True confession: I am not a morning person. I’m often sleepy, groggy, grumpy and downright a lousy person to talk to first thing in the morning. But it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m unproductive. I actually like getting things accomplished in the early in the day. And I love looking back on a productive morning. But, it’s not always easy. Here are some simple ways you can boost your productivity in the morning, and set a great tone for the rest of your day.
1. Start the Night Before
Before you go to bed, set up what you’d like to get done the next day. This could be anything from a mental list to a pen and paper checklist you write before you go to bed. That way, you won’t have to scramble to figure out what needs to get prioritized while you’re still fumbling with the coffee filters. You can also use this as an excuse to clear your mind of those nagging things that keep you from a solid night’s sleep.
Keep your list simple with the most important thing at the top. Make your To Do’s clear and manageable with straightforward ways to accomplish them. Instead of “finish finance report” you can note “use data from last quarter to complete projection section of report.” You give yourself the gift of marking out a route on the map, instead of just tossing yourself a few outdated globes and hoping for the best.
“Tackle the first item on your list first thing in the morning when you are fresh,” writes entrepreneur Vanessa Loder in Forbes. “Now that you’ve effectively prioritized your To Do list, you need to get the biggest, most important task completed before moving on to anything else.”
2. Wake Up Without Screens
Too many of us turn to our phones first thing to check who liked what on your social media or dive straight into overnight emails. Talk about a productivity suck! You’re barely awake, but you’re trying to form new ideas, shove new To Do’s into that carefully curated list you made last night, and make witty replies to your friends and colleagues. It just sounds like a terrible idea, when you think about it. Yet many of us are held powerless to the lure of the screen that’s often at the edge of our nightstand.
Minimize the chance that you’ll see a screen first thing. If you need a timer, go back to a traditional alarm (or at least one not hooked up to the internet, like an iPod or another device without social media on it). Those little alert bubbles beside your app buttons can be SO TEMPTING, but you can change those settings on your phone to not show “badges” on those apps that you can’t stay out of. You can even set up your screentime on your phone to wait until a more reasonable time of the morning, like 9am or so, to avoid that temptation when you wake.
Keeping your screen away from your morning eyes can also set a good example for others in your household, like your kids that you’re constantly telling to get off their phones.
3. Get Moving in the Morning
Ungh, I know. Exercise is the WORST, right? But so many studies say doing it in the morning is a great way to boost your productivity. Not only will you get that energy boost and calorie burn, but you’ll also take care of it and get it out of the way, so you can’t skip it later.
What’s more, a morning workout has actually been proven to boost your awake hormones (cortisols) that can stay elevated throughout the day, boosting your overall productivity.
Some tips for making something like a morning workout actually happen:
- Get a buddy to get
torturedfit with you: A friend you meet at the gym or better yet, give a ride to, won’t let you slip back into snooze mode.
- Make a public commitment. Tell your friends and loved ones about your plan and have them check in on you to see how it’s going.
- If you fail, get up again. One missed day does not a failure make. Recommit yourself and get back on it.
- Make sure your goals are realistic. If five mornings of bootcamp are just killing you, try to reset your goals to something more manageable, whether it’s fewer days or an easier ramp up.
- Celebrate accomplishments (just not with bad habits). Don’t follow a week of success with a weekend of indulgence. And remember that habits form over time. It’ll get easier the more you stick with it.
4. Breakfast or Not, You Need a Drink
The way we eat meals is changing, with more people opting not to eat breakfast. That’s fine if that’s what works for you, but everyone needs to rehydrate in the morning. Even if you don’t drink coffee (and if you’re working out, you might be able to swap some exercise for that cup of coffee), you’ll need a tall glass of water in the morning.
- Water helps us replenish fluids you lost through sweat or just mouth breathing while you slept.
- It can help your stomach settle before you eat something (breakfast or not).
- It helps keep you “regular” (wink wink).
There’s a lot of trends out there vying for your morning water drinking rituals, from drinking hot water to adding lemon to it, with lots of questionable health benefits attached to the tales. So just do what feels good to you. If you like a hot cup of lemon water, go for it! Ultimately, water is water, so do what feels like a boost to you.
5. Sort Out Your Morning Routine
If you’re spending too much time getting ready in the morning, then figure out what’s really slowing you down the most and fix it.
- Shower taking too long or too many household members for efficient bathroom time? Try showering at night. You can use it as part of your evening routine and go to bed clean.
- Can’t figure out what to wear? Try moving to a capsule wardrobe with fewer options to choose from. You’ll have made your decisions on workwear before you even open your closet.
- Lunch prep taking too long? Try eating the same thing every day to streamline your prep and nutrient intake.
- Kid wrangling becoming a problem for your whole family’s productivity? Start your little ones on their own morning routines so your rides to school don’t always end in a tardy arrival.
If your commute is taking too long or your job is shift-based and that’s messing with your ability to be productive, maybe think about changing jobs or careers.
6. Let There Be Light
As we head into the darker months of the year, your brain is going to get all confused about the amount of daylight its experiencing. To combat this in the morning, you can use a light lamp for a few minutes or even get a sunrise simulator alarm clock that uses light to gradually wake you up.
Seasonal depression can be a serious problem, and “light therapy” or “SAD lamps” can be helpful if you use them first thing in the morning, especially in the winter when there isn’t as much light.
You can use your light time while you eat breakfast or enjoy that nice hot glass of lemon water, read the newspaper or a magazine from your growing mail pile, or even just talk to your family.
For those from the ever increasing work-from-home workforce, “light time” can be accomplished during the day, when you can combine it with a break for exercise and walk the dog, a jog around the neighborhood, or just explore your city to go get a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop.
7. Stop Saying You’re Not a Morning Person
Yes, even I have fallen prey to this trap for too long. If you keep repeating to yourself that you have a problem with something, you’ll not only reinforce that negative attitude, you’ll never find a way to do the opposite.
Some people experience a ton of “morning anxiety” when they wake up and that’s something you can work hard to remedy and feel better about yourself. You can use morning meditation to try and calm these anxious thoughts or even start your day with some morning affirmations like setting some intentions for the day or running through things you’re grateful for.
So from now on, I’m going to stop saying I’m not a morning person. I’ll say, “I’m a productive person” and I’ll work hard to make it true. What about you?
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
Could you use a change to your morning productivity? Will you use one of these tips? We want to hear from you. Share your tips in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.