This is a guest post from Arabella
If you are anything like me, you’ve read a 100 self-help books promising that miracles will happen and you’ll lead a perfect life, if only you follow the author’s complicated, time-consuming morning routine.
And if you are like me, you’ll have failed at every one of them – giving up on them as they are too long, too complicated or just not relevant or practical to normal life.
This is my boiled to the bones, get ready to get my shit done, every morning routine. It’s not about setting me up to lead the perfect life or have a perfect house or make £1,000 before breakfast. Nor is it a comprehensive list of all the things I need to do before I leave the house each day.
It’s just the bare minimum that I need to do first thing in the morning to enable me to function on a day to day basis and go through life feeling as if I am slightly in control.
And no, you don’t have to get up at 5:30 am to get this routine done.
The 4 Minute Morning Routine
If you can, try and follow this every day of the week, even on weekends and holidays. It’s really not difficult, I promise, and the routine and regularity will help you learn to complete these steps automatically. After a few weeks, you’ll do them on autopilot, just like brushing your teeth when you wake up.
Get up as soon as the alarm goes off
No more hitting that snooze button for just 5 minutes more. A boring but very effective technique to get the day started the right way. I know how long it takes me to get ready to leave in the morning and I set my alarm based on that. This gives me a great sense of control, right from the moment I wake up, as it tells me I’ve got a plan for the day and I’m working to it from the moment I open my eyes.
Why? Psychologists say that completing a task (any task) successfully helps to make you feel good about yourself and in control. So, if you can complete the first task you set yourself every day *getting up on time*, you’ll feel so much better about the day ahead.
Plus, if you give yourself the choice of getting up when the alarm sounds or not, you are already clogging your brain up with unnecessary decisions and mental dialogue, not what you want.
How? Spend a couple of days thinking about how long it takes you to get ready in the morning and calculate what time you need to set the alarm. If you can, set it for the same day every day but if like me, your working pattern fluctuates, it’s ok to have different times.
It may take you a week or 2 to find the perfect getting up time, but stick with it, adjusting as necessary, as getting this right will save you a whole lot of stress and energy every morning.
Total time taken? 0, and may even gain you extra time.
A little bit of movement
I’m not talking a full yoga session or a 5k run. Just enough movement to get you going and wake up fully. A 2-minute walk around the house, shaking the night off and setting your intention to have a productive day is all that’s needed.
Why? Even a small amount of exercise and movement will tell your body and brain that the day has started and it’s time to get going. It helps to get the blood flowing and energises you to face the coming day, without committing you to a major exercise session.
How? Just move! I roll out of bed and just start walking around. I tend to roll my neck a few times, then each shoulder before some bigger arm swings. Then I’ll rotate my hips (think hula hooping) and stretch my back out and finish by waggling each leg in turn.
Listen to YOUR body – it will tell you where the kinks and niggles are and what to work on, so some days you may feel like focusing on your shoulders rather than your back, for example.
You can even do this while you are brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil. The secret is to not overthink it, just start moving and your body will take over.
Total time taken? 2 minutes
Drink 2 glasses of water
I know from bitter experience that dehydration is the number one reason why I have cranky or less than productive days. Getting a head start on the water consumption is essential for me.
Why? Hopefully, you’ve had 8 hours of blissful sleep so you although may be rested, your body and brain will be dehydrated. Drinking water as soon as you wake up will help your body rehydrate quickly, making you more alert and ready to take control of your day.
Plus, drinking water early in the day will help your body flush out the toxins produced overnight, helping you stay healthy in the long run.
How? I drink my first glass straight after brushing my teeth, so I keep a glass in the bathroom. Then I’ll pour another glass to drink more slowly while I’m making coffee and moving on to step number 4.
Total time taken? 30 seconds to pour the glasses of water, then just sip them while you are getting ready for the day.
Check your diary and to do list
Over that first cup of coffee and second glass of water, I run though my schedule and to do list and remind myself what I’m up to today. I hate being late to appointments or forgetting to make that important phone call, so by reminding myself first thing in the morning, I’ve a much better chance of remembering those all-important tasks and plans.
Why? We all lead such busy lives now; it can be overwhelming and it’s no wonder we either forget things or simply can’t get started on the day because it’s too much to process.
Checking your outline plan for the day puts you back in control. You know what you need to do and when, and what you need to have with you, so there’s no last-minute panic or rush later in the day.
- what appointments I’ve that day and have I got everything I need (toothbrush if I’m off to the dentist)
- what after school activities have the children got and have they everything ready (swimming kits)
- what’s on my to do list (phone the plumber, buy a birthday card)*
I don’t look at work stuff, other than making sure I know what the day’s working pattern will be and checking to see if I’ve any meetings I need to walk/cycle to, so I put on the right shoes.
How? I prefer a retro paper diary that I carry in my bag plus a big old calendar stuck to the fridge. You may already have a favourite app on your phone. Either way, the key is to make sure it doesn’t contain work stuff (other than working patterns if yours vary) and that you update it regularly.
Then just grab your coffee, water and diary and sit down for 60 seconds to review your day. I mentally walk through my day – check the children have their swimming bags packed; leave for work at 8:10 time; take my break at 12:30 so I can meet Alice for coffee; pick up some pasta for supper on the way home from work.
If I’ve got some tasks to do, I mentally plan when I am going to do them, so they aren’t taking up brain space during the day. E.G. if I know I need to phone the plumber, I’ll plan to do that during my lunch break.
Time taken? 1 minute
Plan a treat for the day
This could be a big thing (getting my hair cut or cake and coffee with a friend) or something as simple as a walk to the river with the children or an extra-long bath with a good book.
Whatever it is, it’s something that I WANT to do, rather than being something that I need to do.
Why? Self-care, me time, refilling your bucket – whatever you call it, making time for these small pockets of quiet enjoyment is essential to keeping sane in a busy world and will increase your general level of happiness.
How? Make your treat time an appointment that’s just as important as all the other things you need to do that day.
Write something nice to do in your diary every day and PLAN FOR IT TO HAPPEN. Don’t write, “read my book for half an hour” as you’ll never get a chance to. Write “8.30 – read my book for half an hour”. And no matter how many dishes need washing, ignore them, get your book and sit down with it.
Time taken? 30 seconds
Make it work for YOU
So there you have it, 4 minutes in the morning that could make a big difference to your life. They may not make you super human, but I promise you will feel more in control and able to face what the day has in store for you, if you follow these steps first thing every day.
After a couple of weeks, the first 3 steps will become reflex actions, just like brushing your teeth, so you won’t even have to think about them.
And once you get into the rhythm of checking your diary, it really shouldn’t take very long as it will be little more than a reminder of what you’ve already planned for the day. It’s just a confirmation that you are ready to take control of the day.
Do change what you need to fit in with your life but the key is to keep it simple, short and sweet. It’s not about cleaning schedules or work to-do lists. This is about functioning on a daily basis, getting ready for the day and getting to the point where you CAN start to actually DO all the things that need to be done.
* A note about to-do lists. I don’t like to have more than 5 or 6 things on my weekly to-do list. Any more becomes overwhelming and nothing gets done. Your family/home to-do list for the week should only contain the tasks that HAVE to be done that week that are outside the everyday schedule of home life. It includes things like buying a birthday card or making a dentist appointment but not cleaning schedules or planning a huge decluttering project.
By all means, commit to the decluttering (it’s really, really worthwhile and Lisa has some great ideas to get you going here and here) but block out an appointment in your diary to tackle this task, rather than clutter up your to-do list.
I’m Arabella, full-time working mum and lover of the sea, running, pets, cycling and green things.
We’ve recently bought a new house and you can follow our journey to transform this rather grubby, dilapidated building into a beautiful, green family home.