We’ve all had days when that parental stock phrase comes back to haunt us, “Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed!” For many years, I didn’t pay much attention to my morning routine; it just kind of happened as it happened, good or bad, on time or late, happy or grumpy. However, as one of my favourite quotes says, “we either live with intention or we exist by accident”, and dragging myself out of bed and stumbling into my day was not a conscious choice.
Having connected the kind of morning I’d had with the kind of day that followed, I decided it might help to get curious, with the aim of starting my day in a way that left me feeling more prepared, resourceful and happy. There are plenty of articles that will tell you the ‘right’ way to start your day, this one helps you explore your wants and needs first. So, if you’re not feeling it in the mornings, here are a few questions to explore to enable you to rock your default position and start your day more intentionally and in a way that works for you personally.
How would you like to feel in the mornings?
This is a good place to start; how have you felt on mornings that have started well? Can you think of three words to describe how you’d like to feel every morning? What kind of things make you feel that way, and how could you incorporate them into your morning routine? It can be helpful to consider all your senses when you think about that last question, e.g. smells can be very effective in generating feelings for us (click here for more on this).
For example, I like to start with a feeling of calm because I know that extracting my two young children from sleep is often challenging and they don’t always respond to my friendly greetings in the nicest way they can. I know that the smell and taste of a really good cup of coffee evokes that chilled out feeling for me, fostered by wonderful lazy afternoons in cafes with friends. With that in mind, I’ve invested in a coffee machine that lives in my bedroom, and making my favourite coffee is the first thing I do in the morning. I also love the smell of the chilly morning air, which reminds me of camping holidays as a child, and so I take a few seconds to stick my nose out of the bedroom window for a sniff… I confess it doesn’t work so well on mornings when the farmer has been out with the natural fertiliser!
What would be the absolute best start to your day?
This is another interesting question to explore. Can you bring to mind days that started really well? What was different about those days? Where were you? What did you do? How could you bring some of those things into your regular routine?
It’s quite possible that everything about your perfect start won’t be an option for every day of the week; I’d love to have eggs benedict cooked for me and delivered to my room every morning, but time, the imposition on my husband and the effects on my cholesterol levels mean it’s not a viable option. However, there will be elements of any perfect start that are entirely possible to achieve every day with a bit of effort and creative thinking.
When I considered this question, I realised that most of my good morning starts were in the summer, when I’d woken gradually with natural sunlight and the sound of birds through the open window, rather than the jarring sound of the alarm on my mobile phone and the shockingly sudden glare of the main bedroom light. Changing the alarm sound was easy, although I initially had to opt for Cicadas rather than bird song owing to the limitations of my phone. The lighting situation took longer; we did eventually get an alarm clock with a ‘sunrise’ function, but we installed a dimmer switch in the meantime, which was a great improvement.
How much time do you need?
It’s important to be realistic about the amount of time we need to enable the best start possible; setting up your new routine shouldn’t be about cramming even more into an already packed morning. Over-scheduling is generally a recipe for feeling frazzled and there are only so many hours in the day, so setting your priorities is important.
How much sleep do you really need, and I don’t mean how little can you get away with, I mean how much do you need to wake feeling refreshed? If your perfect morning takes more time than you have right now, are you willing to go to bed a little earlier so that you can get up a little earlier and still get the sleep you need?
How much time do you need to get out of the house? All those little jobs take time; packing bags, chasing down and ironing clothing, and shaving/applying your make-up, all add up. What can you stop doing altogether? For the jobs that must happen, can you move things that you’re currently cramming into the morning to another time of day? Can you delegate some tasks to other family members?
How long does it really take you to travel to work? You need to be pragmatic and take an average of the best and worst times; don’t take the Google maps answer as absolute truth and then get stressed when the traffic piles up or the trains are delayed.
Having gathered a lot of information about your morning and what might leave you feeling better, it’s time to start exterminating. Not all the changes you make will end up having the effect you’d hoped for, and that’s OK; failed experiments are additional information that will help you refine things. Switching things up doesn’t have to be about big changes either; what’s the easiest thing you could change right now that would have an impact?
Coaching isn’t always about the “big” questions, you can use a coaching approach to explore the little things in life too, and getting curious about the little things can sometimes have big positive effects. How you start your day is a good example, and although a good morning routine alone won’t get you through a tough day, it’s a good place to start.