There is a great debate going on about morning routines. What was once well-intentioned guidance based on solid evidence has now reached the level of absurdity – ice baths, sun exposure, cardio, fasting, etc. – all before you start your day.
I am not here to criticize or encourage, despite the absurdity. I just want to highlight what is pretty much a common thread amongst all sides – that avoiding social media and other online activities first thing in the morning is a good thing for you.
Yet I also find this might be the hardest recommendation of them all to follow.
I am pretty sure that I am not alone in the habit of checking my phone first thing when I wake up. It’s at my bedside. I just roll over and grab it. With just one or two clicks I am on my way down the rabbit hole.
I have justified it to myself that there are time-sensitive things I need to respond to online. I have a global team working at all hours of the day. I support a community on social media that I need to keep up with.
I typically will continue to go further down the rabbit hole as I grab my coffee and find my bearings. It’s just a few more scrolls. And yet – it’s not uncommon that before I know it, 45 minutes have already passed!
My attention and my mental state has been hijacked. I’ve quite noticeably expended some emotional and motivational fuel in reacting to a post or a comment. And usually my eyes are all out of whack from the extended time looking at a small screen. Then what happens next? I am in a rush to squeeze everything else I have to do into my morning.
Why do I do this to myself? Oh, right, because engagement is a helluva drug.
Here’s how I am using Focusable to help me create a better morning routine.
I wake up reliably around 7am on my own. I haven’t needed to set an alarm for some number of years.
However, I have started setting an alarm again – this time using Focusable. I use the Focusable reminder tool set at 7:30am.
Why 7:30am? I am not looking to return to waking up by alarm. I just want to set a reminder to be Focusable once I am already awake. Specifically, I want to catch myself in the act – when I am getting sucked into technology, and break free to start paying attention to better things.
I am usually drinking coffee and somewhat engaged online by 7:30am when the notification comes in. That’s ok. Again, I just want to interrupt the pattern of getting lost before I feel the demotivating and frustrating effects.
I click on the notification and I enter Focusable to start an activity. I swipe to Recharge and do something energizing like Chair Squats or Pushups, or if my eyes are already fatigued I’ll do Eye Relief. Then I swipe forward to Refocus and use the Pulse timer as a short deadline to train my attention on something different. I either set my phone aside on a table or put it to sleep and into my pocket. I know that there will be an audible notification coming in 5 minutes to propel me forward either way.
So far I don’t have a “routine” as to what I do with that attention next. I help get my son ready for school. I start my daily workout earlier. I clean up the kitchen. I try to read a chapter of a book. Whatever makes sense for that particular morning, with full awareness of where my attention is directed.
If I do something memorable with my son, I’ll swipe forward and record a brief video to remember it by. I find Focusable continues to help me manage my lifelong struggle of documenting memorable moments with present moment awareness. Other times, I’ll go till the 45 minute recording notification and just click done without recording – like a finish line for my good morning attention.
Either way, I’ve gotten 45 minutes of higher-quality time back and I can dive into my work day without starting at a deficit of attention and energy. It is without question, a much better morning routine than anything I’ve done in my life.
Here’s an example of an activity I did just this morning.
One of the things I notice is that as I pay better attention during my morning routine, my family does too. My son stops watching TV unprompted. We practice something that is hard for him to master instead of doing impulsive things. My wife and I get into discussing deeper things than we’d ordinarily make time for. I consistently find when someone leads the way with better attention, others will follow.
So far I’ve kept this routine I keep to myself in Focusable. But I could see how setting up a Focusable group could help me build some social support for consistently better morning routines.
Maybe that’s something I’ll start experimenting with next.