I’ve never considered myself to be a morning person. High school was a challenge, uni was worse, many morning classes were slept through. I remember my carpool buddy knocking on my bedroom window on more than one occasion vying me to get out of bed.
There is plenty of scientific research to support the hypothesis that some of us have a genetic predisposition to being either a lark or an owl (a morning or evening person). I know which one I naturally gravitate towards. Having said that, we all sit on a spectrum and even though we may have a preference for getting our work done in the morning or evening, that doesn’t mean we are ‘doomed’ or ‘locked-in’ to one or the other.
I believed I would always be an owl, and I’ll probably always have night owl tendencies. However, this does not disqualify me from being a super productive morning person, even though it doesn’t come naturally to me.
Through practice, trial-and-error, and embracing change, I’ve created the habit of utilising my mornings in order to grow my side hustle.
The best thing about a morning habit (as opposed to an evening habit), is you have more control over your morning. Evenings are less predictable. A friend might come over, you have nothing to eat for dinner so you go to the supermarket, it’s been three days since you’ve been to the gym so you prioritise that. It’s amazing how we distract ourselves when we have an unpleasant task at hand. By forming a morning habit we are able to get the most important task of the day done, so if we get distracted as the day goes on, the consequences are less dire.
Getting sh*t done in the mornings doesn’t mean you have to get up at 5am each day. I wake up at 6:30am (only 30mins earlier than I have in the past) and manage to get an hour of work done before I leave for my ‘real job’.
An extra hour every day for each working day is a total of 5 hours. Plus, I can squeeze in another 2- 3hrs somewhere else in the week. Whether that’s a Monday night when I’m still feeling fresh or a Saturday morning before taking the rest of the week off. By the time the the week is out I’ve added a full working day to my week. Crazy hey?!
So whether it’s a side hustle or just a side passion, you can utilise your mornings to start investing more time into making that dream become a reality. You may want to start a blog, learn how to paint, develop an app or start a coaching business. Whatever it is, you have the time available to you, the question is will you utilise it?
If the answer is yes, that’s great! Because I’ve got three strategies to help you make the most of your mornings that are simple and effective.
1. Planning - know what needs to be done and when
The biggest obstacle to maintaining a morning work routine is listening to your morning brain. Let me explain. Your morning brain is a selfish, lazy beast that wants to stay in that warm bed for as long as possible.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my brain, but not my morning brain. It can’t be trusted. And so I put strategies in place to make sure I don’t listen to my brain first thing in the morning. And to achieve this requires being SUPER organised.
Under no circumstances do I ask myself, ‘what should I work on this morning?’ Nope, nada. Instead, I look to my calendar to find out what I’ve planned to work on. Then I get to work. This requires me to have done some advanced planning and to know exactly what needs to get done and by when.
The Rock, Pebbles, and Sand Analogy for Time Management
I have found the rock, pebbles and sand analogy for time management super effective. The metaphor here is if you start by putting sand into the jar, you will not have room for rocks or pebbles. Therefore you must start with the rocks (the big important tasks first), then you will have space for the pebbles (medium importance), and sand (least important).
How do I practically implement this strategy?
Each Sunday night I open Google calendar and have a pen and paper beside me. I write down all the big things I want to get done that week which might include... writing a blog post, creating a facebook ad, or scheduling a workshop. Then I schedule them into my Google calendar. I first schedule them into my mornings because my mornings are my prime productivity slots so my most important tasks get my mornings.
Then I write down all my medium level priorities and schedule them in wherever they fit. Then I write down all my least important (or ‘if I get time’) tasks. If I have space I schedule them in. If not they go onto a running to-do list which I refer to when I have a spare moment in my day. I like to keep these items to tasks that are under 30mins because anything bigger than that, that isn’t a medium priority is unlikely to ever get done. It’s nice to have this list to refer to for when I have a spare 20mins and I want to knock something off my to-do list. Such a dopamine rush - those list geeks out there know what I’m talking about.
2. Incentive - reward yourself
In Gretchen Rubin’s book ‘Better than Before’ she explains the power of forming a habit by tying it to an existing habit. For example, if you want to start a daily habit of meditation, do it straight after something else already in your daily routine, such as brushing your teeth. I utilised this principle by tying the favourite part of my morning (drinking my first cup of coffee) to sitting at my desk and getting to work.
In the past I drank my morning coffee in the car on the way to work. Now I drink it at my desk as I type away at my keyboard. This habit has been a game changer. When my alarm goes off in the morning I don’t think, ‘oh, I have to get up and write a blog’, instead I think, ‘time to get up and make a coffee’. Once I have my coffee in hand I automatically walk to my desk and check my calendar to see what I’m working on that day. Sooo goood.
What is your favourite morning ritual? How can you tie that to a new morning work habit?
3. Self-care - Give yourself some love
All work and no play makes entrepreneurs go cray-cray.
Being an early riser is not about working harder, it’s about working smarter. Regular consistent action gets big results and reduces burn-out and stress. Bill Gates is famed with saying ‘Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.’ Keep this in mind as you continue to invest time into your passion project. It’s a long term strategy and I like to think of it as a marathon, not a sprint.
Therefore, with that marathon mindset, it’s important to have plenty of self care strategies in place to ensure you have the stamina to get to get the job done.
You know you best, and you know what you need to be able to keep on running the race long and hard. I believe implementing at least one self care strategy into your morning is essential for your longevity. This could be meditation, exercise, journaling etc
I’ve been a long time lover of journaling. By having a daily journaling practice for over a decade I’ve been able to get to know myself better. It’s helped me uncover thoughts, feelings and desires I wouldn’t have even known had I not committed to journaling everyday. However, recently I found my journaling practice become a little dry so I decided to try a new method of journaling called ‘the five minute journal’. This journal, published by intelligent change has been a game changer for me. I love it because it’s quick and easy to incorporate into a morning routine.
The journal has three morning questions and three evening questions. I confess I rarely do the evening section, but i’m totally sold on the morning questions which are as follows…
I am grateful for…
What would make today great…?
Daily affirmations. I am…?
These three simple questions have helped me reprogram my brain by instilling a practice of gratitude in my morning and clear intention for the day ahead. I believe by doing this practice I have more energy to do my work, and it’s kept me motivated to continue on with my morning work routine.
This journal works for me. What works for you? What self care strategy can you incorporate into your morning routine that will keep you inspired and energised to keep going in your work.
Those are my three strategies to help you get the most out of your morning routines. Do you practice any of these already? What’s one strategy you can start implementing now to get your side passion off the ground? Send me your thoughts at email@example.com
P.S. If you're feeling overwhelmed by your career goals and career direction, check out my FREE 4 Step Guide to 'Get Unstuck'. It contains 4 quick and easy exercises to help you get clarity on where you want to go and how you're going to get there.