What type of morning person are you? Do you wake up energized and ready to conquer the day? Or do you dread mornings and feel more like the walking dead?
The truth is that most of us have a tough time getting ourselves together and functioning in the first few hours of the day.
And even if you’re already a cheery morning person, we can all use a little extra help to start the day on the right foot. And plus, who wouldn’t want to make mornings a bit easier and more productive?
Why are mornings so important?
How you start your mornings can have a huge impact on your productivity for the whole day.
People who start their day in an alert, organized and stress-free way are more productive and focused individuals.
And they’re also more likely to maintain their high-performance levels throughout the day.
So why not make the most of your mornings and get a head start on your goals? Below are 5 effective strategies to help you develop your most productive morning routine.
1. Start the night before
Waking up in a sea of confusion is a horrible way to start the day. Do these questions race through your mind as you wake up:
Why am I getting up so early? What am I supposed to do today? Do I have that 8 am meeting?
What should I wear? What will I eat? Should I go work out?
Why can’t I just go back to sleep?
A good way to avoid the stressful morning panic is to prepare as much as possible the night before.
It’s difficult to organize things in the morning when you’re sleepy and groggy. But if you get things ready the evening before, you’ll begin your day with a clear, refreshed mind.
The less you have to worry about in the first couple of hours of the day, the more mental energy you’ll have to focus on your work.
Here are some tips to help you get organized the night before:
Create your work to-do list
Take a few minutes and map out your to-do list for the next day. Consider the key steps for each task and the overall goals you hope to accomplish.
Review your calendar and include your important meetings and calls in the list, as well as the preparation required for these activities.
Creating your task list will save you time and energy. You’ll feel confident about facing the next day in an organized manner.
You’ll also sleep better and mornings will be much easier to handle since you already know what you need to do to tackle your day.
Pick out your clothes
Searching frantically through your closet to decide what to wear can be a huge stressor first thing in the morning.
And realizing that you forgot to pick up your dry-cleaning and that the rest of your clothes are a wrinkled mess makes things even worse. After all, who has time to iron in the morning?
To avoid this last-minute panic, pick out your work clothes the night before. Include your shoes, coat, and any accessories. Even better, plan your outfits in advance for the whole work week.
And remember to check the weather forecast and factor this into your choice of outfits so that you’ll be dressed in a suitable way.
Prepare your meals
Making your lunches ahead of time is a huge time (and money) saver. Try making larger batches of your favorite recipes so that you can bring leftovers to work for a few days.
Pasta, soups and all kinds of casserole dishes can be made easily and in bulk. With the infinite choices for recipes to prepare, you can still enjoy your lunches and never get bored!
Have everything packed
Have your work bag packed each evening and leave it by the door. Include all items such as your laptop, work folders, snacks, gym clothes and anything else you might need. You can throw in your lunch in the morning as you rush out the door.
When you see the bag in the morning, it will be a visual cue to your brain that you’re ready to start your day.
Keep things tidy
You’ve heard the simple saying “tidy home, tidy mind”. You know it’s true but it’s not very appealing to clean up at night when you’re already tired from a long day.
But you don’t have to do massive cleaning, just some quick tidying up. Spend just 15-30 minutes to wash dishes, remove clutter, and put things in their rightful spot.
Waking up to a tidy home is so much better for you than waking up in a chaotic mess. You’ll start the day with a clear, uncluttered mind as well.
2. Create the conditions for good sleep
When was the last time you got a full eight hours of sleep? If you can’t remember and usually get by with a few hours each night, then you’re not alone.
Unfortunately, sleep deprivation has become so common in our busy world that most people only get 4-6 hours each night.
And with the shortage of shut-eye comes the terrible symptoms. You know the ones – the mental fog and fatigue that follows you the whole day and ruins your productivity.
You can’t focus and every task takes much longer to complete. You count down the minutes until the end of the work day so you can finally get some rest.
You don’t have to continue the suffering
Sleep is one of the most important factors for your thinking abilities and productivity. You need to have a good night’s sleep in order to perform at your best.
And fortunately, there many things you can do in the evenings to develop a good sleeping habit. Some helpful tips are shown below.
Watch what you eat
Try to avoid heavy meals, fatty and sugary foods at least 2-3 hours before bed. Your body can’t rest properly if it’s busy digesting a huge meal and it will disrupt the quality of your slumber.
Large meals should be consumed earlier in the day so that the body has time to metabolize the food and use the energy for daily activities. If you’re hungry at night, try having a light snack or fruits and veggies instead.
Watch what you drink
Having a nightcap may seem like an appealing and relaxing treat, but the reverse is actually true. Alcohol is a stimulant, and research studies have shown that it will disturb your REM sleep and prevent you from getting a good night’s rest.
Along with alcohol, make sure to also avoid caffeine and sugary drinks before bed. Drink water instead to stay hydrated so that you can get the best sleep possible.
Don’t use electronic devices
Most of us are guilty of using our phones and tablets before bed to check e-mails, surf the web, read and watch videos. We even tell ourselves that these activities help us unwind so we can get to sleep.
However, medical experts have found that the blue light from electronic devices is harmful to our sleep cycles. The light stimulates mental activity which causes us to stay awake.
As a result, our internal clock is thrown off and we stay up later than intended. Over time, we end up losing more and more sleep.
So if you want to get some well-needed shut-eye, go ahead and turn off the devices at least 1-2 hours before bed.
Turn your phone off
How often does this happen to you: You’re about to doze off when your phone buzzes with new work e-mails and social media updates. You’re suddenly intrigued. So, of course you pick up the phone to check the messages.
Some are urgent and you need to reply to them right away. Before you know it, your mind is racing and you get lost in your messages. When you’re finally ready to get back to sleep, you realize you’re no longer tired.
This is a terrible habit to have right before bed when you’re supposed to be winding down and looking forward to a good night’s rest.
To counter this, turn your phone off (or put it on do not disturb or airplane mode) at least an hour before your bedtime.
Sleep in complete darkness
Sleep experts recommend the best environment for quality rest is a quiet and pitch black room.
Close your blinds to block the moonlight and the rising sun in the morning. Don’t leave the TV on and cover up any lights so you can get the room as dark as possible.
Set a regular sleep schedule
Most medical professionals suggest 7-8 hours as the optimal amount for a good night’s rest. Aim to get at least this amount each night.
Set a regular sleep schedule and be consistent. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Cut out activities or anything that prevents you from sticking to your sleep schedule.
Why not give it a try? If you can get a good night’s sleep, you’ll set yourself to be your most productive and succeed.
Still having trouble falling asleep?
If you’ve tried these tips and still have trouble falling asleep many nights, there are many other effective things you can do.
Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or breathing exercises to help you unwind. Listen to music that calms you down. Read a book. Have a cup of chamomile tea or glass of warm milk. Take a hot shower or bath.
Try out as many different activities as you can. You’re sure to find something that works best for you and sets you up for a restful sleep.
3. Master the art of waking up
Waking up has to be one of the most difficult things in the world to do. It’s just so harsh being forced out of that pleasant state of rest.
It’s no wonder we don’t cope very well. Hitting the snooze button repeatedly, clinging to the last moments of peaceful slumber, and dreading the start to the day.
But is it possible to make waking up a more tolerable experience? It can be if you change how you view mornings and look for the benefits instead.
Have something to look forward to
It’s even more painful to get up in the morning when the first thoughts you have are dread for facing the day.
If you don’t enjoy your work, find something else that gives you purpose and motivates you to get up in the morning.
These can be simple things such as your workout, an interesting project you’ve started, and plans with your family and friends. Find pretty much anything that helps you get out of bed in the morning.
By changing your mindset to have positive thoughts when you first wake up, getting up will be a whole lot easier to do!
Get up early
Why would anyone ever want to get up at 4 or 5 a.m.? And why is it that the majority of CEOs and successful people swear by this habit and that it contributes to their success?
Maybe they’ve already discovered the many benefits to waking up early and working towards their goals. Here are just a few of the many reasons that may inspire you to adopt this habit as well:
- The earlier you get up, the more time you have to plan and have a proactive start to your day.
- You will also have more quiet time alone to work on important projects without interruptions.
- You will feel more prepared, confident and in control of your day, as opposed to getting up late and falling behind on your tasks throughout the day.
- Both your mental and physical energy are at their highest in the morning. This is the best time to focus on the things that are most important so that you’ll be your most productive.
Wake up at the same time each day
Now we’re not saying to get up at 4 or 5 a.m. But perhaps 6 a.m. may work well for you. Find the time that works best for you and your work schedule. And remember to be consistent and wake up at the same time each day.
Even if you’re not a natural morning person, it is possible to develop a habit of getting up early. Constant practice is the key to learning any behavior, so you can train yourself to become an early riser.
If you want to make a big change such as getting up at 5 a.m. versus 7 a.m., then phase this in slowly. Try getting up about 15-30 minutes earlier each week. It could take up to a month to fully reach your new wake-up time and feel good about it.
The snooze button is not your friend
You might think that the snooze button is helpful, but how many times have you hit it just once?
Like all bad things that make us feel good, we tend to over-use them. Especially first thing in the morning when we’re not yet thinking clearly and the extra sleep time is just too good to pass up.
But the problem with the snooze button is that it can prevent you from sticking to your sleep schedule or your goal to wake up early. Repeatedly hitting the snooze button for 10 minutes each time can quickly snowball into an extra half hour to one hour of extra sleep each day.
Get up right away
It’s important to get up when you hear the alarm and not make any excuses. And don’t let your sleepiness control your actions. You may feel that way at first but this will pass and you’ll feel more alert after a few minutes out of bed.
If you want to combat the snoozing problem, try keeping your alarm clock far from your bed. When the alarm goes off, you will have to get up to reach it and shut it off. Now that you’re up it will be much easier to stay up and start the day.
Light can help you
Open the shades or turn on the lights. Both natural and artificial light can help your body wake up. Light sends a signal to the brain that the day has started and it’s time to get the mental circuits going.
4. Create a routine to start the day
Once you’re up, it’s important to have a morning routine that can set a positive tone for the day.
A good action plan means you won’t have to think too much about what you’re supposed to do each morning to get ready. And best of all, it will give you the motivation boost you need to get into work mode.
It’s also essential that you create your own ideal routine. Make sure to include activities you enjoy such as having a cup of coffee, watching the sunrise or taking a walk. Below are some ideas to help kick start your day.
Have a healthy breakfast
There’s a reason it’s the most important meal of the day. A good breakfast provides you with energy and sets you up for a productive start.
Health professionals recommend eating protein for the energy boost. Try eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, and include your favorite fruits for added vitamins and nutrients.
A protein-rich breakfast will keep you feeling full and help stabilize your blood sugar levels. You’ll also be able to focus better and keep your energy constant throughout the morning.
Skip the unhealthy carbs such as bagels, donuts and anything laced with sugar. These foods will give you a temporary sugar rush, but you’ll crash shortly after.
Treat yourself to some caffeine
Indulging in a cup of coffee or tea is a great treat first thing in the morning. It also gives you a chance to think about the upcoming day as you wait for the caffeine to kick in.
But keep in mind that too much caffeine is not good for you. Try to limit your coffee intake to 1-2 cups per day and none after 2 p.m. so that it doesn’t affect your sleep.
And remember to also drink plenty of water – around 8 glasses per day – to keep your body well-hydrated.
Exercise is one of the best ways to wake up and boost your energy and mood. Find an activity that you’ll enjoy such as running, biking, aerobics or walking.
As you get moving, your blood circulation improves and more oxygen is pumped throughout your body. Thus, helping both your body and mind to feel awake and refreshed.
You’ll also be happier, more relaxed and your concentration will also improve.
If you don’t have a lot of time in the morning, even 15-30 minutes can make a huge difference for your well-being.
Spending some time outside can do wonders for your mind. Breathing in the fresh air will clear your head and leave you feeling alert and invigorated.
So take some time and have your coffee outdoors or walk to your favorite coffee shop and enjoy the scenery until you have to settle in to work.
Try a relaxation technique
A relaxation technique such as meditation or yoga is a great way to start the day on the right foot.
Spending some quiet time engaging in these activities gives you a calmer, more positive mindset for your day. It also helps declutter your mind of worry and stress.
After all, it’s best to clear out the negative thoughts first thing in the morning, so they don’t have a chance to disrupt your focus during the work day.
Listen to music
Putting on your favorite tunes is a great motivator to get up and get going. The great thing about music is that it has the power to change your mood and make you happier.
Additionally, it can inspire both your mind and body into action and helps you feel energized. So go ahead and listen to music while you get ready, exercise and on your way to work.
You’ll breeze through your morning routine and be in a great mood to start your day.
Need a good role model?
We wanted to share this clip from the LEGO movie with Emmet’s “good morning routine” (voiced by Chris Pratt).
If only we could all wake up with Emmet’s enthusiasm and positive outlook every day. Mornings would be so much more bearable.
” Everything is awesome! “, after all.
5. Start your work day off right
Now that you have your home routine down pat, the next step is to continue the productive tone when you get to work.
How many times have you started your work day with the best intentions? You tell yourself “I’m going to get started right away and get tons of stuff done today.”
And then sadly, your day is derailed by many distractions, constant interruptions, unexpected tasks and meetings. The day passes by and you’ve completed only a few small tasks on your lengthy to-do list.
This is one of the most frustrating things to face with work: the feeling that you are not in control of your time and schedule.
So how can you take charge of your day and regain control? Whether you work from home or the office, the tips below will help you stick to your plan as much as possible.
If your workspace is cluttered with piles of paper, random junk and pieces of yesterday’s lunch, it will be very difficult to start the day with a clear mind. As you work, you can’t help but notice the mess and it disrupts your focus.
Organizing your space is critical for improving your concentration and productivity. So get rid of the mess, set up a filing system and keep your desk as clear as possible. This will keep your mind clutter-free as well.
Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of procrastination
There is no bigger threat to your morning productivity than getting sucked in by time wasters. Social media sites, videos, internet surfing and anything else you can think of to avoid work.
Once you start checking your social media feeds and watching funny videos, it’s easy to lose track of time and waste many valuable work hours.
The best way to eliminate the procrastination trap is not to get started at all. The key is to resist the temptation and avoid all your triggers.
So when you get to work, don’t check your social media sites and don’t surf the web or visit YouTube. If you don’t trust yourself, there are programs such as StayFocsd (for Chrome) that can block sites from your web browser.
Don’t let e-mails take over your day
One of the simple truths about work is that e-mails are never-ending. And constantly checking and responding to them can take up your whole day and prevent you from completing your important tasks.
But you don’t have to allow e-mails to control you. Why not take back control and decide when to reply?
Try designating specific times of day such as first thing in the morning, lunch and mid-afternoon for checking e-mails. And respond only to the urgent ones first. Leave the others to the end of the day once you’ve gotten through your significant work projects.
Review your to-do list and set goals
Without a good plan, nothing would ever get done. So starting your day with your task list and setting goals will help you be your most productive.
As you review your task list, ask yourself some questions to keep you on track with your goals, such as:
- Which projects/tasks must I complete today?
- What are the steps and what actions do I need to take?
- Which colleagues are involved and how will we work together to complete the work?
Adding context to your task list will make you feel more confident and prepared. And you’ve given yourself everything you need to set your plan in motion and achieve your goals.
Just take action
Your mental energy is at its peak at the start of your day. Use this to your advantage and just get started on your work right away.
The most difficult thing is just taking the first step – opening a file, typing the first word. Once you’ve gotten past the first hurdle, you’ll be able to make progress more quickly and build up a great momentum.
Make sure to work on your most important and urgent tasks first. These projects require your best level of concentration, so you should work on these when your thinking ability is at its best.
And plus, you’ll feel so much better once the most critical and dreaded projects are out of the way!
What works best for you?
What tips do you use to make your morning routine the most productive? We’re always interested in learning new productivity tips, so please share any comments below. Thank you!