Nailing the Morning Routine

Somewhere between my first year of college and first year of grad school, the unthinkable happened: I became a Morning Person.

I’d always thought Morning People were evil because only the devil could feel so alive at such an ungodly hour.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and last summer I finally had the necessity to get to my summer PR internship bright and early, with a smile on my face, a polished outfit and the ability to jump right into whatever crisis was already happening at 7:30 a.m. So I had to trick myself into becoming a Morning Person. And that was when I realized that Morning People have it MADE. Why? Several reasons:

  • No one bothers you until around 9:30, so you can actually have time to yourself to knock a few tasks out before you get sucked into meetings and new tasks
  • You’re the first one in the office, so you get automatic points just for showing up and being there early. People notice that. They also notice when you rush in out of breath at 9:45 and get to the meeting unprepared.
  • It gives you back an extra hour or two to do personal things like meditate, work out, make a good breakfast, read, or whatever else makes you happy. #selfcare

So it’s obviously beneficial to be an evil Morning Person. But how do you do it? It’s all in the routine. You can’t just start doing these things, you have to establish it as a habit. Just like going to the gym is a habit (a habit that you might even pick up better if you start a morning routine).

A Caffeinated Californian Morning

6:30: Triage: I do a quick skim of my emails to make sure nothing has gone terribly wrong in the day yet, or that there’s nothing urgent I need to respond to. I flag any emails that will need my attention when I get to work. Then I roll back over and go back to sleep for another 15 minutes.

6:45: Beauty: I do my morning skincare and makeup routine, which involves washing my face and brushing my teeth and applying makeup and all that fun hygienic stuff. Then I get dressed– I usually try to pick out an outfit the night before so I don’t have to spend time worrying about what to wear.

7:00: Mindfulness: I meditate for about 3-5 minutes using the Headspace app (it’s amazing) and then make myself drink water, since I’ve needed to get better at staying hydrated and starting with water before I get into the coffee!

7:15: Breakfast Briefing: I make a quick breakfast, like avocado toast or a bagel, and turn on the coffee. Then I sit down and read through all my daily news: The Skimm, New York Times, Fast Company, etc. This helps me know what’s going on from the start and stay updated, so I go into work or class informed.

7:30: Blogging: I do some writing if I have extra time, and it helps me start my day creatively and reflectively. It’s like getting all my creative energy out while I can so I can better focus on my work duties throughout the day.

7:45: Commute: I’ve been lucky enough that my commute has been a walk, whether it was the 20-minute walk to the office in downtown Chicago over the summer, or the five-minute walk to class during the school year. When I’m working, I try to get there around 8 a.m.. My morning walk takes the place of a morning workout, like yoga or stretching, and I do my real working out at night, when my brain is tired of thinking and it just wants to take a break while my body does some working.

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Some tips for creating a routine

  1. Take time for creative outlets. Do you enjoy reading? Blogging? Painting? Listening to music? If you add something you love doing to your morning routine, it will make you actually look forward to mornings.
  2. Be mindful of your health. A lot of people work out in the mornings. Even though I don’t work out, I use my morning to meditate, to take care of a personal health need. I also use the morning to drink as much water as possible (before I start forgetting) and do some stretching to feel physically ready for the day.
  3. Block out time in your calendar. My Google Calendar literally has a slot for “Meditate”, scheduled at the same time every morning. If you don’t defend your morning time as a scheduled routine, you won’t take it as seriously.
  4. Be consistent. While holidays and weekends are different, for the most part you need to get it together and participate in your routine every day. It will suck at first. And then you’ll be shocked at how fast you get used to it.
  5. Prep the night before. Make it as easy on yourself as possible. Fill the coffee maker. Set out your clothes. Make your lunch (I’ve started meal prepping on Sunday nights).

Need more ideas for establishing your morning routine? My Morning Routine is a weekly newsletter that you can sign up for (it’s free), and each week you get a new morning routine in your inbox from a real person in the working world, usually someone successful and productive like a CEO or travel blogger.


 

Have you started establishing a morning routine? How long have you been sticking to it? Is it easier to live your best life? Tell all!

XO,

CC

 

 

Seeking Simplicity, Part I: Creating a minimalist closet

Welcome to Part 1 of my blog post series on finding simplicity! In my mission to start simplifying my life, in everything from my career to my wardrobe, I’m writing a new post each week on how I’ve started keeping it simple. This first week might be the hardest: Simplifying my closet.

Less is more. Less is more. Repeat this to yourself, and you just might be able to get through the emotional experience of purging your closet.

Well, it kind of worked for me, anyways. Which was nothing short of miraculous, considering the circumstances: I’m a total pack rat with too much sentimental attachment to my clothes. But this was precisely the reason that I wanted to start with cutting down on my closet. That, and also the basic fact that I’m just literally tired of having all this stuff. There is such a thing as too much stuff, and if you’re feeling what I’m feeling, I think you’re ready for a good old wardrobe overhaul.

We’re going to be shooting for what some call the Capsule Wardrobe. Various lifestyle bloggers have managed to cut their closets down to 40, even twelve pieces. A capsule wardrobe is basically a closet with your favorite versatile pieces that you mix and match. Sounds easy enough, right? Except not, because it totally sucks getting rid of clothes.

Or does it?

Here are the benefits of reducing your wardrobe:

  • You use less time choosing what to wear and more time on things that matter, like actually spending time with your friends instead of being late because you couldn’t decide on a damn outfit
  • It gets easier to define your style and what’s important
  • You can invest in quality pieces that you absolutely love
  • Selling or donating clothes you don’t need is awesome for you, the community, and the environment. Everyone wins.
  • SPACE.

Okayy, so that’s all fine and good, but what about the actual hard part of reducing your wardrobe? Here’s where I step in with my real experience and real advice on making those tough cuts.

Creating your capsule wardrobe

Step 1: Grab a laundry basket and start filling it with the first round of cuts. 

These will be the easy things to get rid of: Tops that are out of style, old t-shirts, underwear you never wear, sweaters that you like in theory but actually hate.

Step 2: Count the number of items you have in your closet. Then decide on a goal. 

My number was unspeakably high when I started this experiment, and decided I’d try to get it down to 50. That was ambitious of me, but you have to shoot for the moon, right?

They say the magic number is 37, but I currently go to college in Missouri and that number just is not fair with the number of coats and jackets I need. So I made a compromise and decided that coats don’t count, since this is really about my outfits and not what I’m throwing on over them. Choose whatever goal works best for you, but remember: Less is more. Less is more. Rinse. Repeat.

Step 3: Choose wisely.

Here comes the hard part. This time, start with the things you love: Your absolute favorites that you are obsessed with and would grab in a fire (note: do not grab clothes in a fire). These should be a combination of versatile, tried-and-true basics that you can always count on (your favorite jeans, a plain white tee, the LBD) and the more fun, fancy pieces you can’t live without. My list looked a little like this:

“Basics”:

  • Black leather jacket
  • DKNY Denim jacket
  • Blazer
  • My favorite flannel
  • Plain black Topshop t-shirt
  • Blush & black lace camisoles
  • Black dress
  • Dark skinny jeans
  • Distressed jeans
  • Leggings
  • Cable-knit sweater

“Fun”:

  • Fur vest
  • Vintage pink bomber jacket
  • Urban Outfitters jumpsuit
  • Striped culotte Loft pants
  • Graphic concert tees
  • Floral kimono
  • Metallic workout jacket (Victoria Sport, my latest obsession)
  • Bodysuits
  • My entire cardigan collection

You’ll be surprised at how fast you decide what your favorite things are and what you can live without.

Once you’ve zeroed in on what you are obsessed with, it’s time to tackle the things you’re less obsessed with.

Step 4: Make the deeper cuts.

Alright, we’ve had our fun pretending this whole minimalism thing will be a breeze. But then we look at that old Charlotte Russe top and think, “But what’s the harm in keeping this crop top?” I hear you. I am with you. I, too, think it is unjust to ditch the going-out tops. But going-out tops are trendy, and you can always invest in two trendier tops to replace the five you threw out.

Are you keeping that cashmere sweater because it was expensive and you keep telling yourself you like it but you haven’t worn it once in the past three years? Pitch it. Do you still have that dress from high school that you share fond memories with, but you don’t seem to be making more memories with it? Time to let someone else love it.

BTW, the more you get rid of/sell, the more money and space you have for sushi. Just saying.

Keep cutting down. Figure out what’s most versatile, that you wear most often without thinking about it. Think about the classics versus the so-yesterday-trends. And remember: LESS. IS. MORE.

Step 5: Enjoy your newfound freedom.

Even if your experiment seems like a complete failure and you’ve only managed to get rid of three things, I consider this blog post a success because I got you to reduce your wardrobe! Well, you got yourself to. I just gave you the moral support.

For more expertise on building a capsule wardrobe, Unfancy has the ultimate guide with beautiful resources and pictures.


Have you ever tried to create a capsule wardrobe, or make your closet more minimalist? Let me know how your experiments turn out!

XO,

CC

Why you don’t want to be normal

nor·mal: adjective. Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

Well, who the heck wants that?

Today I wanted to talk about why it’s okay, and even better, to not be normal. Because for our entire lives, we have felt pressure to be normal. But the thing is, being normal might be the most overrated concept on the planet. Because since when has a normal person done anything groundbreaking? Since when does conforming to the standards mean pushing something further and making progress?
Quick personal story time:
I’ve spent a lot of my life struggling between being the weirdo and being the cheerleading captain. I usually ended up doing both. High school will tell you that the two are mutually exclusive, but I will tell you that they are not. I was probably the nerdiest cheer captain there ever was. I brought my AP European History textbooks to practice. It should have been disastrous.
But because I was a nerd, I was a great cheer captain. I spent time memorizing cheers, poring over YouTube videos and creating complicated, dynamic routines with the same drive that I put towards my Spanish homework. I was the girl that always had her headphones on, and my love for music helped me learn how to mix soundtracks for the perfectly timed stunt sequences that I made up. Rarely one to be at the party every weekend, I had free time to dedicate toward making my team look its best under the Friday night lights.
I definitely wasn’t captain because of popularity, that was for sure. But the routines I created are still used by the cheer team today, 5 years after I graduated.
Same thing went for my sorority. Joining a sorority seems like the ultimate conformity, but under the matching T-shirts are the most brilliant, compassionate, genuine people on earth, and they encouraged me to be my weird self. One time, on the night that we held elections for officer positions, I stood up in front of the whole chapter and told a story about the time I stepped in wet cement and got stuck because there wasn’t a Wet Cement sign. It was a very low point for me. The entire chapter died laughing, and that night they elected me PR Chair. My ownership of my own dorky moments are what made me stand out from 200 women.
Enough about me, let’s talk about you.
So we’ve established that being yourself and taking ownership of the things that make you stand out are what will help you succeed as a leader. Still with me? Cool. Let’s talk about getting there. Because let’s face it: It’s not everyone’s first instinct to let their freak flag fly. If you want to work on embracing your unique qualities that set your apart, this one’s for you.
Here’s what you gotta do:

Let go of people who have criticized you for being different.

Some people will just live for taking other people down, and that’s not ideal, but it’s the world we live in, so you’re going to have to let things roll off your back. So what if someone thinks it’s weird that you spend so much time listening to musicals or going on outdoor hikes? They can go be bored while you develop your cultural sensibilities and appreciation for nature. So what if you dress up for class when everyone else wears Nike shorts and sweatpants? You probably have a better fashion sense and will be ready to rock the real world, while I will be adjusting to life without my yoga pants. The point is, people get intimidated when someone is unique, and you can’t let that stop you.
Surround yourself with supportive people, and you’ll find that you are so much better off.

Nurture the skills and activities that make you happy.

I actually kind of hate the word nurture, because it’s not like we’re all plants, but whatever. It makes the most sense here.
Make a list or draw out all of the things that make you happy. My list includes things like 80s music, helping people, beauty products, reading books, seafood, art, ballet class, and public speaking (yes, public speaking. Told you I’m weird. We’ll get to that in a second). Then, evaluate how much time you dedicate to each of those things. If you love yoga, do you go to yoga class as often as you’d like? Are you missing out on opportunities to teach yoga? See where you can do more to develop your unique passions.

Figure out what strengths you have that other people don’t.

You know the Pussycat Dolls song that goes, “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” Make your own version of that song: “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend had a knowledge of Led Zeppelin like me?” Not as catchy but a lot more fun.
Here’s another personal example: I love public speaking. I think it’s a great time. Meanwhile, most other people fear public speaking more than they fear death. Therefore, this is one of the things that makes me not normal. But it’s also great, because once I’m in the Working World, I’ll be comfortable giving presentations, and one day I might be in a position where I’m one of those big-shots that give motivational keynote speeches at conferences. Boom. Weirdo wins.
Find your version of public speaking. Figure out what you can do that most other people in your field can’t. Everyone has something.

Find inspiration in fearless role models.

For me, it’s Kelly Cutrone, whose book Normal Get You Nowhere helped inspire this post. She’s one of the most badass women in the PR game, so there’s that. I’ve also been inspired by fictional characters, like Carrie Bradshaw and Blair Waldorf. Carrie made it cool to be a writer. Blair made it cool to care about grades and success. Not that I needed permission to feel okay caring about these things– but it helped to see my own qualities reflected in strong women, real or not. And then I became my own superhero.

Become your own role model.

Once you’ve embraced yourself and developed your strengths, it’ll be your turn to inspire others. Mentor a younger worker in your office. If you’re still in school, mentor younger sorority members or people in your degree program. Once you become an expert, or leader, or business owner, or whatever it is you want to be, you can pass it on to someone else. It’s amazing how much inspiring someone else will make you realize how awesome it is to be yourself. Unapologetically, one hundred percent yourself.

Cheers to being weird! What qualities have you learned to embrace?

XO,

CC