(Estimated Reading Time: 4 min)
When we think about morning routines, we often think about what we want to do, add, or extend.
What’s also important is what we decide not to do in the morning.
Let’s call this our morning NOT-to-do list.
Over the years, my NOT-to-do list has grown as I’ve become more aware of the impact certain habits were having on how I started my day. Some of these habits I now avoid, while most I delay until later in my morning.
Here are my main NOT to-do list items:
- Look at my phone while eating breakfast
- Respond to text messages (in the first hour, except emergencies)
- Check social media (in the first 3 hours)
- Check email (in the first 3 hours)
- Read the news (until after 10:30 am, but usually later than that)
- Lie in bed if I wake up early and can’t fall back asleep
Sometimes there are exceptions, but these NOT-to-do’s have all become habits that are mostly automatic.
There are plenty more I could add, but I try not to be too restrictive and only focus on the ones that are most important.
Here are some other ideas you may want to consider:
- No caffeine in the morning
- No snooze button
- No waking up later than ________
- No looking at your phone before spending time with your partner
- No watching t.v.
- No breakfast on the run
- No screens until you’ve spent 30 minutes with your kids, partner, parents, etc
Strategies for Implementing your Morning NOT-to-do List
It’s all fine and dandy to create a NOT to-do list, what’s harder is to implement it. Experiment with the following strategies to make your change happen:
Choose the right framing for you
One option is to highlight the bad habit you want to give up:
I won’t ________ until I _________.
- I won’t check social media until I’ve stretched, meditated and read 10 pages.
- I won’t check email until I’ve planned my day.
- I won’t read news until I’ve exercised, made my bed, and worked on my business for 1 hour.
The other option is to frame it by focusing on the positive habit you are prioritizing:
Before I __________, I will ___________
- Before I check social media, I will stretch, meditate and read 10 pages.
- Before I check email, I will plan my day.
- Before I read news, I will exercise, make my bed and work on my business for 1 hour.
Don’t worry about which way you frame it. Sometimes exposing our bad habits gives us the shame and motivation to change them. At other times focusing on the positivity of new habits is more of a motivator. The right way is the one that works for you to change your habits.
Add a why statement
It’s extremely helpful to remind ourselves regularly why we are choosing to make changes, especially when we start to encounter challenges. Adding a why statement to your habit change can be extremely powerful and motivating.
- Before I check social media, I will stretch, meditate and read 10 pages because these are the habits that will have a much bigger impact on my happiness and success in life.
- I won’t read news until I’ve exercised because I want my mind to be clear; I won’t read news until I’ve made my bed because I want to be in control of my time; I won’t read news until I’ve worked on my business for 1 hour because I want to wake up focused on my top priority.
Focus on few changes at a time
Don’t go crazy and try to implement your entire list at once. Try starting with 1-2 items at a time, and only moving on to next items once you feel like your new habits are pretty solid. You can also start small within each habit change. If you don’t want to check email or social media for the first 3 hours, start with 15 or 30 minutes, and then increase the time over the next several weeks. Combine this with the framing and why statement for that extra motivation.
One of the best ways to form or change habits is to keep track of it. I’ve included a morning rituals tracker at the end of the free guide ‘Love Waking Up: 5 Simple Strategies to Customize Your Morning Routine’. You can download and start using that right now.
As you monitor how you are doing with your habit, make adjustments as needed. If you struggle to reach your goal consistently, try lowering the bar. If you are nailing your goal quickly, try raising the bar or move on to implement your next NOT-to-do list item.
Plan, act, track, adjust. That’s your model.
Your morning is about what you don’t do as much as it is about what you do.
What’s on YOUR NOT-to-do list? What are you going to do to make it happen?
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