Up until a few months ago, on most days that I had to go to work, it felt like Groundhog Day – the popular movie in which the main character repeats the same day over and over again.
I’d wake up. Scramble to get myself ready. Throw something in my lunch bag. Wake my kids it. Help the kids to get dressed, eat breakfast, get coats on, brush teeth. Drive one kid to school while my husband drops the others off at daycare. Then spend the next 5 minutes during my drive to work feeling stressed out about the morning. Then I would work. Pick up all three kids, make dinner, my husband usually would get home sometime right before dinner. Before we know it, all of the kids are heading to bed, and then I would stay up for several hours before I repeated the cycle. No routine at all.
I wanted more.
I did not want to feel rushed in the morning with the kids. I belong to the YMCA and usually use it just to take our kids to the pool, but I really wanted to work out regularly as well. Every few days, my mind would take turns between feeling guilty that I do not work out on a regular basis and on other days feeling guilty that I paid for a health club membership and only used it when we took our kids to the pool.
Then about 6 months ago, my husband started making a point to go to bed between 9-10 p.m. At first, I did not join him in this endeavor. I did not want to miss out on the “me time.” At some point, I eventually started to join him, likely because I got lonely. After going to bed regularly during the week by 10 p.m. became normal for me, the idea of waking up earlier did not seem so far fetched. What I wanted for myself was time to go to the gym before work, to not feel rushed in the morning, to be more aware and purposeful of content in my car, and feel more relaxed in the morning. I have created a new routine for myself and it has made a world of a difference for me.
Here is how I have structured my work nights and mornings to hit these goals:
1. The process starts the night before with a reasonable bedtime. I need a minimum of 6 hours of sleep to function well the next day. I usually work out at 5 a.m., which means I wake up at 4:30 a.m. and need to go to bed by 10 p.m. the night before.
2. Find an alarm that will wake you up. No matter how much sleep I have, I find that I naturally want to hit the snooze button multiple times. It has been very hard to break that habit because normally I was half asleep and not thinking clearly (or about any goals for that matter) when I hit snooze. I found a great app for my iPhone called Alarmy. I now have to do three math problems before I can turn my alarm off. By the time I have done the third math problem, I am awake and I remember what I want to do that morning.
3. Exercise. I am easing my way into it. I currently make sure that I go to the gym at least three times a week. While I am there, I always do some cardio. I take turns between the elliptical and treadmill and then I also do either leg or arm machines.
4. Have my clothes out the night before. It is so nice to be able to come home from the gym, take a quick shower, and quickly put my clothes on, without having to put much thought into it.
5. Start coffee the morning before. I have a regular coffee maker and a Keurig. What I use in the morning often just depends on if I have coffee grounds in the house or K-cups currently. If I am going to make coffee in the coffee pot, I put the water, filter, and coffee grounds in the machine the night before. Then, when I come home, I flick on the on switch before I jump in the shower. That way I am greeted with the smell of freshly-brewed coffee as soon as I get dressed. If I am planning to use my Keurig, I make sure to have the K-cup next to the machine, the water basin filled, and my travel mugged picked out (because that is very important) the night before.
6. Make breakfast the night before (if possible). This depends greatly on what I am planning to eat that day. If there is prep that I can do in advance, I do. If I plan to have a protein shake for breakfast, I get out my shaker bottle, scoop out the protein mix the night before, add some PB Fit, close the bottle, and then add ice and water to the bottle before I leave my house for work.
7. Be present once the kids are awake. After my routine, the remainder of my morning before work is dedicated to them. They usually eat breakfast before they get ready. I help them with breakfast as needed. I listen to what they have to say. Talk to them about what they are excited about for the day. Sometimes we listen to some music while we eat breakfast. Some days of the week I do not see them as much as I would like to. I try to make every minute count. Same for my husband. With my new morning routine, I feel like I have more time to ask him what I can help him with in his own routine in the morning.
8. Make good use of the time during my commute. My default is to listen to Q-102 most mornings. Second Date Update has been my favorite thing to listen to in the morning for years. It is nice to laugh about something before I head off to work. If it is my last day of work for the week, I often like to end my commute by listening to music that pumps me up. Another new thing that I started doing last fall is listening to podcasts. This is another great option as well. I love that we have the opportunity to listen to so many different podcasts with content catered to our interests and it is completely free. There is nothing better than listening to some good music or a good podcast on the way to work and enjoying coffee.
That is my typical morning in a nutshell before I go to work. It was hard to do at first, especially if I was tired the night before and still needed to get things ready. Now I look forward to my routine and it starts my day on the right path.