Why You Only Need 10 Minutes For A Better Morning Routine

You can have a better morning routine, be more productive, more creative, and more focused just by changing how you spend the first 10 minutes of your day! Tap through for a clever productivity tip you haven't heard before! #habits #goalsetting #productivity #motivation

If you asked me where my days go off the rails, I could tell you. I could, with absolute precision, point to the moment when things go pear-shaped.

It usually happens somewhere between my smoothie and my book. I have the best of intentions; I’ve created a perfect morning routine that’s calm, creative, and most certainly does not includes falling down an internet hole.

But more often than I’d like, I find a reason to pick up my phone. “I absolutely must know the weather forecast!” “I need to check my sleep app!” “What did I write in my Notes yesterday?”

And then I’m checking my email. And then it’s 11:30, I’m still in my pajamas, and I’ve been clicking between tabs for four hours. I wish, dear reader, that I was exaggerating for the sake of humor but I absolutely am not.

Here’s what I’ve discovered: Newton’s first law applies to humans and brains, too.

An object in motion tends to remain in motion. An object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon.

A brain that’s flicking between five social media channels tends to remain flickery and distracted.

A day that begins with cold pizza, three coffees, and two donuts from the break room tends to remain in the land of Not-Super-Healthy choices.

An evening that begins with a Netflix marathon tends to remain in a Netflix loop till we fall asleep on the sofa, drool pooling on our decorative pillows, the dog eating the old maids out of the popcorn bowl.

And while that sounds pretty demoralizing, I’m choosing to see the see the silver lining. If I can nudge myself into good choices for just the first 10 minutes of any part of my day, I much more likely to stay on course for the rest of the day.

If I can stay off social media for those first 10 minutes, it’s much easier to stay off it for the rest of the day. If I can start the post-work portion of my day with a walk, a cup of tea on the deck, or cuddle time with the pets, my evening is less likely to devolve into mindless snacking and Friday Night Lights marathons.

If we can keep our ish together for the first 10 minutes of the day, everything goes better. Click To Tweet

Think about how you’d like this part of your day to feel + what you’re hoping to accomplish

Do you want your morning to feel calm, slow, and creative? Do you want to set yourself up for a day of technology-free creating? Then, uh, don’t start you day by looking at your phone. Start with time outside. Start with journaling or drawing or just stretching in your backyard.

Or maybe you want a super focused, productive workday. Wonderful! Then start your workday by staying out of your inbox, away from meetings, and tuck into that big project you’re excited about. You can even schedule this into your calendar as ‘unavailable’ so no one tries to call you or rope you into useless meetings.

Do you want a post-work day that’s filled with socializing and fun? Do you want to meet friends for a meal, a concert, and fill your night with drinks and conversation? Then don’t head home and change into your yoga pants. Slick on a fresh layer of lipgloss, take a chug of coffee, and meet your friends for happy hour!

Identify the pot holes in your day

My phone is a pot hole. My inbox is a pot hole. Any phone call longer than two minutes is a pot hole.

They suck my time and energy and ruin the alignment of my day. I’m driving along, making great time towards my destination, shout-singing a Tom Petty song. Then I look at Instagram and it’s 45 minutes later, I’m distracted and I think my life is boring.

We all have pot holes; we all have habits, activities, and even people that throw us off course. And we probably can’t avoid them completely. I’ll eventually have to read email, talk on the phone, and check Instagram. But if I can just avoid doing those things during the first 10 minutes of any portion of my day, everything goes smoother.

Identify the positive triggers in your day

What good stuff can domino your day into awesome? What things nudge your day in the direction you want it to go?

If you start your morning with a healthy breakfast, will you make healthier choices for the rest of the day? If you begin your workday with coffee and a chat with your favorite co-worker, does the whole day seem more fun and easy? If you come home, kick off your shoes, and drink a cocktail on the patio does your whole evening feel more lovely and intentional?

The same way we all have potholes, we all have positive triggers that can point us + our day in the right direction. If you can figure out what your positive triggers are – a super quick workout, a screen-free meal, time outside – you can lovingly force yourself to do them FOR JUST 10 EVER-LOVING MINUTES and change the rest of your day.

Of course, in a perfect world we’d all have an hour (or two!) for the activities that fill us up and energize us. We’d all have two hours each day for wandering through lavender fields, re-reading L.M. Montgomery books, and having stimulating conversations on rooftops.

Till that happens, I’ll make due by making the first ten minutes of my day as awesome as possible.

But I want to hear from you! What tasks derail your day? What sets you up for the kind of day you want to have? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. How to give people an exhausted, watered-down version of yourself + How to make fewer decisions (and make your life a lot easier) 

photos by han chau and Noah Silliman // cc

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  1. Twinkle

    This is the Universes’ idea of a nudge and a joke. I just told my DH that my day has not gone the way I planned-completely the opposite!
    What derailed me? Hmm. Answering “one” email, which led to another, and a follow up phone call, etc. The thing is, I got back to my calm routine and then got derailed again.


    • Sarah Von Bargen

      YES. I can’t tell you how many time I want to just ‘pop in’ to my inbox … and I emerge an hour later. Yuck!

  2. Katie

    Thank you for this! Instagram and bloglovin are HUGE potholes for me (case in point: right now). I love them and they’re filled with interesting things, but I’ve realized that they keep my brain totally distracted and jumpy in a way that just doesn’t work for my job (writing).

    I’ve also recently realized that I can’t start my day by listening to podcasts for a similar reason. If I start out by listening in on other people’s conversations, I’m much less likely to think about my own goals and wants for the day and much more likely to keep falling down internet rabbit-holes. By listening to fun music in the morning instead, I’m a little bit more likely to stay motivated and focused for the first half of my day.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! I think it’s so important to balance our consumption with our creation. It’s easy to start the day (and continue it!) in consumption mode … and before we know it, it’s 8 pm and we haven’t written, said, or thought any thing of our own!

  3. Maggie

    Yep, battling this right now. I get up to feed the dog and cat, grab my phone, and go back to bed, where I spend 30 minutes scrolling Instagram and reading email. It is a horrible start to the day. Hmmm… maybe I’ll hide my phone somewhere at night, so it’s not as easily accessible in the morning.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      We got a dawn simulator alarm clock (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) and it’s sooo much better! It’s a gentler way to wake up and we’re not tempted by our phones first thing!

  4. Samantha

    This is a great thing to be aware off. I normally start having bad days when I hit my snooze button repeatedly. You’d think I’d learn that if I wanted to sleep for an extra 20 minutes, hitting the snooze button 4 times is not the best way to do it, but I don’t.

    I’ll try to be more aware of this now and make sure my first ten minutes are me doing something productive vs just lazing about until I’m late for work. :]

    • Rae

      I have heard that the best way to cultivate the “muscles” you need to get out of bed when the alarm goes off is to practice when you aren’t tired and completely lacking in willpower. As in some time that isn’t bed time, just set your alarm for ten minutes, relax in bed, and jump out when the alarm goes off. Basically, condition yourself to have that response. Let me know if works, though. I am snoozer, too. 😀

  5. Jolien

    Yes, dealing with this regularly. I’ve been trying to come up with a new morning ritual, but let’s just say that some days or better than others. Having breakfast outside helps, but that won’t last long with fall around the corner 😉 Thanks for keeping us aware of this issue!

  6. Olympia

    Great post, I’ve been kind of aware of this, you do something and then your whole day goes downhill. Was wondering what your morning routine is? Tried to find a post but there are so many. Thanks 🙂

  7. Polyana

    One thing that’s helped me is – getting a dog, haha.

    I get up and the first thing I do is change out of my pajamas (or not), and walk my dog while i listen to a podcast episode – I’ll try to listen to something lighter, like pop culture or lifestyle type podcasts instead of the entrepreneurial ones, and then once I’m back in the apt, my boyfriend and i have breakfast together, away from the TV, and unless there’s something major going on in the news, we just talk about what our plans are for the day. It actually helps me get organized by talking about my day + then sitting down and doing just that!

    But if my plans are something that I’m not super excited about – email, Facebook + Bloglovin derail me (I’ve put a chrome plugin for Facebook where every time I log in, it shows me an inspirational quote instead of my newsfeed, which has done WONDERS!)

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Whoa! What’s the name of that plugin?!

      • Polyana

        It’s called “News Feed Eradicator for Facebook” genius!

  8. Jacqueline Fisch

    Ummm.. yep! This is my life. But if I wasn’t screwing off today I wouldn’t have came across this gem, and found a new strategy to try tomorrow 🙂

    Facebook always derails my day, and Instagram. Then email. I actually love email and like living in it, but when I need to focus and see I have an unread email it’s akin to someone knocking on my door and me trying to ignore it.

  9. Rae

    Dude. I read this in your e-mail and I was like AMEN. Because earlier this year, Hubs and I lost a bunch of weight just eating right and working out a little. It was literally not hard because our bodies just stopped craving nonstop sugar and junk. But we lost weight to go on vacation, and on vacation, we did WHATEVER we wanted. It was beer and ice cream and pizza and street food nonstop for two weeks. And I knew that when we came back, it was gonna take a while to get over those cravings. If I eat junk food, I crave junk food. But when I slowly dial back, I get back to where I am right now and I ate my apple and my banana and I’m drinking my black coffee AND THERE IS A PIECE OF CHOCOLATE RIGHT HERE AND I DON’T WANT IT. Now…if I wake up like I sometimes do and have a sugary drink or a doughnut or some such for breakfast, then the rest of the day my body is gonna be like a bratty kid ALL DAY with cravings: Can we have a latte? A caramal macchiato? Ice cream? If we eat an apple, can we get some M&Ms? So what you say about time management in the morning, about the importance of those initial daily decisions, applies everywhere. Preach!!!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      YES. Like, if I can just drink that morning smoothie THE WHOLE REST OF THE DAY is easier.

  10. Faith

    This has been on my mind a lot lately. You’re so right – it winds up sucking up a huge amount of the day, and it’s not like I really ENJOY it. I’m just doing it out of habit. And the less I do it, the less I feel tempted to do it. (I try to keep in mind one of my favorite quotes from Eat, Pray, Love: “I was full of a hot, powerful sadness and would have loved to burst into the comfort of tears, but tried hard not to, remembering something my Guru once said — that you should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead.” So I’m trying to practice not giving in to the urge to check stuff.

    A podcast a like recently made the suggestion to replace the Twitter/Facebook/whatever shortcut on your phone with a shortcut to the Kindle app. It’s made such a difference for me! I used to have a folder of social media shortcuts on the front screen of my phone, and anytime I was waiting in a line or not otherwise occupied, I’d open it up without even thinking about it. I replaced that folder with a Kindle shortcut, and muscle memory keeps me going to that spot. It’s so much better for my mental state to read a book rather than angry political Facebook posts.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I love that! I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone and it’s been great!

  11. Amanda

    Where has this post been all of my running-my-own-biz life? Seriously. I can’t wait to try out this intentional 10 minutes in the morning. What great thoughts!!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      So glad you found it helpful, Amanda! 🙂

  12. Karlie

    Yes! This is great! Going down internet rabbit holes is so easy and automathic it’s scary! And it’s frustrating when you know you love doing something (and not HAVE to do it) (can be as simple as reading), but you don’t. Why the eff not?

    For laptop distraction free time I use Stay Focusd on Chrome (without the e), you cannot access the blacklist sites you selected (facebook, twitter and instagram, I’m looking at you). Highly recommend! I with there was something similar for mobiles…

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! I Love Stay Focusd … or just working in places that don’t have wifi!

  13. It's Jess!

    I love love love this idea! I was in a routine where I’d take a group fitness class each weekend morning. It #1 prevented me from sleeping in and #2 I felt like I accomplished something so if the rest of my day was spent lounging it was ok. But, usually I was more motivated to do more awesome stuff with my day!

  14. J.H. Moncrieff

    Love this too! Social media is a big pothole for me, which is why I block it during the day. But so is answering emails sometimes. Or reading blogs.

    And you’re so right about being intentional with your time. Once I get in the bath, I’m done for the day. It’s the worst thing to do if I want to go out that evening.

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