Let me tell you four things about myself:
- I love to be organised. It benefits everything from my mental wellbeing to my friends getting their presents on time
- I am not organised enough. By a long way. Many days I'm starting from two steps behind and those presents? Way overdue.
- I am a morning person. When the evening hits, I've been so busy all day that my body winds down into hibernation. In the mornings, if I'm well rested, I get so much done and feel so good!
- I am rarely well rested. I really need my sleep. Eight hours just about does it for me, but give me nine and I'm cheering. Most mornings I repeat the mantra "do not ask me to make a decision or form a coherent sentence until I've had my coffee."
Have you ever googled 'morning routines' or 'how to be more productive' or anything else in between? Chances are you've hit the 'wake up at 5am' tip. It's everywhere. Have you tried waking up at 5am? It's fine if you're a normal 6-7 hour sleep person. My husband wakes up at 5.15 every day. That's fine for him, because six hours is a good night's sleep in his world. Six hours is a killer for me. I just need my sleep. Give me eight. Gift me nine. Aahhh. And what if you've been awake in the night with a little one? Or what if you get woken up every morning at 5.30 by said small person and there's no chance of a restorative or productive hour to yourself?
Well, let me tell you something else about myself: I've googled 'morning routines' and 'how to be more productive' and everything in between. A lot. And I've come up with a few tried and tested morning routine tips that work for sleepy-heads like me and sleep-deprived people like many of my friends. They're often not the common tips you find when you first look online for a solution. Read on...
- Work out how much sleep you actually need. If it's a minimum of seven, ideally eight hours (like me), then a 5am start only works if you've gone to bed at 9pm. And if you've got children to get to bed, a floor-load of toys to tidy, and a partner to spend time with, 9pm is just too darn early. Be kind to yourself, consider all your needs, and go for a 6am start instead.
- Your morning routine starts the night before. That 6am alarm will be hellish if you stayed up watching box sets til nearly midnight. You may feel a little weird doing it, but set a 'go to bed' alarm on your phone every night and even if you don't immediately jump up and head upstairs, it reminds you to at least start turning off the telly.
- Kick start your morning jobs the night before as well. A quick tidy-up or cleared dish-rack in the evening means you start the new day without being two steps behind already. Pack the kids' school bags. Get everyone's clothes out. Even yours!
- In fact, if time is an issue, clear out as much of your morning 'me time' duties and do them the night before too. Have a nice warm bath in the evening to cut out your morning shower. Make the breakfasts (bar the milk) and leave them out ready and covered. Do what you can to get that extra bit of sleep before getting up, or that extra bit of 'me time' before waking the kids.
- Set two alarms for the morning. I have a 6am and 6.30 one. When the 6am alarm goes off, I'm hopefully ready to get up (hello tip 2). But often I just can't make myself get out of bed. So I accidentally-on-purpose doze off and when the 6.30 alarm goes off I'm still in enough of a light sleep to stir and I know it's now or never. I aim for 6am. But I'm kind to myself when it's 6.30. Starting my day on a downer about myself for 'oversleeping' spoils my whole morning mood.
- If your little ones are early or unpredictable risers, consider your morning priorities. Is it ten minutes of uninterrupted exercise? Then do that first, and consider everything you get done after that a bonus. Most importantly, choose productivity or serenity: don't try for both. My boys wake up at a more human hour now, but when they were younger (and often waking at 5.30am!) I needed some peace and 'me time' in the morning to fill me up ready for the onslaught. I focused on breakfast and a coffee alone with some blog reading. Then I was ready to give myself to them when they woke. And if they woke first? I gifted myself 20mins of them watching cbeebies so I could still get my fix.
- Another way to deal with early or unpredictable risers is to list the things you'd love to do before they wake, and categorise them into those you can still do when they're awake and those that need doing alone. If you can only shower when you don't have a baby to hold, do that first and give up on the breakfast alone idea for now (or whatever else is on your 'can do together' list).
- If you want a bit of further reading on morning routines, try Hal Elrod's pages (with a pinch of salt: he's very American), Ruth Soukup's tips, have a read of this (plus there's loads of links in it) or put on your headphones and listen to Pat Flynn (he's so cool).
- Coffee. Well, tea if you must, but coffee really is the answer to everything.