There’s a very popular old saying in my country, and basically it says that your whole day depends on your morning. Which is true. If you wake up feeling cranky, you probably won’t get much work done throughout the day. On the other hand, if you’ve had a good night's sleep and you’re ready to go, chances are you’ll have a very productive day ahead. The same goes for your morning routines. If you set up the beginning of the day to motivate and inspire you, instead of spending an hour and a half mindlessly browsing through your phone, the likelihood of you wrapping everything on your to do list grows exponentially.
Productivity doesn’t happen on its own - you must work towards it, and if you really want to create an environment in which you can thrive, you should start by reevaluating your morning routine and changing it up a bit. Although morning routines differ from person to person, there are several key points everyone can implement for a productive start of the day.
Wake Up When Your Body is Ready
You’ve probably read dozens of articles about CEOs and entrepreneurs waking up at 4 or 5 AM, doing their morning exercise, having breakfast, etc, but there’s no point in getting up a 4 if it doesn’t feel right. If your job allows you to wake up later, and if that suits your organism, do it. The fact is that even if you’re a night owl who wakes up at 10 AM you can still create a morning routine which will make you more productive.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you won’t be well rested, and your focus will shift constantly. Think about the weekends, when you don’t have to wake up at a certain time to get to work - how many hours of sleep do you get when you’re fully rested? If it’s eight hours, and you usually get up at 7 to make it to work on time, go to bed before 11 pm so you can get those 8 hours of sleep.
It’s estimated that we, as adults, make somewhat around 35,000 decisions during the day. While we’re not spending time deliberating on each of them, still that’s how many choices we make during the day. And it is tiresome. The more decisions you have to make, the more tired you become and it’s hard to focus on the important decisions.
Which is exactly why you should eliminate the decisions from your morning routine. Write your to-do list, goal list (or whatever you’re using) the day before, pick out the clothes you want to wear, pack your lunch and anything else you need to take to work.
This process will allow your brain to be in “rest” mode until it’s time to start working. The idea is to save brain power for more important tasks you have.
Should You Do Most Important or Least Important Tasks First?
While many people are fans of the “eat that frog” philosophy, and they like to tackle the most complicated tasks first thing in the morning, that doesn’t mean this will work for you.
If you generally have issues with procrastination, you definitely shouldn’t be handling the toughest tasks as soon as you get to work. It’s just too easy to procrastinate, and you’ll just slow yourself down. Instead, you should focus on the small wins, or follow the Progress Principle.
We tend to think of progress in terms of major achievements and accomplishments, and we rarely stop and look at all the small tasks we’ve completed throughout the day. The Progress Principle, and the research behind it, show us that some people are more motivated when they complete a few minor tasks in the morning before they jump into the big things. The reasoning is quite simple - completing a few small assignments will make us feel motivated and accomplished. This feeling will serve as a fuel for completing those more complicated tasks.
You don’t need to do a full HIIT exercise, hit the gym or ride your bike when you get up. Just move around a little bit. This doesn’t have to take more than 10 minutes of your morning, and you can just simply stretch, or walk around your apartment (or yard if you have one).
You’ve just spent the whole night lying in various positions, and your muscles need some movement in order to wake up. Take a look at dogs or cats, each time they wake up (even if that's the 10th time they were sleeping today) they’ll take a minute to stretch, and we should follow their lead.
Morning movement will wake up your body, and your mind, making you feel more energized and prepared to seize the day!
Create Your Own Morning Routine
It’s the same as with waking up time, and sleeping time. We’re all different, and there’s no way each of us can jump out of the bed and go for a jog every single morning. You know yourself, you know what puts you in the working state of mind, and what distracts you.
Try different techniques each day, and write down your thoughts and feelings throughout the day to keep track of the effects these various morning routines have on you. You can also use one of the time tracking apps for employees to quantify your productivity levels each time you change something in your morning routine.
The point is - there’s no right or wrong way in terms of creating your morning routine. Experts and consultants do advise to avoid certain activities, and focus on the other… But you only know if staring at your phone for 30 minutes each morning helps you get into the zone or not.
This article was originally written on May 3rd, 2016 by Marija Grgur. It was updated on May 20th, 2020 by Bojana Djordjevic.