If you find yourself struggling to stay focused throughout the day, leaving items on your to-do list unchecked, or feeling like you’re constantly busy with little to show for your efforts, your problem may be your morning routine. By incorporating the following suggestions into your mornings, you can amp up your productivity throughout the rest of the day!
Why Mornings Affect the Rest of the Day
We’ve all had those mornings where the day seems to fall apart before we even get out the door. Something as simple as oversleeping by a few minutes, misplacing your car keys, or unexpected traffic delays can leave you feeling angry, stressed, and unfocused before you reach your desk and make it difficult to find momentum to the end of the day. It turns out this phenomenon has a scientific basis…
The willpower we all need to remain focused and on task in the face of stress and distractions is a complex mind-body response that’s incompatible with the physiological response caused by stress.
When faced with stressful situations, such as a traffic jam on the way to work, the body’s “fight or flight” response kicks in by releasing various hormones to give the body the energy and drive it needs to deal with the perceived threat.
At this point, your brain and body start to work together to try to calm you down so that you can resist the urge to act in an impulsive or self-destructive manner, such as retaliating against the driver that refused to let you merge onto the freeway!
The more stress and frustration we face early in the day, the faster we drain energy from the areas of the brain necessary for wise decision-making and rational thought. As a result, it becomes harder to find the willpower to resist distractions or the urge to simply take a nap instead of dealing with an important task.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take during the first few critical hours of your morning that can help set the stage for a productive day…
How to Pave the Way for a More Productive Day
1. Start the Night Before
Take 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime to get yourself organized so that you’ll have fewer things to slow you down in the morning:
- Pre-program the coffeemaker and have breakfast ingredients set out and ready to go
- Lay out the clothes you plan to wear
- Gather up all the items you need to take with you in one place, such as papers and keys
2. Avoid the Snooze Button
Although an extra 10 minutes of sleep may sound tempting, hitting snooze can actually make morning grogginess worse and leave you feeling less energized. This is because those few extra minutes are enough to let you drift off but not enough for you to complete a full sleep cycle that includes light, deep, and REM sleep. As a result, you’re more likely to wake up with a hungover feeling for most of the morning known as sleep inertia.
A better approach is to adjust your bedtime earlier to ensure you get seven to nine hours of sleep, which will help you to start waking up naturally around the time your alarm is set to go off.
3. Get Up Early
A study of more than 200 highly successful people found that more than half get up at least three hours before the start of their workday. Most use this time to meditate, exercise, or organize their thoughts and tasks for the day.
4. Prepare Your Body
Dehydration, hunger, or the wrong types of food early in the day can leave you feeling physically exhausted and affect mental cognition leading to a decrease in productivity.
When you go seven or more hours without fluids while sleeping, it’s important to rehydrate first thing in the morning by drinking a couple glasses of water. A breakfast high in protein and complex carbohydrates will provide your body the fuel it needs for physical and mental exertion.
Early morning exercise is also a good way to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which can improve mental clarity.
5. Tackle Difficult Tasks First
While most of us are procrastinators at heart, our energy and willpower reserves that help us power through complex tasks are highest early in the day. By putting the most challenging items at the top of your to-do list, you’re less likely to become distracted or avoid them altogether.
6. Develop a Morning Ritual
Whether it’s taking the dog for a walk as soon as you get out of bed or working on a crossword puzzle while drinking your morning coffee, the brain thrives on rituals. Not only do you gain a sense of accomplishment for completing the same tasks every morning, you also conserve mental energy that you can use for other tasks later on.
A morning routine that includes activities you find relaxing and enjoyable will also help elevate your mood through the rest of the day.
One Last Tip…
Finally, one of the best things you can do to avoid morning frustrations and remain productive throughout the day is to avoid the temptation to multi-task. Concentrating on a single task allows you to work faster and smarter while multitasking can decrease your productivity by as much as 40 percent.
Here’s to making your day the best it can be!