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Productivity  |  6 min read

How one self-employed marketing consultant took back her mornings and became more organized

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Jessica Thiefels

The morning is one of the most important times of the day, at least for me. It dictates how the rest of my day will go, so if I start it feeling scattered and stressed—well, you can imagine how the rest of the day will feel.

Setting my day up for success starts with an organized (and phone-free!) morning. I’m sharing my morning habits in hopes that you can replicate them and start your day on the right foot more often too. And this isn’t just for content marketing consultants—these habits can make the day better for any consultant.

quote about mornings

No-phone mornings

I don’t like checking within seconds of flicking my eyes open in the morning. All I’ll find is an overflowing inbox and a list of notifications that I don’t actually care about (thanks, Twitter). As someone who deals with anxiety on a regular basis—I know many other people do too—this is also an immediate stress trigger for me, and that’s the last thing I want to feel as I’m starting a brand new day.

I started going “phoneless” for the first half hour of my morning after reading an article on the Muse, where the author challenged herself to keep her phone at a distance in the mornings for one week. The results were enough to convince me. The author explains:

“This challenge gave me the gift of more time (you know, that thing people say they never ever have enough of?). And sure, in the grand scheme of things, 30 minutes is nothing. But in the morning before work, it’s everything… You may not believe me until you try it, but there’s just something so calming and refreshing about easing into your day rather than stumbling out of bed and racing the clock to the office. And think about it: If I practice this consistently, I gain back two-and-a-half hours each week and 10 hours each month.”

Who doesn’t want to feel less anxious and have more time? Now, after letting myself wake up, I’ll quickly scan my notifications to see if there’s anything critical (not reading emails, just seeing what came in), which there isn’t 99 percent of the time. Then I leave my phone plugged in next to my bed as I enjoy coffee and watch the Today Show (a morning ritual for me) on my cozy couch. This helps me organize my mind, find time for meditation, and relish in the feeling of having no obligations just yet.

Copy me: Don’t check your phone until you’re walking out to the door for work or you sit down at your desk—if you can help it. You’d be amazed at how much less stressed you are, and how waiting even just 20 or 30 minutes can distance you from the “urgency” of your inbox.

Set a schedule for the day

I’m not a big “app person” but I do have a few tools and schedulers that I use to organize my week and day. Every Sunday I sit down with my weekly calendar (a physical, weekly calendar) and plan out the next five days according to deadlines, appointments, and phone calls.

Each morning, I consult with this weekly calendar and turn to my favorite to-do list app, TickTick, to prep for the day. As a consultant, I have a number of clients, so I have a separate to-do list for each one. Rather than looking at 30 items in one place, I bounce between different lists during the day, which feels a lot more manageable.

With my task list for each client figured out, I create my “Day Schedule,” which usually looks something like this:

  • Client A: 8-9 a.m.
  • Yoga: 9:15-10:30 a.m.
  • Call: 10:45 a.m.
  • Client B: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Client C: 1:15-5:15 p.m.

Timeboxing is critical to getting everything done. This helps me avoid losing track of time with one project or another, and then scrambling to get the rest of my work done in less time than I actually need.

Copy me: Spend 15 minutes every morning planning out your day. Even if you only have a single job. If you struggle with a daily low hum of anxiety, you’ll find that this is just what your mind needs to relax and flow through the day. Having everything written out in front of me means there’s minimal hesitation about what’s next or what needs to be done; with less swirling around in my head I can focus on each task as necessary.

Social media checks

As a content marketing consultant I manage a number of social media accounts, so most mornings I take a look through my various marketing tools to make sure all looks good. This may mean scrolling through mentions on Hootsuite, checking the Facebook feed of a client, and even heading into a marketing automation app to check on a campaign that just went out.

As I said above, I’m not a big “app person” but the tools I do use make it easy to organize my mind and the important information for my projects. Without them, I’d be doing a lot more manual work, which is of course time-consuming.

Copy me: If you’re a minimalist marketer like I am, but need more organization in your work, check out this list of 12 Free Marketing Tools. I personally use or have used more than half of them and know that they’ll be valuable to you in both your planning and organizational efforts.

From there, I dive into my day. With my schedule organized and my mind feeling refreshed, I can check my phone and get into emails, minus the stress, or at least some of it, that comes with being so connected all the time.

It was nearly two years ago that I finally took back my mornings in this way, and it’s been life-altering. Give it a try and see if phoneless morning and the right set of simple tools can be as helpful to you as it has been to me.

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