If mornings are the toughest part of the day … if you feel agitated before you even get out the door … if you’ve had a heavy heart and can’t explain why, I am going to encourage you to make one small change in your morning routine: Resist the urge to reach for the phone.
Starting your day by checking the phone is like flipping a switch from peace to productivity … from loving nurturer to grumpy manager … from present to absent. Reaching for the phone takes you out of your cozy pajamas-clad world and catapults you into the fast-paced, information overloaded world. Once your mind leaves your loved ones and fixates on all the things you need to do, it’s hard to come back—so hard to come back. Scrolling, clicking, and responding sneakily rob you of the precious minutes you need to get out the door on time—and then everyone is yelling. I know these things because checking the phone was how I began my day—or perhaps I should say sabotaged my day—for several years.
Things are different now. And I attribute an overall improvement in my home environment and personal wellbeing to one small change: Reaching for meaningful things rather than the phone to start my day.
I recently shared this morning habit at a recent Q&A before a book signing for Hands Free Life. Honestly I had no idea this piece of information would offer such a light bulb moment for so many. But as I saw the resolve on the faces before me, I knew change was coming for many families—effective immediately.
I wasn’t surprised when someone in attendance posted the following message on social media later that next day: “Day #1 of #HandsFreeLife went well. Anytime I’d go for my phone for a quick check, I’d laugh as I caught myself about to break my new habit. You see, I made a decision that before the kids go to school and after they get off the bus, I will turn my phone to ‘airplane mode’ and be fully present. We had a fantastic day together. We were calm and respectful to one another. We learned something new about each other. I intend to continue this new and very important habit. We all benefit when we become more present.”
Later in the week the woman reported having time to listen to her 3-year-old child “read” a book, as well as time for her to read her older child’s library book aloud. In the past, there wouldn’t have been time for such connections in the morning. With her decision to wait to check technology, she suddenly had more time … more patience … more love. She is now on Day 6 and the whole family is reaping unexpected benefits due to her new habit.
When I saw the impact this solitary change was having on this woman’s life, the following revelation came to mind:
When we pick up the phone to start our day, we get farther from the life we want to live. Information, messages, and demands take us away from what matters to us and shifts it to what matters to everyone else.
But by not reaching for the phone first thing in the morning, we get closer to the live we want to live—a life of meaning, knowing our people, caring for ourselves, and engaging in actions that could become our legacy when we're gone.
Because technology is so engrained in our lives, it’s easy to forget there are other options in the morning besides reaching for the phone. But come tomorrow morning, we don’t have to do what we yesterday. Come tomorrow morning, we don’t have to do what 80% of the population does upon rising. Come tomorrow morning, we can do something way more fulfilling.
I’ve estimated that the initial phone check costs three to ten minutes. In that same amount of time, we can do something that will positively influence the rest of the day and possibly our lives. Simply by reaching for something besides the phone when we rise, we can cultivate more connection, more meaning, and more joy. Let’s look at some practical options …
Instead of reaching for the phone when you rise, reach for love.
- Reach for your loved one’s hand beneath the covers. Start a morning ritual of saying, “I love waking up next to you.”
- Open your arms for a hug. Be the last to let go.
- Quietly creep into your children’s room and watch them sleep for a moment. Notice the peace settled on their faces. Listen to their breathing. Listen to your own breathing.
- Write a note to put in your child’s or loved one’s lunchbox or notebook. My friend Garth shows you one each day on his page, Napkin Notes.
Instead of reaching for the phone when you rise, care for yourself.
- Stick a motivational quote on your mirror. Read it aloud every morning, plus the one you put up the day before.
- Pour a pitcher of water and set it in the fridge. Aim to drink it all by the end of the day.
- Make yourself a salad for later so you can guarantee you will fill your body with some goodness. (Love these Mason jar salads).
- Do some gentle stretches while thinking of ten things you are grateful for.
Instead of reaching for the phone first thing in the morning, renew your soul.
- Go for a short walk or simply step outside and notice one miracle in nature.
- Read the Bible or daily devotional book. My friends Shauna and Patti have written two of my favorite daily inspiration books.
- Do a mindfulness exercise using connective silence like the one my friend Lisa suggests. Her children are benefiting greatly from this quick but powerful morning ritual.
- Hold your pet and gently stroke his or her fur.
Instead of reaching for the phone when you rise, do something you’ve been putting off.
- Dedicate a few minutes to the book you’ve been wanting to write or the art you’ve been yearning to create. Just imagine what you’ll have in one year if you create a little bit each day.
- Dedicate a few minutes to exercise. Put in a video if you can’t leave the house. Just imagine how you will feel if you do a ten-minute video every day for six weeks.
- Make a list of all the health check ups you have been avoiding. Jot down the contact information and put it on a check off list. Just imagine the relief you will feel once you get that mammogram, colonoscopy, skin check, dentist cleaning, or health screening taken care of.
- Take control of your life by setting a mindful intention for the day. My friend Kerry writes some very powerful ones on her page that always inspire me.
Instead of reaching for the phone when you rise, make the world better.
- Make a little fall garden on your porch like my friend Kaitlin did on the balcony of her apartment.
- Retrieve the newspaper for your elderly neighbor.
- Make muffins for your family to give local firefighters, teachers, service workers or homeless people.
- Send a note of encouragement to someone who has suffered loss, is having a birthday, or has just been on your mind. There’s something about seeing a handwritten note in the mailbox that lifts a spirit. May that goodness come back to you.
And if you still feel you must start your day with the phone, just do one thing before you grab it. As soon as you open your eyes, say to yourself:
Today is a new day. I am thankful I have been given this gift. My goal is to get out of bed and greet myself and my family with love. Love is how I will start this day.
Some people may already have a list of excuses as to why they must start their day with their phone. They might say, “Because of _________, I need to see what I missed during the night. It only takes a few minutes.” But this is not just about the few minutes it takes to check your phone in the morning. This is about how one single action negatively impacts the morning, the rest of the day, and potentially your life.
Mornings can be about not missing our digital connections or they can be about not missing our soul connections. Let us choose the latter. Let us not miss our lives.
My writing on the topics of distraction and human connection, as well as my new book, Hands Free Life, continue to connect me to incredibly inspiring and wise people in the field of improving our day, our relationships, and our lives. Here are two incredible opportunities for getting closer to the person and parent you want to be:
- The host of the Great Parenting Show, Jacqueline Green has made it her life’s work to bring parents the best educators on the planet. Her show covers a wide variety of parenting-related issues, all designed to make parenting easier and more enjoyable. I’m excited to announce that I am one of the 24 experts on the fall series! Sign up to hear me & the other free expert interviews that are happening now as part of the fall Great Parenting Show season! Live interviews are every Tuesday and Thursdays at 10am PT, 1 pm ET. Replays are aired for no-cost from Friday until Sunday at midnight LA time. Sign up here to get access.
- Recently I had the opportunity to be interviewed by John O’Leary of Rising Strong. John works with hundreds of organizations and thousands of people to transform daily challenges into opportunities for growth. Each day John empowers thousands of individuals around the world to lead fuller, more significant lives. John has become a huge advocate for the Hands Free approach to life and experienced some pretty profound revelations and changes since reading Hands Free Life. You can listen to our Live Inspired podcast interview here.
Thank you all so much for being part of The Hands Free Revolution Community. If you have had a chance to read Hands Free Life, I would be grateful if you could leave a brief review on Amazon or Goodreads. The reviews have been phenomenal and have been a tremendous help to the success of the book!