Stop Doing This First Thing in the Morning if You Want More Focus
Take a minute to think about what your mornings are like. Now, compare that with how you feel in general. Did you notice any similarity?
How your day starts sets the tone for how it will unfold. If you get going on the right track, you won’t need to waste energy trying to correct course.
The subject of mornings is a big one, and I’m definitely going to talk about it more in the future, as I firmly believe creating a good morning for yourself, a morning that you actually enjoy, is absolutely critical in terms of improving your mood, your focus, your health, your . . . everything.
But today I just want to talk about one little thing that so many of us do which I think is just an absolutely sh*tty way to start the day. And no, it’s not sh*tting, no problem with that.
Can you guess what it is?
What do you think most of us do either first thing in the morning or within a few minutes of waking up?
It’s . . . checking our phones.
Today I’m going to make the case for delaying this, at least a little bit. You’re a grown up and can do what you want, but I would highly encourage you to try something new, just as an experiment, and see what happens.
This is advice for you whether you have ADHD or not, but if you do have ADHD, may I be so bold as to suggest it’s extra relevant to you. When I made this change, wow. Things really turned around for me.
We’ll talk about a few statistics on cellphone use in the morning, why it’s bad for you, and what to do about it.
So, hi! This is Julie from Julie Saad Wellness. I’m a holistic wellness coach, specializing in helping women with ADHD find their focus, get fit, and f*cking have fun again. Thanks for joining me today.
Good Morning! Where's My Phone?
Alright, so using your phone first thing is the morning....does everyone do it?
A study done by IDC Research surveyed over 7000 smartphone users in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 about their cellphone use.
One thing they found was that 80 percent of the people surveyed reach for their phones within the first 15 minutes of waking, while 62 percent reach for their phones immediately after waking up. (1)
This study was conducted over 10 years ago, so who knows how things have changed since then. I'm only speculating here, but I would imagine that the percentages have only increased.
If you've seen the documentary The Social Dilemma, you may remember the guy who asked, "When do you check your phone in the morning? Is it before you pee or while you’re peeing? Because that's pretty much the range!” The guy's name was Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook who has since become critical of the platform. (2)
I also came across another study that found that nearly one in four people grab their phones within a minute of opening their eyes in the morning. (3)
The Dangers of Checking Your Phone First Thing in the Morning
Okay, so what's the big deal? Well, as it turns out, checking your phone first thing in the morning really can f*ck up your day.
I don't have specific research to back this up, just anecdotal evidence from myself and many others. So check this out and see if it rings true for you. . . .
Goodbye, Focus. You Will Be Missed.
If you reach for your phone first thing in the morning, you will immediately be bombarded by, well, a little bit of everything.
You'll quickly be drowning in a flood of news, notifications, other people's opinions, requests, advertising . . . you name it.
You'll be starting the day in a reactive way. Reacting to what? God only knows.
If you think about it, would you let several hundred people into your bedroom in the morning to talk to you, ask you for stuff, tell your their opinions and catch you up on the hot goss you'd missed overnight, all while you were still crusty-eyed and in your pajamas? (4)
That's kind of what we're doing when we start the day by looking at our phones. It stresses me out just thinking about it.
According to the psychiatrist Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, by looking at your phone first thing, you expose yourself to an information overload.
The fact that you're doing this before you're totally awake will really mess up your ability to prioritize tasks, in addition to increasing your stress level and leaving you feeling overwhelmed. (4)
And all of these before the day has really even begun. For those of us that already struggle with priorities, stress, and overwhelm . . . well this is just a recipe for disaster, don't you think?
There's actually a book called Never Check Email in the Morning by Julie Morgenstern. In it, she says that when you check emails and notifications first thing in the morning, you basically never recover.
You're pretty much starting the day with a giant dopamine blast. It kind of reminds me of that scene in Absolutely Fabulous where Patsy's alarm goes off and she lights a cigarette before even opening her eyes.
So by starting with this big dopamine hit, your brain is going to want more and more as the day goes on. So what do you think will happen when you try to sit down to get some work done, especially if it's not the most exciting task ever?
That's right, it's going to be a lot harder. (5)
Adios, Time. You Were a True Friend.
Recently, I talked to you about time blindness, and how us ADHDers can often have trouble understanding the passage of time and thus need to watch out for time black holes.
Checking your phone is one of those time black holes, for us and for anyone, really. "Quickly" opening your email can easily turn into a half-hour or more of phone time. You know it.
And anyways, what were you planning on doing with that email anyways? Were you going to reply to it there with your thumbs while still half-asleep? I'm not judging. I've been there more times than I care to admit.
So if you have to be somewhere in the morning or have online appointments, checking your phone first thing could cause you to wind up rushing around to be ready on time.
Conversely, if you don't have a set start-time for your work or whatever else you have to do that day, checking your phone "quickly" could result in you getting started much later than you intended to.
Ah, Tranquility, I Used to Know Thee.
Long story short, checking your phone first thing in the morning is an easy way to start the day feeling anxious. I just don't recommend it.
You're too fabulous for that, okay?
How to Avoid Looking at Your Phone When You Wake Up
All right, so you've heard me make my case against looking at your phone first thing in the morning, and you want to give it a shot. What now?
Have no fear, I've got a ton of tips and tricks so you can pick the ones you like best and start having a morning that's more chill, productive, healthy, fun, or all of the above.
Alarm Clock Adjustments
If you use your phone as your alarm clock, there are a couple things you can do.
One is to not do that anymore! You can get an old school alarm clock, or even a sunrise alarm clock, which gradually emits brighter light, mimicking the sun.
Alternatively, if you prefer to continue using your phone as your alarm clock, then you'll want to make sure you're not hit with a flood of notifications as soon as you look at it to turn off the alarm. So, you could get around this by sleeping with your phone in airplane mode.
I've also read that there's a way to delay notifications on both Android and iOS, (6) but I don't really know how to do it because I keep all notifications on my phone turned off all the time, unless someone actually calls me.
So, if you're not looking at your phone first thing in the morning, when are you going to look at it? Now's a good time to think about it.
The answer is totally up to you, but I would recommend trying to go at least an hour or so without checking it, or not checking it until something else is done, whether that's getting dressed and ready for the day, getting out of the house, finishing an important task on your to-do list, however you want to work it.
Now, all that said, I will say that I do grab my phone pretty soon after waking up in the morning. Before you shout, "hypocrite!" Allow me to explain.
I don't have any notifications on my phone, so I don't have to worry about being bombarded with them when I first wake up. I use my phone in the morning to listen to either music or a podcast or online course while doing my coffee walk, my daily morning ritual where I make coffee and then take it outside to drink while I'm strolling around.
Lately I have started planning out what to listen to the night before, and I highly recommend that you do too if you're the type to consume this kind of content in the mornings.
You may think, wait, what. . . you want me to plan out what I’m listening to?
Well, yeah, why not?
Otherwise you’re just going to randomly watch whatever the algorithm suggests for you. Would you rather pick something enjoyable or useful now, or would you rather spend the morning looking at Kardashian butts? No judgment if you picked the butts.
I myself am up to date on the topic. I have no idea why.
There is some algo out there that just won’t let me get away from those butts. I now know that many of them are removing their butts. It’s a whole thing.
There’s some kind of browser extension I've heard of that can block all things Kardashian, but I’m not ready to let go just yet. I still hold a place in my heart for all of them and all of their butts.
(Why, just . . . why do I know so much about the Kardashians?)
The point is, we can be intentional with our internet use. It’s possible. We can control it instead of being at its mercy.
I've found that by having a general idea of what I want to listen to in the morning, it stops me from sitting on the couch looking around for something and then mindlessly opening my email or what-have-you.
I've been experimenting with using a little reminder on my phone that pops up around the time I wake up so that I remember what it was that I wanted to listen to.
I've also been trying my best to get things set up the night before for my morning walk. I try to put the ground coffee and the water in the coffee machine, and also lay out my shoes (okay, fine, my Crocs. . . I'm not very good at putting real shoes on in my morning zombie state), my headphones, and the little purse that I use to hold my keys and my phone.
I don't manage to do this every night yet. I'm still working on making it a habit, but on the nights that I do, wow, I'm out the door walking almost immediately and save myself so much time.
I'm just very slow when I first wake up, so all of these little getting ready things can really drag on if I leave them for the morning.
Also, decision fatigue is a real thing, (7) so trying to avoid having to make pretty much any choices early in the morning is something I'm working toward and, so far, it's going pretty well!
So anyways, now that you've ditched the morning phone habit, it's a good idea to think about what you'll replace it with. Do you want to exercise? Spend time with family? Read a bit? Meditate? Practice singing? Put on music and jump around the house? Write in your journal? Or simply take the time to get yourself ready for the day without rushing? The sky's the limit!
If a clear answer didn't spring to mind just now, take a minute to think about what you might do with a phone-free morning.
If your mornings right now feel chaotic, I'd also like you to take a moment to imagine what it would feel like to have a morning that you actually enjoy. How would the rest of your day be different if you started off on the right foot?
It is possible to start your day off in a calmer way, doing things that are more in alignment with your true needs. (8)
In Conclusion. . . You Can Do It!
So, what do you think? If you look at your phone shortly after waking up, would you like to try not doing that?
I say it's worth a shot.
Take it day by day and don't beat yourself up if you don't do it perfectly. Every morning reclaimed is a small victory.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that upgrading your morning routine is easier if you get to bed at a decent hour, but that's a topic for another day.
So, will you accept the challenge of not looking at your phone first thing in the morning? If so, take a moment right now to think about how you'll go about this. Which of these tips will you implement?
I'd love to hear how it goes. Please comment or reach out to me by email.
If you found this information useful, please share it with someone.
As always, thanks so much for being here, you're more awesome than you think, and don't forget to have a happy and healthy day.