How to Have a Better Day

writing with coffee

We all know what not to do when we wake up in the morning.


DO NOT CHECK YOUR EMAIL. Do not let someone else’s agenda hijack your mind. Easier said then done, of course. If you use your iPhone as an alarm clock, it’s probably already a habit to unlock the phone and go straight to your inbox.


  • You might consider investing in an old-fashioned, battery operated alarm clock (the digital clock will interrupt your sleep). Leave your phone charging in another part of the house and give yourself some kind of reward for not checking until you’ve either meditated or done some creative work.


  • Another option is to leave your phone open to a meditation app like Insight Timer or Headspace. Make your first action plugging in your earbuds and listening to a guided meditation. I like Tara Brach’s Vispassana instructions on the Insight Timer app.


DO NOT GET ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Do not let someone’s political post get you riled up first thing. Do not scroll looking for cute cat pictures or get agitated by the announcement of someone else’s good news. Make your own good news by getting to work.


  • Here is a crazy idea: Delete the Facebook app from your phone.


  • If you use social media to stay in touch with your community or run a business, consider lining up your morning posts on Buffer at night.


CREATE A HEALTHY, RELIABLE MORNING ROUTINE. Even when I’m awake early enough, and have had the willpower to go straight to guided meditation, and stayed away from email and social media, I still have to get past multiple responsibilities before getting to my own work.


The dogs bark because they want to go out and then because they want to eat and then because they want to go out again. My daughter can’t find her shoes and would I please warm up a muffin for her? Steve wants to go over something before he leaves the house for the day. Also, I should throw in a load of laundry because we’re running out of towels and we all need to bathe, plus I should to make a list of things I absolutely need to do by the end of the day–pick up a prescription for my daughter, defrost something for dinner, return the doctor’s phone call that I missed the day prior. By the time everyone is up and out and I’m clear about what the household needs, I need a way to transition to the creative work part of my day.


I have a solid routine.


  • I like to read in the morning. I allow myself this simple pleasure. I make myself buttered Bulletproof coffee to wake up my brain and curl up on the sofa with a book.


  • When I feel ready, 10 -20 minutes of writing practice, using the prompt, “Where I am.” Sometimes I make myself use another topic, but this one usually lands me in the present moment.


  • Recently, I’ve added inquiry to my writing routine. I’ve made some tweaks to some old, favorite questions that have resulted in less pushing myself to do and more listening to what feels right. Perhaps you will find them helpful as well.


1. Instead of, “What do I need to do to take care of myself today?” I’ve been using “How can I take better care of myself today?” It’s a small tweak that prods me to be more mindful. Rather than change my diet, I might consider something simple like drinking more water or getting outside and moving a bit.


2. A related question: “What is my body asking for?” Rest? A salad? Some sun salutations? This takes self-care out of the realm of regimen and places authority for your well-being within. I’ve taken to lying on the floor to ask this one and waiting to see how my body responds.


3. Instead of making a to-do list for your project, try asking this: “What is my project asking of me today? What does it need from me?”  An example from my week: finish the next section of the book proposal. Don’t create anxiety wasting time stewing about what you think you should be doing (finishing the manuscript) and get to work on the next right thing.


4. “What small act of kindness would bring some light to someone else’s day?” You don’t have to start a non-profit or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Why not drop a note to a friend who has been struggling with depression? We all have so much on our plates — parents, children, our own illnesses, not to mention making a living and creating — it’s helpful to remember we’re not alone. You will make someone else’s day and get a little oxytocin hit yourself.


For years I woke up anxious, worried about how I would make my way past all of my responsibilities and get down to work. The answer wasn’t racing to the studio. It was finding a way to slow down and connect, to listen deeply and move forward from there.


What routines help you set up your day? What questions would you add to this list? I’d love to know in the comments below.



3 thoughts on “How to Have a Better Day

  1. Robin Bradford

    These are wise suggestions and reminders. Thank you for them! My last ritual before starting my day is to recite: “May our bodies be at ease. May our hearts be open. May our minds be boundless. May we awaken.” I then say aloud the names of people I want to honor that day (my teachers), people I care about who are struggling, and then just friends, family, national figures or groups of people who come to mind for whom I want this to be true. One can also substitute for “awaken,” the words “be free.” The idea is the same – that I wish for myself and the others I list that they not get caught up in the unhelpful thoughts or emotions. Also, for me nature is important since I work indoors all day–eating breakfast on the porch to watch the birds, or just making a point to take in the sky or what’s growing, get my feet wet with dew…


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