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WAKE Me UP Before You GO-Go

WAKE Me UP Before You Go-go

We’ve talked about staying motivated during COVID—most of us suffered a lack of motivation during the extended pandemic and we learned strategies for connecting to our sense of purpose.
But I am having a slightly different issue and I suspect that I am not alone. I am having trouble with self-discipline. Motivation is one thing—and I am motivated to fulfill my purpose as Executive Director of Assist—but sometimes I lack the discipline necessary to actually see it through. Am I alone?
The first time that I encounter my lack of self-discipline is when my alarm clock goes off in the morning. I am not a snooze button person. During the go-out-to-work days, my radio came on and I listened to news on the CBC for five minutes before getting out of bed. But I decided to repurpose my 45-minute commute time to sleep, and my alarm was not going off at the start of a newscasts, so I discontinued that part of my morning routine. Since making that change, I now start looking at my phone before getting out of bed. And I am spending more time perusing a wide range of news, emails, and games before my feet touch the ground. Up to half an hour which is quite significant for a person who doesn’t believe in the snooze button.
One part of my morning routine that I maintained was reading the first section of the newspaper while I have breakfast. Only now I have breakfast while sitting on the sofa with my newspaper. And I am finding it hard to put the newspaper down after the first section.
Then I turn on my laptop and start answering my email or working. Some days it takes a lot for me to get going in a meaningful way. And then the Olympics started….
My weekday morning routine started morphing into my Saturday morning—staying in my pyjamas, reading the entire newspaper, curling up on the sofa with my canine companion. And my Saturday mornings stopped being special and restorative.
Over the pandemic, I have lacked self-discipline to monitor my food intake and my exercise. My fitness studio was closed from before Christmas until February 1st. There were many alternatives to attending in-person classes—I have access to a live stream and video class program—but I didn’t do any classes. It was too cold to walk outside, and then once the temperature improved, the dog had just been groomed, and she was so clean and smelled so nice that I didn’t want to take her out and have her white fur get dirty. It was a jolt to my system when my studio reopened!
My lack of self-discipline pervades other aspects of my life. Let’s talk about shopping, one of the few activities minimally impacted by the pandemic. I have lost track of the number of items I have acquired using the excuse that since I am not putting money towards a vacation over a two-year period and not buying lunch every day, I can splurge on some nice things for me. I tell myself that I deserve these nice things for managing to do what I actually get done amid the challenges of the pandemic.
With COVID restrictions being lifted this week, the prospect of mass returns to workplaces has arisen. How are we going to get ready for changing our comfortable routines to allow for commuting?
Adjustments likely have to start in the morning. Don’t leave your old routine in place until the night before you return to your office—it will be much easier if you ease into your new schedule gradually. Since we likely have a couple of weeks, start getting up 15 minutes earlier and going to bed 15 minutes earlier—or whatever works for you to adjust your schedule by the amount you need—once each week.
I recently heard a speaker on the importance of a morning routine that sets you up for success. Given that my morning routine has degenerated into “anything goes,” I was intrigued. This speaker runs a health and wellness business, and Assist doesn’t promote for-profit enterprises, so I am going to just cover key points generically. If anyone is interested, I will be happy to pass on the contact information for you to learn more about her programs and products.
But I am going to share her acronym for a successful morning routine-- WAKE UP + GO—to lead you through an effective eight-minute plan.
W stands for Water. As soon as you wake up, drink a glass of water. I have a Yeti mug with a lid that both keeps my water cold and prevents the dog from drinking it while I am sleeping. Step one is hydration.
Hydration is important. Being adequately hydrated is connected with sleep quality, cognition, and mood. Cognition is key to what we do as lawyers—we use our brain power to solve problems. Do a favour for your brain and body and start your day with a fresh glass of water. You may find that you are less desperate for coffee (or tea or whatever your caffeinated beverage of choice is) because you are less thirsty. And we know that moderating our caffeine consumption is healthy, too.
A is for Affirmation, something positive to say to yourself and about what you do. Some styles of affirmations involve telling yourself that you are a superstar, but I like affirmations which connect us to our sense of purpose. Here are a few suggestions if you are having trouble getting started:

  • “Today I am going to practice law to the best of my ability, and it will be a great day.”
  • “Today I am going to help people by using my skills, training and abilities”
  •  “Today I am supporting my family by working diligently in my profession”
  • “I can handle the challenges I will face today”

Here are some sample affirmations from HuffPost.
K stands for Knowledge. Try to build your brain by reading something or listening to a podcast. Have your reading material or podcast ready to go. Many people recommend inspirational articles. Its best to choose something that can be digested in a short time—this is not the time to try to work through the Supreme Court decisions in Vavilov!
 E is for Exercise. Get moving—do something physical—for one minute. You can do jumping jacks, dance, run on the spot, do push-ups, or stretch, to name a few. Or do any combination of activities as long as you maintain it for one minute. Your heart rate will increase which is good, and you will feel energized.
U is for Unwind. Take a moment for mindfulness, prayer, or meditation. Unsure where to start? YouTube has some amazing one-minute mindfulness videos.
P is for Positivity. Play a song or read a quote with a positive message. You can set up a Spotify playlist of upbeat music or have your inspirational notebook handy. Journaling about positive ideas works, too. May I suggest a song to kick off your morning positivity minute? Check out the title of the blog today.
G stands for Gratitude, of course. Name three things you are grateful for—a cozy bed to sleep in, a reliable alarm clock and that you were able to do your one minute of exercise, for example. As you get more comfortable with expressing gratitude, whether internally or in writing, go deeper. Learn more about expressing gratitude.
O is for One Goal because you are going to set one goal for yourself. We all have to do lists that are out of control. Name one thing you are going to promise yourself to do: send a thank you note to someone, make a phone call you have been putting off, deciding to say a spontaneous kind comment to someone you run into. Or it could be related to a file. Name it, commit to doing it, and then do it.
I have been reading about morning routine consultants who get up at 4 or 4:30 each morning to allow them an hour or two for these practices. I can’t imagine getting up at 4:30 am for anything but many people feel that the energy they get from their morning routine is worth more than sleep.
However you decide to approach developing a successful morning routine, start small and work your way up. If you take on too large a first step, you are likely to get frustrated and give up.
I have decided to start small, by adding one step, which will be to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Allow yourself one minute for this—it isn’t a race and you don’t have to gulp it down. With one minute, you can drink water at a moderate pace.
Unless I get distracted, I am going to add one morning routine component per week. Let’s be honest: I was spending more than eight minutes looking at my phone before getting out of bed. Many morning routine experts will tell you not to look at your phone until you are ready to start work, but many of us like to reassure ourselves that there aren’t any alligators waiting to attack. I think I will quickly scan my email while I drink my water but restrain myself from replying unless absolutely necessary.
As I begin to plan for more structured mornings, I am envying those of you who didn’t let your morning routines go. Lawyers can be hard on ourselves, and we tend to fixate on our weaknesses rather than our strengths. If you were able to keep an effective morning routine for 23 months of pandemic living, congratulate yourself—this is an accomplishment.
I have been reading about parents of young children who include their children in their short morning routine. They drink their water together, call out affirmation for themselves and each other, share some knowledge and do a quick physical workout. Kids have different reactions to mornings and to going to school. I would like to see whether doing a positivity activity helps counter resistance to potential challenges that will arise during the day. But doing a morning routine together appears to unite a family and you can make it fun (as long as you can be positive about it yourself.)
If you try some of these morning routine activities, please let me know how it goes!
Please keep in mind one important point as you develop a morning routine: have compassion for yourself when you struggle with your routine. You will not be perfect as you start getting up earlier and more efficiently. You will have some mornings when you hit the snooze button or where you need a second cup of morning. This is because we are human, and it takes time to adjust to change. If your morning doesn’t follow your perfect plan, its okay. The fact that you are trying to implement a firmer schedule is the first step of many.
And when you have a bad morning, don’t chastise yourself and don’t catastrophize. One rough morning doesn’t define you any more than any other one thing. Think of yourself as someone who is working toward a goal of improving your morning routine. There will be breakthrough days and there will be days with setbacks and regardless of what happens, you are still a person who is working toward a goal.
As lawyers, we are not taught self-compassion. We tend to be hard on ourselves. The Government of Australia has excellent free resources to enable people to build self-compassion. Having self-compassion is a good for our mental health. But having self-compassion as we work on our self-discipline and ready ourselves for emerging from the pandemic is especially important.
If you are struggling with returning to in-person working, the termination of the Restriction Exemption Program, or any other element of change we are facing, remember that Assist has professional counsellors and peer support volunteers to help you navigate. Call us—our services are free and confidential.