All of us have morning routines — even if some days are more hectic than others.
For most of us, it usually involves the act of waking up, preparatory measures for ourselves (and sometimes others), then a departure to the workplace.
At first glance, these steps may seem like a trite and insignificant part of your day, especially if you’re used to the same pattern of behavior.
But the course of your morning routine has a major impact on how the rest of your day goes — and you might be sabotaging it without realizing it.
If you depend on anecdotal evidence alone, it’s clear why morning routines are important. Countless entrepreneurs have credited a stable, productive morning routine for helping them achieve success, and you probably know at least a handful of people with chaotic or nonexistent morning routines who always appear behind on their work.
But a solid morning ritual as a productivity powerhouse has more than anecdotal evidence behind it — studies show that having a consistent, effective routine can reduce stress and anxiety. Furthermore, proactive morning people are happier and more productive.
So what’s stopping you from achieving these benefits?
1. You don’t make a plan
Having a plan has a major impact on how much work you actually get done. If you want your morning to be productive and organized, you need to have a plan for how you’re going to execute those tasks. Even if it’s just a quick mental checklist, starting your day with a plan will help you get an initial boost for your day.
2. You’re reactive instead of proactive
Remember, it’s proactive morning people who see the benefits of reduced stress and anxiety. If you’re reactive instead of proactive, the way most people are, you’ll end up sabotaging yourself. For example, if you find yourself pulled from task to task in the morning, jumping into different areas as you’re reminded of them, this is an example of reactive behavior. If you deliberately decide which task you’re going to tackle in advance, you’re being proactive.
3. You don’t get enough sleep
Of course, you could be sabotaging your morning by not getting enough sleep the night before. Adults generally need between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep every night, and if you don’t get it, you’ll have a harder time thinking clearly, you’ll be less creative, and your memory will suffer.
When you’re busy, it’s easy for sleep to take a backseat, but you’ll need to prioritize it if you want to be a more productive, effective morning person.
4. You skip breakfast
There are many scientifically-backed reasons to eat breakfast in the morning. You’ll lower your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, you’ll improve your memory function, and you might even lose weight. Skipping breakfast may seem like an easy way to shave a few minutes off your morning routine, but the long-term consequences aren’t worth the tradeoff.
5. You immediately plunge into work
Thanks to the functionality of smartphones, tablets, and other Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets, it’s easy to do work anywhere, any time. When you’re trying to get as much work done as fast as possible, it’s tempting to plunge into work immediately, checking your email while still in bed, or starting work on a task as soon as you get up.
However, this can be counterproductive. Your brain needs time to warm up; instead, take a few moments to meditate, exercise, or shower.
6. You don’t leave yourself enough time
Rushing around like a crazy person isn’t a good tone to set for the day. If you set your alarm too late or have a tendency to oversleep, try incrementally setting your alarm for earlier times. Give yourself at least 15 minutes more than you think you need.
7. You put yourself in stressful situations
Putting yourself in stressful situations early in the day can put you in a bad mood. And the thing about bad moods is that they have a tendency to last all day — sometimes even longer — unless you deliberately work yourself out of them.
According to the Journal of Neuroscience, your mood can literally affect how you see and interpret the world around you. So if you find yourself in a bad traffic jam or in a similarly stressful situation, it can sabotage the rest of your day. Avoid these situations entirely by planning around them, or work on managing your stress while they happen.
Once you recognize these sabotaging factors in your own routine, you can take measures to eliminate them. Don’t expect this to happen all at once, especially if these are ingrained into your routine as staple features.
Instead, take these problems one at a time and gradually wean yourself, replacing them with healthier habits and a more productive, proactive morning ritual. It takes patience, but you can get there.
Originally published on Business Insider.
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