More and more of us are now working from home, and the life of an independent virtually depends on it (pun only slightly intended). Connecting digitally to people around the world, sending files and artwork and recordings around the globe in seconds, all of this is a wonderful part of modern independent living. But the humiliating bottom line is that working from home can make it really hard to want to do anything, especially that first moment after the alarm goes off.
I’ve worked from home for three years, and took me a long time to get used to starting the day. I used to always start by checking my phone, skimming social media and watching the news for a while.
The trouble is, looking at screens is a passive activity and winds your brain down, when you need to be sparking it to life after a night’s slumber.
So we need to do some different, more stimulating things to get us going:
No screens for 30 minutes
Starting your day by actually doing something kick-starts your brain. So no watching TV, flicking through phone notifications or social media for the first 30 minutes of your waking day. But what can you do instead?
Read a book
Facing jumping out of bed when you’re bleary eyed and half asleep can feel like too much, so try staying in bed for 20 minutes and reaching for a book rather than your phone. No screens, a proper book. I actually have a book by my bedside I exclusively read first thing in the morning.
Reading gets your brain working while you gear up for the physical feats of the day.
I hate the gym. It’s expensive and stinky and brings me no joy. But some sort of physical activity first thing gets your brain and body activated for the day.
Try to get outside for a short walk or a run. Getting out of the house first thing is a good way to motivate yourself, and being outside wipes away that slow morning fogginess.
[In the era of Coronavirus, make sure you keep a distance from other people. I’m using this as my one outing of exercise for the day — it’s more effective at getting my brain going in the morning than at any other time of day.]
Hydrate before you caffeinate
I love coffee. I used to jump straight at the coffee machine first thing each morning. But I found that drinking a couple of glasses of water or fruit juice first kept my energy levels up much longer.
Remember that you haven’t drunk anything for at least six hours, so get back into proper hydration. Then let yourself lose on the coffee or tea.
I never really put much stock in meditating. I mean, I knew it helped people relax but I never really considered spending 15 minutes sat thinking about calm things. But meditation covers a huge range of activities. One of them will work for you.
Particularly in stressful times, or if you're feeling anxious, you can wake up feeling knotted, weary about the idea of facing the day. Spending even ten minutes calming your brain and relaxing your body gets you ready for whatever the day throws at you.
[I know that a whole bunch of you will have already dismissed this one (if you didn’t just skip over it). I used to do that too when the word 'meditate' came up, but I urge you to try it for a week and see how it works for you. You may be surprised at the difference it can make to your mood.]
If you’re lucky enough to have someone around when you wake up, give them a proper hug before rushing on to your list of things to do. It releases endorphins, strengthens your social bonds and just feels good.
Actually get up properly
It’s really important to transition from relaxing mode to active mode. Your brain really pays attention to these things. Getting up properly means having a shower, putting on fresh clothes and not slobbing around in your pyjamas all day. The psychological difference it makes is amazing.
In the same way, if you have somewhere in your home that's for work (a home office, or even a corner with a computer desk), then go there and use it. Your brain will cotton on that this is work and you’ll focus better.
I swear by this one: start your day by free writing for half an hour. Ideally do it longhand rather than typing to avoid screens and distractions. Write about anything that comes to your mind but keep writing. Your brain has just spent the night digesting what you learned the day before, so it will have generated questions and ideas. Free writing first thing in the morning is the perfect way to get these brain-nuggets out into the real world.
This stops worries and half-formed ideas from rattling around your head all day. It also helps you clarify and prioritise what’s important.
Will all of these ideas work for you? Nah. But they're all worth trying. I tend to mix and match to keep my days feeling different. I hydrate, shower and dress every day, but the rest I rotate through the week. What can I say, my brain loves novelty.
So if you’ve been suffering from sluggish mornings, give some a go and see which combination works best for you.