My Morning Routine
I've always been laughed at for my pursuit of order and routine in my life. It's understandable to an extent, given my perfectionism tended to drive it up to 11 and in turn drive me miserable when I failed. However, I still believe it's a good thing to aim for, especially in the mornings. Just maybe dial down the ambition a little.
It's not exactly a new concept, but having a routine in place where I'm checking off positive habits whilst working around my non-optional obligations makes a dramatic difference on my day in pretty much every way. At my absolutely worst, I'm waking up around 8am, meaning I have to rush the toilet, weigh myself, hurriedly wake up the wife who could sleep for England, whilst takin the dog for a walk, and maybe get a cup of tea and breakfast before work, but more than likely not.
This sucks, in every way. I feel terrible for rushing around, my brain set to emergency fire fighting. I've had little to no time to actually wake up, but instead have rushed straight into the day, and I've had no time to myself before going into a work day of meetings and tickets and stress to go on top of my immediately stress. By lunch, I'm knackered; by about 3pm, I'm exhausted; by 5pm, I'm completely done for and am barely functional through the evening.
This sounds like an exaggeration, like I'm trying to justify my efforts to plan and control my every moment, but it's true. In fact, I know it's true because I ran the experiment for a month. No routine, no care about when I wake up or how, other than by 8am the latest in order to make sure the wife gets up and I walk the dog. It sucked. It was massively detrimental to my mental and physical health, and I didn't feel any better for the lay in.
One of the reasons I've been feeling a bit lost recently is a lack of that routine. It was one of the reasons I was determined to give time tracking another go, and the results of that have been pretty illuminating. On an average day through March, my morning has gone something like this:
- 6:30am: wake up, turn off alarm on iPad and take it downstairs with me
- 6:30am to 7am: browse web on iPad. Reddit, BBC News, Apple News, email newsletters, check Bear analytics.
- 7am to 7:10am: toilet, made longer by grabbing my phone and playing chess
- 7:10am to 7:30am: back to iPad, where I'm becoming more aware that I should do something, and that the iPad is starting to fuel my lethargy and feeling of being stuck on the sofa, but that changes nothing. It's got me.
- 7:30am to 7:55am: finally put down the iPad, do 20 minutes of yoga, then browse the web again. Nothing has changed, but still. Few more minutes of dopamine.
- 7:55am to 8:10am: make the wife tea, nudge her awake, set her alarms.
- 8:10am to about 8:40am, depending on the dog: walkies, then dry off paws and get treat
- 8:40am to 9am: breakfast, maybe play with the dog before work, depending on how much energy I have left.
Ample room for improvement, methinks.
Problem one is overdoing it. What I want and what I need are two very different things.
What I want is:
- 20 minutes of yoga
- 30-40 minutes at the gym plus 5/10 minutes on a quick shower and getting ready for the day
- 10 minutes meditation and/or prayer
- 30 minutes reading and/or studying (philosophy, work based stuff, hobby related, etc), or writing the blog/other ideas I've had on the back burner
- Cook and eat healthy breakfast (let's say 20 minutes, including clean up)
- Walk the dog for about 20 minutes; wake the wife for about 10.
Not impossible given the timings. If I wake up at 6:30, this should take me right up to 9am. That's where the allure is; in a hypothetical ideal world, I should be able to fit this all in and achieve it, so what's stopping me if not myself?
Well, reality for a start. Waking up at 6:30 every morning is actually the easiest part. I've been managing that for a few weeks now. But waking up one morning is not the same as waking up another; my sleep might be more disturbed, or else I might have eaten too late due to other commitments the night before, or even just plain biology making me groggier than other days, meaning I don't have the brain power for the studying or the energy for the gym first thing.
Plus, in the real world, I need to go the office once a week because reasons, which means I need to fit everything in my 8am in order to time my commute. Not happening with the above list and timings.
This is my first stumbling block. If I can't have it all, why try at all?
I want to take a quick sidebar around the non-optional obligations, because I'm aware of how it might be sounding when I say that I have to ensure the wife wakes up in the morning.
My wife deals with chronic pain as a result of the dozens of surgeries she's had to have over her life. We've explored many theories behind it, and think that a definitive one has been produced: a piece of scar tissue from a surgery impacting her salivary gland, causing flare ups of swelling and pain.
On a good day, she can deal with it with just paracetamol. On a bad one, she needs codiene. The pain differs from day to day but usually leaves her exhausted by the end of it and in need of a long, long sleep. On the weekend, she usually gets around 12 hours of sleep each day. If I left her, she'd happily and easily sleep the entire day away.
Now, yes, she could set her own alarms, and get up on her own accord, but just as I need a good start to my day to kick start my mood, so does she. The routine is easy enough - make tea, set up her phone alarms, open the curtains, nudge her up, get dog ready and hyped up for walkies. She's not exactly ecstatic to be woken up to face the day, but she's always happier when I do it with a nice cup of tea by her side, and anything I can do to make her life better and her mood happier I will.
Else, what am I doing being married to her?
The sleepiness and the pain means she's useless that first hour of waking up though, so it's on me to walk the dog, which is great. I usually have the energy, and watching the dog walk is a pretty good mindfulness exercise, so I'm more than happy to. Plus, it means I get more playtime with him, especially when he has to sit and watch us work all day. Good feels all around.
Okay, that's out of the way. Back to the routine.
So what I want isn't totally out of the question, but how I want it definitely is. What do?
First, accept that however long I think a thing will take me to do will be wrong. It will almost always be longer. One of the bigger takeaways from the time tracking so far has been that 3 to 5 minute I think I'm spending on the toilet each time playing chess or browsing Reddit is actually closer to 10 to 15 minutes, even 20+ on rare occasions. The more tired I am, the longer I'll sit there in inertia, way past my business being concluded.
Similarly, if I'm going to go back to making breakfasts, it's realistically going to take longer than even the 20 minutes prescribed above. I've started making my lunches on the day some days, usually just a simple pasta salad with sautéed tomatoes, kale, and panchetta. About 10 minutes to cook, 10 minutes to eat, and maybe 10 minutes to clean up. I could easily expect even a simple eggs and spinach breakfast to are that long too.
Second, lets trim back to the essentials. What do I absolutely need in my daily routine?
- Yoga - my body is a stiff mess, and even a couple of days of missed yoga has an effect on my lower back, hips, and crotch.
- Meditation/prayer - this is as much a mindset healer as it is a spiritual one. A few minutes of prayer and mindful reflection is a game changer for me.
- Writing - one of the big things to come out of this 50,000 words experiment has been how beneficial this daily writing habit has come to be.
- Breakfast - gotta eat somehow.
- Quick planning - missed from my ideal state, because I assume that if everything is routined right, the planning takes care of itself. Not so in an non-ideal world.
So, reading and studying is non-essential (at least for the mornings), and cutting them out of the loop and focusing purely on writing will actually help improve consistency. Good start, right?
I could do with more physical exercise (topic for tomorrow's post, perhaps), but I need yoga in my daily life. Even two days without it leaves my body feeling tight and stuff, and I feel like I'm constantly adjusting through the day.
Meditation sessions on Waking Up have a set time, so that's easy enough to time box. Failing that, I can just use their timer. Prayer is a little more vague, but since my Crisis of Faith post I've been praying again, taking about five minutes per go. Enough to use that as a rough idea.
I don't think I'm going to be aiming for 1,667 words daily long term, but will be for the next couple of weeks. It takes about an hour to an hour and a half to get through depending on the topic and the level of caffeine and distractions I'm consuming, but I can and do chunk it through the day when I'm working. Half hour in the morning seems reasonable then.
So what could that look like for now?
- 6:30am: wake up, go toilet, weigh yourself, don't wait for the magic to happen in the hope that the weight will go down further. Maybe five minutes.
- 6:35am to 6:50am: prayer and meditation.
- 6:50am to 7:10am: yoga.
- 7:10am to 7:30am: breakfast and planning. For now, maybe stick with oatmeal; easily done in the microwave, quick to eat and clean up, and can eat with a notebook/planner next to me
- 7:30am to 8am: writing.
- 8am to 9am: wake the wife, walk the dog
It's still not perfect. For example on commute days, walking the dog will have to take precedence overwriting, but I can catch up on that during the day. It will also need some re-jigging around June when it becomes to hot to walk the dog at 8am. He'll need to go close to 6:30am to beat the sun and the hot pavements.
That, however, ties into the real main improvement opportunity: getting that wake up time down to 6am. It'll give extra time to get some morning cardio in, whilst ensuring I can get the dog walked at the absolute earliest opportunity. This is always easier to do at this time of year; when I was prepping for our wedding back in April/May 2021 and was crushing the gym twice a day, I was waking up at 6am consistently.
It's a longer term change though, not one I can just do overnight without further repercussions. I've already slowly started, reducing my watch alarm to 6:25am. By June, I could probably have it down to 6am consistently every day.
It's weird how much I smiled at writing that. Who gets excited for waking up earlier?
In any event, it looks like I solid base with which to work from. I can't start today, because I've spent what time I would have been doing my routine on writing this post instead.
And if I fail one day or the next, that's okay. Just got to come back to the breath, and re-evaluate. The routine should serve me, not the other way around.
To tomorrow then. Fresh start.
Boy, I cannot wait.
Words - 2,118
Running total - 20,495 (41%, 491 words ahead of target)
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