A thought from Rachel Smith

1st December 2016

Positive remote working habit - a morning routine

Soon, I'll be sharing a post detailing how I've moved from working in an agency environment to remotely working from home, and the habits I've developed to stay productive. Rather than publish a mammoth post with all the details, I'll instead break down the most beneficial habits into their own post first. Today, I'll talk about my morning routine.

This summer I was struggling with getting out of bed and being productive during the day. Earlier this year I'd started a new big feature on CodePen, I'd been working on nothing else besides this React SPA for months, and my interest had begun to wane a little. Also, I was in a bad habit of waking up and checking social media in bed. Starting my day like this was having a terrible effect on my state of mind, I didn't realise just how terrible until I stopped, and the fog cleared.

In September, I read a book by Hal Elrod called The Miracle Morning. Just like a lot of self-improvement material, there was a lot of cringey language used, but the overall concept looked very promising to me. So, with an open mind, I set my alarm for 6:00 am and attempted to do the book's suggested morning S.A.V.E.R.S. After a few mornings into this routine I was sure that this was the most positive change I could have made in my life all year. I felt amazing, productive and anxiety free.

My morning routine using the S.A.V.E.R.S

Silence - 5 minutes meditation

When my alarm goes off in the morning, I immediately roll out of bed, pull on some workout clothes, grab a glass of water, and then meditate for 5 minutes. I prefer unguided meditation (complete silence), and I use my Apple watch "breathe" app to help me do this. I've found the key here is to not check my phone at all before my routine begins. This way my thoughts can be clear rather than focused on what's on my phone. The only way I've managed to do this is by turning off all home screen notifications, because if they're sitting on there when I go to turn off my alarm I haven't got a hope of ignoring them.

Affirmations - 5 minutes

So, I was pretty sceptical about this particular step because affirmations had always made me think of this SNL sketch. But I tried to remain open-minded and wrote up four affirmations, two health and fitness related, one for gratitude for my relationship, and one related to my personal finances. I did some research on affirmations (if I'm gonna do it, I wanna do it properly!) and the key to creating a useful affirmation is to state a goal/value, the actions you commit to taking in order meet the goal/value, and the reason why you are committed. I thought I would feel silly reading these things aloud to myself each morning but I enjoy realigning on my values each day and believe they've had a positive effect on my daily outlook.

Visualization - 5 minutes

Like affirmations, I thought this one would be a little too "woo" for me, but I think it has had a major effect on my work productivity during the day, as well as my diet and exercise. The idea is that you visualise having a successful day despite the complications that will indefinitely arise. Specifically, I visualise feeling like I want to slack off during my run, and then pushing through anyway. I visualise getting distracted by Twitter and YouTube when I'm supposed to be coding, closing those tabs, and getting back to work. I visualise how I'll get that 3 pm sugar craving, and I'll choose a healthy snack over something chocolatey. Some people like to visualise longer-term achievements, but I find focusing on the short-term of that day is the most beneficial for me. It makes the decision making of my day a lot easier as I've already prepped my mind for battle.

Exercise - approximately 30 minutes

Every morning I'll either go for a run or do an online yoga class. The benefits of exercising first thing in the day have been shared before, so there's no point in me elaborating on this. I can now run for a full 30 minutes without stopping (~5km), and my strength and flexibility has improved.

Reading - approximately 10 minutes

One recurring message I've heard from self-development authors is that we should read some pages from a good (self-development) book every day. Funny that! Self-development material or not I've tried to read something positive and informative for 10 minutes each morning while I eat breakfast, to get me started on the right front (before the internet garbage intake begins!).

Scribing - approximately 5 minutes

The Miracle Morning book suggests you spend 10 minutes long-form journaling each day, but I wasn't feeling that. Instead, I use this time to fill out the daily notes in my bullet journal, usually over a coffee after I've showered.

So, that's my routine that I do each weekday morning at 6:00 am! And it is my favourite new habit! On the weekends I usually do a modified version, depending on how I feel. Since starting my miracle morning, I've lost weight, my energy is way up, and knocked off a few major personal life tasks that I had been putting off for a long time. All of these side-effects have helped me stay a happy and productive remote worker :)

If a whole morning routine sounds too much for you, I challenge you to try one thing if you don't do this already - do not check your emails or social media for a full 30 minutes after waking up and getting out of bed. Instead, do something for yourself, that puts you first and makes you happy. The internet is a shitshow of depressing news and people fighting, and making that the very first thing you start your day with could be having a dangerous effect on your mental health. It certainly was for me.

Whether you decide to check out the book or not, I hope you've found this post helpful and maybe even a small inspiration to start your own routine.

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