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Make the Most of Your Mornings: There Is No One Right Way To Do Anything (Day 13)

On yesterday’s Make the Most of Your Mornings post, Ashley left the following comment on Facebook:

I really appreciated her willingness to chime in with a differing opinion than many of the commentors. I learn so much from those who have personalities and viewpoints that are different than mine — and so I’m grateful when people have the courage to speak up.

Here’s what I wrote back to her on my Facebook Page:

I’ve shared a lot of different things in this Make the Most of Your Mornings series and I hope it has been an encouragement to many of you. That said, I want to reiterate something that is imperative to remember when reading anything written by anyone: what works for one family won’t work for another family.

My heart’s desire in writing this series is to challenge and inspire those of you who are struggling to be intentional with your mornings. I want to give you some things to mull over and some practical ideas to try.

However, if you love how your mornings currently are, please skip these posts. There’s no need to fix what isn’t broken!

And in the same vein, if you try some of the ideas I share and it just doesn’t work for your family, please move onto something else that works better — and leave all guilt behind. The last thing I want to do is make you feel exhausted, frustrated, or discouraged!

The longer I live, the more I realize how much I don’t know. But one thing I do know: there is no one right way to do anything.

(Well, that might be a sweeping generalization and I’m sure you can come up with a few instances — such as brain surgery or something — when there is only one right way to do something. But for the most part, it holds true in most circumstances.)

You are a unique person. You have a unique family. You have your own unique set of struggles, difficulties, and burdens.

I’m not walking in your shoes, so I can’t tell you what will work for you. I can give you some ideas, I can share some things that have worked well for me, but, ultimately, only you can know what works for you and your family.

So be free from guilt, okay? Whether you get up early or get up late, whether you have a to-do list and a plan or just live by the seat of your pants, whether you set goals or not, and if you wear your pajamas all day long every day, I love you and am grateful to have you here as a reader!

My Day 12 Project Update

Bedtime: Didn’t make it to bed until 10 p.m. last night. 🙁

My Top 5 Evening Must Do’s: Done!

Wake Up Time: 5:30 a.m.

Showered & Dressed by 9 a.m.: YES — well, actually, it was 9:07 a.m. Does that still count??

Morning Plan of Action: Bible Reading/Prayer, 30 Minutes Blogging, Exercise, Shower/Dress, Coffee!

Day 13 Project

1. Did you determine your bedtime and 5 Evening Must-Do’s? If so, leave a comment telling us how you did on them last night.

2. Did you determine what time you’re going to commit to waking up every morning for the next three weeks? If so, leave a comment telling us how you did this morning!

3. Did you get in some exercise yesterday and eat a nutritious breakfast? If not, make a commitment today to a specific way you’re going to incorporate exercise and a nutritious breakfast into your day.

4. Did you create a morning plan of action? If so, tell us how it went this morning! If you haven’t created one yet, go ahead and create one and tell us about it in the comments.

5. Examine the changes you’ve made over the last two weeks and determine if they are working well for your family. If not, what things can you change to make them more workable for your own unique situation and current needs?

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  • Kimberly says:

    As a wife/mother of a 4year old and 5 month old/public school teacher who has just returned to the classroom, I can’t thank you enough for this series. While I haven’t been able to try most of the projects, it was the first one that has changed my life. Choosing a bed time, having a nightly list of must-do items, and having my hubby jump on board has been instrumental in getting me out the door on time and without feeling flustered! I’m convinced that a calm start to my day has helped make this back to school week the best one of my 10 years of teaching. I can’t do all your tips but the ones I CAN do have been so helpful!!!!!!

    • Emily says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more Kimberly! The 5 nightly things and designated bedtime has revolutionized my evening & mornings! Thanks Crystal for your sweet spirit!

  • Great point – it is important to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. When in comes to my mornings, this challenge is exactly what I need. It helps me so much to do my night time routine, be in bed at a consistent time, and get myself out of bed in time to at least not feel rushed in the mornings (since I have to be out the door for work at a fixed time). I think sometimes we (or at least I) just want to copy people who we see as successful or even make ourselves feel guilty if we don’t do exactly what some other successful person does. I’ve had to really work to get that idea into my head! For example, my family is doing wonderfully with our finances, are meeting and even exceeding all of our financial goals, so nothing is it all broken even though we regularly use a credit card that we pay off in full every month. However I still fill the need to “fix” it when I read posts about using only cash. I did give it a genuine try and it didn’t help our family at all, but yet I still feel guilt when reading posts about how most folks who are successful with their money use only cash. I’ve eventually learned to skip over those posts and move on to the things that really help me. I love your attitude in encouraging people not to feel guilty about what works for them! That said, I really love this morning series, and am going to be sad when it ends. I’m still struggling with really setting up long term good habits and need all the encouragement I can get in that area!

  • cwaltz says:

    I’m still hoping you’ll answer a question I posted earlier. At what point do you sit down and reevaluate whether you were realistic when setting a goal? How many times do you allow yourself to fail before saying perhaps I need to move the goalpost because I didn’t consider everything when I made the goal?

    • Susan says:

      I’ll chime in here, and hopefully Crystal will add her thoughts as well.

      In most areas of my life, I have a “three strikes your out” type of mentality. If something sounds like a good idea, I’ll try it. If it works, great. If not, I’ll try again. If it still doesn’t work, change it up a little to try and improve it, and if it still doesn’t work, give it up. It wasn’t meant to be.

      Let me be clear I’m talking about personal goals here, not major life issues where it is more imperative to carry on in spite of obstacles.

      Take the “cash only” system, for example. Crystal has endorsed this practice time and time again, and many commenters indicate that it has worked well for them. I tried it and it fizzled. I tried it again with more diligence, and it fizzled again. I live within my means and my budget. I have plenty of savings. I use plastic for most purchases for points/rewards and convenience, but I have no debt other than my mortgage. After the third attempt at cash-only, I acknowledged to myself that it simply does not work well for me and gave it up entirely.

      In some situations, once may be enough, and you’ll know that the goal might not have been reasonable from the start.

  • Aimee says:

    Your reminders to do what works for each family are much appreciated! If life were one size fits all, it would surely be easier but oh so boring. I will add my own perspective from the corporate world, though. The business world really is geared toward people being productive in the mornings (unless you work offshore in call centers). I think it’s important for *most* kids to learn this as they mature.

    • Lisa says:

      Totally agree with this, Aimee! I do believe that one should do what works for his or her own family, but I personally think it’s good (even for home schooled families) to have a good morning routine. It’s a good practice for kids to learn when they are young. It will make it a whole lot easier when they have to get up early for a job one day.

    • Susan says:

      I third this!

      It’s true that in MOST work environments, the expectation, the norm, and the perception (rightly or wrongly), is that people are most productive at the beginning of the work day and wind down as the day goes on. The ability to establish a good morning routine, at home and in the workplace, will serve children well throughout their life.

      This is not to say that all families should start their day at 5:00 like Crystal does. Crystal has made it crystal clear (pun intended 🙂 ) that everyone should do what works best for their own families and individual circumstances. Nothing is one-size-fits-all here.

    • Kristi says:

      I agree as well. For our family, I believe that part of my job is to teach our children to use their time effectively. Someday, whether at college or in a job situation, someone will expect them to be on time, have their work done on time, and be dressed in something besides their pajamas. =) I’m not criticizing those who do differently, just offering a different perspective.

  • This is really good advice! I’ve really been enjoying this series and have been implementing what I can in this season. I first started reading your blog about a year or so ago and I remember feeling overwhelmed at first by all you were able to accomplish then I noticed that you would sometimes say “this is what is working now” or “this works for this season”. That has helped me to evaluate the season I’m in, the responsibilities I have now and implement based on that versus what I feel I should be doing by comparing myself to someone else. As a result there’s been some great changes in my life I’ve made with the help of your blog. I really enjoy these series and am looking forward to the next one (hopefully there’s another one planned??!!)

  • Natalie says:

    This is great Crystal, especially for Christian wives who need to evaluate how they can mesh with their uniquely made husbands (this is coming from a natural early bird who married a man who prefers to burn the midnight oil. ;D ). Not that the wife needs to change everything about herself and her schedule to just whatever her husband *wants*….but one way I’ve found I can love my husband is give him time in the evenings. He’d probably not say much if I insisted on going to bed early, but he’s so happy when I am willing to stay up some.

    Great clarifier, Crystal! Thanks for the continual encouragement and tips/ideas from one wife/mom to another! 🙂

  • Melodie says:

    It’s so true what you said about something different working for each family. But I would like to chime in and say that I have SOOOOO appreciated this series. I was a die-hard ‘night owl’ and was convinced that it’d be impossible to have a relaxing/productive morning, especially since I start work at 7:30am. But since following your series I’ve been converted :-). Instead of getting up 15 min before leaving for work, I’ve managed to get up early enough to read my Bible, exercise etc.
    So thank you for the encouragement!! It’s changed my life…it’s amazing how much better I feel when I start work after being able to spend time with my Lord and have a productive morning instead of rushing out the door and doing my hair and/or make-up in the car 🙂
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Nicole H says:

    I love this series!!! I am fired up about my life and these posts, blogs and motivated people keep me focused on the prize…LIFE! I’m not perfect…only God is perfect. But I am doing my best and trying to love the hills and valleys of life. This is an awesome goal for my life and any found time is so very valuable. Thank you for doing this series. I will say this…I write my “schedule” in pencil…life tends to throw curve balls each day and you need to be able to erase and re-write!

  • Davonne says:

    This has been one of my favorite series of yours! I haven’t been following it exactly but I’ve been motivated to go to sleep and get up at a decent time, read my Bible, and try to hop in the shower before my kids are up which makes an incredible difference over my entire day. I’ve been in a much better mood lately as well which I partially attribute to not feeling so behind and overwhelmed all day long. So thank you and please keep going with this series!

  • Ashley says:

    As a homeschooling mom of a 7, 5, 3, and 1 year old, I am here to testify that your “mornings” series has been incredibly helpful for OUR family. I understand it may not suit everyone, but it’s been great for us! Thanks for the input Crystal! You are valued and helpful…Blessings!

  • Funny enough, with this series, I’ve actually found that it’s increased my productivity at night rather than in the morning. At least I’m more productive, yay! Thanks!!

    • Heather says:

      Ditto! : )

      • Melissa says:

        Yep, I’ve taken the best of Crystal’s ideas and applied them to my naturally late-rising family and self. I completely appreciate all the effort you put into your series of ideas to help us better our lives, offer printables, and do it for FREE. So, thank you, again, Crystal.

        I also completely understand where the original FB poster was coming from, because I’ve gotten some extremely thoughtless and unapologetic comments over the years criticizing “night owls”, with labels like: lazy, weird (“What do you DO that late at night??!”) selfish, and given the impression that those with a different circadian rhythm are less motivated, less intelligent, less productive and frankly, less respected. Now, I know none of those things are true, but there *is* a subconscious knee-jerk reaction I have when I first read things about productivity–and part of it stated or implied that being a morning person come heck-or-high-water is necessary–that reminds me of these unpleasant feelings mentioned above. It’s NOT the author’s fault in any way, but a byproduct of previous (an unwarranted) shaming.

        I’m sorry this is so long, but that’s at least my part as to why this night owl can feel defensive. I understand that we’re in the minority, and the world keeps a daytime schedule, and I don’t mind having to adapt where I can. 🙂

        • michelle says:

          We are night owls too! But starting on Tuesday we have to be up in he morning for school, so the idea of the nighttime routines is amazing to me. If I can get lunches packed, clothes laid out, breakfast prepared at night then we don’t have to get up as early!

          I hate when people assume that since I sleep until 9 or 10 I must be lazy or all I do is sleep. They are assuming I go to sleep when they do when its often 1 am when I go to bed. I still only get 7 or 8 hours of sleep, they are just different hours 🙂

  • Thanks for the reminder! I’ve been struggling with comparing myself to all the “Super-Moms” I see on Pinterest, Facebook, Blogs, Websites, and more. My husband has been patiently listening to me processing. I guess I’m just not a “lesson-plan” kind of mom, despite being a former art teacher. I like getting up earlier in the morning now (these last 2 months), but I don’t like having my whole day scheduled. I’m better at crossing things off a list than I am at scheduling a time for everything, or doing it all in a certain order. Some weeks I focus more on cooking, and other weeks I spend more time on playing with the kids, working on my blog, reading books, running errands, or doing home improvement projects. I like the flexibility of my life, and the variety keeps it interesting. I keep reminding myself that my mom (an artist) is very right-brained, not a lesson-planner, and her six kids turned out great. 🙂

    • It’s tough with all the “picture perfect” ideals that are getting portrayed online. I feel you! The pressure is definitely on. I always remind myself that pictures can be portrayed to be better than they really are and that a persons capabilities depend on their resources. Everyone has different resources and different strengths – I’m sure yours (and your families) shine through!!

  • Jamie says:

    I just love this post. Your intentions and personality shined through in what you were saying. It was nice to read something today that was coming from the heart of someone else. Thank you for that.

  • As always, I love your attitude and am totally inspired by these posts… even though I don’t do mornings. Not that I don’t like them, but I literally don’t do them – we usually wake up around noon in this house! We don’t have kids yet and prefer to work at night (I’m still working right now) and then sleep in in the morning, have a lazy brunch, walk the dogs on the beach.

    But I’m still inspired to make the most of my “mornings”. I went running today for the first time in a month, did a little yoga on the beach, listened to music, and made a more healthy “breakfast” than normal – what a difference! I’m going to stick with it for a week and see if it’s worth making into a long-term habit.

  • Shelly says:

    I was so glad I did all my 5 tasks last night. I almost forgot to get them done but right before bed I remembered and I was thankful I did otherwise we would have had frozen bread in the morning at breakfast. One of my tasks is to get a loaf of bread out of the freezer if needed. So I was so glad I remembered to do my 5 tasks.

    I got to bed on time and was up on time in the morning and I got dressed right away. I ate a good breakfast and then went to finish up my morning tasks. One of my tasks is to take care of any e-mailing and doing a few things with my blog. Well I set a time limit for myself for 30 minutes. I ran over this time limit. That made me a little late to start exercising but I made sure to get my exercising in today! I was happy to get my exercising done as I had not gotten my exercise done in the last 2 days.

    So far my new morning routine is working out well. I may need to adjust it a little once we start back to full time homeschooling but I will wait and see how it goes.

  • Amen! You are spot on with this advice, Crystal. Sometimes we women (or maybe it’s just me?) can fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, which can lead to disappointment or discouragement “if we don’t measure up.” But, we each have our own God-given path to follow and must take what works for us and leave the rest. 🙂

    (By the way getting dressed by 9:07am absolutely works. 🙂 )

  • Bedtime: 10:35

    My Top 5 Evening Must Do’s: I finished 4 out of 5. Posting them on the fridge held me accountable, espeically when I started to sneak off to bed without doing them. But, knowing I had to stare at the list on the fridge all morning, I did them anyway. Ha! 😉

    Wake Up Time: 6:00 am

    Exercise & Breakfast: Done!

    Showered & Dressed by 10am (my goal!)

    Morning Plan of action: Quiet Time/Breakfast, Workout, Blogging, Start Laundry, Shower/Dress by 10 am

    I actually like that this serious made me feel guilty. Just goes to show how we all have different personalities! I’m very much a goal oriented/list making gal. So, this serious has pushed me to go above and beyond my normal routines. It has increased my productivity levels in a positive way and for that I am very grateful! =)

  • Not everything will work for everyone, but it’s great that you are trying to make the most out of your mornings. Not everyone is even a morning person. I definitely am and once I get adjusted to my new schedule I would love to make a plan like this!

  • Joanna says:

    I have a six-year-old night owl, a four-year-old early bird, and a twelve-month-old who still wakes up three times a night to nurse. The baby’s crib is still in my room, making an early alarm and sneak-out for some morning alone time to read from the scriptures, exercise, and get started for the day highly improbable, if not impossible. On top of that, I’m expecting again, and the first trimester nausea, exhaustion, occasional insomnia and depression have prevented me from having productive mornings, or productive evenings, or from doing much of anything all day every day. I have to admit that just yesterday I was catching up on reading these posts and sat in front of my computer sobbing. I have the bad habit of correlating my self-worth with what I’m able to do, which means weeks like these I’m not just behind on housework, but also that I’m a bad homemaker, wife, mother, person.

    I hope it’s okay that there are seasons for setting goals, making progress, becoming a better person, and improving life; but also seasons where all I can do is tread water and hope my nose comes up for the occasional air. Fortunately first grade and preschool don’t start for us until September, so I hope when that happens I’ll be feeling a little better. Maybe I’ll go back through this series and try implementing the suggestions in a few weeks.

    • Katie says:

      Wow! I’d say if your children are feed and clothed, you’ve done great! You’ve definitely got a lot on your plate right now!

    • Rachael says:

      I have two children, ages 2 and 4, and this is the first time in four years I’ve gotten up early to exercise, do household chores, and read before they get up. When you’re nursing and pregnant, life is just really unpredictable. Hang in there and congratulations on such a beautiful family!

  • Katie says:

    I used to feel stressed when I read your posts about meal planning. I felt like I was really dropping the ball because I didn’t plan breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day until I realized that that approach just doesn’t work for me and that’s ok! I always just plan what meals we are going to have for supper and keep the same breakfast and lunch staples on hand. For me that works so planning each day would just complicate things for me. And sometimes we just go out to eat spontaneously (with money from the restaurant envelope!) (I still like your meal planning posts, though; they give me ideas!) I feel like blog posts are pretty much just suggestions or ideas; you are not saying there is only one right way to do things! Keep up the good work!

    • Kathleen says:

      I only plan for dinners too for the week. We also pretty much eat the same things for breakfast & lunch so it’s just way easier to just plan my meals for grocery shopping around dinners for the week.

  • I am really enjoying this series since I am struggling with my morning routine. I used to have my morning down pat when I was a work outside the home mom. Becuase I had to be at work by 8:00 each morning, but now that I work from home and take the kids to school instead of having the bus get them, I find that even though I get up early 5:30 am I still feel like 1/2 the day is gone by the time I get everyone else where they need to be. I’m supposed to start a work out regiment next week buy I’m afraid it will cut even further into my time in the morning? sigh…I’m supposed to be less busy now (I know that’s what everyone thinks now that I work from home) but I’m running even more then I used to.

  • Jimi says:

    After a couple really good days, I did not stick to any of my plan this morning. I crawled back in bed after my husband and son left at 5:45, hoping that a little more sleep would knock out the headache I woke up with. No such luck. And I overslept as well.

    What I’m learning is that so much rides on the night before (exactly like you’ve said, Crystal). I didn’t get to bed until long after bedtime, which makes it a struggle for me mentally in the morning to convince myself I can get by on significantly less sleep. I sure appreciate the post today and am reminded that not all days are going to look the same. In today’s case, it was worth it to sacrifice bedtime in order to get some good time with a friend last night. I don’t want to miss opportunities like that because I’m trying so hard to stick to my routine.

    But, I don’t want to abandon my progress either. I’ve loved having more of a routine. So while I went to bed late, overslept, didn’t exercise or eat breakfast or do any of my morning routine (besides showering and dressing for work), I am going to try again tomorrow. 🙂

  • michelle says:

    These posts have definitely helped me! In the past I would have skipped them – we are late sleepers by nature and as a SAHM to a 4 and 1 year old often had no reason to get up at any specific time or be anywhere before 11 am. But my 4 year old will be starting school on Tuesday, and I will have to get her there by 830 every day. Oh and we live 30 minutes from her school. Having no clue how to be a morning person or get two kids fed, dressed, and out the door by a certain time every morning, this series has given me some awesome direction! Of course not everything will work for us but I love all the suggestions and our mornings will go a lot smoother! Thanks so much for this series Crystal!

  • Sherry Lochner says:

    Bedtime: Got in bed 20 minutes late as I was engrossed in a book.

    My Top 5 Evening Must Do’s: Done!

    Wake Up Time: 6 am

    Morning Plan: get dressed/shower, coffee, Bible reading/prayer, take dishes out, make breakfast, start schooling

    I need accountability, and I thank you for it, Crystal. Each of us goes through different seasons of life where not everything which we try works for that point in life.

  • One of these days I am gonna hug your neck. It is posts like these that keep me coming back for more.
    God is able to use you so amazingly because of your willingness to be used. You write posts that can help people change their lives, if they need the change. And yet, the grace you show for those who don’t need it just shines through.
    Not everybody will need to overhaul their mornings, or their finances, or their meal plan, or their house cleaning. But when/if they do, you are always there with great ideas and ways to implement them in bite sized pieces.
    Thank you, Crystal, for all you do to make our lives easier and more productive!

  • Courtney says:

    I set a goal of bedtime by 10pm. Well, that was a failure. I have been a night owl my entire life. I struggled through first period in high school because of that. Also, because of my dh’s schedule, we may not be eating dinner until 7:30pm some nights. These last 10 days my 2 year old has decided to make bedtime 10pm and morning at 5am, so that is also been a problem.

    So, I evaluated what I was trying to do, and how it would fit me. I changed some of my morning routine to night routine. I now try to do my journal, and my “me time” at night before I go to bed. I also refuse to feel guilty if my morning starts with me stumbling to the living room, turning on PBS, and cuddling/dozing with my son. I have set a time limit on how long I can doze on the couch, which is making my morning productivity better.

    I really agree with Michelle. Just because I don’t get up until 8am, doesn’t mean I’m lazy, or a slacker, or anything else. I was up until midnight, or more likely, 1am getting things done.

    And for what it’s worth, I worked in the corporate world for 10 years, and never had a problem finding or keeping a job. In fact, at a few jobs I got paid more because I was willing to work a later shift. It can be hard to find a manager willing to work outside 9am-6pm.

  • Nicole says:

    I am having trouble making this work even though it works way better for me my husband isn’t home until 10:30pm this will be changing soon so I hope that this also changes, I have such a hard time dragging myself out of bed even though I used to be a morning person!

  • Ooh, I’m glad I finally made it back to this blog yesterday. We’ve had some big changes around my house this summer, and I’m in the process of re-evaluating my daily schedule, particularly the mornings. I’m working evenings, so my bedtime is a bit stuck at “later than I’d like.” These tips are helpful as I’m trying to sort out what is actually realistic for me to get done in the mornings and what will be most helpful to get through the rest of the day.

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