I had an appointment with myself at the coffee shop to write, and I was determined to arrive before the crowds. But, as was so often the case, I was running behind schedule.
Rushing to collect my things, I darted around my house like a cat chasing a laser pointer. Laptop—check. Notebook—check. Cell phone—check. I was about to dash out the door when I remembered one last item I needed. As I raced up the stairs to grab it, my heart pounded and my mind buzzed with the stress of another hurried morning.
It wasn’t until I finally arrived at the coffee shop, however, that I realized just how hurried I’d been. As I stepped out of my car, I looked down at my feet. To my dismay, I discovered I’d inadvertently left the house wearing my yard shoes—unattractive slippers I would never purposefully wear in public. Completely embarrassed, I seriously considered returning home to get shoes that coordinated with my outfit.
Reason prevailed and I resisted the urge, but this little episode made me realize something needed to change. Rushing out of the house had been a longstanding problem for me and wearing the wrong shoes wasn’t the only unpleasant consequence. I hated the frazzled feeling that so often followed me out the front door and down the driveway like a swarm of angry bees. Sometimes hurrying caused me to run late, which was embarrassing. Or I would forget important things like my wallet. Standing at a checkout counter and realizing the only currency you have is the handful of quarters at the bottom of your purse is frustrating to say the least. My last minute rushing caused stress not only for myself but also for my husband. If we were driving somewhere together, stress often led to arguments.
FROM PANICKED TO PEACEFUL
For the sake of my own wellbeing as well as my marriage (not to mention my wardrobe), I decided to set aside time to evaluate my morning habits. Double shot Americano in hand, I settled into a corner of the coffee shop and came up with nine steps to transform my morning from panicked to peaceful:
1. I created a mental image of what I want my mornings to look like. Rather than running like I’m being chased by a pack of wild dogs, I pictured myself walking out of the house, tranquil and on time.
2. I reminded myself why it matters. I was hurried and flustered when I left the house that morning. “So what?” I asked. “Why should I bother changing this pattern?” Well, for one, I knew I’d feel better. I’d be calmer and less stressed. I would save time and be more efficient by not running up and down the stairs grabbing last minute items, and I would be less likely to forget important things. Also, I wouldn’t be caught in public wearing ugly shoes.
3. I evaluated and made a list of how I usually spend my time in the mornings. Clearly, I wasn’t managing my time properly. In order to figure out where I was going wrong, I asked: “How did I actually spend my time this morning?” I made a list and came up with this: ate breakfast, exercised, took my vitamins, fed the cats, read the newspaper, printed a draft of an article I was writing, filed my nails, showered, and got dressed. I also listed other things I often find myself doing in the mornings, such as ironing, checking email, painting my nails, and washing dishes.
4. I then sorted the list of my morning activities into two groups: essential and nonessential tasks. As I looked over my list, I realized some of the things slowing me down in the morning could be saved for a later time. For example, painting my nails, reading the paper, checking email, and washing dishes don’t have to be done before I leave the house. Granted, sometimes these things must be done for one reason or another. But usually I can be flexible about when they get completed. Saving such tasks for later in the day would add around 15-20 minutes to my morning.
5. I committed to preparing for my morning the night before. As I reflected, it occurred to me that I actually had a pretty decent routine during the years I worked in an office setting. Back then, the number one thing that helped me have smooth mornings was preparing as much as possible the night before. This included doing things like:
o planning my outfit
o fixing snacks/lunch (slicing apples, filling my water bottle, etc.)
o setting out my vitamins and supplements so they’re ready for me to take with my breakfast
o putting things I need in or near my purse or a tote bag (e.g. library books, writing notebooks, snacks, etc.)
Since these worked so well for me previously, I decided to recommit to preparing the night before as much as possible.
6. I generated a more realistic estimate of how long it actually takes me to leave the house. Even when I have things set out beforehand, it still takes me at least 10 minutes to corral everything, slip on my coat and shoes, get my keys, and walk to the car. Inevitably, there’s something I remember last minute, like double-checking the curling iron is off. I decided to factor an additional 10-15 minutes into my get-ready-and-go time to ensure I have enough time to do everything I need to do and arrive at my destination promptly.
7. I decided to start setting an alarm on my phone to alert me when I need to start gathering my things. So, if I need to leave at 10:00 a.m. to get to my appointment by 10:20 a.m., I would set the alarm for 9:45 a.m. as my signal to get up, gather, and get out.
8. I decided to adopt this new rule of thumb: If I’m running early, run early. Part of my problem on the morning of the yard-shoe debacle stemmed not from having too little time but from actually having more than enough time. This led me to think I could fit in more than I realistically could. Those unnecessary tasks I listed that I could have eliminated? I chose to do them because I felt like I had extra time. In reality, I underestimated how long those actions would take, which tipped me from running early to running late. So, I have determined that if I’m running early, and think it’d be a good time to read the newspaper, I will keep my commitment to save unnecessary tasks for another time.
9. I wrote down a plan of action incorporating the elements listed above. I then created a visual reminder of my plan by writing it on a sticky note and putting it on my bathroom mirror.
As I put my new plan into action, I noticed a huge difference on the mornings I had to leave the house. Gone was the frenzied feeling, and, just as I envisioned, I was able to walk out the door, calm and collected.
SETTING THE STAGE
There’s a quote I’ve seen online that says, “Morning is God’s way of saying one more time, go make a difference, touch a heart, encourage a mind, inspire a soul and enjoy the day.” I haven’t been able to find an attribution for this quote, but I love its message. Each new day is an opportunity to walk in our God-given purpose. We have a chance to make a difference. How we spend our mornings matters because our mornings set the stage for the remainder of the day. When we arrange our mornings in a way that promotes peace, we not only decrease stress and increase our efficiency, we also put ourselves in a much better position to connect with God, do good work, and love the people He’s given us to love. And that’s something worth contending for!
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