Is there anything we can do first thing in the morning–before the workday even officially starts–to become more energetic, more focused, and more productive? This article will walk you through nine strategies that will get your day off to the best start possible.
1. Write out a to-do list (but keep it short)
Starting your day with a prioritized list of tasks, actions, and goals can help you make more productive decisions throughout the day. In a recent interview, Amy Dalton, researcher behind a goal-setting study titled “Too Much of a Good Thing: The Benefits of Implementation Intentions Depend on the Number of Goals,” stresses the importance of keeping your list of goals on the short side: “If you have six things to do today, all high priority, and you sit down and start planning everything out in detail, you quickly realize how difficult it will be to do it all. … You feel overwhelmed and, because you don’t think you can pull it all off, you’re less committed. By contrast, people who don’t form specific plans are more likely to believe they can achieve it all.”
2. Spend some time in quiet
Meditation, prayer, yoga, quiet time–these are all great practices that can get your day off to the right start. Spending 15 to 30 minutes in quiet–whether that’s doing structured meditation, or simply sitting silently with a cup of coffee contemplating the day–can broaden your perspective and give you a calmer, more proactive outlook on the day.
3. Exercise near the beginning of the day
Researchers at the University of Bristol have found that people who exercise during the workday report improved moods and an increased ability to deal with the demands of work. Joe Coulson, one of the researchers behind the study, writes, “It’s generally well-known now that there are many physical and mental health benefits that can be gained from regular exercise. If people try to fit an active break into their working day, they might also experience the added bonus of their whole day feeling much more productive.”
If you already have a regular exercise routine, try moving it to the beginning of the day. Exercising before work can improve your mood, and increase your productivity levels throughout the rest of the day.
4. Start the day with a proactive mindset
Do you generally believe that you’re in control of your own success? People who have a strong internal locus of control believe and expect that they have control over their own destiny. Starting the day with an expectation that what you do matters will give you the best chance of getting off to a productive start.
5. Eat a protein-rich breakfast
Whether you’re a “breakfast person” or not, that first meal of the day is one of the keys to setting yourself up for a productive morning. Remember that your body has been fasting for the past seven or eight hours, and jump-starting your system with a protein-rich breakfast can get you going. Some quick and easy protein-packed options that even non-breakfast people can stomach include cottage cheese, almonds, eggs, protein shakes, and Greek yogurt.
6. Become a morning person
Research published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology suggests that morning people are actually more proactive than night owls in terms of their overall willingness to take action. The study also found that people who had only a small difference in wake-up time between weekdays and weekends were more proactive; meaning those who got up at roughly the same time every day tended to be more proactive.
Not a morning person by nature? While natural circadian rhythms certainly impact how energetic you feel in the morning, getting to bed earlier and instituting an enjoyable morning routine may make mornings a little more palatable.
7. Prepare the night before
Mornings can be chaotic at the best of times, but a bit of extra planning the night before can go a long way to minimizing morning stress. Some ways to do this might be setting the timer on the coffee maker, preparing breakfasts or lunches ahead of time, and having your laptop and briefcase ready and waiting by the door.
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