Last week, I shared my plans to conduct a year of slow living experiments, rightly dubbing it The Year of Slow. The idea was born after noticing how much anxiety I was experiencing seeing article after article after article come out about resolutions and goals for the new year. Get more done, make more money and do all the work! It’s not that I don’t want to do any of that. I’ll be doing all the work this year. But in between all that work, I also want to do something else: enjoy my life.
I want to sip my coffee rather than gulp it down. I want to taste the food I cook instead of swallow it up. I want to walk more and really breathe in the air – especially when it is as fresh and crisp as it is here in Squamish. I want to find my favourite spot on the couch and sink into it with a good book. I want to remember how it FEELS to work towards and achieve a goal. And at the end of the day, I want to curl up in bed and notice the weight of the blanket over me.
What I don’t want is to work so hard and for so many hours that I mindlessly get to the end of the year wondering how I did it all. I don’t want to be on auto-pilot. I want to be more present. And while it would be nice to think we could practice being present during every moment of our lives, I’m not sure that’s possible – at least not where I’m at right now. So, I’m starting slow. Each month, I’m going to experiment with slowing down in one area of my life. This month, I’m taking back my mornings.
My Oh So Many Morning Routines
I’ve made changes to my morning routine many times, over the past few years.
For the first half of 2013, I had no morning routine at all. I was working remotely for the last company I was with, and had quickly fallen into the trap of thinking I needed to be online and available at all times. Because they were three hours ahead of me, I also felt that I should start at the same time as everyone else. My morning consisted of waking up at 5:30am, leaning down and picking up my laptop off the floor, and opening my email. There was no time to waste. I dove right in.
Nobody forced me to do this, by the way. I remember my boss explicitly telling me I did not have to start working that early. She handed me a permission slip to choose a more fitting hour. But I didn’t take it. “It’s fine!” I always said. “I’m a morning person, so it’s easy!” For six months, I actually believed this. I believed I liked opening my laptop as soon as I woke up. I thought working from bed was “great”. And then I had a panic attack, which served as my first reminder that I needed a healthier routine.
For the next two years, I experimented with my morning routine until I finally found something that worked. Each morning, I would wake up around 6am (usually without an alarm, but I often had one set for 6:30am in case I slept in). Some days I would shower right away, others I would wait until after exercising (which I did after work). Then I would make coffee and check-in on my favourite blogs, until 7am, when I opened my work email. This was my routine until I quit in June 2015.
Good Morning, Self-Employment
Since working for myself, my morning routine has been all over the place. Sometimes I start work right away, sometimes I’ll wait until 9 or 10am, and sometimes I don’t work at all (Adventure Tuesday!). Some days I eat breakfast before work, and other days I forget and don’t think about it until my stomach starts to grumble. The only two things that have remained consistent are that (1) I still wake up naturally (without an alarm) between 6-6:30am, and (2) I make coffee before work.
In some ways, this kind of freedom and flexibility has been great. Well, it was great in 2016, when I spent the latter half of the year slowing way down, doing a fraction of the work I had done in the first half of the year. But too much flexibility won’t serve me in 2017. I’m craving a little more structure. I don’t just need it to help me get more work done, I actually want it. I want an 8am start time. I want to be the kind of person who only checks her email twice a day. And I want a daily to-do list again.
The strange thing is as soon as I realized that I needed to build some more structure back into my life, a bunch of old bad habits seemed to come back instead. I started reaching for my phone first thing in the morning, and found myself scrolling through email in bed, thinking about everything I would have to do that day. I rushed to finish my breakfast, like there was no time to eat, and pounded back two mugs of coffee. But why? I work from home and I only have two clients right now. I am not in a rush.
Sure, there is work to be done. The first draft of my book is due in three weeks, and there are still chapters to be written and edits I want to make. I’ll be spending the majority of this month staring into my computer screen, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. But what I can change is how I start my day. What I do from the minute I wake up to the minute I decide to start writing is in my control – and I want to enjoy it. So, here are my intentions for January…
Experiment #1: Slow Mornings
- wake up naturally
- make the bed
- eat breakfast
- enjoy my coffee
- read a book (audiobooks work too)
Please note that these aren’t meant to be productivity tips. It’s not about getting off on the right foot so I can have the most productive day ever. I’m also not forcing myself to workout first thing, or eat a specific type of food within a specific amount of time from the specific minute I wake up. I don’t even care if this routine lasts an hour or a mere 15 minutes. It’s not about any of that.
My goal for this experiment is simply to allow myself to fully wake up, and to enjoy some of the things I love at the start of my day. It’s to get out of the habit of checking my phone first thing, and know that everything can wait for a few more minutes. Email will always be there. Social media will always be there. The work will always be there. And I’ll have my head down in it for most of January.
But what I do with the time in between the moment I wake up and when I start the work is all mine… and I want to enjoy it. That’s my time. You have it too. Again, whether you have an hour or a mere 15 minutes, you can decide what you want to do in those moments before you connect with your work and with the rest of the world. What are you going to do?
I’d love to hear about your morning routine. :)
PS – If you want to read about other morning routines, here are a few of my favourites: Chris Guillebeau, Courtney Carver, Grace Bonney, Paul Jarvis and Tammy Strobel. Also, I’m feeling extra grateful this morning because I am able to call three of those wonderful people my friends.