July 9, 2018

If there’s one thing the morning offers that no other time of day can, it’s the ability to start again with a clean slate. But that clean slate can quickly become muddied by the responsibilities of the day, ruining our best-laid plans to keep a clear mind and a calm heart.

What if I were to tell you that this clean slate can stay clean for longer? That by slowing down your morning you could slow down your whole day? That you could give yourself the time and space you need to take care of your deepest needs, to start your day, as it were, with gentleness? Gentleness toward you and toward all those around you.

When you start your day taking care of your needs, you not only access a sense of calm that, whatever the day ahead may hold, can’t be taken away from you, but you also set yourself up to treat those you meet throughout the day with greater gentleness than you otherwise would have.

As social entrepreneur Jess Weiner told me: “I definitely feel more alive when I’ve taken time for me, my body, and my relationship... My mind feels clear and I feel happier and more energized.”

"I definitely feel more alive when I’ve taken time for me, my body, and my relationship."
-Jess Weiner
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Take heed of these suggestions on how to start your day with gentleness:

1. Give Yourself 'Me Time' in the Morning

The early mornings are the perfect time to give yourself a short, unabashed dose of “me time” as you can enjoy the quiet of the morning while the rest of the world is still sleeping. Keep in mind that even if you wake up later in the day, or work the night shift, you still have those early hours upon waking within which your “me time” can thrive.

You can use this time however you please. Art director David Moore told me: “For too long I worked without properly taking care of myself, and as I’ve gotten older, it’s become apparent that I’m no longer a spring chicken. Eating right and taking the time to slow down and plan in the morning is crucial for a productive day.”

2. Get Grounded With a Routine

In the words of journalist Tessa Miller: “My morning routine definitely sets the tone for the rest of my day. If I’m rushed and stressed in the morning, that will carry through to my workday. If I have structure and time to get organized, it’s usually smooth sailing.”

"If I’m rushed and stressed in the morning, that will carry through to my workday. If I have structure and time to get organized, it’s usually smooth sailing."
- Tessa Miller
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Using your morning thoughtfully allows you to plan for the possibilities of the day to come. It helps you figure out what you really need to get done, and what can fall away, for the time being, in place of more important tasks.

Without a morning routine you’re like a ship without a rudder, veering this way and that but never truly sailing the course you’ve set.

3. Look at Your Morning From Above—What Do You See?

There is a common (albeit morbid) exercise in humility in which we are told to visualize our own funeral. What do those attending say about you—do they mention your high-flying career, how you won that client or this award, or how you worked twelve hour days for the best part of your working life? Or, do they speak of your character—that is, who you were as a parent, a friend, and a human being?

You can take this same approach to assess how you’re currently spending your morning immediately upon wakening. When you look at your morning from above, what do you see?

If you’ve imagined a hurried picture of yourself running from one task to the next as you scroll through the news on your phone and spill coffee down your shirt, consider making a change. Visualize a calmer morning, a gentler morning, a morning in which you put yourself first. And then make it a reality.

4. Set Yourself Up For an Early Win

The early wins that come from a morning routine will give you a sense of accomplishment that you can carry into the rest of the day. These wins can be a wide variety of things—making a new recipe for breakfast, taking a few minutes to meditate, etc.—but their common denominator is the sense of accomplishment you feel after completing them.

The early wins that come from a morning routine will give you a sense of accomplishment that you can carry into the rest of the day.
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Jeff Morris, Jr. told me: “Going to yoga before work has changed my life. When most people are starting to wake up, I already feel like I accomplished something. It’s a pretty awesome feeling."

This is an excerpt from the author’s new book, 'My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired,' available now.
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Read next:7 Ways to Start Your Morning Off Right