You’re certainly not the only one who reaches for their phone as soon as you open your eyes. Most people charge their phone overnight on their nightstand and use it as an alarm clock.
Good for you for taking the first step towards a phone-free morning by opening this article!
Before diving into the practicalities, let’s start by pointing out why it is so important to stop this toxic morning ritual.
Why is it important to have a phone-free morning?
That’s a good question. You probably already know why too much screen time is bad for you – blue light, less focus, overstimulation – but why is using your phone in the morning particularly bad?
The few hours after you wake up, set the tone for your day.
Looking through your phone after waking up will likely leave you feeling anxious, unproductive and unhappy. Chances are these feelings stay with you for the rest of the day.
Imagine starting your day off calmly and doing things the way you like to: this sets an entirely different tone, and you will carry this energy into the rest of your day.
I think you can agree with me that our phones don’t exactly spread “calmness”. What you’ll probably see when opening your phone:
- A bunch of (useless) notifications
- Emails and messages you will have to respond to later
- To-do list
- Some sort of rant or discussion on Facebook
- Someone’s picture-perfect life on Instagram
- Sad or negative news stories
All of these are external inputs from other minds. They occupy your mind before you even have a thought for yourself.
It puts you in a reactive or passive mode instead of a proactive state, making you feel like you’re running behind the facts instead of following your own course.
When you’re free of external input, especially in the morning, you can intentionally set the tone of your day.
Decide for yourself what you will do and how you want to feel, instead of letting others influence your mood and actions.
Laying the foundation
Let’s get the basics down before moving on to the 5 steps to create your phone-free morning routine. These 3 “rules” set the stage for your phone-free morning.
1. Buy an alarm clock
When you woke up this morning, how quickly did you pick up your phone? I bet it was within 15 minutes… or it even was your phone that woke you!
Did you get out of bed right away or did you stay in bed and scroll for a while (or more like 45 minutes)?
I used to “wake my eyes” with the light of my phone screen and scroll on social media and news sites. I had a hard time getting out of bed on time and always had to get ready in a hurry.
At some point, I got tired of wasting so much time in bed on my phone and decided to get an alarm clock.
I went to the nearest store and got a simple digital alarm clock. Ever since, I wake up more refreshed and it’s much easier to get out of bed.
Using your phone as your alarm or keeping it on your nightstand is a surefire way to spend time on your phone first thing in the morning.
Set yourself up for success and ditch your phone alarm for an actual alarm clock. Leave your phone in another room overnight.
2. At least one hour without a phone
It may be hard for you to imagine right now, but yes, spend at least your first waking hour without your phone.
Start small if you like. For example, stay off your phone for the first 10 minutes of your day this week, then twenty minutes next week, and so on.
After a while you’ll notice how liberating it is to have your phone-free morning hour (and may even extend it!).
3. No other screens
A phone-free morning routine will not work if you use your tablet or computer instead! They have similar negative influences.
Rather than just a “phone-free” morning, see it as a “screen-free” morning.
So as a basic rule for your morning, don’t use any screens for the first hour. No laptop, tablet or smartwatch – and no TV either.
5 Steps to a phone-free morning
Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s look at how to design your morning routine without your phone and other screens.
1. Prepare the night before
Your phone-free morning starts the night before. Charge your phone in another room overnight – preferably somewhere you’ll not be tempted to check it.
Lay down anything you may need for the next morning, such as workout clothes, a journal or hobby stuff.
Without a plan it is easy to slip back into old habits without thinking. Write down your morning routine, so you can easily see what you had set out to do.
If you struggle with willpower, you can leave yourself a motivating note for the following day. You may find it silly, but it can be super helpful!
Grab a sticky note, write a message (‘You’re working on your screen time” or “This time is for you, not your phone”) and stick it next to your bed and/or your phone.
2. Get up right away
This is easier achievable than you may expect! Especially if you have an alarm clock.
Often it’s our phone that keeps us “stuck” in bed. But without your phone in the bedroom, there’s not much else to do than get up after you woke up.
Basically, you’ll bore yourself out of bed.
Some tips if you find it hard to get up:
- Place your alarm clock away from the bed, so you have to get up to turn it off.
- Use a sunrise alarm clock to wake up more gradually.
- Put a warm robe next to your bed if you find it too cold to get out of bed.
3. Move in the morning
Whether you go for a walk, do some stretching or do a full workout, moving your body in the morning is a great activity.
Not only does it help to wake you up and energize you, but moving helps to release endorphins which make you happy.
If you’re in a good mood, you’re less likely to turn towards quick fixes such as social media or mobile games.
Now I know this may be challenging, especially if it was never part of your morning before. But like any new habit, start off small.
Personally, I was never a sporty type. But I started out with this 5-minute stretching video and after a while I was ready to do more. I moved on to beginner yoga videos of 10-15 minutes.
Nowadays, I take a 30-minute walk or go to a morning class at the gym. If I can do it, you can too!
4. Do enriching activities to replace phone time
How much time do you waste on your phone every morning?
And how often do you say you don’t have time for self-care or a hobby?
You see what I’m getting at: replace your phone time with something that you’d really like to do, something that will enrich you.
It is easy to fall back into picking up your phone if you don’t have anything else lined up to do instead.
The activity could be related to personal development or practicality, as long as you’re off-screen. Here are some ideas (find more here):
- A (new) hobby
- Meal prep for the day
- Working out
- Read a book
- Have a nice breakfast
- Do some household chores
- Take extra time to get ready
The better you feel without your phone, the less tempted you’ll be to pick it up.
5. Commute mindfully
Most people sit with their heads down looking at their phones during commuting on public transport.
I get that commuting can be tedious, and many of us resort to our phones. However, I challenge you not to do it in the morning.
Your commute is still part of the morning, when you have time for yourself, before you get caught up in work. So use it mindfully without staring at a screen.
Take the time to read a book or physical newspaper, listen to music, an audiobook or podcast, or simply give your mind a break and stare out of the window (and daydream).
Let’s get started with your phone-free morning routine
Starting a phone-free morning routine will be hard. It’s mainly because phones and apps were designed to be addictive.
However, I encourage you to try it for some time. You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. It might even turn out to be the best idea ever!
The tips and steps in this article will guide you on your way to a phone-free morning.
Let me emphasize the points that will make the biggest difference:
- Use an alarm clock and charge your phone outside of the bedroom
- Write down your morning routine
- Replace your phone time with fun, enriching activities
Is social media one of the biggest reasons you reach for your phone? Not only in the morning, but also throughout the day?
Doing a social media detox will have a huge impact on your overall phone use. Get the free Social Media Detox Guide to help you prepare for a successful social media detox.