Confession: I am not a morning person—I never have been. As someone who consumes self-improvement content like a child eating popcorn by the fistful, I have read over and over that successful people don’t hit the snooze button. Still, shamefully, I always hit the snooze button, and usually more than once.
I am not one of those people who is energized and inspired from the moment my feet hit the floor; therefore, I refuse to believe that only those people can be successful. Over years of trial and error, I’ve come up with a simple routine that helps me get motivated, focused, and proves that you don’t have to be a “morning person” to make the most of your morning.
Brain Warm-Up (10 min.)
The best way to shake the brain fog and ease yourself into the day is to get the gears grinding upstairs as soon as you’re ready to open your eyes. The best part is, you can do this while you’re still in bed! When your alarm goes off (whether it’s the first alarm or one of the three backup alarms you set), reach over and grab your source of brain fuel off the nightstand.
Brain fuel can be anything from a sports article, to a sudoku puzzle, or a word search app on your phone. Journaling is a great way to wake up your mind—or watch a few clips from your favorite motivational speaker on YouTube; anything that will jump-start your thought train, works. Once you’ve finished your puzzle or completed an entry in your journal, you’ll have a little more clarity and awareness as you move into the day.
Affirmations (5 min.)
Now that your mind is engaged, begin to remind yourself of your goals. Come up with and recite affirmations that will lead you toward what you want to achieve for the day, week, month, or year. Whether it’s a long-term career goal, or an aspiration to do better in your relationships, reminding yourself of those intentions establishes a foundation for focus and motivation.
Body Warm-Up (10 min.)
Ok, time to get moving. The body warm-up is not exercise per se, it’s just something to get your blood flowing. It can be as structured or as loose as you would like, as long as it’s effective in energizing you. Do some high kicks and hip twists—jumping jacks are great, or take a stroll around your backyard.
If you’re lacking inspiration, look at your favorite workout routines and replicate some of the low-impact moves in your bedroom or living room. If you want more structure, spend five minutes stretching and then go for a five-minute walk. Again, you’re just trying to move your body enough to level up your energy.
To-Do List (10 min.)
Writing down your tasks for the day is essential. Making a to-do list encourages you to maintain focus. If all of your important tasks are written down in front of you, it becomes easier to allocate your time and successfully manage your day. I’ll tell you my secret to making to-do lists: keep it simple.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by jotting down a number of things you know you can’t complete in one day. To-do lists should be manageable and bring a feeling of relief, not a feeling of dread. Don’t forget to double-check that all your to-do’s line up with your intentions for that day and are on track with your goals.
Two-Minute Tasks (5 min.)
If you have a chore or a task that takes two minutes or less to do, do it now. Things like: emptying the dishwasher, scheduling a dentist appointment, or placing an online order for more of those special treats your dog likes, usually fall into this category. Most people procrastinate in performing these types of menial tasks because they see no serious consequence if they get put off until later.
But when small tasks start to pile up, they can cause a big problem, cluttering up both your mental space and your physical space. Get the easy stuff out of the way first so you can focus on the bigger stuff. When I don’t have any two-minute tasks, I usually spend this time straightening up a messy room in the house, or I log into my email and do a quick clean-up of my inbox. If you’re able to get a couple of things off your plate before your day even gets started, you’ll feel more empowered to take on whatever lies ahead.
Play around with the above routine to see what works for you. Maybe you prefer to get your body moving first because everything gets easier from there. If starting the day with affirmations sets you in the right mindset, do that. Don’t overcomplicate the routine by pushing yourself too hard. If you’re not a reader, watch a TedTalk for brain fuel. If you’re not able to come up with your own affirmations, find some examples online. Use this series of actions as a base to build your motivation in the mornings and then customize as needed. Set yourself up for success regardless of when your day gets started.
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