I don’t know about you, but the way I start my morning drastically impacts how the rest of my day goes.
Wake up feeling behind and facing emergencies right away? I’ll be stressed out all day. Wake up refreshed and feeling in control? I’ll be happy and productive for the rest of the day.
If you look at the morning routines of successful people (like in Laura Vanderkam’s book What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast) you’ll find a common thread. No matter when they get up, what they eat, or how they exercise, they all have a personal routine.
If you want to have consistently great days, it’s important to build a good daily foundation. Here are nine suggestions to get you started.
1. Do something that’s just for you
It can often seem like we spend our days at the beck and call of our family, boss, creditors, and other obligations. But if you start your morning with something simple and pleasurable just for you, it can help put life back into perspective for the rest of the day.
Taking ten minutes to sit in your favorite chair with a cup of coffee and read, journal, draw, or do something that’s just for you is a fantastic way to start the day on the right foot.
2. Get some exercise
Whether it’s a 10-mile run or the Scientific 7-Minute Workout, getting your blood pumping early will help you wake up and be ready to tackle whatever the day sends your way.
The early morning isn’t the only time to exercise – a visit to the gym at lunch or after work may be your preference. But exercising before work has the benefit of getting your workout done before life gets in the way.
3. Eat healthy
All our bodies have different needs when it comes to breakfast, but starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast of nuts, eggs, yogurt, or a protein shake will give your brain the boost it needs to have a productive morning.
Skip the empty, sugary calories of a pastry – it won’t matter how much coffee you drink, that sugar crash in the late morning will crush your ability to do good work.
4. Take time for silence
For a calmer, clearer outlook on life, give yourself a moment of stillness before the rush of the day. This could take the form of meditation, prayer, yoga, or simply sitting on your front porch with a cup of coffee.
If you’re blessed with a tangle of clashing school schedules and preparations once the rest of your family wakes up, try rising a little earlier to claim some quiet headspace before the chaos begins.
5. Set a transition ritual
Just like Pavlov’s dog was trained to physically anticipate food at the ringing of the dinner bell, so can we train our minds to get in the groove when we experience a series of triggers.
Maybe it’s sitting down at your desk or in your favorite chair with a cup of coffee or maybe it’s turning on your favorite Pandora station – whatever your get-going ritual is, use it to signal to yourself that it’s time to get serious.
For me, listening to the news while making a pot of French press coffee and breakfast is the transition from whatever I was doing earlier to my work day. I know as soon as that coffee’s been made and I carry it upstairs to my office, it’s time to sit down for business.
6. Pick three priorities
Even if your to-do list is as long as your arm, pick just three priorities for the day and write them down. Choose the most important things that will make the biggest difference today. It could be based on deadline, importance, or simply what will make you feel best once you cross it off the list.
7. Create a plan
A list of things to do is helpful, but it’s not the same thing as a plan. As Eric Barker of the blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree writes of to-do lists: “Until it’s on your calendar and assigned an hour, it’s just a list of wishful thinking.”
Write out your schedule for the day, working backwards from when you’ll be going home. Assign each task a block of time (building in meetings and breaks), and try to stick to it throughout the day. At first it may be hard to know how long a certain task will take, but as you do it regularly you’ll get a better understanding of how long to schedule each task, which ones work best at what times of your day, and how to build in slack time.
8. Don’t check your email
How many times have you checked your email first thing in the morning and gotten swept into a frenzy of responding to other people’s priorities, only to realize that you never accomplished what you’d planned to that day?
Instead, start your day on your own terms, focusing on your own projects and priorities rather than reacting to what everyone else needs from you. Almost everything can wait a few hours. If you’re worried about being out of touch, make sure everyone knows that if they truly, urgently need to get ahold of you before a certain time of day they should call or text.
9. Take one step towards your passion project
What’s your passion? Use the extra time you’ve gained by waking up early and setting your priorities to make one small step towards it. Maybe it’s sending an email, reading a chapter of a book on writing, scheduling a lunch date with a mentor, or editing a poem.
You may only have time for one small thing every day, but if you take time every morning to make one step, you’ll be 365 steps closer at the end of the year.
What’s your morning routine? How do you start each day fresh and ready to go?