A teacher colleague and I were talking recently about our morning routines. I shared that I’m often in a rush from the time I get up, right into the beginning of my day at school. As a working Mom, her struggles are around getting her children ready in the morning, especially while carrying the feeling of “How can I get everything done?” in the back of her mind.
As we talked on, I admitted that I’ve found myself walking through the school halls, head down, hoping no one will talk to me – not because I don’t like them, but because I’m thinking, “If I talk to them I won’t get to what I need to do to start my day.” It’s not a feeling I like, because I care about my students and my workmates. As for my colleague, she lamented speaking harshly to her children in the mornings, with no bad intent, because “If I’m not clear and somewhat harsh, things won’t get done to get us out the door.” On top of getting her kids to their school, like me she also needs time to get ready to teach through the day.
So, if feeling we don’t have enough time is the new norm for many of us, my colleague and I wondered, how do we make sure we’re being compassionate to ourselves and others in the morning?
We agreed that what we wanted was to find the space in our morning to feel we’re able to be compassionate.
Prioritization gives us space
I place importance on interacting with others from a place of compassion. Yet, I notice that when I feel too busy and not ready for the day, then it’s difficult to be compassionate. This is because my mind will be preoccupied with the tasks that need to get done. I’m thinking, “How can I get it all done?” – like posting homework in advance on the board, answering emails, preparing for meetings and classes for that day and so on. Of course, this focusing on tasks gets in the way of caring for others. When I’m in this mode, I’m not being kind to myself and I don’t notice what others need, whether it’s just a smile or a few minutes of my time.
From my work as a board member at Clear Sky and from our learnings together as a spiritual community, I’ve seen the importance of structuring my schedule, my work time, and prioritizing which things I will do. Yet, I suddenly realized I wasn’t applying this to my mornings! I wasn’t thinking what to do first and what could happen later. I was giving in to the gut reaction, for example, to answer an email as soon as it comes in, to get it off my plate and ease the pressure. Focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time, of course, is an energy drain.
So, I started to wonder what things definitely had to happen and what could wait for later. Thinking in this way gave me the space to consider what systems I needed to set in place if I wanted get done just those necessary items, allowing me to feel ready for the day.
Since I’ve started to put simple systems in place in the morning, such as a daily checklist, it’s given me back some time and energy, which has allowed me to feel that I have time to share with others before work. It’s still my tendency to want that time to work alone on my to-do’s, but I don’t have the same feeling about being interrupted.
This is taking time to become a habit, and I’ve had to be patient with myself. Mentioning it to other colleagues, I started to hear their ideas. One mentioned making lunches the night before, getting rid of one of the tasks that needed to happen in the morning. Another talked about planning his priorities the night before and adding these to the morning checklist.
This realization and simple changes have impacted my stress levels and made me more open in the mornings. I’m beginning to feel more relaxed with the recognition that I can decide, based on my priorities, which avenue to pursue each day. If it isn’t a priority, then it can happen later.
Where does this freed up energy go?
And because my motivation is to be more compassionate and open, this space I create doesn’t get filled with more tasks. I give it to myself or others as is needed, like some quiet coffee time or a check in with a colleague or student who seems to need it.
I’m feeling like I can avoid getting caught up in things that can be done later, and give myself or others some of my precious energy when it’s needed. And I’ve been compassionate to myself, by not giving in to whatever resistance I had to structuring my day to set myself up for success.
Edited by Andrew Rogers & Ava Maclean