NATHALIE MARQUEZ COURTNEY stops hitting the snooze button, puts down her phone, and dives into some world-class routines guaranteed to boost productivity, reduce stress and unlock your creative potential.
If you win the morning, you win the day – or so the saying goes. For many of us (myself included), despite our best intentions, mornings inevitably include one or all of the following: copious hitting of the snooze button, immediate checking of emails, Facebook and Instagram, with a side of terrifying world news, followed by rushed showers, thrown back coffees and a sprint out the door.
Looked at in the cold light of later that day, it’s not the healthiest way to start things off. Not for our bodies, our wellbeing or our minds. Each morning is a clean slate, and a few simple tweaks can have long- lasting effects. Morning rituals help create the momentum that power the rest of your day. You have more control over your morning than any other time of day (even if that means dragging yourself out of bed an hour earlier than usual). If you want to procrastinate less, reduce anxiety or just begin each day feeling productive, prepared and positive, a good morning routine could be the key to staying on top of things. Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird doesn’t really matter – the important thing to focus on is building a sustainable, enjoyable daily habit. It’s less about what time you get up at, and more about making a deliberate choice about how you spend the beginning of your day.
Good if you feel creatively stuck, you wake up worried or anxious.
HOW IT WORKS Invented by creativity guru Julia Cameron, author of the international bestseller The Artist’s Way, Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. Right after getting up, sit down and fill exactly three A4 pages (no more, no less). You can write about whatever you want, big or small, mundane or profound. Don’t overthink, stress or worry about what you’re writing or be tempted to judge or analyse it.
WHY IT WORKS The simple act of writing what is on your mind can help declutter your thoughts, sharpen your intuition, kickstart creativity and help you become unstuck. “Morning Pages bring our hopes, dreams, fears, and confusions into focus,” says Julia. “They point us toward areas that need attention. While some people may use the pages to face an addiction, others may find the pages leading them toward dreams they had never articulated.”
TOP TIP Have your dedicated pad and pen ready the night before. Don’t feel pressured to write anything of substance or worth sharing. “Do not reread these pages or allow anyone else to read them,” says Julia. “Ideally, stick them in a large envelope, or hide them somewhere.”
THE EAT THAT FROG TECHNIQUE
Good if you’re prone to procrastinating, your days tend to get derailed, you find it difficult to prioritise.
HOW IT WORKS Popularised by author Brian Tracy, the Eat That Frog technique recommends tackling your most dreaded task first thing in the morning, when you’re least susceptible to distractions. You prioritise what you need to do (your “frogs”), as opposed to what you want to do.
WHY IT WORKS With your hardest and “worst” task behind you, you feel energised to take on the rest of the day. “Many people confuse activity with accomplishment,” says Tracy. “They talk continually, hold endless meetings, and make wonderful plans, but in the final analysis, no one does the job and gets the results required.” Having kicked things off with something productive means you’ve developed momentum and are less likely to procrastinate.
TOP TIP To find your “frog” ask yourself: What keeps you up at night? Or look at your to-do list and see what you’ve been consistently pushing into the tomorrow pile.
THE MIRACLE MORNING
Good if you don’t have much time, and you’re keen to form a few new healthy habits.
HOW IT WORKS Designed to help you “set the stage for a joyful and productive day”, this method was popularised by bestselling author Hal Elrod. Over a chunk of time – it can be anything from six minutes or 60, you choose – you perform a set of rituals wrapped in the acronym SAVERS: Silence, Affirmations, Visualisations, Exercise, Reading and Scribing. A good mix might be the following, but the idea is to tailor it to what works for you: ten minutes of meditation or breathing exercises, five minutes reading a positive affirmation and making mental visualisations, ten minutes of free-form stream of consciousness writing, fifteen minutes of reading, and a 20-minute jog or quick HIIT workout.
WHY IT WORKS This combination ticks a lot of boxes – it helps calm the mind, power up the body, and reduce stress. It’s also highly modular, and can be done with as little or as much time as you can give it.
TOP TIP Mix up the routine and order of the exercises every couple of weeks to stop it from feeling stale.
THE NIGHT BEFORE ROUTINE
Good if you wake up already feeling behind, you tend to rush out the door or you find it hard to switch off at the end of the day.
HOW IT WORKS Recommended by author and productivity consultant Darius Foroux, this ritual is designed to help you “close” the day and reduce stress and anxiety about the following day, which in turn should help improve the quality of your sleep. Put 30 minutes aside each evening. Spend the first ten minutes doing a quick recap of the day, reviewing progress or noting anything you’ve learned. Spend the next ten reviewing tomorrow’s calendar – do you have any pressing deadlines, important calls or meetings? What do you really need to get done? Jot these down. Spend the next five minutes picking and laying out your outfit for the next day – this is designed to cut down on decision fatigue and give you more headspace in the morning. Spend the last five minutes visualising the next day in as much detail as you can (this has been proven to boost your productivity and even help you avoid hitting the snooze button in the morning).
WHY IT WORKS Our willpower is limited. Shifting some key decisions and reflections to the end of the day – right before we head into a period of rest – means you wake up to fewer distractions and with more positive momentum.
TOP TIP Set a timer on your phone to remind yourself to kick off your evening routine.
This article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of IMAGE.