How I Found Freedom with my Morning Productivity Hour

This is a guest post by Christina Nelson, a collage artist, crafty dabbler, and my mom. Do you have a story or tips to share with So Damn Domestic readers?

I open my eyes…

which admittedly takes a while… and I reach for my iPad, first thing.


And I browse through art technique videos and journalling pins until I can’t stand it anymore. I NEED to get upstairs to my “Tower” and create.

But wait.

I’ve learned from experience that if I plan to get any chores done, it had better be now, or I’ll find myself at 3:00 in the afternoon wondering if it’s worth it to shower and get dressed, and when I come downstairs, there’s a pile of clothes in the middle of the closet floor, just waiting to be washed.

The wake up call came…

The wake up call came when my poor sweet husband, who drives 1 hour and 20 minutes each way to work and works a very LONG day, strolled back into the bedroom before getting dressed in the morning with his arms full of clean underwear and socks which had been sitting…folded…on top of the dryer for days while I happily painted and collaged and whatever else I did all day.

Talk about feeling like a spoiled princess.

And guilty.

How and Why I started a morning productivity hour, and how it helped me find FREEDOM. Every homemaker needs this in her life.

So my Morning Productivity Hour (MPH) was born.

I would be allowed, by me, to spend an hour “doing research”, if it was followed by 1 hour of necessary household tasks.

Only then could I go upstairs to my Tower and work or play.

At that point I was still working at least part time from home, and was trying to discipline myself into working until noon before I could Do Art. That never really worked out well…but I did get it done in a rather haphazard all-or-nothing sort of way.

So. How would this MPH go?

I actually started with 3 items.

  1. Get out of the bed…and make it immediately. (Thank you Fly Lady)
  2. Grab a load of laundry off the floor (I usually sort out a load when we get ready for bed if the hampers look full) and put it in the washer.
  3. Feed the cats and scoop their litter box.

All these things had been being done randomly…or not. (I need to go downstairs and grab some crackers…think I’ll scoop the litter.)

I felt like I was sooo disorganized and long lists of things to do just wasn’t cutting it. Sure, “call Blue Cross” stared at me from the list in my awesome planner once I got upstairs, but the “chore” stuff? Later.

The next obvious thing I added to my MPH was take a shower and get dressed while I’m still downstairs. Yes …working from home in pjs feels fun, until you keep thinking, “I need to get dressed” every half hour or so.

For hours.

The MPH evolved into my morning routine.

And part of why it works is that I HAVE to do it before I am allowed to go upstairs and play. Or meet a friend for breakfast.

The other reason it works is it has to be done in the same order.

Every Day.

Until one day it’s like playing a piece on the piano…embedded in muscle memory. It actually becomes difficult NOT to do it. Especially when I realize this is all getting done in 30 minutes.

REALLY. 30 minutes.

And that includes blowing my hair dry.

So like Emily told me, you start habit-chaining and make waiting efficient. Huh?

Emily explained that habit-chaining is adding “links” to a routine…at the end….in the middle…wherever it fits efficiently, one at a time until that new set of tasks becomes automatic.

Making waiting efficient means, instead of standing blankly staring at the numbers on the microwave count down from 90 seconds, look around. Find something that needs to be done for 90 seconds. Wipe the counters. Put dishes away. Plan dinner.

The MPH has evolved…

I’ve added links…and I have only been doing this routine maybe 3 months? Not long at ALL and it is imprinted. And so easy for someone who is so easily distracted.

  • As soon as I get out of bed, I straighten the covers on my side.
  • Plug in the iPad, unplug my phone and pick up my coffee cup.
  • I put these things on the tray on the dresser at the foot of my bed and come around to make the other side of the bed. And the room looks done.
  • When I get out of the shower, and go to grab the blow dryer, I reach for the lotion in that drawer FIRST. And slather it on. THEN I can dry my hair. So that becomes a new link in my chain. And I do it in that order every day. SO I DONT HAVE TO THINK about it.
  • When I go in the closet to get dressed, I throw the pjs in the drawer and look around. Did DT (my husband) or I leave clothes or shoes on the floor or the window seat last night when we got ready for bed?
  • I put them away or in the hamper before I pick up the laundry pile I sorted.
  • When I take the laundry to the washer, I look around. Are there things I hung up damp yesterday to “iron” as they dried? Or things I folded and left on the dryer?
  • I take them to the closet and PUT THEM AWAY. (Stuff used to stay in the laundry room for days…or weeks).
  • Now I can get that tray off the dresser and carry it to the kitchen. I am done with the master bedroom.
  • When I feed the cats, am I going to leave the spoon in the sink? Or put it in the dishwasher? Depends. Is the dishwasher clean or dirty?
  • Clean? I EMPTY IT and while I’m at it, take the dried pans out of the drainer and put them away. If the dishwasher is dirty…or now empty, I put all the cups and glasses and cat bowls in. I “am not allowed” to put dishes in the sink.
  • When I scoop the litter box, are there litter crumbs tracked around? I pick up the Stick Vac that’s right there and sweep it up…and run it through the kitchen while I’m at it.

I can NOT believe that adding these additional tasks to my MPH only added about 15 minutes.

And without hurrying and freaking out or looking frazzled. I just “turn on” the MPH and move through these chores WITHOUT HAVING TO THINK ABOUT THEM.

They are just Next.

Just like words to a song. One thing leads to another.

Now, granted, I no longer have children at home, or a full time job out of the house, but I realize that even if I did, this little routine could be broken into 15 minute chunks and moved around.

Or done when I got home from work, while dinner cooked. Or while children napped.

I’ve since added simple make up to the shower/skin/hair routine, and wiping down the vanity with Scrubbing Bubbles and a paper towel while I wait for the shower water to get hot – seriously so easy. Even having to pick stuff off the counter and move it around, that job takes MAYBE a minute.

We aren’t talking “Cleaning”, we’re talking cleaning up.

Better than it was. Presentable. Tidy.

Wiping down the kitchen counters, and the dusty washer and dryer takes what? 3…maybe 4 minutes?

I am determined that I can fill up that whole MPH.

The key is to add one (ONE) small thing at a time until it is just another link in my chain. Another thing I don’t think about.

I’m at about 47 minutes now. And I’m good with it.

And believe me, when all those chores are done, I practically fly to my desk and my inks and stamps and paper and glue with a light heart, knowing when I go back downstairs in a few hours, I won’t groan and berate myself for what I “should” have done.

No more “laundry room as second closet”, no more cat box smell when I come downstairs to start dinner, no more needing to empty the dishwasher after we eat so I can put dinner dishes in.

How can you find freedom with a Morning Productivity Hour?

15 minutes is all it takes to get started decluttering, organizing, and homemakingYou don’t need a list for this stuff. Start small.

Make your bed.

Make yourself presentable.

Look around and do the little daily things as you you see them. In order.

Add them to your chain.

And from there, all it takes is muscle memory and your eye on the prize.

Hi! I am Christina. X to many of the people who know me. I blog at XenographicX. And I “do” things. LOTS of things. Sometimes I don’t finish what I start (SURPRISE) but I’m all about the process of painting, doodling, and making things. Inspiration is all around me and that I have a head full of ideas. Since I can’t do EVERYTHING I want to do, I only do 3 or 4 (or 5 or 6) different things at a time. SQUIRREL! And the engineer in me is always looking for new things to try and new ways to do them. And sometimes, something I’d done a long time ago and which got lost in the rush of time just comes back later with a twist. I am having a ball!

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  1. I found myself nodding as I read the post. It’s only in the last year that I’ve realized how helpful it is to have a morning routine that’s on autopilot… I don’t want to think about it! I also don’t wake up easily but have found that after I wake up and go into the bathroom, if I am still half awake, I should just remove my clothes, put them in the basket where I keep my PJs or toss what’s needed to in the hamper next to the washer (my laundry is in the bathroom), then the fact that I’m not clothed means I HAVE to start getting ready :) From there it’s automatic: I put my contacts in, wash my face, brush my teeth, take a quick shower, then I need to let my hair air dry for awhile, so I make my breakfast smoothie and read or watch a show that I missed the night before since I go to bed so early. I have yet to extend this morning routine to include any cleaning of the kitchen or bathroom. that’s where your post will really help me. I can add in a quick cleaning of the sink and counter in the bathroom. I can quickly unload the dishwasher in the morning. Thanks for a helpful post!!

  2. I absolutely LOVE this idea… I related to every aspect of it! Work from home? Time vacuum? Where did the day go? Do I NEED pants today? I’m going to start working on this. I need MPH in my life!

  3. Hi Christina! I loved your article. I worked from home too at one point (transcription) and I found it really difficult to stick to a routine. You’re totally right about building a routine in baby steps- just start with making your bed and scooping kitty litter! LOVE it.

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