3 Elements for a Killer Morning Routine

How to create your ideal morning routine.

It took me a long time to get to a place where I enjoy the morning. I was a perpetual night owl, even after my kids were born. I woke up every morning wishing that I could stay in bed just a little longer.

Eventually I realized that staying up late and waking to the sounds of my kids getting up wasn’t working. I hate to say it, but I was often grumpy and snappy in the morning until I’d had a chance to fully wake up.

It’s hard to open your eyes to immediate demands, even if they come from someone unable to meet their own needs. I didn’t like that I sometimes felt resentful that my children had woken me up. In yet another example of God’s perfect timing, that’s when I discovered Hello Mornings.

I found a community of moms who felt just like I did. They didn’t want to be grouches, dragging themselves out of bed in the morning. Just like me, they wanted to greet their babies with smiles and hugs. So I retired my night owl tendencies (mostly) and worked to create my ideal morning routine.

Do you want to make your own mornings more effective and pleasant?? Here’s what I do:

1 | I wake up early.

If there’s one element that has been a game changer for my morning outlook, it’s getting up before my kids. Sometimes I’m only up 15 or 20 minutes before my oldest, who typically wakes around 6:30, but it really makes a huge difference.

The key to getting up ahead of my family is getting to bed at a reasonable time. I am a sleeper. Just ask my husband. Most nights I get about 8 to 8 ½ hours of sleep. If I get less than that, I either need a nap or a second cup of coffee.

Once you figure out the time you plan to wake up, count backwards the number of hours of sleep you need. That’s your bedtime goal. For me, I set my alarm for 6:00 so I’m usually lights out by 10:00pm. That might seem really early to some people, but it works for me so that I feel rested and ready to get up in the morning.

Start slow. Try getting up 15 minutes earlier than normal. After a few days, try 20 minutes. Keep working incrementally until you’re at your ideal wake time.

2 | I’m intentional with my time.

The idea behind getting up before your kids is that you start the day with intention. Waking up ahead of schedule means that you have time to do something for YOU before you have to do anything for your family.

The first thing I do when I come downstairs is make my coffee. I actually wake up looking forward to it. Am I the only one who does this?!

After I’ve got my coffee, I sit down with my Bible, journal, and my Bible study. I spend anywhere from 20-45 minutes soaking up some good study time. If I don’t do my quiet time in the morning, it just doesn’t happen, no matter how good my intentions might be.

I can feel a difference in my day when I spend even a short time reading my Bible and devoting time to studying God’s word. I’m calmer, more at peace, and more aligned with God’s direction when I start my day with even a short time in the Word.

If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other ways to get your day off to a good start. Journaling, reading, yoga, and meditation are all ideas for purposeful self care first thing in the morning.

3 | I assess the rest of my day.

On Sunday, I map out the week so I can see all my appointments, kids activities, and important dates ahead of time. Each morning I review what’s on the schedule for the day.

It helps me remember any time commitments, and I also write down tasks that need to be done. Before I launch into the day, I have a good idea of what it’s going to look like.

In the past, I wrote things on a monthly calendar, which I still do. But if for some reason I didn’t look at the calendar in the morning, a commitment or appointment might slip through the cracks. Now I’m just taking some time to refresh my memory so this doesn’t happen.

Having a routine to start off my morning improved my attitude, not only as a mom, but personally as well. I no longer dread the sound of my alarm. Actually I’m often already starting to wake up before the alarm goes off. If you struggle in the mornings (and you have kids who sleep through the night most of the time,) developing a morning routine can be a huge improvement.

One final reason I truly believe in the power of my morning routine… if I’ve been off the regular pattern for a few days, I look forward to getting back to it. Even if I’ve been on vacation, I’m still excited to put my habits back in place. To me, that says it all.

What does your morning routine look like??

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How to Create White Space in Your Life

Be purposeful with your weekly commitments and responsibilities so that you can create white space in your schedule. This allows time for rest and self care.

I’ve been on a productivity and time management reading binge lately. Part of my interest stems from the goal-setting process I went through before the year began. Using Power Sheets for the first time opened my eyes to a lot of my own behavior patterns.

Looking back at what worked last year and what didn’t work, I was able to see that time management is an area where I really want to grow and improve. I have an abundance of time, but I can be a very poor steward of those hours.

While you may not feel like you have plenty of time to accomplish all you need, you probably recognize that there is some time in your life that gets squandered. I don’t believe that every minute of the day should be productive. However, I also know that I waste far more time than I’d like to admit.

What is White Space?

If we use our time wisely, it creates the opportunity for what I call “white space” in our weekly schedule. Some call it “margin” or “breathing room” or simply “free time.” The idea is the same. We need to have time available for rest and self care so that we don’t burn out.

Be purposeful with your weekly commitments and responsibilities so that you can create white space in your schedule. This allows time for rest and self care.

In the same way that the white space in this image allows you to focus more clearly on the different elements, white space in your schedule gives you the opportunity to find rest so that you can more easily concentrate on your priorities.

Related: Self Care – What, Why and How?

Far too often, I see moms who don’t feel as though they can prioritize their own needs. It seems selfish or like it just won’t fit into their schedule. They’re so used to worrying about everyone else that they don’t leave any room for themselves.

Here’s a little tough love: we often use the excuse that we don’t have time for certain activities when the truth is that we don’t make time for those things. Being a mom is a round-the-clock job. If we let it, the demands on our time and energy will be all-consuming. It’s up to us to find time to recharge our batteries.

How to create white space

You might be thinking, “how on earth am I supposed to make time for myself when I can barely keep up with the needs of my family?” Trust me when I say that I get this. It can be incredibly hard to carve time out of a busy schedule for something that doesn’t seem like a necessity.

But in this case, attitude is half the battle. If you don’t believe that you deserve time to rest, recharge, or invest in your own interests, then you will struggle to find the time. On the other hand, if you recognize that you can’t do all the things without some time of your own, then you will make white space a priority.

Here are the 5 steps I take to make sure that I carve out white space in my schedule so I don’t end up feeling exhausted and overburdened.

1 | Determine static commitments in your schedule.

Some elements of your weekly calendar are consistent the majority of the time. Aside from vacations and snow days, the kids are at school for the same duration each week. Music lessons, sports practices, and clubs generally meet at the same times. If you work outside the home, you most likely have some regularity to the hours you spend at your job.

Enter these static time commitments into your calendar first since they are the most predictable. Since there’s less (or no) flexibility in these activities, you’ll need to work around them.

2 | Schedule time for other responsibilities.

Aside from static commitments, we all have responsibilities that require our time each week. Household duties like cleaning, grocery shopping, and meal prep all demand our attention.

Make a list of all of the extra responsibilities you need to address in a normal week. Then divide these tasks into 3 categories: cleaning, errands, and personal.

Cleaning and errands are self-explanatory. Personal tasks might include things like exercise or daily Bible study or journaling.

Now put these tasks into your weekly schedule. For example, Sunday might be when you plan your weekly menu and grocery shop. Monday could be the day you vacuum. A less structured option is to schedule a block of time each day for household tasks.

The idea is to have these responsibilities worked into your schedule so that you know when you actually have time available for white space activities.

3 | Block out time for white space.

It might seem counterintuitive to schedule “free” time. But, the reality is that if we aren’t purposeful about planning time to rest, we often don’t do it at all.

White space doesn’t need to be hours and hours or every day. Planning 30 minutes to eat lunch and read a book in peace is a perfectly good way to recharge for me. Mindlessly scrolling on social media is not. It’s not that I don’t like to do it. It just isn’t what refuels my tank.

When you know that the rest of your commitments and responsibilities are accounted for in your schedule, you’re less likely to feel guilty about doing something for yourself. Having coffee with a friend is much more pleasant when you aren’t feeling like you should be doing x, y or z.

4 | How to Find time in a busy schedule.

If you put down your static commitments and your extra responsibilities, and you don’t see any additional time, there are a couple things to think about.

Are there activities that you’re committing to that bring you zero fulfillment? Saying no to an opportunity might be hard in the moment, but beneficial in the long run. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s also too easy to spread ourselves thin.

While you can’t say no to raising your children, you don’t have to be on every fundraising committee at school. Just because someone asks does not mean you have to say yes if it means giving up your only free morning.

Another trick I use is to make otherwise wasted time more beneficial or enjoyable. Instead of just watching my kids’ 40 minute karate class, I pop in headphones and listen to a podcast. It makes the time pass in a more interesting way where exactly zero participation is required from me as a parent. I do the same when I’m in the car running errands.

When my kids were home full time, we had a babysitter come every other Friday. She arrived in the afternoon so I could have a couple hours on my own. Then my husband would come home from work and we’d go out for a date night. Yes, it cost money, but it was worth it. Swapping time with another mom is a great option if you’re on a tight budget or don’t have family nearby to help.

5 | Focus during your white space.

My final tip is to make sure that when you go through the steps to block out white space in your schedule, use it wisely. Don’t channel surf or scroll through social media unless that is truly what recharges your batteries.

Don’t do “just one more thing” around the house that eats into the time you’ve allocated. While you’re in charge of your own schedule, we all know how quickly those little things add up. Give yourself permission to use that time for you.

This is a sample of my weekly schedule:

Be purposeful with your weekly commitments and responsibilities so that you can create white space in your schedule. This allows time for rest and self care.

Pink is for free time, personal responsibilities, or time with my husband. Yellow is time primarily devoted to kid-related stuff, although dinner technically falls under family time. Purple is for work/blog-related tasks and household duties. Green is family time. Blue is sleep.

I purposely kept the descriptions vague so that it would be easier to envision your own life broken into these categories. Obviously they sometimes overlap. Saturday and Sunday include household tasks, date nights, and kids’ activities on a regular basis. However, those days are typically spent together as a family in some capacity.

Also, remember that this is a work in progress for me too. I don’t stick to a rigid schedule every day. Mapping out my week is my attempt to stay focused and purposeful about how I spend my time.

If you’ve been struggling to get things done, this might help you as well. Think of it as a game plan for the week. It’s not going to go perfectly, but it provides a starting point.

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Revive Your Goals in 4 Steps

Four easy steps to revive your goals when motivation has stalled.

It’s only a month into the new year, and studies show that 90% of resolutions and goals have already been cast aside. The excitement of a clean slate has worn off and motivation has stalled. Maybe you already feel defeated, but you can still revive your goals for this year!

Even if you’ve completely fallen off the wagon, there’s no reason why you can’t achieve the plans you set out for the year. As Lara Casey of Cultivate What Matters says, “There is nothing magical about January.” You don’t have to start on January 1st to reach your goals.

I’ll be the first to say that accomplishing goals is hard, especially if you’ve got big goals. It takes commitment, perseverance, and focus to keep moving forward.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the biggest challenge for me is sticking to it when I’m seeing really slow progress. Our attention span as a society is getting shorter all the time. We’re used to getting answers at the click of a button. So when progress is minimal, we get anxious to see those bigger results.

How do you reignite that motivation you felt when you were mapping out all those awesome goals? How do you recognize even the smallest steps forward as movement in the right direction?

Here are 4 steps to get you fired up to revive your goals:

1 | Reflect on the past month.

If you’re feeling a little let down by how quickly you let go of your ambitions, it’s a good idea to first examine where you lost sight of the path.

What worked well as you jump-started your goals this past month? Maybe you had strategies in place to get you started off on the right foot. Maybe you did prep work ahead of time. Take a look at the ways you initially set yourself up for success.

Then look at what didn’t work. Did you start giving in to small temptations that snowballed into giving up altogether? Maybe you stopped doing those daily action steps that makes a giant goal feel manageable.

By pinpointing where you lost your motivation, you can more clearly see what steps you need to take to get back on track. But by looking at what worked well, you’ll remember the progress you did make.

2 | Revisit your priorities.

If you didn’t do so before you laid out your goals, make a list of your priorities. What truly matters to you right now? Where do you want your focus to be aimed?

Don’t worry about what you think your priorities should be. If you try to direct your focus on an area just because you think you should, your heart won’t be in it. It’s a better use of your time and energy to be honest about what you really want.

Once you have your priority list, look at your goals and make sure they align with your priorities. If one of your priorities is financial stability, then a goal to travel more might not make sense. However, a goal to save money for a specific trip or future travel is still in line with that priority.

I recently heard that your intention matters much more than your level of discipline when it comes to reaching goals. If you have an important reason/priority behind your goal, you’re much more likely to be committed and willing to make changes in order to succeed.

3 | Refine your action steps.

Be specific about the action plan for accomplishing your goals. If you were too vague when you initially mapped out a plan for reaching a specific goal, refine the steps you need to take in order to succeed.

“Lose weight” is not measurable so it gives you less direction. “Lose 10lbs by June 1st” not only gives you a set definition of success, but also makes it easier to set benchmarks along the way. Your action plan can include losing 2.5lbs per month.

4 | Add specific action items to your weekly/daily calendar.

Once you have your action plan nailed down, add set action items to your calendar. Using the example above, one of the action items might be checking your weight every Monday morning. Another might be adding certain classes at the gym into your schedule.

By putting clear-cut tasks into your calendar, you’re setting yourself up for success. Instead of a casual idea in your mind about exercising regularly, you’re eliminating the mental energy that it takes to find the time and place to do so.

Checking off those action items on your schedule or to-do list gives you a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to keep moving forward towards your goal.

Remember to recognize your small achievements. Progress doesn’t have to be monumental to matter. Use these strategies to get back on track so that you’ll be able to really celebrate when you finally reach your goal!

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Dealing with Mom Guilt & 4 Ways to Let it Go

Why does mom guilt hit so hard and what can we do to overcome the feeling that we just don't measure up?

Being a mom is hard. Let’s just be honest about it. It’s amazing and joyful and fun and tender and rewarding. It’s also demanding, tiring, and overwhelming at times. We work so hard to be excellent moms, but sometimes we succumb to mom guilt anyway. Why does mom guilt hit so hard and what can we do to overcome the feeling that we just don’t measure up?

Too Much Comparison

Our ability to compare ourselves to other moms is at an all-time high. With social media running rampant in our every day lives, it’s no wonder we don’t see the merit of our work when we’re constantly watching how everyone else does it.

We’ve gotten to a point where we subconsciously assume we can and should do anything we see someone else do. You guys, this is pointless and ridiculous!

Our time is much better spent investing in our own passions and interests than trying to be good at everything. We each have unique gifts and talents for a reason.

Unrealistic Expectations

The unfair expectations we put on ourselves can easily turn our best efforts into a crushing disappointment. I shared about this here, and I believe that we’re happiest and most successful when we set realistic goals for ourselves.

I hate running. It’s not something I’m interested in doing or find value in, so there’s no reason that one of my life goals should be to run a marathon. Just because I’m inspired by someone on Instagram who’s training to run 26 miles doesn’t mean I need to do the same.

Taking on too much

Right alongside comparing ourselves and setting unrealistic expectations is the problem of taking on more than we can handle.

I just spent an amazing weekend away with my three best friends. One has two kiddos and works as an ER nurse; one works full time and is step-mom to a teenage boy; one works from home with three littles and two step-kids. I’m a stay-at-home mom to two kiddos. We’re all different, but none of us is doing it all. every. single. day.

When we try to do everything all the time, we end up exhausted. When we think we should do everything all the time, we end up feeling guilty when we can’t live up to our own benchmarks.

4 Tips to Overcome mom guilt

Set Reasonable expectations

I don’t know why, but sometimes it’s hard to accept the fact that I can’t do everything.

Some days I feel like Superwoman, accomplishing so much. Other days, I feel like the only way I could have been less productive is if I never got out of bed.

Most days fall somewhere in between. Moms juggle a lot of responsibilities and we need to learn to cut ourselves a break when things don’t go entirely as planned.

ask for help

I’ll be honest; this one is hard for me. Because I’m a SAHM and my husband is the breadwinner, it’s hard for me to delegate certain jobs to him.

I feel guilty asking him to do more than he’s already doing because not only does he work hard, he’s very involved in taking care of the kids.I also feel prideful about being able to take care of things on my own.

My pride fools me into thinking it’s better for me to be exhausted than to admit that I can’t do it all alone.

There’s nothing shameful about asking for help when you feel overwhelmed. I’m saying this as much to myself as to anyone else. We all have limits and the days don’t always go as we planned.

Last year, I was in charge of teacher appreciation week for my son’s kindergarten class. One of the responsibilities was decorating the classroom door. I was out of town the weekend prior, and when I got home later than planned, I had to race up to school to get it done. I was frazzled when I could have easily delegated the decorating to any number of creative parents in our class.

Invest in friendships with other moms

Being able to share my struggles and shortcomings with other moms helps me stay grounded. In relating with one another, we’re able to see that we all fall short sometimes.

Having a safe space to confess my deepest insecurities about motherhood not only prevents it from building up inside, but it helps me keep it in perspective. Guilt has a lot to do with listening to the negative voice inside that points to our weaknesses and ignores our strengths.

Hearing the words of those who value us counteracts the negative and points to the truth that we are a balance of strength and weakness.

Get on your knees

The best way I can let go of my guilt is to ask God to take it away. Rather than listening to that negative voice that tells me I’m failing, I’m able to hear the truth that I need to find my worth in God alone.

Does this mean I don’t want to be a good mom? Of course not. But instead of seeing my value in the precarious quest of “being a good mom,” I entrust my self-worth in the unwavering love of God.

My self-esteem often depends on my accomplishments, but God sees me as his beloved child, regardless of whether I did all the laundry or put a nice dinner on the table.

Don’t let mom guilt distract you from the amazing job you’re doing! It’s difficult to avoid, but not impossible to overcome.

Why does mom guilt hit so hard and what can we do to overcome the feeling that we just don't measure up?
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How to Spend Your Time Wisely

Some days my house is spotless, but I’ve barely had a spare minute to do anything else. Other days are packed with fun, but our home looks like a bomb went off. Our family goes through seasons of busyness and periods of calm, and our days rarely feel perfectly balanced. Going through life as a family will always bring extra responsibilities and expectations into the mix. My mindset during this time: embrace the chaos, but don’t invite it in.

Spend your time wisely by making decisions that reflect your priorities.

Life moves in seasons

From the time babies are born, they constantly move from one phase to the next. Just as you feel that you’ve figured out one new behavior, they continue on to the next. A few days after we brought our first baby home, one of our good friends left us a hilariously encouraging message saying, “So right about now, your biggest question is: where the heck is the manual for this thing?” It was 100% true. Even at 6 and 9, my kids still go through periods that have us wondering how best to parent them. I have no doubt that some of the trickiest phases are still ahead of us in the teenage years.

The good news is that these phases are typically short-lived. A busy time in our family pulls us in many directions, but is often followed by a period of rest. Just as the harvest is often the busiest time for a farmer, afterward he is able to enjoy the result of his hard work. This is never more true for me than during the Christmas season. I put in a lot of extra time shopping, planning, wrapping presents, and decorating our house so that we can enjoy the celebration together. By doing the work ahead of time, I’m able to relish the joy of Christmas with my family.

Make your “yes” meaningful

Ecclesiastes 3:9-10, 12-13 says, “What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with…I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always “take pleasure in all my toil.” I’m thankful that we have food on the table, but I’m not exactly thrilled by another trip to the grocery store. These verses remind us that God did not intend for us to sit around all day. After God created the first man and woman, He gave them responsibilities. Our time on Earth is meant to be productive. In order to be joyful about my work, I have to be careful about how I manage my time.

In The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst writes, “The decisions we make dictate the schedules we keep. The schedules we keep determine the lives we live. The lives we live determine how we spend our souls. So this isn’t just about finding time. This is about honoring God with the time we have.” (p.23) If we’re constantly running on empty, we’re not honoring anyone with our time, no matter how many commitments or jobs we can check off our list. Being busy may be culturally appropriate, but it doesn’t allow our souls to thrive.

Obviously there are times when we can’t help but be busy. Sometimes my kids have back to back school performances or events scheduled at the same time. I’m not talking about that type of accidental overcommitment. I’m talking about when we stretch ourselves too thin by saying yes when we should be saying no. By turning down commitments that we know will drain our time and energy, even though they might be fun, helpful, or worthwhile tasks, we are saying yes to our own well-being and that of our families. In this way, we’re not inviting chaos into our lives without purpose.

Making purposeful decisions about your time helps find balance and allows you to use your time well.

Making purposeful decisions about your time

How can we acknowledge the reality that family life can be busy without surrendering control of our time? By making purposeful decisions about how we use our time. Instead of committing to projects on a whim, we have to think honestly about what it entails. Here are three things to remember before you take on another commitment for yourself or your family.

Don’t underestimate the requirements. How much time will you need to devote to this task, event or activity? I often over-simplify tasks in my head and end up overwhelmed when a project requires more time than I planned. It’s hard to say no to something you genuinely want to do, but if it demands more time or energy than you have to give, it will quickly become a burden rather than a blessing.

Manage your expectations & those of your family. This goes hand in hand with the previous point. There’s a conference I want to attend in a few months, but it falls on the same weekend as a father-son camping trip. Before I make my decision, I need to discuss the timing with my husband, and also plan childcare for our daughter. To make a decision without considering the impact on my family would be disrespectful and potentially problematic.

Count the cost. My daughter takes a dance class once a week. She enjoys the class and rarely has to pass up other activities because the time commitment is minimal. We’re not going to sign her up for a highly competitive dance program requiring several practices a week because she doesn’t have the necessary passion for dance. If an activity or project is going to stretch the demands on your time, you need to make sure it’s worth it.

As a mom, I often feel like I need to be all things to all people. The truth is it’s just not possible. If we want to be able to enjoy the harvest, we can’t be responsible for sowing the seeds everywhere at all times. At some point, something’s gotta give. We have to make decisions that allow the best use of our time for ourselves, our families and for what God is calling us to do.

 

{Linking up to A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Thoughtful Thursdays, Salt & Light}

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