7 steps to a more productive morning

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When you hear someone talk about mornings, what comes to mind? Do you picture peace and serenity with a warm cup of coffee in one hand and a computer mouse in the other – fervently getting a head start on the day’s tasks? Or do you imagine hitting the snooze button, rolling out of bed, and hastily grabbing a breakfast bar before getting in the car and racing to the office?  

When discussing the topic of mornings with people, you’ll get passionate responses and beliefs. There are those who believe mornings are meant for productivity and output. And then there are those who feel like mornings are meant for sleep and idleness. And while there’s a time for both, rarely do you meet successful people who opt for the snooze button over starting the day a few minutes early.

For decades people have said, “the early bird gets the worm.” For many years, this has been nothing more than opinion; however, we’ve recently been inundated with a number of studies that justify the validity of this saying. 

Take a 2012 study published in the American Psychological Association journal, Emotion. The study worked with more than 700 people ranging in age from 17 to 79 and showed that early risers report feeling happier and healthier than self-proclaimed night owls.

But why exactly is this true? One theory is that the 8-5 workday structure is oriented around mornings. Morning people tend to procrastinate less and have a proclivity for being proactive. 

Christopher Randler, a biology professor who has had some of his work published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, , “[morning people] tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges which then leads to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them. They’re proactive.”

By the way, this doesn’t mean night owls are bums. Throughout history, there has been a demand for people who are productive at night. It all started with manning watchtowers and is now carried out in the form of night shifts for 24/7 businesses.  And as : “Evening types may no longer serve as our midnight lookouts, but their intelligence, creativity, humor, and extroversion are huge potential benefits to the organization.”

With that being said, morning people — on average – tend to be more productive and efficient, especially in a society that is heavily structured around the hours before lunch.

Have a productive morning with these seven tips

Is there hope for night owls who desperately want to enjoy the benefits of morning productivity? While Randler notes that half of each individual’s chronotype is determined by genetics, the other half can be manipulated by conscientious choices. 

So, here are some tips that both early worms and night owls can use to become more productive on a daily basis.

1. Prepare the night before

Best selling author and productivity expert Michael Hyatt’s recommends , and his first tip for a good night’s rest and great morning starts the afternoon before by avoiding caffeinated drinks, especially after 4:00 p.m. “In my 20s for sure, but even in my 30s, I could drink a full cup of coffee at 9:00 at night and go right to sleep. It didn’t faze me at all,” he says “But I noticed when I started getting into my 40s that I started developing some sensitivity so that if I had caffeine in the evening… I wouldn’t get to sleep until 2:00 in the morning.”

“Set your intention for waking up, before you go to bed,” recommends Hal Elrod, author of the best selling book . He recommends deciding every night to create a positive expectation for when you wake up in the morning. Some people do this by listing three big things they want to accomplish the next day and making a plan for how they’ll get them done first thing in the morning. 

If you exercise in the morning (which you should, see #5 below), then prepare your exercise gear the night before so it’s ready to go. 

2. Get a good night’s sleep

A productive morning includes adequate rest, which means quantity and quality. While most people think about a good night’s sleep in terms of the number of hours they get, this is just one part of the equation. 

Quality sleep depends on having the right sleeping environment and getting an adequate amount of undisturbed sleep. Minimizing artificial light from screens an hour or two before going to bed and leaving your phone outside your bedroom are two quick tips to improve your sleep. 

Another is to have a consistent sleep schedule. “This is key!” says Shawn Stevenson, author of . “You can literally get amplified benefits of sleep by sleeping at the right hours. It’s been shown that humans get the most significant hormonal secretions and recovery by sleeping during the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. This is what I call ‘Money Time’.”

One issue for many people is that they sleep on the wrong mattress. Your mattress is where you spend a third of your life and it can have a big effect on the other two thirds when you’re not horizontal. Spend time evaluating your current situation and for your specific needs. A lot of new mattresses have come on the market in the past few years and competition has pushed quality up and prices down. You can get a high-tech gel mattress from mattress maker for just $1,000, which might sound like a lot until you shop around and see that similar mattresses are going for thousands.

3. Wake Up in the Right Manner

How you wake up can have a major impact on your first few waking hours. If a blaring alarm clock leaves you feeling agitated, perhaps you should try a more gentle approach. 

There are , including natural light simulations that mimic a sunrise or the “smart” alarm clock that connects to an app on your phone that acts like a morning coach and integrates with services like Spotify and Soundcloud. If you can’t stand getting out of bed and stepping on cold floors, then have a pair of warm slippers waiting for you. Whatever your biggest pain point is, there’s a way to overcome it. 

Immediately after getting out bed, start with something you’re passionate about. This could be reading, writing, or playing with your dog. “As humans, we are most disciplined in the things we are most passionate about,” . “Start your day with something you’re passionate about and you’ll be much more likely to get up and do it.”

4. Eat a real breakfast

Your parents always told you to eat a good, healthy breakfast in the morning if you wanted to perform well during the day – and it looks like this is more than just parental wisdom. Multiple studies have validated this idea, connecting a healthy breakfast to lower BMI, less fat consumption throughout the day, and having better memory and focus throughout the day.

As , “Eating first thing not only improves your concentration and ability to remember, but it also helps control the number on the scale. When you skip breakfast, your body goes into fasting mode, which increases your insulin response and, in turn, causes your body to store more fat.”

And remember, a real breakfast doesn’t come in the form of a breakfast bar or something greasy from a fast food restaurant. Instead, go for oatmeal with fresh fruit or

5. Exercise

“Exercise has been touted to do everything from treat depression to improve memory, with the power to cure a host of problems while preventing even more,” . “In particular, exercise leads to the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that alleviate pain, both physical and mental. Additionally, it is one of the few ways scientists have found to generate new neurons.”

While you can get exercise whenever you want, an early-morning routine can help wake you up and release neurotransmitters that will carry you through the rest of the day. And you don’t need an hour-long workout – just 15-30 minutes will do.

6. Tackle the hardest task on your agenda

We all have tasks that we enjoy doing and those that we’d prefer not to deal with. Make it your priority to tackle the most difficult, least interesting task first. By completing this task early in the morning, you can free up your schedule and change your entire outlook on the day. Instead of dreading certain things, you’re able to enjoy your time.

7. Set some goals for the day

Before you really get into the “meat” of your daily routine, spend a few minutes in the morning setting goals for your day. This may be a list of mental goals, or it could be a physical checklist that you write down. The important thing is that have a plan and you’re managing your time, rather than letting your email inbox manage it for you. This will help you maximize productivity for the remaining hours of the day.

Anyone Can Become a Morning Person

We all have our own natural tendencies. Some are drawn towards nighttime, while others prefer to enjoy their mornings. But the reality is that anyone can train themselves to maximize their morning output by putting into practice habits that squash procrastination and elevate productivity. 

Learn from those around you and develop a routine that works for you.

Josh Steimle is the author of Chief Marketing Officers at Work and the CEO of MWI, a digital marketing agency with offices in the US and Asia, and despite being over 40 can still do a kickflip on a skateboard. 

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