10 Ways to Boot Up Your Day in Under 30 Minutes

10 Ways to Boot Up Your Day in Under 30 Minutes by Cathy Jacob at CathyJacob.com

If you’d love to start your day feeling less stressed, more confident, and more in charge, try booting up with ONE of these morning routines.

No time? No problem.

Each of these routines can be performed in under 30 minutes and some of them take just a few seconds. If you don’t have a consistent way to start your day or your current morning routine is feeling a little stale, try one of these.

PICK ONE. Once it feels ingrained, you can add one or two of the others until you have a morning ritual that works for you.

1) Drink a glass of water.
After 7 or 8 hours of sleep, you wake up dehydrated – kind of like that plant on your windowsill you haven’t watered in a while. Drinking a glass of water to start the day can boost your alertness, memory, and concentration AND lift your petals.

2) Make Your Bed.
This little bit of advice first offered by your mother seems to carry more punch when it comes from a Navy Seal. Admiral William H. McRaven’s commencement address at the University of Texas went viral when he said, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”  So why were McRaven and your mother so right? Completing a task triggers the production of dopamine – that little naturally-made pleasure chemical that motivates you to act and gives your neurons a high five. 

3) Stretch or practice yoga (10 – 20 min).
This is one of my favorite morning rituals and the first thing I do when I get out of bed. A simple stretch first thing feels luxurious and comforting like a big hug. For some lovely and gentle short yoga routines for any skill level, try Yoga with Adriene and her free 10 to 20-minute routine playlist. If you’re up for a slightly longer daily commitment (usually 25 to 30 min), try one of her 30-day Yoga Journeys. Your body and mind will thank you.

4) Try High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) (7 minutes).
When it comes to exercise frequency and duration, how low can you go? This question is at the heart of more than a decade of research at McMaster University by Dr. Martin Gibala. In 2017, Gibala and his team conducted a study that showed that sedentary women who completed three, 20-second bouts of stair climbing a day in one session, increased their fitness by about 12 percent after six weeks. 

If you like your workouts short and sweet, check out his book, The One Minute Workout for training routines that you can do in 30 minutes or less. If 30 minutes is more time than you have, try my favorite 7-minute routine from the New York Times.

5) Meditate (10 – 20 min).
Research into meditation has found benefits as wide-ranging as better sleep, less stress, improvements in immune function, and prevention of a host of chronic diseases. These also happen to be benefits of regular exercise.

I recommend meditation because it offers the additional benefit of training in metacognition. This is the ability to observe your mind at work. Over time, with only a few minutes a day, meditation gives you insight into the workings of your mind and offers you greater influence over where you place your attention. In today’s frenetic, demanding world, this skill is a super- power. This can offer you more choice, greater clarity, and a sense of calm and groundedness that will serve you and those around you all day long.

To get you started, try a meditation app. For beginners, Headspace is a good option, if you want to take a deeper dive, try the app that has become the staple of my day, Waking Up.

6) Journal (20 – 30 min).
In her writing classic, The Artists’ Way, Julia Cameron coined the phrase “Morning Pages” to describe a journaling practice in which you write long-hand about whatever comes up until you fill three pages. The writing does not have to be good; it doesn’t even have to make sense. It is simply a record of your streaming thoughts. Morning Pages have been a vital part of my routine for 25 years. In his book, Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss calls Morning Pages “the most cost- effective therapy I’ve ever found.”

7) Listen to Music.
Music will put you in touch with your emotional and creative self faster than any practice I know. If your tastes run classical, or even if they don’t, I recommend a beautiful book by Clemency Burton-Hill called Year of Wonder. For each day of the year, she recommends a short piece of classical music (usually under 10 minutes) and gives you a brief and entertaining background. You can find her year-long playlist on iTunes and Spotify. Read the short passage in her book and press play. It’s a poignant and often joyful way to begin the day.

8) Walk Outdoors (30 min).
To soak in some of nature’s most bountiful pleasure drugs, take yourself out for a morning walk. The combination of sunshine, morning light, nature, and exercise create a neurochemical cocktail that will make you feel grateful to be alive.

9) Wake up grateful.
Speaking of gratitude, much has been written about the benefits of a daily gratitude practice. Here’s a quick, powerful, and easy one that only takes a few seconds and doesn’t need a pen or paper. Before you get out of bed, take a moment to give thanks for a new day. Let the rare gift of being alive sink in and say thank you. Even if I’m not feeling it, reminding myself that I was not guaranteed this day nor am I guaranteed a tomorrow, helps fill me with gratitude and wonder.

10) Take a Slow Sip.
Not all morning rituals have to be virtuous. My favorite morning vice is that first slow sip of dark roast coffee. But when and how you sip can make a big difference. Experts suggest you begin with a glass of water and wait at least an hour before you make your first cup of Joe.

Why? Cortisol.

When you first wake, your brain and body generate a healthy squirt of the stress hormone, cortisol. It gives you that first little boost of energy and alertness you feel as you get moving. Pouring coffee on top of that is a waste of a good jolt, like pouring gasoline on an already raging fire. If you wait until the cortisol has a chance to dissipate, you can get a second boost from the caffeine.

Here’s the key. Make that first sip count because your next one never tastes as good. In the last few years, I’ve made a conscious practice of savoring the first sip of morning coffee. I get present, sip it slowly, and savor every second. It feels great.

Savoring is a life-enhancing practice. Life is better when you take it in slow sips. Learning to savor the little moments of my life has been such a life-enhancing practice that I named my newsletter, “The Slow Sip.”

Do you have a favorite way to start your day? I’d love to hear about it. Please share in the comments below.

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Cathy Jacob

I'm Cathy Jacob. I am a writer, coach and co-founder of Fire Inside Leadership. After two decades of coaching leaders on how to inspire while navigating the challenges of demanding careers and lives, I’ve created this site to share the best of what I’ve learned from my courageous clients and leaders in the fields of psychology, leadership, philosophy and neuroscience on what it takes to live an inspired life.

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