How I Intentionally Derailed My Morning Productivity to Change My Heart

Good morning and gooooo!

When I wake up in the morning my mind is bursting at the seams of all the little things that I hope to accomplish in the day. Everything from appointments we need to attend, tiny purchases that need to be made, kid activities I want to try, simple things that need to be done, and now, topics I want to blog about.

Sure, it’s great to wake up and be overly excited to have a productive day. But here’s the thing … my morning brain is super selfish.

We live in 1,505 square feet {don’t discount that extra 5 sq ft}. So when one person wakes up, it’s likely going to be a fun little domino effect. {it’s early now and guess who is awake with me performing an ‘alien dance’}

That means my productive morning energy is forcefully slammed into the ground once the tiny people that I birthed sense my presence. Thump. Instead of beginning the creative and not-so creative things I want to accomplish, it’s simply time to … be a parent!

For a little bit of time this was absolutely defeating for me. Remember when I said that I am a “100% in” or “totally failing at this” girl? Enter the slump…

I wanted to begin the day with projects in motion, items crossed off my mental to-do list, and be operating the speed of my choice. {pause for laughter} This wasn’t happening. No surprises there.

I live with a 3.5 year old daughter whose mood is a complete toss up each morning {100% unpredictable, sweet thing} and her baby brother {hmm.. what time will he wake up today?}. So… I gave up. Even though mornings were my jam. I didn’t really like them anymore, so I gave them up. I slept until my husband and kids woke me up. I did what needed to be done. I got by. But ughhh that wasn’t me, not the true me, not the me I like to be.

I needed to find a way to recapture my mornings in a way that would fill my cup while also doing all the parenting and wife-ing and adulting that needed to be done with a joyful heart. Not with a heart and head that felt 3 steps behind and a little bit lost.

So, Amanda… you fixed this with a worksheet……?

Yeah. I fixed my mornings with a worksheet.

that tiny Austin hand!

Years ago the fabulous Emily Ley introduced me/her audience to the term ‘brain dump.’ You write everything that is floating in your head on a piece of paper or in an email to yourself. Include just enough detail to jog your memory. No actual work is getting done. You are simply dumping your thoughts. Getting the list out of your head clears the way for the day.

Staying along those lines, I knew that what I needed to do each morning was a brain dump. I wasn’t going to be able to get started on the tasks on my exciting to-do list, but I was able to get them out and listed on paper. And guys, that’s been more than enough!

I’m an exhaustive amazon product researcher {self-given title}. Now that I’ve ordered this same product two times, I feel like I can officially give it my seal of approval. In conjunction with our family Google Calendar and my paper planner, this semi-simplistic pad of paper gives me the organization I crave and the sense of accomplishment I long for. {dramatic but true}. Here’s the product link!

My Method to the Morning Brain Dump:

Okay, this is a lot of words. But pleaseeee keep in mind that this entire dump process takes just a few little bitty minutes. It takes just enough time for the water in the kettle to get warm for oatmeal and peppermint tea. I keep my worksheet pad and pen next to the stove.

First: honestly… I think you should give these worksheets a try. In the meantime, any blank sheet of paper will do. You are capable of creating headers and boxes, I know it. 😉

  1. Write one to two things in the top ‘Must Get Done Today’ section. This is easy – it’s the thing(s) I didn’t get to do yesterday and the thing that woke me up this morning saying ‘Amanda, do this!’
  2. Dump all the other tasks in the To-Do List section. Even tiny things go here, even things that take 2 minutes go here. This is key for me. Theoretically some of the tasks in this section take just as long to actually do as they take to just write down. But for me – I need to stay in my space and write the things. Don’t move. Just dump my brain.
  3. At this point I’ve probably decided on one more thing that needs to be in the Must Get Done Today part. Frequent flyers include workout, drink a lot of water, drop off Amazon returns at the UPS store, prep XYZ ingredient for dinner.
  4. Next, I circle the day of the week and jot down the date. These are good things to know and easy things for me to not know 😉 ha
  5. Fill in that top ‘Today I’m Grateful For’ box. The idea of a gratitude journal is lovely to me. Lovely! I’ve started half a dozen of them over the last few decades. They just aren’t getting done though. But adding something into this box each morning? That gets done! And it helps.
  6. Appointments. These are the ‘where do I have to be at what times.’ It This is a big deal – it helps me to clearly see the pockets of productivity and fun that I have in my day. Where is the best time to try a craft with the kids, go for a walk, pick up my Target Drive Up order, etc. Also re-writing my schedule each morning helps it stick. I’m so visual.
  7. And the final step that I do on a daily basis… Add one to two activities to top of the Notes & Doodles section. This is where I jot down a toy I want to get out, game or puzzle I’d like for us to do, sensory activity that I saw on instagram, seasonal craft I saw on pinterest. Note, this is not the time to get on your phone and go into a big search process. Try to do that the evening before.
    {PS: Click the bookmark icon on any Instagram post to save the post. You can even create folders like Kid Activities, Recipes, Workouts, Quotes, etc. It’s an even easier Pinterest if you ask me! And completely private.}
  8. This notepad has a few more sections that I sometimes complete. The workout section -you can write a time and/or routine you want to try. Mine usually says ‘do your PT exercises!!!’ {gallbladder pain and pelvic floor prolapse threw quite a wrench into my ability to workout. TMI and bummer, dude}
  9. The worksheet also has a space to write out meals and snacks. I use a different system for meal and snack planning, but this totally works too and can be used to plan ahead if you want!

So, there you go. That’s how I got out of my failure slump and found a rhythm that starts my day in a great way.

I complete this worksheet everyday. Every single day. It’s a routine I look forward to. A routine that I crave. Most importantly, its a routine that works.

Do I get everything done on my list? Naw. Seriously, like hardly ever.

But it’s not even about that. It’s about freeing my mind to live in the present space. To enjoy my life, my husband, my children, my home. It’s a practice of finding my productivity pockets, of committing to take care of myself and my family in many ways, and a promise to do something fun and intentional with my babies each day.

I reinforce my commitments through writing and then I go directly into loving on and caring for myself and my family. It’s whats working for me and… I invite you do the same, or something similar! Is there a part of this process that would give you more freedom in your heart and in your days?

Thank you for reading 🙂
Amanda Macy Hall

PS: I really wanted to title this blog post “My Morning Dump” 😉 I’m so ready for this boy mom life.


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