“Your first ritual that you do during the day is the highest leveraged ritual, by far, because it has the effect of setting your mind, and setting the context for the rest of your day.”—Eban Pagan
“There is enormous power in nailing your morning routine, but there’s even more power in adapting to it when it doesn’t happen as we’d like.”—Terri Schneider
I will be painfully honest, and perhaps even, a bit vulnerable. Last week, was not one of my better weeks. Therefore, as I write this piece, I am writing to myself as much as I am writing to you, Dear Reader. It is my hope these personal reflections benefit another person struggling through a tough week, day, or even moment.
Due to the fact, I try to accomplish several tasks in the morning; I try not to hit snooze-button on weekday alarms. I have learned that by hitting snooze, I am setting myself up for trouble later, namely running late. Running late then leads to the domino that starts the fall of other events, such as not having enough time in my classroom before students and co-workers arrive to adjust to my space and the day—which can have a noteworthy impact because I am no longer naturally wired to be instantly extroverted in the morning. Engaging with numerous children and adults requires abundant energy, clarity, and focus, at least for me. Thus, having that buffer time of 15-20 minutes to quietly rev up, despite the fact I typically have everything in my classroom set up for the day before I arrive at school, generates an upbeat start.
Of additional importance, as this past week demonstrated, are those initial waking thoughts. Mindset is vastly influential. Despite the fact I did not hit the snooze button, I began last week, and honestly, each day, with a mindset of dread. But first, a disclaimer . . .
I am, by nature, as the saying goes, a hot-mess-express when it comes to organization, including time. One look at my house and personal belongings will give you insight into this fact. Fortunately, my wonderful parents recognized my hard-wired chaotic nature, repeatedly talked to me about it, and further modeled the power of routine. Not only did they teach/model the importance of establishing a routine schedule for time-management, but also habits regarding where and how to keep belongings. Therefore, I know how to set up a fairly successful time management routine, and have at least applied them to my professional life.
My car/house keys are kept in my purse, while my school badge and school keys are kept in my school bag. Cell phone is placed in my purse on the way out the door to school, and set on my desk upon arriving to my room. White boards at the back of my classroom have three lists, one for each grade I teach, enumerating my students’ daily goals—which are always rewritten every afternoon before leaving school. Post-it notes of to-do lists adorn my desk, along with a stack of papers that require my attention on the next school day, are organized in the afternoon before my departure as well. Instructional routines for the day, week, month, and year, have all been intentionally created to ensure I hit every instructional goal by the end of a school year. However, one alteration in these plan; and BOOM, I become a proverbial fish out of water, not able to breathe properly as I yearn for the waters of routine, structure, and consistency.
And, that, my Dear Reader, is why I began last week with a mindset of dread. The previous week had already been filled with numerous alterations in the schedule, and the then current week was beginning that way as well. Furthermore, I began to feel as if I had become the stereotypical, “old” teacher, set in her inflexible ways. “Get rid of me now,” I felt certain, was printed all over my forehead last week like the scarlet letter of Hester Prynne’s chest.
Like that recognizable fish on the sandy shores of life, I flipped and flopped, trying to edge back into the water in order to swim with the flow. “I can do it,” I told myself, “I can go with the flow of change.” Then, as I began to go-with-the-flow, and not my carefully constructed routine, I would completely forget to complete required task(s). This would then initiate another cycle of self-flagellation, “I’m of no use. Why couldn’t I remember a simple request?”
With great admiration (and some envy too), I watched as several of my young co-workers navigated through all the changes and requirements with seemingly little struggle. Oh, how I wished I could be more like them. (On Friday, however, one shared the week had seemed frustrating and challenging to her too!)
Which brings me back to the purpose of all this rambling confession: the importance of a positive morning mindset. While a routine is helpful and important, a flexible and optimistic mindset is quite possibly of greater value than my routine, especially now as the upcoming days become shorter and more frequently cloud-filled, and yet schedules often become more harried, hurried, and inconsistent as the year heads into holiday months.
Getting up early, without hitting the snooze, in order to have time to exercise is a noble and worthy cause for the health of my physical body. However, if my thoughts, as I step out of bed, are focused on the dread of the upcoming day, then perhaps I am creating a habit as powerfully negative as hitting the snooze button repeatedly. Perhaps, instead, I would benefit from two skills that I most recently practiced on a trip with my 7th grade students to Camp Magis.
Firstly, going to bed with grateful heart and a positive intention for the next day. Then, upon rising, refocus on that positive intention. Furthermore, I need to return to an old habit, which has gradually slipped away from me: spending a few moments of each morning in meditation/prayer. Taking as little as 10-15 minutes of time to pray/meditate and/or reflect upon a purposeful readings, may not only offer clarity to the monkey-chatter of my mind, but may also encourage a more agile, nimble, and responsive state of mind—benefitting not only me, but also, the co-workers and students with whom I want to be of service. Of course, I will need to readjust my established morning routine, but if last week was any indication, it is certainly with a try!