Living kindly. Let’s talk about this for a second. I get asked quite a bit, What does living kindly mean? And the truth is, living kindly means something different for everyone. When I started this column two years ago, the focus was sharing my weight loss story, and how I made a pact to be kind to myself during the process. I had to learn to drop the shame, regret, and embarrassment around my weight. It’s since evolved into a column focused on not just being kind to myself from a health and wellness perspective — but in all areas of my life. While the content changes, one thing remains constant: learning to respect yourself and come from a place of patience and love will make you a better friend, partner, parent, sibling, colleague, boss, and human. That is living kindly to me. Be kind to yourself, and in turn you’re nice to others.

While I’ve talked about the importance of building a personal advisory board in the past, this month I want to talk about how you can set yourself up for success on your own. I’m a firm believer that what you do in the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day — from your mood to productivity, and everything in between. One of my favorite questions to ask anyone I admire is: what does your morning routine look like? Typically, most of my boss-lady friends don’t just have a 9-5 job. Most have a side hustle, children, creative projects, and more. It’s amazing to me how they balance their day and what they consider to be important to their success. I’ve been collecting tips from everyone — friends, mentors, Tim Ferriss podcasts, and more. I’m happy to say with a little advice and a lot of trial-and-error, I’ve finally perfected my own routine. Here’s how I set myself up for a productive day.

featured photo via ellie bullen

photo via a beautiful mess

It’s starts with the night before.

First things first, how I want to feel in the morning is directly related to what I do the night before and what time I go to bed. If I want to feel light, energetic, and have a clear mind, I am in bed by 10pm and have a light and clean meal. Light and clean to me means nothing processed, lots of greens, and lots of water. At 35, I’ve never felt the effects of food and little sleep more than I do now. Adulting, I suppose.

photo via stephanie sterjovski

Wake up at the same time everyday.

I’m a morning person, so getting up early isn’t necessarily hard for me unless I begin a pattern of sleeping in or hitting the snooze button. I aim for a 6am wakeup, unless I’m feeling ambitious to hit my favorite instructor’s 6am spin class, then it’s 5:15. The only time I’ll choose extra zzz’s over a workout is if I don’t get at least 8 hours of sleep. On the weekends I wake up when the sun rises. It feels like a simple luxury.

photo via could i have that

But first, meditation.

Even before I reach for that cup of coffee, I meditate first. It was a hard habit to break, but meditation has become such an important tool to help me navigate a lot of noise and distractions in my life.

photo via treasures & travels

No screen time.

I reached a point where I finally had to set some ground rules around screen time. I don’t check email or social media until after I workout in the morning. Of course I’ll look at texts I received while sleeping just in case of anything urgent. I can’t tell you how many times I’d check email before a workout, and it ultimately derailed my morning or set me back. Be selfish and prioritize yourself. Most of us are spending 8-11 hrs/day doing work, so the morning belongs to you. In the evening, I try to not check emails or look at social media 2 hours before bedtime. Sometimes it works, other times I’m bored and fall prey to my own rules. (I know, I need to start reading books instead).

photo via lonestar southern

Establish a self-care/workout schedule.

I love structure. I truly feel off when I’m just winging it. Of course I can still go with the flow, but I need a set schedule. For now, I’ve got a pretty solid workout schedule in place, which is great as I’ve been on the road quite a bit and want to keep the momentum going. But self-care for me also includes a body scan, where I check in with what my body needs for the day. Some mornings I’m full of energy and ready for cardio, others I’m wiped out, and need to stretch and go for a walk. I don’t try to force things anymore. I’m smart enough to know when I need to push myself and when I need to pump my breaks. Tuning in to what you need is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself.

photo via tobruck ave

Create a to do list.

Before I get to work, I write down the top 3 things to do that day. Now, there are like 100 things I could be doing at any one time, but anymore than the top 3 and I start to feel rushed. I’ve got a longer “Anytime To-Do List” that lives in Evernote that I’ll occasionally scan throughout the week — sometimes they move over to the top 3 daily list, other times they stay there for longer than I’d like to admit. I’m constantly shifting gears and re-prioritizing.

photo via style me pretty

Glance at goals.

Because my mind moves at rapid speed, and I’m a YES person with a ton of curiosity, I never want to forget what’s important to me. I look at my goals every morning to remind me what’s important, and where I’m headed. That also informs the type of things I say yes or no to. On that note, before I commit to any personal project, I ask myself “Does this get me one step further to my goal?”

While this looks like a long checklist, it’s actually pretty simple. And once you get into a routine and stay consistent, it’ll come naturally. Keep in mind, the above is a perfect-world scenario. There are definitely mornings mornings that I hit snooze until 8:30am, roll out of bed, brush my teeth, and head to work for the day. I’m human. That’s balance, friends.

Check out more from our Living Kindly series here!

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Kelly Krause