Every morning I glance at my phone to see what time it is when I wake up. I also check the temperature.
This morning an article popped up that caught my eye. “3 morning habits to help you be happier and more productive at work, according to psychologists” by Morgan Smith on CNBC.
I have an established morning routine that I have followed for years. I developed the routine while reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I journal three pages. It’s a brain dump consisting of everything that’s making me anxious, plus a to do list for the upcoming day. Then I use an app called Laudate and either read or listen to daily Bible readings followed by prayer. Last, I go for my morning walk.
It’s a routine that helps me feel grounded. I was curious what the article would say about morning routines and if my morning routine hit their three suggestions to be happier and more productive.
I’m missing the first step.
Set an intention for the day.
Your to-do list might be doing more harm than good, psychologist Jessica Jackson warns.
Checking your emails, calendar or to-do list soon after you wake up “immediately starts the day off on a stressful note, and tells your brain to go into panic mode,” Jackson, who is also the global clinical diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging manager at Modern Health, tells CNBC Make It.
Instead, Jackson recommends all of her clients start their day with an intention meditation: taking a few minutes to sit in silence, take a couple of deep breaths, and choose a single word, or sentence, to be their “north star” for the day.
“You can tell yourself, ‘My intention for today is to feel successful’ or ‘I want to be comfortable today’ and think about what you can realistically accomplish in the next 24 hours to feel that way,” Jackson explains. “It can also be a single, powerful word like ‘gratitude’ that will guide how you react to and reflect on whatever happens throughout the day.”
Step two I do with my morning pages. The suggestion is to set an offline ritual and stick with it. My morning walks also fit the bill.
Step three is to have fun. I thought I was missing that also, but I play Wordle every morning. That’s my bit of fun. We realize how important recess is for kids at school, the article explained. But what do we do for fun?
What is your morning routine? Do you hit all three of the steps in the CNBC article?
My daughter had a job interview yesterday. She called me afterwards. She brought up a compelling point. They asked her how she handles stress or pressure on the job.
“I go to a private place, take a deep breath and shake it out. Then the anxiety leaves and I can prioritize what needs to be done,” she said.
She told me that was exactly what she did before the interview. She followed her pre-race routine. I’ve seen it a million times. She would stand behind the blocks, shake out her right arm, her left arm. Put her right leg on the blocks and stretch, repeat with the left leg.”
I remembered taking golf lessons when my kids were toddlers. My golf pro established a pre-hit routine for me. Each time I “addressed the ball” I would take two baseball swings with my golf club to loosen up. I’d take a deep breath and stand over the ball.
If you watch swimming, golf, or other sports — you’ll notice most athletes have a routine before they move. It frees their mind from thinking. It’s a signal to put their game face on and react physically, letting go of negative thoughts or any thoughts at all.
Six or seven years ago, I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, former wife of Martin Scorsese. She preached about morning routines. I began morning pages back then and have stuck with the routine. When I wake up, I reach for a journal and write three pages of whatever is on my mind. It can be a to do list, about my dreams, my prior day or anything that jumps into my brain. It releases anxiety and clears my head for more creativity.
Also, my morning routine includes prayer and a walk.
I feel centered and grounded and ready to carry on for the rest of the day.
What routines do you have in your life? What benefits do you see?
I read about the correct way to drink coffee in the Wall Street Journal and wrote about it HERE. That was a little over two weeks ago and I’ve followed the plan wondering if I could tell the difference or not. I’m surprised to report that it REALLY works for me! Who knew?
I feel better, I’m more alert. I have lost that groggy feeling I’d have when I needed coffee to get out of bed. The trick is that you don’t drink coffee right away, but wait 60 to 90 minutes to allow your body to naturally wake up. Cortisol is the hormone that tells your body to be awake and responsive. Having coffee right away interferes with the natural process.
Instead of my husband bringing me a cup of coffee and placing it on my nightstand — which he has done for the past 36 years — he has converted to bringing me hot water with one quarter of a lemon. The hot lemon water has its own benefits, smells wonderful and is cleansing.
I don’t have my cup of coffee until after I’ve written my morning pages. I’ve adopted my morning routine by following “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Then I do daily Bible readings, get out of bed and get ready to walk. I’m fully awake and ready to go — and sometimes I forget to have coffee altogether when I return.
I was very skeptical about this and surprised how this small change makes me feel better and more productive.
If you’re a coffee-first-thing-in the-morning person, give this a try. I’d like to hear if it had the same positive effect for you, too.Will you be willing to give it a try?
I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. to get a start on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where I attempt to write a novel in 30 days. I was tired, but felt I needed to get up earlier than normal. I have a lengthy morning routine and I’m not going to change it for this writing challenge.
I was treated to a gorgeous sunrise and the views of my morning walk were filled with pink-hued clouds and a violet sky. The world looks entirely different at dawn.
My morning routine includes “The Artist’s Way” morning pages, reading a few Bible verses, prayer, a long walk, stretching, crunches, shower and breakfast. I never thought about how long this routine takes, but it’s more than two hours. I never was afforded the luxury of such a routine when I was working in public relations, as a financial advisor — or raising kids. It’s a perk of my empty nest.
I sat down at 8 a.m. and wrote for two solid hours. I decided I needed a break, but first I posted that I had written 2,000 plus words to the NaNoWriMo website and earned my first three badges. To figure out how many words I need to type a day, I divided 50,000 words by 30 days. I decided to write more than the 1,667 words because I may not want to write for 30 days straight. I will definitely take time off while my dad visits for Thanksgiving and I think I need to take an occasional day off from the challenge. After taking a break to read my favorite bloggers’ posts, I returned to writing a bit more and hit 3,030 words.
The website offers a tool to figure out how and when to write. They assumed I work full time so they told me to write two 40-minute sessions Monday through Friday, and fit in six hours on the weekend. I’m not following that schedule because my husband likes to get out and explore on the weekends and I like to go with him. I’m going for it and will write away while I’m enthused and the words are flowing. Why not?
I’m excited with my characters. The story so far is pretty slow. But the advice is not to edit, not to critique — it’s all about getting the words written down. Editing is something I’ll look at later, after this month is over.
Is anyone else taking on this challenge? Or if you’ve done it in the past, what tips can you offer? Remember, it’s not too late to start if you want to join me. If you’ve written a novel, how long did the process take you to write a rough draft? When do you find time to write?
What do you think is the hardest part? For me it’s the “mushy middle.”
Reading my daily dose of “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again,” a book on igniting the creative spirit by Julia Cameron, I learned that perfectionism blocks creativity. The need to be perfect is counter to being messily creative. I struggle with perfectionism and it leads to writing blocks. I can’t get started or continue with a project because it doesn’t seem good enough.
I read several parenting articles that shared this same philosophy of letting go of perfectionism. The pandemic is making parents let their parenting ideals go. Just surviving through the day, working from home, home schooling, and going on month seven of being cooped up in their homes gives them a fresh perspective on what “good” parenting looks like.
Here’s an excerpt from CNN.com It’s time to give up perfectionist parenting — forever. Here’s how by Elissa Strauss, CNN contributor. Click here to read the entire article.
Before the pandemic, many of us found ourselves doing a little more parenting than we knew we ought to be doing. Maybe we weren’t full-on “helicopters” or “snow plows,” and, no, we would never have done something illegal to try to ensure our kids’ success.
Still, many of our parenting decisions — especially those of us privileged enough to be making lots of choices about our children’s lives — were informed by more “shoulds” than “coulds.”
The diagnosis? Never-enough-itis. The symptoms? Busyness, guilt and deluding ourselves into thinking we could pull this off.
Our kids, the magical thinking went, would be wildly successful, self-motivated and down-to-earth, and we parents would remain balanced and happy. Rising income inequality, a lack of community and the increasingly winner-takes-all atmosphere in which we live didn’t help.
But now, the chaos and suffering brought on by Covid-19 have laid bare just how impossible our parenting standards are.
It has never been clearer how much is expected of parents, mostly moms, with little support from our workplaces and public institutions. Contrary to popular belief, moms are also subject to the time constraints created by the rotation of the planet. We too, only have 24 hours in a day.
Then there is the impact on our kids, our poor kids, who saw what little agency they had over their time and life choices go down the drain. Our children don’t need us pushing them to be shinier, more brag-worthy versions of themselves in this moment.
Two new books consider what perfectionist parenting does to the human brain, and what a relaxed, more compassionate parenting can look like for parents and kids. While both titles were written pre-Covid, their messages about privileging connection over perfection are more urgent than ever.
“It was always my very conscious intent — my most precious hope as a parent, in fact — that my daughters would feel loved and valued for who they were and not what they accomplished,” Warner said of her daughters, now 20 and 23.
But even with the best of intentions, her kids got the wrong message anyway. This was partly from the world around them, which defined success in somewhat narrow terms: good grades, fancy college degree, followed by professional success. It was also because no matter how hard we try to say the right things, our children tend to be keen observers of our true, sometimes even unconscious, desires.
The second article I read, Leaning Into ‘Free-Range Parenting’ Has Helped Us Manage Our Pandemic Stress by Lindsay Wolf I found at Scary Mommy. She talked about how the pandemic has allowed her to view life with her family in a different light. She’s letting go of her standards and surviving and connecting more with her kids.
Somehow, powered mostly by microwaved coffee and dirty sweatpants, we’ve managed to create a largely relaxed, playful, and even hopeful environment for our kids during this lockdown, more than I ever expected that we could. It hasn’t been easy most days, but we’re doing it. I don’t know exactly how we’ve managed to make this work more than not, but I think it boils down to becoming the kind of parents who learned early on to embrace the giant ass dumpster fire that was new parenthood, especially since it almost ate us alive a couple years ago. We moved from the West coast to New Hampshire in 2019 for my failing mental health and to finally have some family nearby to support us. We never planned on also hunkering down here during a global pandemic.
So what’s been our secret to getting through the endless season of coronavirus without our kids always feeling like it’s the literal end of times? We’ve lowered our standards of living even more, let our children really lead us for once, and kicked perfection out the door. We’ve also turned mask-wearing into a semi-fun game (who knew that was even possible?), navigated our children’s reactions to social distancing with a lot of hugs and empathy, and let go of needing everything to be okay right now.
Have you found that you are letting go of perfectionism during the pandemic? If so, in what ways?
View of the moon over the mountain during my morning walk.
I began my fourth book by Julia Cameron. I started with “The Artists Way” trilogy six years ago and a few weeks ago I picked up “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again.” It’s targeted to retired people to help them fill the void from being in a busy career to finding yourself suddenly home with countless hours stretching ahead. Although I’m not retired, I view COVID-19 and staying home as what retirement must feel like. I’ve been home for 139 days — but who’s counting? During this time, I have suffered from too much time on my hands, social isolation and a lack of motivation. I have a couple productive days and then I don’t want to do anything.
The book is divided into a few pages of reading per day, plus an exercise in thinking, writing or doing something physical like decluttering your space. Each week, Cameron leads you though work on a memoir from a certain age in time from you life, beginning with your first memory. Each week you move up an age group. This week, I’m thinking about the years 16 to 20 and who was important in my life, along with sounds, smells and tastes. I’m enjoying it the process. The book has me reflecting about my life, what I’d like to change, and what legacy I’d like to leave behind. It’s also helping me spark my creative spirit and think about what other creative things I’d like to try.
My best friend from college gave me my first Cameron book, “The Artists Way.” She said she had given it to other friends, too and everyone found it life-changing in some way. For me, I began the routine of morning walks and morning pages. Writing three pages when I first wake up is like a brain dump and I get rid my worries, to do lists and clear my head for more creative thoughts. After a few months of following the book’s instructions, I began this blog and began writing parenting advice for SwimSwam.com. It prompted me to return to other writing projects like a mid-grade fiction book that I had set aside for years. Also, I began a non-fiction book on sports parenting. I’ve also taken on other writing assignments from magazines. All because I read a book and did what it said.
Sunrise during my morning walk.
How are you spending your time while staying home? Have you found any surprising inspirations?
Do you ever wonder why sometimes life is slow and easy and then bam! We get overwhelmed with everything that has to be done at the same time? I’m feeling that way today. I’ve made it through days of cleaning and cooking for our Christmas crowd, reclaiming my house by washing sheets, towels and putting away the decorations.
Now the New Year is flying by. I’ve got lots of work to do and am trying to take a deep breath before I freak out. Here are a few of my secrets to keep me calm and on track:
I try not to mess with my established routine. For going on six years, I have followed Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and it’s served me well. I start the day with three pages of journaling, a long walk and prayer. Even when I’ve got tight deadlines or a crazy schedule, there’s no way I’ll cheat myself of this time to get my head and body refreshed and ready for the day.
Exercise is so important to staying stress free and to keep your mind clear. Unfortunately I have let go of swim practice when I’m too busy. It’s my New Year’s Resolution to be consistent with three practices a week. I’ve got a good start to January and I’m not going to blow it now.
PRIORITIZE and ORGANIZE
Figure out exactly what you need to get done and let go of the other stuff. When I’m juggling a bunch of projects at once, I figure out what is most important. If I do the harder tasks or work I don’t want to do first, the rest is easy. Getting the clutter out of the way helps, too. My daughter is big on color coding her work and putting it on a white board or calendar. I’m going to try color folders for each of my projects so I’m not searching through papers on my desk.
When I have a few minutes of free time, I work ahead. Last week I was waiting on work, so instead of surfing the internet and reading news online, I made a list of everything I needed to get done for this week — and jumped in on it. Lists are my saving grace. I start each day with a list of to dos and work my way through the day. Then, I make a list for the next day, and start in on that, too.
Views from my morning walk.
What are your methods to stay on track and focused when you’re crazy busy?