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How to make the most of your morning
If you want to have a good day, start when you wake up
For many of us, mornings are the busiest times of our day. Whether you’re the kind of person who answers three emails before you brush your teeth or the kind who puts in an hour-long run before the sun rises or the kind who hits their snooze button on their alarm clock umpteen times, a lot of us have a lot to do. And that goes double for parents and caregivers, many of whom are managing other people’s mornings in addition to their own.
How can you get everything done and still have a good day?
Making the most of your morning routine takes a little planning ahead and a lot of flexibility. It also requires you to ask yourself what you want to get out of your mornings — and how you can use your limited morning hours to achieve those larger goals, and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Some people want to use their mornings to meditate and exercise. Others want to use the time to build a side hustle before leaving for their 9-5 (whether that’s in an office or if you’re still working from home). Many parents dream of relaxed mornings that allow them to bond with their children over breakfast — and everyone wants a morning where they don’t feel rushed.
With that in mind, we asked three time management experts how they handle their mornings, how their morning habits have changed over time, and what they do when their mornings don’t go as planned.
- Jocelyn Michelle Reaves is a healthcare executive turned entrepreneur who helps small-business owners balance work and life.
- Nicole Beauchamp is a Senior Global Real Estate Advisor and Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker with Engel & Völkers, using market trends to help her clients achieve their goals.
- Laura Vanderkam is an author and speaker with a focus on productivity, parenting and making time for what matters.
Here are our questions — and their answers.
In this article:
How do you manage your mornings?
Reaves: I think that a productive morning starts with an effective nighttime routine. To ensure that I’m ready to turn-down on time, I follow the 10-3-2-1 approach. This means:
- 10 hours before bed: stop drinking coffee
- 3 hours before bed: stop drinking alcohol/eating food (tea and water are okay)
- 2 hours before bed: stop working for the day
- 1 hour before bed: no more screen time (put away your phones, tablets, and computers for the day)
Following this technique helps ensure that both my mind and body are prepared for winding down to ensure optimal functioning in the morning. Before heading to sleep each night I map out my top 3-5 priorities for the next day and integrate those priorities into my schedule using time-boxing. After exercising and meditating each morning, I check my email and see whether any agenda items have come up that might cause a change to my schedule. After that it’s time to get to work!
Beauchamp: I aim to start my mornings off with a morning meditation and a workout after which I would start to tackle the day and get lost in emails/my calendar. For many years that meant getting to the gym by 5:30 AM. During the pandemic, I began to work out at home (beyond my morning stretching).
I try to set up my plan for the day the night before, and on Sunday evenings generally speaking I try to pre-plan most of the week. Particularly important when my early mornings often include conference calls and meetings with colleagues or clients who are in different time zones.
Vanderkam: The first part of my mornings is mostly about getting kids out the door to school. If things are going well, I get the chance to interact with each of my five kids in sequence in a calm way. Mornings don’t always go like that (two kids missed the bus this morning…) but that is the goal.
After I start work around 8:30 I tend to start my day with writing a blog post, reading 10 pages in my Jane Austen project (I’m reading through all her works over the course of the year), and writing a few lines in my sonnet-a-week project. I like to have a year-long reading project and a year-long writing project going on, and those tend to be morning rituals for me.
How have your mornings changed over time?
Reaves: I’ve been mapping out my priorities for years now, but sometimes I’d find that I would wake up and still feel tired or overwhelmed in the morning. Implementing the 10-3-2-1 technique has helped me prepare my mind for for sleep and facilitate a better balance so that I am invigorated and eager to take on the day ahead because I’ve truly had a break by not working up until the hour I go to sleep, and by allowing my body the opportunity to slowly wind down.
Beauchamp: I no longer read a physical paper. I have added a long walk with my dog, before the sun rises, so that I am out as the sun is rising over the horizon, and it has been a fantastic addition for me and the dog. Instead of rushing to get in a quick 10-minute walk, we are able to spend as much as two hours on a nice long walk, a real treat during the work week.
Vanderkam: Mornings naturally change over time as people’s lives change. Whenever you see someone talking about their morning rituals or routines, keep in mind that this is a snapshot in time. If you have a kid or get a puppy or change jobs or move or anything else, life will change.
What do you do when your morning doesn’t go as planned?
Reaves: Life happens and my day doesn’t always go as planned. When that happens I do my best to just go with the flow. When unexpected things get in the way, you’ll still manage to tackle your top priorities, or the things that are most important. Many days are a juggling act where you have to consider: what are the balls that I can drop today, and what balls must I continue to juggle?
Beauchamp: I try to reset, or quickly move to something I know I can quickly accomplish, to give myself a “small win” that can help get my day back on track.
Vanderkam: Just regroup and keep going! The good news is that there is always another morning tomorrow. Morning by morning we can keep trying to make a little bit of progress on bigger goals.
About Nicole Dieker
Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.Read more by Nicole Dieker
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.
Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus
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