My Morning and Evening Routine

I struggle with anything outside of my routine. And that’s exactly why I have one.

I originally developed several routine habits as a way to save myself time, be more efficient, accomplish more tasks, and try to etch some space out for myself amidst the chaotic life of a new small business owner. Practical. I think that we are all continuously overloaded with information and tasks, and these routines helped organize my life to make it slightly more liveable. However, after four years of implementing these strategies I’ve discovered the real benefit of having these routines: grounding.

Much less practical. Way more “woo woo.”

When you are grounded you feel calm, centered, balanced and strong. You’re less stressed and tense and more capable of introspection while simultaneously feeling like you’re part of something larger. For me, that “something larger” is nature, the universe, and other living beings. It’s difficult to stay grounded with constant demands and distractions on our time, things pulling us in a million directions at once, but I think there are many ways you can reconnect with your “something larger” in order to become more solid. The more balanced I am, the more capable and calm I feel when change and chaos come my way. And they inevitably always do.

I come back to my routine and feel safe. Your version of grounding can include any practice that is consistent and helps you feel connected to your version of “something larger.” Which, in turn, helps you to learn more about who you are. And you don’t need to be some meditation master. All you need is some commitment to put yourself first and an understanding that it won’t always be perfect, and that’s okay.

Here is my detailed AM / PM ritual! I hope it will help some of you with ideas on how to begin implementing time for grounding in your own life. I also want to mention that establishing this WAS NOT easy. It took at least a year of waking up early before I started to actually enjoy it, working out used to be a chore, and I got A LOT of pushback from my husband. He didn’t understand why I was forcing myself to do (what appeared to him as) even more things. He still thinks I do too much, but now I know that prioritizing me was the best choice I could make. It helps me to be more balanced and calm, and instead of feeling like I never get time for myself, I now usually feel fairly satisfied in that department. What may look like more work to other people can look like accomplishment, time for yourself, and peace of mind to you. Trust yourself.

AM:

-Wake up at 5am. Or whatever time necessary to have at least 3.5 hours of time before I have to begin my day or head to work.

-Set my phone to “do not disturb,” set it aside and put my Apple Watch on. I do not mirror my phone on my watch and only have workout apps, podcasts, music, and audiobooks. It’s also set to DND and is on silent.

-Put cozy pajamas on, pour myself some coffee with dairy free creamer (no sugar) and set a timer on my watch for 30 minutes.

-Read a book for 30 minutes. A physical book, simply for enjoyment. I like to do this in a cozy chair in the living room. Sometimes I light candles, sometimes I turn on the fireplace. Make it cozy! It’s early, so hopefully you can find somewhere quiet.

-Once that timer goes off I put my book away and set another timer for 15 minutes.

-I sit quietly for these 15 minutes with no distractions. Sometimes I practice breathing exercises, sometimes I mentally recite my meditation mantras, and sometimes I’m so scatterbrained that I just sit there and try to relax. The main thing is that I spend 15 minutes alone with myself. Sometimes I do this in the cozy chair, sometimes on a yoga mat, and sometimes in my mediation corner in my office. Again, I think it’s important to carve out some physical space for yourself.

-Once that timer goes off, I get up, grab my headphones and either put on a podcast or audiobook while I clean one part of the house. I generally do not spend more than 30 minutes per day cleaning, but this way I free up Saturdays and Sundays with no big chores. Ie: bathroom Wednesday, kitchen Thursday, dusting Friday. Make sure to assign chores to specific days ahead of time to reduce decision fatigue and time wasted.

-After doing my daily chore, I pull up my daily workout. I am fortunate enough to have a personal trainer who logs all of my workouts into a convenient app so I know what to do each day. I think it’s INCREDIBLY useful to plan out your week in advance as well, so you can eliminate daily decision fatigue. That topic is another blog altogether, but keep in mind you are much more likely to stick with your routine the fewer decisions you have to make in the moment. Set yourself up ahead of time. You don’t need a personal trainer to pre-plan your workouts for that week.) I workout for 45 minutes to one hour maximum. I also listen to music, or a podcast or audiobook during this time.

-After my workout, I get ready. I do not spend more than 45 mins to one hour showering and doing hair and makeup. I’ve decided at this point in my life, other things are more important to me. I listen to a podcast or audiobook while I get ready.

-Before I leave the house I feed the pets while making my morning breakfast smoothie (ingredients prepped and ready to go), and packing my lunch and snacks for the day (also prepped and ready to go). Then I’m out the door for about the next 10-11 hours.

PM:

My evening routine is much shorter, and fairly new. After a long work day I do not want to do anything except eat and sleep. But I knew that establishing something to let the chaos of the day go, so I can move more seamlessly into a relaxing evening is important. So at the beginning of this year (yep just a month ago) I finally committed to an evening routine. The key: make it short and simple.

-As soon as I walk through the door after work I put my work laundry in the washing machine and start it.

-I then make myself a cup of tea while washing my lunch and breakfast dishes.

-I give my husband a kiss, turn my phone on DND and silent and leave it in my work bag, then take my tea to enjoy while I change into pajamas, wash my face, and complete my skincare routine. This probably takes around five minutes.

-After my skin is taken care of, I go into my office, close the door and finish my tea while I write down three things I am grateful for and three good things that happened to me that day. This takes another five minutes.

-After that, I feel much more ready to cook dinner (which I hopefully prepped) and spend time with my husband until bed time.

-Depending on the day, I will usually check my phone for a minute or two right before I go to sleep in case someone texted me, but aside from that I try to keep my phone in another room and/or on DND and silent so I am separated from its distractions.

Photo: Amanda Lankila Photography https://instagram.com/amandalankilaphotography?igshid=calt99ozzq5s

Answering My Own Women in Business Questions: Part 3

The Things I Ask Everyone:

1) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

I already mentioned “you teach people how to treat you” in last week’s interview. So, I’ll share another incredibly influential piece of advice.

“Give yourself the emotional permission to create more time.”

Rory Vaden

For the first time in my life, someone had addressed the real issue with “time management.” As a new small business owner, soon-to-be wife, and someone who has varying personal interests, I had become tired of reading the same self-help, time management advice which essentially consists of: make lists, multi task, wake up earlier, and create a schedule. I was doing all those things and still felt like I could never find a free moment for myself, despite my efforts and discipline to make it work.

Am I the only woman who feels this way? Umm, no. These time management styles work for those of us without complex societal pressures to do everything, for everyone. And they absolutely do not address how to cope with the resulting guilt we feel when we can’t do everything, or simply don’t want to, and the pit of despair we tend to fall into once we beat ourselves up for “failing” at everything and letting everyone down, including ourselves.

Those books don’t even try to teach us how to deal with the constant exhaustion and (let’s face it) straight up fury we feel when we try to explain these concepts and are gaslit at every turn by those around us and society at large. “It’s 2021, sexism isn’t a thing anymore. Everyone is equal so you choose this for yourself. Other women have it way worse than you anyway. You’re overreacting. Stop being so emotional. Why is everything about being a woman? Why can’t you just be happy? Be grateful. If you don’t want to do all that stuff, just don’t do it. Or just stop complaining.” And the list goes on, and on, and on…our experiences invalidated, our frustration bottled back up at our own expense.

The problem is that lurking below the impossible weight of our never-ending to do lists is guilt and a sense of emotional obligation to do everything. Someone had finally named it. And once I wrapped my head around this concept and started detaching myself from that guilt, things slowly began improving. The solution to breaking this cycle is to recognize that the game is rigged, flip it two big middle fingers, and start working on your damn self.

However, I do want to mention that Vaden’s argument omits any type of gender theory (and all other identity politics for that matter) making his solutions overly simplistic at times. I plan to write an entire blog post on this topic, but until women can identify that we are conditioned by society to be what Emily and Amelia Nagoski in their book Burnout call “Human Givers” rather than human beings, we cannot even begin to unlearn this conditioning in order to change our behaviors.

The bottom line: Human Givers are taught (from the moment society genders us) to believe everyone else is entitled to our time and if we don’t give it, we’re bad people. Unpleasant, ungrateful, rude, selfish, lazy people. While human beings are taught (from the moment society genders them) to go out and conquer the world! No guilt necessary.

Give yourself the emotional permission to create more time. No one else will give it to you.

Vaden’s TED Talk: https://youtu.be/y2X7c9TUQJ8

2) What’s the biggest challenge and biggest reward of owning your own business?

The biggest challenge for me has been scaling my business to meet demand every time I outgrow my current model.

It’s easy to get comfortable and want things to stay the same once I find a rhythm, but that’s not how businesses grow. The universe has a way of forcing me to level up if I’m open to seeing opportunities and willing to put in the work to make them real. But every time I’ve had to do this I fall into what I call the “work hole” where I live and breathe my projects until they’re done, at the expense of everything else in my life. I’m working on that.

The biggest reward is participating in a community of women who believe that if we help each other, we will all succeed. That’s powerful.

3) What is one book that changed your life? Why?

Find A Way by Diana Nyad.

Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the assistance of a shark cage. She failed four other attempts, and succeeded on her fifth, when she was 64 years old. It took her 53 hours.

Basically she is one of the biggest badasses ever, and her ability to develop mental toughness and persistence in the face of so much adversity is amazing to read about. The logistics behind her story are fascinating, but her memoir changed my life because she’s an amazing writer (journalist by trade) and many of the principles she eloquently writes about apply to all aspects of life.

My favorite quote from Find A Way that has helped me through so many impossibly difficult times:

Take every minute, one at a time. Don’t be fooled by a perfect sea at any given moment. Accept and rise to whatever circumstance presents itself. Be in it full tilt, your best self. Summon your courage, your true grit. When the body fades, don’t let negative edges of despair creep in. Allowing negativity leads to a Pandora’s box syndrome. You can’t stop the doubts once you consent to let them seep into your tired, weakened brain. You must set your will. Set it now. Let nothing penetrate or cripple it.”

2021

Last January first I felt hopeful.

I was searching for a way to be myself again. I felt like I had almost found it.

I keep a picture from one Christmas morning sitting on the bookshelf in my office. It’s of me wearing a pink robe that I had just unwrapped. My dad in the background, sturdy hands holding me in place, directed me to focus on the camera. I don’t remember the exact details of that day, who took the photo, or even which house we were in. I don’t exactly remember, as a kid, what was going on in my mind as I unwrapped a gift more suited for my 32-year old self’s taste. What I do remember is being happy. I was appreciating that exact moment for everything it was. Joy to be alive. For Christmas morning, for warmth and family and the idea that sooner or later that very day, I would be creating something – free inside my own mind. Uninhibited.

The photo is posed, but it’s not one bit fake. That’s what I love about it.

I read somewhere that as we get older and search for ourselves, we’re really just trying to remember who we were before the world changed us. When you ask yourself who you really are, the key is to ask who’s asking in the first place. Then go from there. The qualities that are “me” have always been there, I just buried them. The work is in peeling back the armor and eliminating the noise and distractions so I can hear and see what is revealed. Who was I before I created shells of protection? Layers of padding, coping mechanisms, work, survival, distractions and reactions. Which parts of me can I chop off and toss over the metaphorical cliffs because keeping them no longer serves me and the weight is too much? It’s making me tired.

The moments that begin to take up the majority of our lives start to feel like an out of body experience. A movie. It becomes harder to conjure up a genuine smile even though the happiness is real. Then the moment has passed. Our dopamine receptors in need of a reset, our brains taking constant hits, this keeps us at a comfortable level of numbness. Trapped in a box of everything. No room for ourselves.

I keep that particular photo as a reminder that she is in here somewhere. A daily nod to my ultimate goal: to dig her back out, no matter how painful, because it will be worth it. She feels like a different person entirely, and that’s why I think this next part is easy: I keep her around to remind me to act like someone she’d look up to, someone she’d be proud of. Who can I be today that will help her grow up as her most genuine self? If I met her now, what would she say to me? Why would she say it? Kids are brutally honest.

I wrote my first story before I could write. I had to dictate it to my mom who then wrote it down for me. I still have it. It’s mostly a nonsensical amalgamation of fairy tales – a retelling of stories I’d heard over and over. But the point is that I was creating something, specifically out of ideas and words. There is something inside my brain that begins to malfunction the minute I stop allowing myself to interpret my world this way. I say “malfunction” because I honestly have no other way to describe it. This Elizabeth Gilbert quote always comes to mind:

If I am not actively creating something, then chances are I am probably actively destroying something – myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind.

I have never read anything that more accurately describes my personality. The challenge is in maintaining that kind of momentum, and realizing that not everything constitutes a type of creating that keeps me from destroying something. And even the things that do don’t keep me satisfied for long. That balance is what I’m searching for now that we’re in January again. If I could talk to Elizabeth Gilbert I’d ask her how she keeps that ball rolling. It’s a strange thing to realize about yourself – I must put something out into the world (even if it’s absolute crap and even if I feel like absolute crap) because if I don’t then my mind starts finding other ways to mix things up. And they’re not always pleasant. Actually most of the time they aren’t. These things that I put out do not need to be seen or read by others, but for some reason throwing them out into the universe separates them from me just enough to where my mind no longer owns them, so I can let many of them go. If I don’t feel like it, too bad. Not doing this is always worse.

On the surface level that seems simple enough to maintain. A “writer” with too many ideas is never good. Write the ideas down, expel them from my brain, and move on to the next idea. Keep myself from going insane. However (and this is a huge however that changes everything) what do I do when I know that at the core of myself and my ability to create is wild imagination, and that imagination is like a book at the very bottom of a hundred boxes of books that won’t work until it’s opened? And every day, digging it out, I have to start at the top of the pile again.

I wake up, I have my coffee and I go up to the attic. After going up and down the stairs a hundred times (this is exhausting work but unfortunately I think it’s something best done alone) my house is filled with boxes. Each one filled with so many books, in no particular order, but I’m looking for that one. I start going through them. I get distracted remembering that time I wanted to learn how to garden, or knit. I get lost looking at fairy tales or old copies of children’s books. I remember reading this one in college, that that one before I got married. I cry looking over inscriptions from Grandma Brown; her handwriting is perfection. Before I know it the sun is going down and I’m tired and this is a mess, so I pack them all back up to the attic and tell myself I’ll try to find it another time.

And so it goes. For years.

For most of my mid to late twenties I simply ignored the attic altogether. Pretending like it wasn’t there, I partook in various self deprecating behaviors to distract myself from realizing that the weight of all those boxes would eventually crack the boards of the weak attic floor and come pouring out onto my head one day, maybe crushing me to death. Who cares? Let them crush me.

Then sometime around thirty or so, I came to the conclusion that rather than wait to be crushed in my sleep I should probably just go up there and see what I could do about it. Maybe start sifting through some things, donating, burning, rereading, keeping. Organizing. Curiosity, more than anything, drove this excavation. And so it began, the daily up and down with peeks and glimpses into what I’m looking for, with the exhaustion always winning before I get to where I need to go. In the meantime, ideas stay inside and I keep destroying things outside.

So, January 2020 I decided to do what ten year old Liz would do and get rid of the distractions and go read on a rock. I mean, seriously, I spent much of my childhood packing books out to dried up creek beds so I could sit in silence and read them unbothered. Simpler times. And I did that, literally and figuratively, for one month, and for the first time in years I created the time and energy to clear out most of the shit in the attic, and I was so close to freeing my imagination I could literally see it behind closed eyes at night. The way those sparkles and swirls move under your eyelids.

And then just like that the world changed and instead of unpacking those last few boxes, I became exhausted again when I saw that the attic filled right back up. Right to the top. With the noise and the work and the expectations. Stress and survival and the beating thump in my throat and chest that never goes away. Like someone had played a trick on me and put the boxes all back while I was sleeping. My work undone. The second time always seems harder than the first time.

So that’s where I am going into this new year, 2021. Aware that the boards are bowing overhead. Feeling in my bones that the girl from the photo would matter of factly say something like “Just go up there and dig it out, because once you have it, all the rest will disappear without any effort at all.” And I’ll be left with what I needed all along: a quiet place to find my ideas sitting neatly on my desk. All the clutter and weight missing. Fragments of my own imagination anyway, hiding itself because the timing wasn’t right.

This year I unboxed a robe for Christmas. From my sister, not requested. It’ the first one I’ve been gifted since that photo.