Hack my morning routine!
March 12, 2015 11:33 AM   Subscribe

I would like to begin my day with yoga/exercise and/or meditation, followed by a mindful walk through my "getting ready for work" routine. Instead, I stare at Facebook for 45 minutes and then flail around like a nut, invariably running out the door 5-10 minutes late. This is stupid. Have you solved a similar problem? Can you help? More inside.

I'm going to break this down to specifics, so bear with me.

This is what my morning looks like:

6:00 - Alarm goes off. Maybe I get up, or maybe I hit snooze. Maybe I shut the alarm off and then fall asleep before I manage to actually arise. That's always fun.
6:00-6:30 - I get out of bed. If I've been a smart monkey the night before, the coffee is already brewed. If not, I have to spend ten minutes doing that, and petting the cats. Maybe rolling around the floor, staring into space.
6:30 - 6:45... maybe 7:00 - Drink coffee. Stare at internets.
7:00 - Tear myself away from internets, drag daughter out of bed, make and eat breakfast.
7:15 - Shower.
7:30 - Go "HOLY SHIT WE'RE GOING TO BE LATE." Throw clothes on. Slap together some kind of lunch. Herd daughter towards door.
7:50 - Run out the door, five minutes later than I would have liked to.

Here's how I would like it to look:

6:00 - Get up. Drink coffee.
6:10 - Meditate or do yoga.
6:30 - Breakfast for me and kid.
6:45 - In shower
7:00 - Out of shower, followed by leisurely dressing and gathering of things.
7:40 - We're warming up the car, five minutes early! I have makeup on, and matching clothes! It's glorious!

I keep trying to make this switch through sheer willpower, and it's just not happening. As you can probably tell by my reaction to my alarm, it takes a while for my higher cognitive functions to activate in the morning... so when I tell myself at night, "Ok, future self, you're going to do a good job in the morning," my morning self totally ignores its marching orders.

One other detail: I only have my daughter every other week, and I don't need to leave as early on the days I don't have her. She's nine, so she's pretty self-sufficient in the morning, but it does take a little longer, obviously, to supervise her preparations than when I'm just worrying about myself. I drive her to school, so that's the hard deadline on my days with her: getting her to school on time.

posted by missrachael to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Do not turn the computer on at all. Not just to check while the coffee's going. Not to check the weather. Not for anything, until everything else is done.

Change your log on password to haveyoudoneyoga if you need to.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:40 AM on March 12, 2015 [32 favorites]

It's really as easy as peanut_mcgillicuty says. Don't turn on your computer at all. Once you're not distracted by the internet, what you do with your time is up to you. If you're hopping on the computer to find yoga videos, I suggest buying a DVD until you get into the routine.
posted by patheral at 11:45 AM on March 12, 2015

How much sleep are you getting? Going to bed way earlier than you think you need to might make getting out of bed with the alarm a lot easier.
posted by MadamM at 11:53 AM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

So, I'm assuming your phone is your alarm, and your phone is also what's distracting you with the Internet. Maybe this is off, but it is TOTALLY the distraction pattern that happens to me in the mornings!

I have not completely solved this problem, but some things that have worked in my case:

1. Going to bed earlier. My mornings go massively better if I give myself a deadline of "in bed" by 10:00 and lights out by 10:45.
2. Making a no-skipping committment of 5 minutes of Pilates in the morning (obviously you will want to substitute this with yoga and/or meditation, Pilates is just my thing). If things have gone right and I have more time, that is awesome, but I think getting myself in the pattern of at least 5 minutes gets me in the right routine and gives me something to build off of rather than 0-60 all at once.
3. Shower in the evenings. Obviously this depends if you sweat a lot when you sleep or if yoga makes you sweaty. Works for me, and makes mornings smoother. Similarly, get as many things set the night before -- bag packed, clothes picked out, lunch ready to go, etc. etc. Obviously this doesn't always happen, but when it does, I find that BOTH mornings are happier AND the tasks take less time. Somehow in the morning it can take me 10 minutes to figure out an outfit because my brain is not fully working, whereas if I picked it out the night before it could literally take 3 minutes. Same with packing up, etc.
4. Trying to shift to another room for my groggy/waking up period. This doesn't always work. :) But to the extent I can convince myself to drag myself out to the couch in the living room for my drowsy "check emails" period, I find that period is quite a lot shorter and easier to tear myself away from (and maybe can be combined with coffee. Obviously it's great if you have the willpower to not touch your phone until you leave the house, but that is easier said than done. :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:56 AM on March 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

The second schedule is not real. I mean, I get that the two schedules are comically juxtaposed but if you want the second schedule, make up a non-fantasy version which includes all the real steps.

You need to decided exactly what you are going to do so you are not deciding in the morning when you are tired and the internet is there, not demanding any decisions of you.

The schedule should include the night before: put the coffee maker on, and pick out an outfit and gather all the things before you go to sleep. Figure out breakfast and lunch if you need to.

As for the morning: When do you wake up the daughter in the second schedule? Are you going to meditate or do yoga? If you chose mediation, what does that mean for you? What exactly are you going to do? Likewise for yoga. What will happen to the cats while you concentrate on the mediation or yoga? Will you stop to pet them? Will you ignore them? Can you?

Go easy on yourself. It might take some time to work up to a full 20 minutes of your chosen activity.
posted by girlpublisher at 11:56 AM on March 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

Pretty much what peanut_mcgillicuty said. (I'm trying to do something similar now, though just cutting myself off from Tumblr for a little bit, which will probably free up an embarrassing amount of time.) I'm also a hugefan of doing as much as humanly possible the night before -- I found that doing yoga in the morning is a lot more pleasant than throwing together a salad (LITERALLY THE EASIEST MEAL IN THE UNIVERSE), so the salad gets made the night before and I just have to grab it out the fridge. I also lay out all my clothes the night before, so I can just zombie into them as the coffee takes effect.

Oh, and to counter my own 'maybe I get up maybe I snooze', I set two alarms, one for ten minutes after the other, so I have a guaranteed ten minute 'snuggle in the warm bed' time.

I'm a big fan of using blacklists and blocking myself from sites so that muscle memory doesn't take over -- I can't remember the program I use, but I probably got it from ask metafilter, so try searching around. Basically, you have to power through, but you'll start feeling a thousand times better right away. Honest.
posted by kalimac at 11:57 AM on March 12, 2015

Set multiple alarms in a reminder app.

That's what I do.
posted by jbenben at 11:57 AM on March 12, 2015

one suggestion: you should totally still keep "petting the cats" in the routine

I have the same issue, so I'll be watching this thread with interest/sorry no other suggestions!
posted by NikitaNikita at 11:58 AM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Get an accountability buddy.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:04 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I dunno, if it were me I wouldn't be pushing myself to get up at 6am. Instead, I'd set the 1st alarm for 6:30am and set up my phone to automatically play a 20-minute guided meditation. I'd listen to it while in bed and if you drift back to sleep, that's okay. Have your 2nd alarm set for 6:50am. Get right out of bed, get daughter out of bed, and get your clothes on and breakfast ready. You are a person on a mission - no time to turn on the computer or lolly gag. You're just doing a series of tasks during this half hour - bathroom, makeup, clothes, kitchen. If something is taking up too much time, like picking out clothes or doing hair, streamline these things by doing part of it the night before. 3rd alarm is for 7:20am - it's your cue to eat breakfast when it goes off, so by the time the 4th alarm goes off at 7:35am you're ready to get your bag (packed the night before) and go to the car. If you can collapse even more of this, it'd be having your daughter fix her own breakfast and eating yours at work or after dropping her at school.
posted by Yellow Silver Maple at 12:13 PM on March 12, 2015 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: I think I'm getting enough sleep? I'm usually in bed by 10 or 10:30. Lights out by 10 (guaranteeing 8 hours of sleep) feels unrealistic, given that I don't get daughter to bed until 8:30.

Even when I get a lot more sleep, though, it doesn't feel any easier to get up. Just harder and harder the older I get.

Those of you who are saying "no access to computer" in the morning are probably right, but I'm going to have to make it physically unavailable to myself, because snuggling down in my robe and reading funny things feels like the next best thing to bed.
posted by missrachael at 12:17 PM on March 12, 2015

I find that these things are the most important for me to have a pleasant, unrushed morning:

1) Prepare as many things as possible the evening before. That means my outfit is all picked out and assembled (right down to the particular eyeliner and lipstick I need!), my lunch packed, my purse, keys, phone, etc. are all ready to go where I can find them, if I have a temp job or someplace to go, and need a new address, it's entered into my calendar, etc. It makes my mornings so much more pleasant when I don't have to rush around getting ready.

2) Get enough sleep the night before. Most people need 7 to 9 hours. You say 8 hours doesn't feel realistic, but try. You might have to take a weekend to catch up and pay back your sleep debt before you feel like 8 hours is enough. Now, if you feel as if you are dragging in the mornings no matter how much sleep you get, and/or your sleep is not refreshing, that is something to talk to your doctor about. I got treated for my sleep apnea and it's amazing how much easier it is to wake up - I NEVER hit snooze, and find waking up to be pretty easy. It wasn't always like this.

3) I am one of those people who can't snooze. I have to wake up, put my feet on the floor and arms in my robe, and get out of bed. Snoozing eats up too much time and doesn't actually make me feel any more rested. Try not snoozing and see how you feel.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:22 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have this problem. Part of it is that my day job is making the internets and so if I start thinking about my day I'm likely to reach for them. Hopefully it's not your problem because that means it gets extra hard.

I think the other problem for me is that my morning self is terrible at discipline because morning self feels terrible. I don't wake up feeling rested and happy about a new day, it takes me at least a half hour before I don't feel like crap, and so I tend to look for something distracting and pleasant to do until I feel OK.

If this is part of your problem, there are two approaches to solving it:

1) Get a better distraction. One that's more fulfilling and easier to put down. For me, that used to be playing the guitar until I got a damn laptop (it's possible I should put the laptop in a drawer across the room when I go to bed and put the guitar by the bed). Maybe for you it's the cats, or a book.

2) Try to make it so that you feel better in the morning. Do anything you can think of to make your nights sleep better: go to bed earlier, exercise, cut out the coffee or replace it with decaf so you're not at the bottom of a caffeine cycle when you wake up, get a better mattress, improve your sleeping temperature, even see a sleep specialist to make sure apnea or any issues are being treated. And do anything that will take any pressure off being organized in the morning; if you're sloggy like me in the morning, 15 minutes of prep in the evening is worth 20-30 minutes when I'm just waking up.
posted by weston at 12:23 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Those of you who are saying "no access to computer" in the morning are probably right, but I'm going to have to make it physically unavailable to myself

As part of your evening routine take your computer, put it in a sports bag or something and put it in your car - you now have to leave the house to get to it in the morning which will be unappealing. I mean, if you live in a dodgy area perhaps not. But seriously, put it in the garage, loft, basement - anywhere where you really don't want to go first thing in the morning before you've had your coffee.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:28 PM on March 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

Here's something to try. You'll feel absolutely silly, but I did something like this once, and it stuck at least for a few months until some inevitable life change disrupted the pattern again:

Someday when you've got an afternoon free, do about five realistic trial runs of the beginning part of your morning routine, starting with actually changing into whatever you normally wear to bed, setting the alarm for five minutes later, getting in bed, and getting as close as possible to that snuggly "I don't want to get out of bed" state of mind. Then when the alarm goes off, calmly stretch, turn off the alarm, get dressed, get your yoga mat out, and start the first pose. Then go away and do something unrelated for about half an hour before starting the next trial.

I know it sounds ridiculous, and involves a lot of changing clothes and setting the alarm repeatedly in the middle of the day, but for me it really worked -- I was able to do in the afternoon what I couldn't do in the morning. After that practice, the next morning I was able to just do the same thing, and I felt really orderly and in control about it. It stuck for quite a while. I'm sure I read this idea somewhere, but I don't remember where.
posted by xris at 12:48 PM on March 12, 2015 [19 favorites]

Lots of good ideas. One more is to set a shorter goal. Don't figure out the routing that will make you do this thing forever. Just pick some version and stick to it for one week. Just one week!

It's like a test run. And, ultimately, you'll find the weak spots in your plan and the stuff that really works. You need at least 6 weeks to form a habit. Take what you learned from your first week of dedication and apply it to the second week.

And this may or may not help you depending on your personality but give yourself a cheat day. Make it Friday morning if you are more of a "carrot" personality. Make it Wednesday morning if you're really questioning yourself. "On *this* day, I will allow myself X amount of internet time after I've done these 3 important tasks."

Good luck. I see this as a universal struggle.
posted by amanda at 1:01 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Schedule your evenings.

8:15-8:30pm - get Daughter to bed
8:30-8:50pm - make tomorrow's breakfast and lunch, set up coffee
8:50-9:00pm - set out outfit for tomorrow
9:00-9:05pm - brush, floss, etc.
9:05pm-10:15pm - free time! internet/tv/books/etc.
10:15pm - computer off, go to bed
posted by sparklemotion at 1:03 PM on March 12, 2015 [9 favorites]

In the morning, I cannot have any free time. Planned free-time-in-the-morning just translates into actual "more time to sleep." So while I would like to get up and have coffee at the table while reading the paper, I know this will not ever happen. Even if I somehow managed to get myself into a situation where I did have free time in the morning, then I wouldn't want to go to work because I would be doing something fun. So maybe, like me, you just can't do yoga or meditate in the morning.

Not only have I eliminated all free time from my morning, but I try to leave as little as possible to do in the morning. An ideal morning for me is when I have to think about NOTHING. That means I do all of these things at night:

Pick out my clothes – this just means I know what I am going to wear, and it is all clean and in the closet/drawer.
Make my son's lunch
Make my breakfast & lunch, if I need breakfast & lunch at work
Wash the cat bowl
Set up the coffee maker
Make sure my bag/keys/phone are all in their spot by the door

I do the same things every morning – get dressed, makeup, hair, downstairs, coffee, feed the cat, take coffee & go - and I leave no time to sit down, even for a moment, because once I do, I'm doomed.
posted by lyssabee at 1:05 PM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

I make my bed every morning, first thing, and that seems to have helped me quite a bit, in conjunction with placing my phone across the room, as some others have mentioned.
posted by chrchr at 1:20 PM on March 12, 2015

If you're trying to hammer a new routine into place, you need to lose the snooze (time). If you want to get up at 6:00 , then you get up at 6:00 . Setup multiple alarm clocks which will go off at the same time, one close and loud, and something that you need to get out of your bed to disable. Do not go back into bed; turn on the lights and get coffee (which is already made, because it was set on a timer). As soon as you get out of the bed, thank yourself for doing something difficult but will get you what you want.

Ms. nobeagle has found a dawn-simulating wakeup alarm to make getting up much easier for her. Admittedly they're kind of expensive. But an electrcal timer is $5-10. Leave a light turned on controlled by the timer, and have it turn on a few minutes before your alarm goes off. The light sucks, but it makes it a lot easier to get up (my alarm goes off just as my wife's wake up light turns on in dim-red mode, and just this makes getting up easily 4x easier for me).

As other's have mentioned, move some (read: as much as possible) of the work for the evenings. Why are you making your daughter's lunch in the morning when you don't have enough time? Make it the night before and put it in the fridge. Yes, when I'm doing it I hate, more than I should, making a kid's breakfast, lunch, and measuring 4 servings of dog food at night. But future-nobeagle really loves not doing this in the mornings. Lay out your clothes the night before if it helps. Have your daughter make sure her backpack is packed.
posted by nobeagle at 1:42 PM on March 12, 2015

Maybe you should exercise in the evening instead.
posted by sam_harms at 1:53 PM on March 12, 2015

My go-to trick for when I absolutely cannot afford to oversleep is setting two alarms with a time difference not divisible by the snooze interval. For example, if I really need to be up by 06:30, I will set one alarm for 06:15 and one for 06:28. This way, I am already half-awake by 06:28 and I don't have time to fall back to sleep between 06:28 and 06:30.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:08 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get SelfControl or Cold Turkey and set it so that the internet is inaccessible in the morning.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 2:09 PM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Trust me when it comes to no internet in the morning, once you get rid of it, you will never miss it. I never go on the internet in the morning except for some super rare occasion. The morning before going into the world is super-rare viginal time unmarked by the world, the last thing I would ever dream is to tarnish that by turning on the internet or TV. Once you get into the habit, I'm positive you will feel this way, too.

If you have trouble feeling awake in the morning, go outside. The sunlight entering your eyes biologically primes you for the day. Maybe do yoga outside or take a walk outside instead? A walk in the early morning is awesome. Also place a bright light above your bed or next to it with a light bulb that says something like "daylight" or "full spectrum" and turn that thing on first thing when you wake up. It will help wake you up as well.
posted by eq21 at 2:19 PM on March 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

Can you bribe yourself with something funny to listen to instead of read? Find some podcasts you enjoy and the rule is you can only listen to them while making coffee, getting dressed, etc. No listening while in bed or on the couch. Sometimes I can drag myself out of bed if I know I'm going to at least listen to something entertaining while I'm getting ready.
posted by aka burlap at 2:54 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I want to do yoga in the morning, I sleep in my yoga clothes. Roll out of bed, ready to down dog. They're just as comfy as pjs, and I don't have to think at all in the morning.
posted by instamatic at 5:20 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

This won't fix your entire problem, but part of it. Do not do the coffee before meditation/yoga. You can have it brewing, but don't drink it until AFTER your yoga or meditation. Coffee in your desired timeline only encourages the time wasting you're experiencing in the morning.

Coffee like most hot drinks is not something you swig down. It's a hot drink that takes a few minutes to drink (especially if you want to enjoy it). Chugging down a cup of coffee is not only unlikely to happen due to temperature, but it might also give you digestion problems so we instinctively tend to take our time drinking it. Because of this we are much more likely to turn on the computer or read or engage in similar time wasting activity while drinking it. So save the coffee for later.

Coffee is dehydrating and therefore not the best drink to partake in before doing yoga. Water is better bet. Water CAN be swigged down. It's not a liesurely drink that will give you the urge to turn on the computer or do something else while you drink it. The hydration also helps wake you up. As long as you don't fill your stomach up with water, it will be fine to drink before yoga.

If you are drinking the coffee to help wake you up in the morning, I suggest you get a vitamin B spray instead and spray your mouth 5-6 times. Drink your coffee with your breakfast instead.
posted by rancher at 12:59 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're still sleepy after getting up which is why you stare into space or fall back asleep again. I found out by trial and error that my sleep is naturally at its lightest around 6:30, so I easily wake up then but don't wake up as easily at 6:45 or 7 because a new sleep cycle has started. I find it much easier to get out of bed at 6:30 than at 7. This app apparently analyses your sleep and wakes you up at the time when your sleep is at its lightest. So you could try that.

The biggest thing though that stood out to me about your routine is that you do your coffee and internet stuff before getting ready for the day. I've found that getting ready always takes longer than you think, especially when you have to do hair, so I would do that first, before coffee.

So my suggestions would be

- 6-6:30 Wake up (I've been realistic and put in lots of snoozing time here)
- 6:30-6:40 Yoga
- 6:40-7 Wake up your daughter. Go into shower and get ready.
- 7-7:20 Daughter gets ready for the day. While she gets ready, have your coffee and do your internet stuff. I would also put together breakfast at this time, although see below for separate coffee and breakfast-related suggestions.
- 7:20-7:40 Breakfast for the both of you. Again, see below.
- 7:45 Out the door

Additional suggestions to further shave time off your routine:

- Put coffee into a travel-mug so that you can drink it at your leisure on your way to work. (You could also eat breakfast in the car if you and your daughter were happy to eat like a hard boiled egg or a cereal bar or something else equally portable. You could prep the eggs the evening before, and make enough for a few mornings in a row.) I don't have my coffee/breakfast until I get to work because for me it is a huge time-suck.
- Nthing what people have said about setting out your clothes and doing other prep for the day (lunch, gym bag etc) the night before.

Hope that helps.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:31 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I struggle greatly with this problem. I used to lie in bed for a good 30 minutes reading rubbish on my phone before rushing into action.

Two things that have helped get me in motion and stay off the internets:

* Put a loud alarm clock other side of room -- buy a cheap travel one -- to force you out of bed.

* Change the router settings to shut down the internet in the mornings / block the most time sucky websites. For me it was blocking reddit and deleting the reddit app from my phone.

* Ask my husband to set an alarm on his phone and hassle me until I get up. I can't see how old your daughter is, but can you involve her in some way -- eg, leaving the computer in her room away from you, getting her to set a noisy alarm that you have to shut off, etc?

Good luck with this!
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 4:38 AM on March 13, 2015

Response by poster: Update: I synthesized some of your suggestions this morning, and here's how it went. Last night I set the coffee maker for 6:45 and got all my stuff ready, picked out an outfit, etc. I set my alarm for 6:30, got up at 6:30, and got directly into the shower. By 6:55 I was sitting down to breakfast, which left me plenty of time after that to put on makeup and even make the bed. We left the house at the desired time, more or less (daughter was actually running late this morning, because she had to gather up all of her stuff for Dad's House).

Those of you who intuited that free time in the morning is the problem are correct. Free time turns into unlimited free time, especially if it takes place in my pajamas with coffee and internet. I did look at FB on my phone while I ate, but it just doesn't have the same allure when it's tiny and I'm already dressed.

Ziggy500 mentioned the sleepcycle app. I use that, and I initially got it for the "wakes me up at the optimal time" promise, but now I only use it because it has a nice "wind in trees" sleep aid, and it wakes me up with Satie's Gymnopedie. Either I have no "optimal wakeup time" or that thing doesn't work.

If anyone is looking for the other end of the spectrum in wake-up apps, I recommend this one. You can set it so that the (extremely annoying, including crying baby sounds and vacuums) alarm won't turn off until you scan a barcode, which is ideally located far from your bed.
posted by missrachael at 6:26 AM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Also: THANK YOU! I can always count on MeFites.
posted by missrachael at 6:39 AM on March 13, 2015

It sounds to me like you have two separate problems:

1. It's hard to wake up - that's why you fall back to sleep and do stuff with the snooze alarm.
I think this is a strong indication you aren't getting enough sleep.

2. You're doing Facebook, etc., instead of what you'd really like to do. Separate problem.
BUT, maybe caused by problem number one. You are not bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Maybe- ? If you move your bedtime up an hour or two, this will improve. If you start waking up too early,
you'll know you're going to bed too early. But you might just start waking up *feeling* like doing Yoga.
posted by Puddle Jumper at 12:12 AM on March 14, 2015

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