Early risers may tell you that mornings are easy. That they’re the best part of the day and offer time for reflection and planning. For the rest of us, this utopian land they speak of may as well be on the moon. However with a little patience, some small adjustments to our routines and a little bit of effort, the night owls and lazy bones of the world can get a little bit closer to perfect morning land.
What’s the problem?
Start by evaluating what aspects of your morning need improvement. Breaking your routine down into the components that work and the areas that need improvement will make your overall goal more manageable. Compare these two examples
“Jack was almost tardy this morning because jerks always turn at the light after the arrow is gone, so we had to sit through two stoplights just to get to the school parking lot.”
Jack didn’t want to get out of bed.
We left the house at the last minute.
We were out of lunch meat because someone ate it all last night so I had to improvise Jack’s lunch.
We didn’t have enough time to finish breakfast.
I also missed the trash pick-up, now the garage will smell for the next three days.
And, once again, traffic was horrible.
Solving the first scenario appears overwhelming because it looks like one big impossible problem. Taking an inventory gives you a chance to chip away at the problem creating manageable, bite sized chunks. When you begin to analyze all of the issues that make your morning challenging you may find that the common issue is not having enough time. If you already struggle with getting up early, trying to get up earlier may not be in the cards for you. You’ll simply have to make more time by stealing it from the day before or improving your overall morning performance.
A stitch in time…
A little bit of preparation the day before can give you valuable minutes back. Anything you can do the day before will give you more time in the morning before you have to get out the door. Taking the trash out the night before, planning your breakfast and preparing lunches for the next day might not seem like time savers on their own but by dealing with them ahead of time, you’ll have a few more minutes to finish breakfast and feel less rushed. Eliminating tasks that you can complete in advance gives you time to take care of the things you can’t do in advance. Not to mention, you’ll be in a better mood because you didn’t miss the trash pickup.
Getting kids motivated in the morning might sound like an insurmountable task but there are some things you can do to improve your odds. First and foremost, getting an adequate amount of sleep is a crucial step. Getting your kids on a set routine and in bed at the same time every night will not only improve their disposition in the morning, it will also help them stay focused throughout the day.
Try getting your kids excited about starting their day. Take some time after school each day to ask them how their day went. Identify the struggles but focus on the successes. Encourage them and give them the tools they need to make tomorrow better than today. Acknowledging their successes and participating with them when they do their homework will boost their self-confidence. That self-confidence will motivate them as they take on the day. Getting up and going to school won’t be a chore, it will be an opportunity for them to shine. Focus on bedtime, too – your kids shouldn’t think of bedtime as a punishment or something to avoid. Teach them that sleeping is an important job. That it’s the body and mind’s time to rest and process the events of the day so that it can grow big and strong. Before going to bed, decide on a breakfast. Doing so not only gives them something to look forward to, it also creates a commitment for both of you.
Drastic times call for drastic measures
If you’ve evaluated your hectic morning and found that there isn’t enough preparation in the world to tame the whirlwind that has become your morning routine, you may need to take more drastic measures. You’ve weighed your options and as tempting as quitting your job and starting a night time home schooling group sounds, you’ve decided to give this whole waking up earlier thing another try. But where do you start? Like so many things in life, making the decision is the first step. It may seem like a little one, but it’s huge and now that it’s out of the way, you can start taking your first steps towards better mornings.
The best place to start is to create a schedule and begin following it. Chances are you already have the foundation in place and just need to add a little bit of structure. For most it’s something like pick up the kids, change into comfortable clothes, walk the dog, extracurricular activities, play time, cook dinner, review school work, watch a little television, baths and then bed. That’s a lot to get done in the few precious hours before bedtime. With so much to do, it’s no surprise that sleep arrives later than you expected.
It’s time for a schedule
It’s time to take control with a more detailed schedule. Designating a start time and a time to finish your daily occurrences may sound like micromanagement has crept into your home but the reality is that a schedule is the structure you need to get take control of all tasks that must be completed each day. When you give yourself a deadline, you’re escaping the abstract and entering a real and measurable time to complete a task. Consider this statement, “After supper you need to do your homework.” If you have a child that isn’t thrilled about doing homework, their mealtime may stretch well into homework time. A better approach is to say we’re eating at 6:00 and homework starts at 7:00, then sticking to it. Adding an element of competition will help you with your goal to better manage your time. By keeping things on schedule, each successive event happens at a predictable time. If you have found that you don’t have time to get things done, following a schedule is the solution.
A schedule is a great tool but how do you get in the habit of following it. Start by publishing it. Keep a calendar or whiteboard displayed in your home as a visual cue. Having visibility of your schedule will help to keep it present in your mind. Subscribe to your schedule digitally. We’re very good at checking our phones whenever they alert us to an email, text or call. Scheduling events on your phone could be just the motivation you need to keep get you moving. Better yet, schedule your home to give you and your family cues.
Use technology to take control
Take advantage of the scheduling capabilities built in to most modern technology. Do the kids have a hard time turning off the iPad to make time for dinner or homework? Maybe you get labeled as the bad guy when you tell them it’s time to put it away. Most devices allow you to schedule activity or set screen time limits. When you set up your schedule, apply it to your electronics to make it less tempting to deviate from the schedule. If you’ve updated your Wi-Fi router in the past couple of years, you may also have the option to schedule when internet access is available and what type of sites are accessible. If your child needs access to the web for homework but distraction is just too much, allowing specific websites during specified times can eliminate the temptation to get off track.
With the growing adoption of smart home components, you can use your environment to coax you into your schedule. Set your lighting as a cue that bedtime is approaching by dimming or changing the color of a room when it’s time to head to bed. Schedule your thermostat to lower the temperature at bedtime to encourage better sleep. Don’t forget to plan for better sleep. Set your phone and tablet to do not disturb so that you aren’t tempted to check late night email or Facebook notifications. Exposure to light, such as staring at a screen, encourages wakefulness. Be sure to turn the TV off and put the phone away about a half hour before you get into bed. Doing so can improve your sleep tremendously.
Get out of bed on the right foot
If you haven’t adopted smart home technology yet, you can still take advantage of environmental cues to help you with your schedule. Light up alarm clocks are a great way to improve waking habits. They start producing a subtle light that grows brighter until an audible alarm goes off. The simulated sunrise will help even the deepest sleepers begin rising more naturally in the morning. While you’re at it, ditch the snooze function on your alarm clock. Delaying your departure from bed can make you groggier when you finally do get up. Hitting the snooze button confuses your body. The effects from waking then falling asleep through a few snooze cycles can linger for hours. Make the commitment to get up when the alarm goes off the first time. In time your body will adjust to a consistent sleep schedule. The new “morning you” will appreciate it.
You may not be able to get your schedule right at first but that’s okay. As you adjust, you’ll find that you gradually improve. Your schedule shouldn’t be a source of dread, if something doesn’t work, make a change. More than anything, it’s a simple tool that will help you to feel better, get better rest, accomplish your goals and most of all, give you more time. So treat it that way, turn it into a reward system even. If your children make it to bed on time for the whole week, offer a reward like ice cream and a movie on the weekend. Gamifying the schedule will add appeal and encourage everyone to buy in to this lifestyle change. Remember to start off with small goals so that you don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed. In no time at all, mornings will be your favorite part of the day too.