Hacking Your Morning Routine

With a commute ranging from 45-70 minutes, an hour in the gym, a bow-tie to tie, and cats to feed, my mornings are quite hectic. Pack onto that cooking a lunch, preparing for any court cases I have that day, and putzing around on the internet, and I would need to just skip bed entirely to make sure I get everything done.

I see fellow members of the bar rush into court with their tie half undone and their notes in disarray on a regular basis. A regular enough basis that I assume others must be struggling to get everything done in the morning. So it is with fellow busy morning people in mind that I share this advice.

Use the Evening as Prep Time

The blog LifeClever suggests picking a time every evening to start getting ready for the next day. They call it the Ten O’clock Rule because they recommend having something alert you that it is ten o’clock and time to start your prep ritual. They even offer a short checklist to keep you occupied:

  • Plan breakfast and make sure the fridge is stocked (if necessary, run out to the grocery store to stock up on milk, eggs, etc.)
  • Grind your beans and set your coffeemaker to go off
  • Lay out your outfit and the contents of your pockets (make sure you have cash and change in your wallet)
  • Pack your bag for work with any necessary files, gadgets, etc.
  • Charge your cellphone and laptop
  • Set your alarm
  • Set out your workout clothes and sneakers if you’re going to the gym
  • Check your calendar for any key events early in the day you should be expecting

I would also recommend sorting out your lunch for the following day. This advice is doubly important if you have kids, I’m told.

Realistically Budget Your Morning Time

It is impossible to spend an hour at the gym and drive forty-five minutes to work if you wake up at eight o’clock and have to be at the office by nine. Similarly, waking up at four and realizing you have way too much time on your hands can be disastrous to the end of your day when you end up passed out from lack of sleep.

That’s why it is important to be realistic about the time it takes you to get things done in the morning. Lifehacker summarized an article from the unclutterer blog about making sure you allow enough time in the morning. This is an area where lawyers should excel. Just pretend you’re billing your time in the morning and you’ll have no problem determining if you spend .1 or .2 in the bathroom, and how much time you really need to be at the office on time.

Take a Cold Shower

Joel Runyon of ImpossibleHQ uses cold shower therapy to get himself out of a rut or start a new project. He even did a TED talk on the benefits. For him and many of his readers, the ice cold shower can provide a needed mental boost for the day:

When you’re staring at that faucet from hell, you’re only thinking one thing – this is going to suck, this is going to suck, this is going to suck. Why? Because it sucks obviously and you’re afraid it’s going to suck. But just because something sucks doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just because you’re afraid of something, doesn’t mean you have to stay afraid.

But I’ve found that cold showers are also a time saver. I can guarantee that if you are taking a cold shower you won’t spend time luxuriating and contemplating your weekend plans. You will get in and get out and continue with your morning.

Take Some Time to Contemplate

As Scott Greenfield points out regularly, too many of us forget the most valuable thing we do for clients: think. If you can make it work, set aside some time to think. Whether it’s mere contemplation or thoughts about an impending case, it can help calm you down and get your head in the game by the time you get to your desk. Or, if you’re me, it can help calm you down from a commute filled with traffic and people worthy of a kick in the teeth.


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