*Photo found on pexels.com
How are we feeling at the beginning of 2019? working on goals and resolutions? making progress? or have we already hit the first stumbling blocks?
Now that the excitement of the New Year has worn off and the first month of the year is almost to an end, discouragement can easily set in. Whether we’ve set ourselves to instill healthier lifestyle habits, lose weight, become more financially savvy or simply, to enjoy life more, I find that having efficient routines at the beginning of each day can set the tone (and mood) not only for the rest of your day, but the rest of the year.
And no, I won’t tell you to wake up at 5am (though there are, arguably, many benefits of doing so).
I would like, instead, to propose to you simple and effective habits that can help you reclaim your mornings (regardless of the time you decide to wake up).
Having set in place successful routines that streamline your mornings can make it incredibly easy to reduce morning stress and get out the door faster with a smile on your face. Most importantly, you can take back this time of day that is instrumental in setting intentions, reflecting and in nurturing a sense of peace and calm before real life takes over. We are able to take back the time to (re)build our armor and face whatever life/work is going to throw at us.
These simple and effective strategies that I have been practicing in the last few years have helped me feel less hectic, less stressful and overall make me feel like I’ve got my life together. They have brought me simplicity, efficiency and allowed me to have MORE TIME.
More time to sleep in if I need to, to get a head start in getting into work, to exercise if I am so inclined or to have a dedicated time to work on an important task with lifelong beneficial consequences (like learning a new skill, meditating, learning a new language or reading a book).
These next 4 habits will help you streamline your morning and save you:
*time: you know what you are going to wear and eat for breakfast and lunch
*money: preparing your first two meals (at least) can save you up to hundreds or thousands of…. (insert your country’s currency here)/year
*energy: you are not running around like a stress-crazed person trying to figure out what you are going to wear and where you are going to get your breakfast/coffee or lunch from for that day
So, let’s jump right in:
1. Pre-select the clothes you are going to wear the evening before:
THIS, by far, has made the biggest difference in my mornings. And to make the deciding process super easy and straight forward, culling and curating my wardrobe at the beginning of each season has made a tremendous difference.
Although, to be honest, the need to curate my wardrobe on a semi annual basis started due to my desire to become more knowledgeable about (fast) fashion and become a more conscious and responsible consumer. I also, deeply, love and enjoy well made, great qulity clothes that look elegant, beautiful and can last for a long time with due care. Investment pieces that are classic and can be passed down proudly to your daughters/nieces/friends.
Now, since I am well versed in curating my wardrobe and have defined my style quite clearly (getting older definitely helps because you start to know yourself and develop a more authentic sense of style), I actually start pre-selecting my next day clothes right after I get off work.
Since I have some “uniforms” set in place = combinations of different pieces of clothing that I know look well together and feel comfortable, even choosing them at the beginning of each day takes me 30 seconds tops. Now THAT is a major time saver.
If you have never culled and organized your wardrobe, there are a couple of guides that I’ve enjoyed using over the years. Check them out here:
- Audrey’s “How to create a capsule wardrobe” is pretty comprehensive and informative and a great guide to start.
- Geneva has a similar wardrobe rehab book that is free to download if you subscribe to her blog.
- Daria has created a whole system of multifunctional seasonal capsules using only a few sustainable, interchangeable yet unique pieces called “The Wonder Wardrobe”.
- Anna is great at repurposing and reusing older pieces, as well as thoughtfully adding new pieces to her seasonal capsule wardrobes. She takes you through the steps of her thought process for each season’s capsule.
I hope you will find these suggestions helpful and do let me know how the process is working for you if you decide to give it a go ;)
If you absolutely do not know what you want to wear that day, CHOOSE 1 item first. It can be a pair of pants you just bought, your favorite shirt or sweater, a piece of jewelry. I find it that I can always dress myself quickly if I have at least 1 item in mind that I know for sure that I want/could wear that day and then choose the rest of the items around it.
Investing more in quality pieces, choosing an attitude of quality over quantity and reducing the number of items shopped at huge sales, cheaply produced (aka fast fashion), has made a tremendous difference in how I feel about the clothes I am wearing, how they feel on my body and how I feel about myself and the impact I have on the planet. Also, I have always been an avid thrift shopper and some of my most beloved, great quality, vintage pieces have been thrifted. (Goodwill, I love you!)
2. Make your own breakfast:
This sounds like such a no-brainer, I know, and there have been dozens of articles online preaching the importance of starting the day by eating a wholesome breakfast so I am not going to reiterate them here.
However, I will tell you that thinking and choosing 1 important goal concerning your breakfast can set your path towards a healthier lifestyle so easily.
Now, this one goal can involve something like this:
- choosing the morning meal to be a non-dairy, no meat, wholesome breakfast each morning (in my case)
- to have one glass of water pre and post breakfast and thus increase your hydration level; in my own experience, I have found that by starting my mornings fully hydrated, I am much more likely to continue drinking water throughout the day
- to add more fresh fruits and veggies to your breakfast
- to start each morning with a nutrient packed green smoothie
- or simply, learning and practicing how to make a wholesome, nutritious breakfast each morning
So, what would you like to achieve with your breakfast? more energy, more nutrition, more hydration, practicing simple cooking skills?
For me, as I have stated before, was to have a non-dairy (with the exception of eggs once in a while), no meat, clean and healthy breakfast EACH MORNING.
Hold on a second, you might say now, how am I going to save time if I stay in the kitchen and prep my breakfast for 15 min each day?
I am so glad you asked!
You see, this time, in my opinion, is an investment in your health and yourself. YOU are a priority in the morning. Before you give anything to your kids, family, friends, work (or social media), YOU have made sure to nourish yourself with the best possible breakfast that is available to you that is wholesome, filling, and helps you start the day right. It is a gift you consciously decide to give yourself.
I generally alternate between 3 or 4 breakfasts (avocado on whole grain toast, homemade oatmeal (rolled oats) with nuts and fruits, and homemade granola on non-dairy yoghurt topped with fresh berries). They take less than 15 min to prepare, are wholesome and nutritious and I find that they keep me full for the next four hours or so.
Ok, but what if I HATE cooking and cannot bring myself to do it each morning?
Well, in that case you have two options, my friend:
a) hate it but do it anyway: because you KNOW that it is better for your long term health (and waist). Look at it as a great way to practice self-discipline. That can transfer in other areas of your life later on. OR, research the healthiest alternatives at your favorite supermarkets and add them to your shopping list.
b) allow a chunk of your time and prep in batches. Do you have time to watch TV or Netflix over the weekend? then you definitely have time to scroll over youtube and literally find thousands of tutorials on meal prepping ahead of time. Here, here and here are some to get you started.
Now, if all of this still sounds too daunting, strive to cook one meal per week. It could be something simple like a soup/week, a salad on Saturdays, a home cooked, simple breakfast of eggs on Sunday mornings. Do the best you can, with what you have. And don’t beat yourself up about it. You don’t have to like cooking, and that is ok. Just do the best you can and try to INCREASE the number of fresh fruits and veggies you eat with each meal or even better, make that your snack. Pick a new veggie or fruit next time you visit a store, that you have not tried before, and give it a go.
And since we are speaking about meal prepping….
3. Prepare your lunches ahead of time:
Hah! cooking and meal prepping is in your future, my friend, I can feel it! ;)
Having already prepped and packaged your lunch makes it a great grab-and-go situation in the am. With only 30 min to 1 hour taken each weekend/on your day off to meal prep, this literally means that you just have to open the fridge, take your lunch and boom! you are good to go. No more letting hunger, stress and boredom decide what you are going to feed EVERY CELL OF YOUR BODY for lunch.
Other added benefits:
- knowing exactly what goes into your body (thus taking control over your health and well-being; and THIS is freedom, peeps!)
- portion control; it’s much easier since YOU decide the size of your container and how much you fill it up. And with what!
- saving loads of money over time (obvs).
Salads packed with various veggies and some lean protein have been my go-to since University days and it is a great way to incorporate raw, fresh vegetables into your everyday routine. They are super easy to put together too. For a family meal prep guide, look here, here and here.
4. Decide the most important task of the day and the tool to help you accomplish it:
What is one practice that you mostly need right now and could make your day ahead become more productive? what can you implement in the am that could make you feel like you’ve accomplished one important thing that day? what habit, practiced daily, could cultivate more meaning into your life?
What is the one thing that with only 15 – 30 min dedicated time each morning can provide you with life-long lasting benefits?
These are important questions that I highly encourage you to reflect upon, grab a piece of paper and write the answers down. No wrong answers, only the right ones FOR YOU.
Juggling more than one thing and do not know which one to focus on today? this online app helps you decide in a matter of seconds what needs to become a priority.
a) more clarity and understanding?
Then journaling/free writing is a great place to start.
The notebook won’t ever judge or criticize you; it is a place to lay all your fears, doubts, anxieties, or hopes and dreams. It can take up anywhere from 5 min to an hour and is a wonderful tool to foster self-reflection (which in turn, fosters and enables growth and change).
One book that has been of tremendous help in guiding me to have a focused and reflective journaling session each day (I recently picked up again this habit and it had made the world of difference in bringing a sense of peace and control back into my life) is Janet Conner’s book, “Writing Down Your Soul: How to activate and listen to the extraordinary voice within.” This book is absolutely instrumental in helping you transform your free writing experience into one of purposeful seeking and introspective reflection. AND I COULD NOT RECOMMEND IT ENOUGH!
b) more structure and goal setting?
Then a Planner is instrumental in bringing much needed focus on the things that need to be accomplished throughout the day. Again, jotting down 3 important things to do each day needn’t take you more than 3 to 5 min each morning BUT, can totally focus your attention on what needs to get done and set your mind and subsequent behaviors towards success.
The Make it Happen Planner that I’ve discovered at the end of last year and been using ever since has been FANTASTIC in helping me exercise regularly, write and edit consistently (see this blog post and many more to come!) AND help me streamline my mornings in an effective way. I have (finally) discovered the planner to end all planners! yay!
There are many, many things that I love about this planner!
- it’s chock full with pages that help you reflect weekly, quarterly and annually upon your goals and resolutions
- the weekdays are spread out on two pages thus making it super easy to see exactly your whole week laid out before you (instead of flipping back and forth between the days)
- dozens of pages structured in ways to help you reflect, break down your goals in small steps and prioritize accomplishing them
- full of inspiring and encouraging quotes
- many pages reserved for projects, doodling, random notes and ideas (I am forever scribbling down on paper napkins and small notebooks BUT now I am able to have all my thoughts and ideas in ONE PLACE).
I am so proud to be affiliated with the Leaders in Heals creators of The Make it Happen Planner! They were gracious enough to extend their affiliate program with their customers and I immediately jumped in having seen the benefits of using their planner from day one.
They’ve also sent me a discount link for 10% off to use with family and friends and since I like you all :)… you can access it here. ;) They have lots other products worth checking out! (like notebooks, journals, various planners and inspirational, motivating prints).
(Being affiliated with their program means that I receive a small commission if you decide to purchase one of their products by using the links provided in my blog post. Also, let me know if you are able to use the discount code successfully. This is the first time for me being an affiliate for a brand/product and I am still learning the ins and outs).
c) more productivity?
The Productivity Planner works using the pomodoro technique which basically means that you get to work in concentrated blocs of 25 minutes each, on one task, with breaks of 5 minutes in between. The Productivity Planner makes it super easy to track your progress.
I have used this planner in the last few years for accomplishing writing projects. In my case, it was very useful to work solely on one task/day. However, the planner can be used in breaking down and tracking multiple habits/tasks and the creators have included a comprehensive guide at the beginning of the planner to make it convenient and easy to use it.
d) more gratefulness?
Then the 5 Minute Journal is an excellent tool to guide you on your path of deepening the gratefulness and appreciation for your life’s blessings. Much research in positive psychology has been linked to positive changes in your mood and higher levels of happiness by expressing and practicing gratefulness on a daily basis.
In my opinion, it is a focused, healing practice that is wonderful in helping you become more PRESENT and acknowledge ALL that is good and wonderful in your life. The 5 Minute Journal aims to make it easy and effective to cultivate this life changing habit.
It took me less that 5 minutes each morning and evening to answer the daily questions aimed at guiding my attention on discovering three things (each day) to be grateful for and reflect on my day (there is an at the end of day routine).
The journal can also be used to visualize, reflect and introspect so it is a multifunctional tool. Here is how Tim Ferriss uses it.
Ok, friends. So, we have pre-selected our clothes, had a healthy, nutritious breakfast, our lunch is ready to go AND we have chosen at least one tool to help us achieve and accomplish our daily/weekly/yearly resolutions.
Now, how are YOU going to use the rest of your morning?
- Being present in your interactions with your significant other/family?
- Dedicating 15-20 min each morning to learn a new skill?
- Indulging in a hobby?
- Working on your book/project that is nestled inside you and is fighting to come to light?
Also, what other morning habits have helped YOU to become more calm and productive during the day?
Let us know below so that we can all get inspired! :)
Lastly, thank you SO MUCH for taking some of your time to read my blog post! I hope you have found at least ONE THING that is helpful to you and if so, I would so appreciate it if you would share this with your friends and family! :) And subscribe, of course ;)
Lots of love,