Good Morning, Sunshine!

by Austin Shenk


Life change comes through establishing and working proper routines.

As a 20-year-old, I walked into work one day with my drowsiness very apparent.  My co worker knew that I was going to be teaching the following year. Part way through the morning, as I was operating my forklift, my coworker told me, “You can operate a forklift half asleep, but you can’t teach half asleep.”  This admonition stuck with me for the rest of my life, but it took awhile for this to make any difference in my mornings.

That fall I started working as a brand new school assistant.  Each day had its schedule, but also included unexpected challenges.  These challenges were compounded by my inability to say, “NO,” when asked to do some new responsibility. After my first year, I was doing way more than I was capable of and had no way of knowing what I ought to be doing.  I was completely overwhelmed. I needed a life change and it came in the form of a morning routine.

My morning routine journey began with learning about the importance and accessibility of a morning routine, and the value of prioritizing responsibilities.  I loved the lemon language Cynthia uses for talking about my most important tasks. So I took about 30 minutes to create this template and fill it in.  Then came the work of staying accountable with it.  I shared it with my fellow male staff members and had them fill in their own.  Then each week for the rest of the year, we would report if we were missing any of our lemons.

This was so helpful that I also decided to try it with my students.  I planned my second quarter’s theme to focus on sleep. My strategy was to use guys vs. girls competition with a sleep contest, bulletin board and other decor. I started the second quarter with a drive to the park and as we drove, we listened to this recording.  When we arrived, I gave them instructions to separate from each other within hearing distance of the van horn.  Then I gave them 30 minutes to work on their own routine.  They specified their lemons and suggested a consequence if they were unsuccessful at it.

In my limited experience, I learned that routines have limited effectiveness if I don’t share them with anyone for accountability.  So I made copies of the students’ routines and collected their consequences to put in a hat.  Each morning for the remainder of the year, I added the words, “Check about your lemons” to my morning announcements routine.  This was the signal to ask the classmate beside them if they had completed their lemons.  If they had not, they had to pull a consequence from the hat.  This helped, but it didn’t feel like enough.

The next quarter I had them review their morning routine and also create an evening routine.  However, instead of writing a consequence for failing, they created a reward if they were faithful in their routine.  This felt much more encouraging, but it was harder to stay accountable for these lemons.

The routine exercises were great for my class and I highly recommend that you develop something similar for your class. Even if it only gets them started thinking about living their life intentionally, it is worth it.  I found it also encouraged me to live intentionally and enjoy life more abundantly.

Your homework:

  1. Review the blog post from Michael Hyatt
  2. Listen to the recordings from Cynthia Brubaker and Michael Hyatt
  3. Adapt my template for your personal or classroom purposes.
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CONTRIBUTOR: Austin Shenk

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