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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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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Self Care – What, Why and How?

As moms, we work so hard to make everyone happy and to make life go smoothly. We often do the shopping, the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking, and the driving everyone from here to there and back again. We wipe noses, bottoms, and tears.

When we go to bed, we’re so tired, but we can’t sleep because we’re thinking about everything we have to do the next day. We plan parties, playdates, real dates and holiday celebrations. But often we forget to organize time for self care.

What is Self Care? Why is it important? Tips for incorporating self care into your own life.

Self care, very simply put, is taking care of your emotional and physical needs. My daughter once asked me how our local pharmacy employees have time to sleep when the store is open 24/7.

I explained that the employees work in shifts because no one could possibly work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Except that sometimes being a mom feels like that.

Parenting is a round-the-clock job. We’re always on-call. Without taking time for ourselves, eventually our energy runs out, and we start to suffer.

Making time for yourself often feels like the last item on the priority list, but it shouldn’t be. Just like spending time with your spouse or significant other, having time for yourself is not bad or wrong or selfish. It’s necessary to recharge our batteries.

I love my family more than anything, but I need time on my own occasionally, and that doesn’t make me a bad wife or a bad mom. Self care can be as simple as reading a book or as elaborate as a weekend away from home.

Here are some of the ways that I take care of my own needs.

Time With Friends

Whether it’s meeting for breakfast on a Saturday or dessert on a weeknight, I try to meet up with my girlfriends on a fairly regular basis. I crave that time where I can laugh and talk with friends.

It’s important to have times of undistracted conversation, especially if you’re at home with kids full-time. Yes, a playdate for the kids can be a fun time to chat with another mom, but we all know there’s no such thing as a distraction-free conversation when the kids are around.

Bible Study and Book club

I meet with a group of women every other week for Bible study and once a month for a book club, and both are so renewing. We have good conversation and I learn so much. I’ve developed some good friendships too.

If you aren’t interested in a faith-based group, a book club, a cooking class or a yoga class are all great options. The idea is simply a regularly-scheduled purposeful group.

TIME ALONE

For those of us with an introverted side, time spent alone is essential. As much as I love to be with my friends and family, I also need time on my own to fully recharge.

Sometimes I’ll go to the bookstore and browse the shelves. Occasionally I go to a movie alone. I spend a lot of time around other people and sometimes I just need a break from interacting with others.

Weekend away

Each year my three closest girlfriends and I make it a point to have a weekend away together. The kids stay at home with their dads, and we have a weekend of undistracted conversation and fun.

We try to make it a pretty inexpensive trip and just enjoy a lot of “chick chat,” as my husband would say. Having a few days off from all my responsibilities as a wife and mom helps me recharge and regroup. I come back rested, happier and more than ready to be back at home with my family.

My husband and I also try to get at least one full day and night away from home each year. We need that concentrated time to connect apart from navigating the busyness of daily life as a family.

I’m very fortunate to have a husband who makes it possible for me to spend time with my girlfriends or on my own to refuel my tank. I make sure that he gets time with his friends too.

We spend plenty of time as a family and as a couple, but we both understand the importance of being off-duty. If you don’t have a partner that can give you these breaks, consider asking a family member, hiring a sitter, or trading off with another mom.

Just don’t neglect yourself because you think it’s not important!

How do you make time for yourself??

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How to Get Out of a Rut and Into a Routine

Four ways to find balance and get out of a rut.

The past couple months have been busy for our family. Between Mother’s & Father’s Day, my daughter’s birthday, a camping trip, and end-of-school stuff, it’s been pretty crazy. I’ve been productive out of necessity, but it’s completely thrown me off my routine and I’ve been feeling beyond frazzled.

I know I’m not the only one who feels a little less than motivated by this time of year. Jen Hatmaker’s post “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever” will literally validate everything you are thinking about the last month of school when we must do ALL THE THINGS. Field trips, plays, socials, projects. It is thanks only to Amazon Prime that my daughter even had a costume for the second grade play about bugs.

As much as I want to throw in the towel, we all know that’s not reality. We might have said adios to all of our school responsibilities, but we have now entered the all-inclusive entertainment package that is summer break. For a stay-at-home mom, summer break is similar to tax season for an accountant. It’s a whirlwind of activities, sunscreen and a never-ending stream of wet towels.

Thanks to some, umm, gentle prodding from my husband, I’ve had our kids signed up for a handful of day camps since March. In the summer, it doesn’t take long before my little ones are tired of spending every waking minute together. Then the good times stop rolling and the bickering starts. “Referee” is one of my least favorite mom roles so I’m doing everything I can to head this one off at the pass. The quickest way to kill summer break is a tired, cranky mama so I’m working on getting back into my own routine.

So what does that look like exactly? Here are four things I’m doing to take back my sanity.

Get an early start

I really see a difference in my day when I have some time to myself first thing in the morning. Now, if you have a baby who still wakes during the night, you are probably shooting the screen with lasers from your eyes right now at the very suggestion of sacrificing sleep. Before you stop reading, let me be clear that I never did this when my kids were babies. I was taking advantage of every minute of sleep that I could get (and sometimes I still do). My kids are now 5 and 8 which is a completely different season of life and makes this an actual possibility. Take a look at some of my tips for waking up early here.

Get plenty of rest

My habit for a long time was to take advantage of the time after my kids’ bedtime to get things done or have time to myself. Two problems result from this habit. First, it makes getting up early a lot harder and I’m more likely to be tired the next day. I’m not a morning person so waking up even 15 minutes before them means a few sips of coffee, some time to gather my thoughts, and a much happier mom to greet them. The second problem with burning the midnight oil is that it doesn’t leave much time to spend alone with my husband. We need that uninterrupted time to reconnect after a busy day. Whether it’s meaningful conversation or watching tv and quietly unwinding in each other’s presence, it’s important. 

Get moving

Admittedly, this is not my strong point, but getting regular exercise really does make a difference. It took a long time for me to recognize that I feel better overall when I’m getting even 30 minutes a day. Still, when there are a lot of other things competing for my attention, I tend to drop exercise first. I’m trying to get in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning because then there’s not as much risk of plans changing, but this is definitely a work in progress.

Get a break 

One thing that my husband and I have always done is make sure that each of us gets time to recharge. This looks different depending on the phase of life we’re in, but even a couple hours to relax, hang out with friends or just go to the bathroom without someone hammering on the door asking for a snack can be worth it. Too often, we feel guilty for needing time away from our family responsibilities, but raising kids is incredibly demanding. Taking time to do things on my own keeps me from burning out and actually makes me enjoy my kids more.

Whether it’s kids or a job keeping you busy, it’s easy to feel like you have no control over your day. For me, doing even one of these things helps me feel less frazzled and more balanced. A combination of the four makes a huge impact, but trying out even one of these suggestions can help you get into a better routine. When you feel like you’re in charge of your time, it can make all the difference in your overall attitude.

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