If you’re on the productivity bandwagon you’ll undoubtedly have read or heard that having a solid morning routine is one of the key foundations to being productive and successful. Starting your day off correctly sets the mood for the rest of the day and ensures the right frame of mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with starting the day on the right foot (or left!) but it’s just plain silly to promote to the masses a consistent morning routine of reading books while doing yoga on the roof at sunrise. It seems to me that the people promoting this notion don’t have children. If they do, who the heck takes care of them in the morning? Maybe their time management skills are just out of this world… something I don’t think I’ll ever comprehend!
After reading countless books and articles on productivity, to some success, I’ve been able to implement my own morning routine. Not so surprisingly, mornings with the kids completely differ from mornings without. I’ll cover what my productive morning routine is like at the end of the post (it’s not that exciting). For now, here’s:
A Morning Routine for the Rest of us
Thursday to Sunday (not super productive)
Let’s start with the days that the kids are at home (Mon – Wed they’re in day care).
6:00 – 7:00am: Somewhere in between this hour of death, the boys (obviously in cahoots with one another) decide to wake up. Our 3yr old will stand out in the living room yelling “DAAADDY” while the baby lies in his crib talking to himself at the top of his lungs (spoken in gibberish of course).
I roll out of bed and am accosted by my eldest for not getting up sooner and for leaving him waiting. I’m a terrible father! I send him straight to the toilet to fulfill his morning duties while I relieve the baby of his. Nappy changed, I take the baby out and strap him into his bouncy chair, head to the bathroom with fingers crossed hoping only a Number 1 was on order.
Toilet flushed, undies on, hands washed, teeth brushed, I turn on the TV and let Raa Raa the Noisy Lion entertain the boys so I can go whip up breakfast.
7:00 – 8:00: Cheerios poured into a bowl, milk poured into a cup. Combining the two causes the eldest to overload and explode. The baby’s formula bottle goes into the warmer. I have 7 minutes of freedom.
Minute 1: Cereal and milk taken upstairs for consumption by 3yr old.
Minute 2: I sit and do a quick check of my email on the phone to confirm whether I have any work scheduled for the day.
Minutes 3 – 7: I somehow slip into a wormhole, travel forward through time and reappear at minute 7 because I swear those last 4 minutes never happened.
7:00 – 8:00 (cont): I rush downstairs to grab the bottle before it overheats. If the temp gets too hot I can kiss the feed goodbye! I then feed the baby, burp him, hold him for a little to let the milk settle (while watching Timmy Time – I actually like this one). I then sit him down on the play mat, hope that the next 30mins will be vomit free and leg it back downstairs to make my own breakfast.
8:00 – 8:30: Toast made with Nutella or Strawberry Jam then back upstairs in time to watch Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom while eating. Any attempt to change the channel is met with fierce resistance.
8:30 – 9:00: Breakfast plates taken to kitchen. I send our eldest in to wake Mummy up. (Mummy gets the sleep-in because she handles the feed at night – what a champ!). Mummy gets up while I hop on my computer to start work for the day.
One email in and I hear “Daddy let’s dance!”. Leapfrog pen (gift from hell) is switched on and starts singing the alphabet; a song about somename named Izzy and another one that makes me want to claw my ears off my head. Dancing is mandatory or the songs go on repeat. Mummy comes in, guides the boys out and I can begin my work day.
Things to Note
My wife has Thursday and Fridays off work to look after the boys. If I don’t have an early morning job scheduled I’m lucky enough that I’m allowed to work from home. I’ll eventually leave when I get a call out to help a customer somewhere. Some days I’ll leave earlier than 8am but more often than not, I’m able to take it easy in the morning.
So. Can someone please point out where in the above timeline I’m supposed to be able to read a book for 30 minutes and the many other activities that result in a productive day? Seriously!
All of the pros that write these guides seem to have one thing in common – they’re single. That or their kids are much older and self reliant. I’m sure this gets easier as the kids get older but while they’re toddlers it’s just ridiculous. I rarely have time to brush my teeth before 8:30am on the days I’m working from home.
I know people will say “Oh but you can do things differently!” and while that’s technically true, any parent will tell you that every morning is different. One morning could be completely serene (how’s the serenity!) but the next could be chaos. My eldest could be in a mood, not feel like breakfast, feel sick, want to play something different or the baby could decide to wake up a thousand times the night before leaving us completely lifeless by morning.
I consider it a win if I’m able to have my teeth brushed and the bed made by 8:30am on these days.
Maybe this is my consistent morning routine. Maybe getting the kids ready to be productive, young humans is my purpose in the morning. Maybe seeing them clean, fed and ready to face the day, should be considered my positive morning experience. I’ll need to re-read this post tomorrow morning to see how I feel…
What about Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday you ask? (I know you didn’t ask). Well, those are my Productive Mornings!
Monday – Wednesday
If I don’t have an early morning job to get to, this is how my productive mornings go. There are some gems (in bold) so pay attention!
6:00 – 7:00am: Who am I kidding? This is still the hour of death. The difference is that my wife is up and running around getting ready for work too. It’s a team effort to get the boys fed and ready for day care before 7:00am.
7:00 – 7:30: I take the baby to his day care centre which is close to our house. My wife takes our eldest off to his day care centre which is near her office. I’m back home within 15 minutes.
7:30 – 8:30: GO TIME! First thing’s first. Wash my hands. Who knows what I picked up from the day care!!
Once clean, I’ll run upstairs and make the bed. This is one of those things I never expected to be effective but it is. I suddenly notice how positive the room feels when the bed is made. If I walk in an hour later, the room feels bright, clean and ready. That has a direct effect on me. If the bed is unmade and messy, the room feels like it’s in disarray and even makes me a feel a little stressed! Seriously try it, make the bed (if possible) and see how you feel later. Obviously don’t let the kids jump on it after your hard work making it or that stress will come back!
Bed’s made. I head downstairs and make my breakfast. This time I’ll have time to choose what I want. Toast? Cereal? Eggs? Fruit?…. I choose toast. Habits man!
Toast made, I then find somewhere with lots of natural light to sit and read a book for 15-30 minutes. I can’t believe how much this actually improves my day. I really miss it on the days I can’t read in the morning. It’s become a nice habit and a great relaxer. It’s also helped me realise that I’m totally a morning learner. I absorb so much more in this time slot! Gone are the days of sleeping in until 11am (they’ll be missed)! I challenge anyone reading this to get up early, take some quiet time (again, if possible!) and try and read.
8:30: Book read. Now what? Notice I’ve yet to mention email? Aside from the quick glance when I wake up (to see if I have jobs on), my rule of thumb is no email until I’ve had breakfast and read something. It’s incredibly liberating to break free of the email cycle. I choose to look at it this way: every minute I spend checking email outside of business hours, is time and money I’m giving to my company for free. Is that something you’re willing to do?
It took me a long time but I finally realised that the world isn’t going to end if I don’t respond to an email until the following morning. No more responding to emails late at night, while watching tv or browsing the net.
Once I am checking my morning emails though, I use a new system to ensure I don’t waste my most productive time hitting delete over and over. I skim my morning emails. That is to say, I check and sort them. I’ll quickly look at the email and make a decision on what to do with it: create a todo list entry so I can action it later; quickly respond (if it can be done in less than 2 minutes); archive it or delete it. Simple. This gets the backlog of email from overnight sorted quickly and I can get on with stuff that matters.
Emails throughout the day are handled on an individual basis. I’m unlucky enough to actually have emails that come in that need immediate attention, ie, “Get your butt to site!”. I can’t keep those waiting for the next email check session!
Grain of salt
While it’s true that I can have a somewhat “perfect” morning routine on the days the boys are at daycare, it’s naive of me to think it’s sustainable. Again, I’m fortunate enough to be able to work from home in the morning but what if my job changes? How on earth is the average worker supposed to have a zen-like morning routine if they have to commute 50 minutes to work on a sweaty train? Or when they have children vying for their attention from the moment their eyes open?
The people who push the morning routine as something that’s easily attainable by everyone and anyone, are kidding themselves. It’s nice if you can get it, but the rest of us will just have to make do with our haphazard, chaotic mornings. At the end of the day, (I’ll eat these words later, you watch), I think I’ll take spending time with my boys over the serenity!