4 Things I’ve Learned About Starting the Day Right

alarm clock

Starting my day off right is one of the things I’ve been most preoccupied with lately, because starting your day right means continuing your day right and, you know, just generally having an all-round ‘right’ day. Which is nice and gives you the feel-goods.

It’s not easy though. That first hour of your day is crucial, yet it’s so easy to fuck it up without any thought. And that’s the key, isn’t it? You DO need thought. You need to be thoughtful. ‘Mindful’, as the kids are calling it these days.

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned from being mindful of how I start my days:

1. Don’t Sleep with Your Phone Next to You

Nothing new here, but it’s pretty important: When I sleep with my phone on my bedside table, I inevitably check it first thing in the morning. I can end up lying in bed for almost an hour just reading shit on my phone. What a huge fucking waste of time. Christ, sometimes I even take the damn thing to the toilet with me, which makes me feel like a horrible human being. Also, if I wake up in the middle of the night and my phone is next to me, I’m likely to do some 3am browsing, which is obviously a dumb thing to do if you want to go back to sleep. Didn’t anyone ever tell you to turn your screens off before sleep? There’s a reason for that: the bright light stimulates some chemical or other (I forget its name) that keeps you awake. Bad times. Sleep is the most important thing ever.

2. Put Some Bloody Clothes On

I mean that figuratively, of course, because gross. ANYHOO. Yeah, turns out, pyjamas are not the best attire for productivity. In your PJs, you could easily crawl back into bed. You’re in sleepy-time mode when you’re wearing your pyjamas. Plus, eventually you hit that point where you start hating yourself, and hating yourself is also bad news for productivity. You can still do good work in your pyjamas, but you should at least brush your teeth, okay?

3. Exercise Isn’t Necessarily The Best Way to Start

I’m doing a 28-day challenge at the moment — an experiment if you will — on exercising first thing in the morning, because I’ve heard a lot about how it’s the best way you can start your day. I’ll be honest with you: it’s not going great. When I exercise first thing, it takes me an ice age to start my work. There’s a whole lot of fucking around that happens before I sit down at my desk. Maybe exercise IS the best thing for you — but it might not be. It’s important to figure out what works for you. I’ll be talking more about this next week when I write my wrap-up for the challenge.

4. It Doesn’t Matter What Time You Get Up

I’ve always wanted to be an early riser. Instead, I’m a get-up-when-you’re-ready-er. Usually that’s between 8 and 9am. Sometimes it’s closer to 7am, and I always secretly feel pleased with myself on those days. I’m not giving up on my dream of being an early riser, but I am coming to understand that as long as I’ve had enough sleep, I can have a productive day, and that maybe rising early isn’t all that big of a deal. If I can still have a good day getting up at 9, what does it matter?

The main thing I’ve learned is that the best way for other people isn’t necessarily the best way for me. The same goes for you too, natch. What are some ways you’ve experimented with to start your day off better, only to realise that it’s JUST NOT RIGHT FOR YOU? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Alex.

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    1. I’ve had the same struggles. I’ve always wanted to be an early-riser and a first-thing-in-the-AM exerciser…..no dice. Now that I work exclusively on the Internet….things are all over the place. But one thing I have done is to stop feeling guilty if I’m not up before 7am. You’re right, sleep is important and if for some reason I’m still up at 2am working, reading or watching a movie — so be it. The internet will wait — it’s always 7am somewhere, right? Good luck with your 28-day challenge!

      1. I tried going to bed at 10.30pm for a while – set an alarm for 10 and 10.15 to remind me to wind down and get ready for bed. But sometimes I just don’t WANT to go to bed that early, you know? Sometimes I still do, but I’m coming to realise that arbitrary things like what time I get up or go to bed don’t matter so long as I get the shit done that I mean to do + enjoy my days. Because that’s all that matters really, isn’t it?

    2. Ahhh chasing the dream of the early riser. I know these feels.

      When I can consistently get up before 8am, I already feel like I’ve “won” or that I’m somehow “ahead.”

      The truth is, if I get up by 10am, and get my full 7 – 8 hours of deep REM sleep, that is more important than anything. It just means my productive hours get pushed back a bit. So what?

      This is a bonus b/c I’ve been battling the demons of insomnia for the past few months, and I used to drop the hammer of shame on myself every morning when I had to sleep in to compensate for a restless night.

      Good to take the ole pressure to have the “perfect” morning routine off. We’re humans.

      We still have to wear our silly meat suits, and take care of them if we want to function at our best. That is, until the day comes that we can upload our brains into a giant supercomputer. A boy can dream!

      Good read, Karen.

      1. YES! I realised that, despite my rampage against perfection, I was trying to do it myself with my morning routine. I don’t need to have a perfect morning routine. I just need to get a good start on the day, and no amount of arbitrary ‘rules’ can help with that.

    3. Still working on figuring out my most productive morning routine. I’m trying to find the perfect balance between striving for self-improvement and avoiding self-hatred by not accepting my limitations.

      I am never going to wake up and exercise unless there is a zombie apocalypse. Even then, I might just go back to sleep and hope it’s all over soon.

      Sometimes I wake up at 8am without an alarm and working by 9! Other times I wake up reluctantly at 9am with an alarm blaring outside the door (because if it’s in the room I tend to just reset it for later and go back to sleep. Don’t judge me.) and dick around on my phone for two hours. On those days, I try to forgive myself and move on instead of fretting over how I’ll never be a Responsible Adult.

      The important thing is that I feel accomplished at the end of the day. As long as I get stuff done it’s all good, even if I don’t start working until later than is “normal” or whatever.

      1. Victoria, I love that in a zombie apocalypse, getting up and exercising would become a priority of yours. Hahaha. You are awesome.

      2. Also, just stop using an alarm! I refuse to use them except in emergencies (i.e. I have an early flight or Skype call).

    4. This sounds so familiar! I’ve been preoccupied with this lately too. Although with two small children I have no problem waking up… But using that first bit of the morning productively is so important for me as it’s when my brain is the most creative and useful.

      I used to try and get a few chores done first thing so the pile of dirty laundry didn’t end up bugging me for the rest of the day, but found it was just an excuse for a bit of procrastination and the time just slipped away. Now I aim to do a 90 minute chunk of my top priority project work which seems to get me on the right track for a productive day (the laundry can wait!).

      The next thing to work on is my serious 3am browsing habit…. going to try and cope with my phone on the other side of the room tonight.

      Looking forward to hearing how the exercise challenge went!

      1. Starting your day with a 90-minute chunk of top priority work is an excellent idea, Fiona! I always have a good day when I do that.

        I usually keep my phone in a different room at night since I moved into my new flat. Definitely kills the 3am browsing habit!

    5. Hey Karen!

      In order to start my day off in a great place, mentally and spiritually, I’ve found meditation to be the shiz! Even as little as 20 minutes can have a HUGE impact on the quality of my day. Our minds are always in overdrive, with a 1,000 things begging for our attention all at once. Add to that the voice within, that never fails to remind you of all the shit you need to check off of your “to-do” list, and you have a recipe for a nice, steaming bowl of frustration and anxiety to start the day. Letting go of it all, and just focusing on breathing in and out, can calm the rough waters of your mind and prepare you to tackle the challenges of the day.

      Take 20 minutes for yourself in the morning. That “to-do” list will still be there when you’re finished. And, you’ll be ready to kick its ass.


      1. Nice! Thanks for sharing, Michael. Meditation is not something I’ve done, but it is something I’ve thought about trying in the future. Right now I’m writing first thing in the morning – just stream of consciousness stuff. I wonder if it has a similar effect of calming the mind and preparing it for the day ahead, as I feel like I’m getting everything ‘out’, so to speak.

    6. I meditate 20m, eat breakfast, read for 30m and get to work.

      I also don’t make myself get up at the same time every morning. I’d like to be up at 6:30 but it just doesn’t happen sometimes and I’m cool with it. I read your post on being an incompetent asshole without sleep and it RESONATED with me–I’ve always felt it pointless to struggle through work tired. So I let myself sleep most of the time.

      Also, I tried doing the exercising in the morning thing but I realized I hated it (not only bc of what you mentioned, takes forever to get your day started) because I like to be calm and peaceful in the morning. Like a silent warrior-type mentality, ready to make the day my bitch. Exercising in the morning feels like an unpleasant way to force my body to get all amped up. And I LOVE running, but I do it right before lunch now, every day. That routine suits me way better.

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