not necessarily the solution to a more productive lifestyle.

Mornings are precious. Fragile almost. Our bodies have just been in a death-like trance for the past seven or so hours and then they are jerked awake by our phones. The tone of our day is set in a matter of a few seconds. We shovel food into bellies and throw ourselves into the rush of hundreds of other humans.

This routine is so set in my DNA that the idea of a slow morning sounds completely foreign to me. Savored mornings are for Sundays only, right?

Well, in my eagerness to experiment and try new things, I thought it might be high time to change up my routine. Over the past month, I’ve put on my invisible lab coat and have come to discover 5 ways to tap into the virgin morning glory for a better personal and working lifestyle.

01 | Start The Night Before

Write down anything pressing that is on your mind. Can you get to it at lunchtime the following day? Yes? Great. Free up your mind to approach the morning with intention. A savored morning doesn’t have to be without purpose. After you’ve jotted down what you need to get done then think about what you’d actually like to do: Finish a chapter in your latest novel? Brew a cup of tea and sit outside? Whip up the perfect omelette? Make yourself a Spotify list? Give yourself permission to do something radically different. Waste time on yourself.

02 | Resist The Temptation To Scroll Through Your Phone

Okay, I’ll be honest. First thing in the morning, I reach for my phone and glance through my notifications. This is a hard habit to crack. If there are no pressing messages, I’ll put my phone on silent or even turn it off and put it out of sight until a specific time.

03 | Read

The idea of reading a book first thing in the morning felt like a guilty pleasure. This was something I did on the train or right before falling asleep. I rarely retained any information and found myself re-reading the same sentence over and over, wondering what the author just said. As soon as I starting reading first thing in the morning (even if it was just a couple pages), I realized that my mind soaked in the words on the page and I’ve been able to make better connections in conversations and thoughts throughout the day.

04 | Think About Someone Else

I get so wrapped up sometimes on how I can make my mornings the most productive that I set myself up for a day that is structured around me and my goals. Starting out the morning thinking about what I can give or offer someone else helps me escape my small world and gain a new perspective. It’s easy to fall into a routine because we feel that we are in control, but honestly, we can’t navigate the challenges of life and celebrate its triumphs without solid friendships. Friendships are built in the day-to-day grind of life. If you live with roommates, consider making them a cup of coffee or even a quick breakfast. Write an encouraging quote and leave it on the fridge. Mail a friendly hello note. Host a Facetime.

05 | Gentle Exercise With Meditation

Praying and meditating are not unique to a religious lifestyle. It’s a natural instinct that almost everyone needs in order to dive deep into our longings and needs as humans. It’s a chance to revisit our experiences and connect them with purpose. Going to the gym is great, but epic exercise routines and classes in the morning may be a challenge to quieting the noise. Instead, what about changing up a couple days with a hike, walk to a nearby park, or even climbing a secret staircase.