While a great morning moment can feel pretty magical, there’s more to the perfectly productive day than the mystical forces at work. A morning routine that leads to productivity is in fact a science that you can implement in your own life.
But is there a right way to have a productive morning? After analyzing the advice and routines of six top productivity experts, we put together a few important elements that many successful people include as part of their morning to have a productive day.
We’ve all heard that morning people are the most productive people: “You’ve got to be part of the 5 am alarm club! If you’ve slept in past 6 am, then you’re behind already!” or the infamous “The early bird catches the worm!” Groan.
According to a 2012 study published by the American Psychological Association, participants who self-identified as “morning people” reported feeling “happier and healthier than night owls.” One hypothesis from the research, however, is that the typical 9-5 workday is geared to benefit those who function at their best earlier in the day.
The most important thing isn’t what time you wake up – it’s getting in tune with your body’s clock. According to Sleep.org, your body actually knows what it should be doing and when. Don’t force yourself to be part of the 5 am club if you can’t fall asleep before midnight.
Getting enough sleep and waking up when your body is ready will lead more often to a productive day than forcing yourself out of bed hours before your brain is ready—that’s a recipe for burnout. Plus, the habit won’t last long. If you’re not a morning person, you can’t force it and your body will only work with you for so long before it says “no more!”
Sometimes the best way to have a productive morning is to get a head start on it the night before. Many productivity experts and successful people spend their evenings preparing for the next day because it makes their mornings free to get an early start on important work.
American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault ends his evenings by writing down three things he wants to accomplish the next day.
Planning the evening before is effective because we have a limited amount of willpower and decision-making ability every day. The thought of making too many decisions in the morning will slow you down and drain your brain for the rest of the day. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg both put on the same outfit each day for this exact reason. If you can eliminate decision-making from your mornings, you’ll have more energy and time to have the most productive morning you can!
Subscribe to the concept that an AM routine can start in the PM: Pick out your outfit. Pack your lunch and your backpack for work. Want to read a book in the morning? Pick it out the night before and put it out somewhere obvious so you see it first thing.
Perhaps the most important element of a productive morning is your routine. Nearly every productivity expert recommends a morning routine, although each one is just a bit different! It isn’t so much about what is in your morning routine, just that you have one.
According to Claire Diaz Ortiz, productivity expert and author of Design Your Day, the best thing you can do to be productive is to create your ideal morning routine. She explains that how you start your day anchors you and ensures you stay focused on what is most important. You must master a consistent morning routine to achieve your highest level of productivity!
Although there’s not one morning routine that works well for everyone, there are some key elements that make a morning routine most effective. If you analyze productivity experts’ morning routines, you’ll find a few things in common. They mostly all have an element of focus on big picture goals, gratitude, and planning for the day’s time.
You don’t need a lengthy meditation routine. Yoga, meditation, journaling, reading or a quiet walk—focus on the outcome, not the practice to get the most out of this special time where you can focus on yourself and center on your heart’s content. You just need something that helps you set your mind on what you want to focus on for the day, and set your heart and mind in the right attitude for the day.
Health is important. When you feel great, it will make it all that much easier to handle that alarm. You might not be excited about the idea of a morning workout. Maybe it’s hard enough to just get out of bed, let alone run around the gym. But you don’t have to lift weights or go for a jog. Simply moving around will get your blood flowing and help you get your day started. Many successful people start their mornings with a little movement, so here are a few ideas to add some more health to your life:
- Kevin Kruse does a daily 20-minute HIIT session on the treadmill.
- Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square, jogs every morning.
- Howard Schulz, CEO of Starbucks, bikes first thing.
- Congresswoman and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi power walks before she sits down to work.
- Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk works out with his personal trainer.
- Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary gets on his elliptical or exercise bike.
- Starwood Hotels CEO Frits van Paaschen runs 10 miles each morning!
While you’re moving around (and working up a bit of a sweat), make sure to stay hydrated. What you put in your mug matters: Drinking water in the mornings will kick start your day and give you lasting energy all day long.
After you get your personal morning routine organized, it’s time to take action for a productive day.
Brian Tracy, author of “Eat the Frog,” based his morning philosophy off of a quote from Mark Twain:
“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
The “frog” he is talking about is your most important task or work—the one you’re dreading the most because it’s so big and important that it’s looming over you. Building the habit to do your biggest task first can give you a huge boost of accomplishment first thing.
But starting the day with your most daunting task is, well, daunting. It can be too easy to procrastinate, making it even harder to get your day started. Sometimes, clearing away a few small tasks early on can give you the momentum to tackle your frog. In a study of creative work inside businesses, researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer found that making incremental progress, a.k.a. small wins, leads to more productivity in the long run.
Whether you work better by eating the frog, or tackling some small tadpoles first, find your ideal rhythm and get started right away!