Everyone has had one of those days when they’ve found themselves rushing off to work with an unfinished cup of coffee in hand, wearing a wrinkled suit and scuffed shoes and thinking, “I must be doing something wrong in life…” After mornings like this, the whole day seems tedious and never-ending.
Well, people, it’s time to finally man up and become productive. Maybe you just need to change your lifestyle a bit, adjust your working hours, and, most importantly, create small daily routines that help you stay sharp, organized and efficient. Good habits like these help you avoid mental fatigue, work smarter, be more creative and keep a fresh perspective when making big decisions.
The thing is, each morning when you wake up, you only have a certain amount of energy and willpower. During the day, it gets drained with each decision you make. Making a lot of smaller decisions early in the morning may affect the way you feel and your ability to work for the remainder of the day.
A planned-out morning routine will help you feel more in control, help you save time and energy, and make the rest of your working day as easy as pie. So, on that note, let’s talk about morning habits and a few apps that can help you form them.
Famous people and their stunning morning routines
Contrary to popular belief, waking up early doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose sleep. If you plan your day right, you will get up at 5 a.m. easily, workout or enjoy a couple of hours of work with no distractions, at home or at the office, before the rest of your colleagues arrive and the hustle and bustle begins.
This strategy was adopted by more than one successful personality, and it’s an amazing example for anyone who wants to make it in business.
Case in point: Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at – wait for it – 3:45 a.m. and gets a head start on his email. According to Time magazine, he “wakes up at 3:45 every morning (“Yes, every morning”), does e-mail for an hour – stealing a march on those lazy East Coasters three time zones ahead of him – goes to the gym, then Starbucks (for more email), then work.”
“The thing about it is, when you love what you do, you don’t really think of it as work,” says Cook. “It’s what you do. And that’s the good fortune of where I find myself.”
Another inspiring example is former First Lady Michelle Obama, who starts her day with a 4:30 a.m. workout before her kids wake up. Oh, and let’s not forget another of my favorites, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, who wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to meditate and go for a 6-mile jog.
Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao is up by 6 a.m., works until about 10:45 p.m., and heads to bed at 11:30 p.m. Of course, this includes a break for dinner with his family. Weekends are solely devoted to exercising and spending time with wife and children.
We’re not trying to tell you to get up at 4 a.m. every day. God, no! However, what really helps is having your own personal schedule and always adhering to it. This way, you’ll discipline yourself and be more and more productive with each passing day.
9 Morning Routines For a Successful Lifestyle
To adapt to a new lifestyle easier, start small and include activities that you like. Use Habit Stacking techniques to arrange a comfortable morning routine. Habit Stacking is basically a way to add a new habit to your life by stacking it on top of something you enjoy doing. Here are a couple of ideas for new habits for you to think about:
- Wake up easily. Not everyone can be up by sunrise and ready to do big things; some of us (like me) need help. Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock is an app that analyzes your sleep and wakes you during lightest sleep phase. This way, you’ll have someone, or at least something, take care of your sleep, and have a higher chance of waking up feeling rested and relaxed.
- Drink a half litre of water right after you wake up. Drinking water throughout the day isn’t just water company marketing – it genuinely offers plenty of benefits. It will fire up your metabolism, help flush out toxins and reduce your appetite. Besides, your body wlll have just gone about 8 hours without any liquids, and your brain needs water to properly operate. Also, a 2013 study showed that drinking water can increase your productivity by 14%. If you’re not a big fan of plain water, reward yourself with your favorite tea, for example, right after you drank water. That’s Habit Stacking in action!
- Exercise for at least 10-15 minutes. My personal favorite is yoga. Surya Namaskar, the sun salutation, is a great cardiovascular workout that helps you keep a sharp mind and your body in shape. The best time to do Surya Namaskar is in the early morning, on an empty stomach. If you’re not likely to rush to a yoga studio as soon as you wake up, there are apps to help you with the workout. Yoga.com Studio has a library of almost 400 poses and breathing exercises demonstrated via in-app HD videos. Or try Pocket Yoga – its library includes about 200 illustrated poses and 27 programs at every level of difficulty. You can also choose your own music, if you don’t like theirs!
Of course, you can choose any workout that works for you. If you like something more dynamic than yoga, you can try the 7 Minute Workout app – it provides you with a series of 12 bodyweight exercises (think squats, pushups, etc.) performed for 30 seconds with 10-second breaks in between.
- Breathe deeply. Yes, we all know how to breathe, but it’s not easy as you might think. The truth is that breathing is a sophisticated tool that helps us stay healthy, but we only use it in its most simple mode. Breathing fully and deeply stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which causes the blood vessels to dilate, the GI tract to be stimulated, and nutrients to be absorbed. More importantly, breathing exercises help you concentrate, release stress, calm down, and improve your self control and willpower – everything we need to be productive at work.
- Take a cold shower. Cold showers have plenty of advantages, and not just for a successful day at work. Cold water refines hair and skin, as it doesn’t dry out skin the way hot water does. If you’re not a big fan of cold showers, alternating shower will do as well. They both ease stress and relieve depression, increase alertness, and improve immunity and circulation. Remember what we said about working smart? All of this will help you do that.
- Meditate. Meditation is something deeply personal. It gives you time alone with yourself and your thoughts. Find an app that will guide you through the process. If you’re new to meditation, try Headspace. It includes 10-minute meditation exercises specifically developed to help those starting out. Also, there’s Calm, an app that lets you choose from a wide range of 3- to 25-minute guided meditation experiences. Oh – did I mention that both of these apps are free?
- Learn something new. You can read for about 20-30 minutes right after waking up, or combine it with a cup of strong morning coffee. Make notes or underline thoughts and ideas you find interesting. Alternatively, you can start your day by listening to a podcast – like those provided by The New York Times, – or a new album, or video. This way, you’ll give your brain some exercise to get it working before the real work starts, and hopefully learn something new in a entertaining way. Choose a format that works for you and adhere to it, and mix up the types of information you consume from time to time.
- Plan your day. Do we have to explain why this is useful? Any work becomes more efficient if you set your priorities and organize your to-dos. Putting them on paper will help you clear your head and get rid of mental distractions. Ever heard of Getting Things Done? Also known as GTD, this method is based on the idea of recording all planned tasks externally and breaking them into actionable work items. This way, you will focus on actually doing your work instead of recalling what you have to do and when. And you’ll find more time for nice little things like calling your mom or having a couple more minutes to yourself. But that’s only one methodology. Feel free to find another one if this one doesn’t cut it for you.
If you need help creating a well-structured plan, try Day One, an app that will help you fill your calendar efficiently.
- And last but not least, eat a healthy breakfast before you go to work! Breakfast should keep you energized enough for you to kick ass at work. If you’re not much into having a full meal, you can whip up a smoothie. If you believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, try to make it as healthy and hearty as possible.
How to Redefine Your Morning Routine
I realize that if you’ve never followed a morning routine, it may be difficult to get used to one. But now that I’ve talked about a few different morning habits, it’s time to figure out how to build one for yourself.
Try to make a list of things you think you’d enjoy. You can choose from my list, then add something of your own (sing along to your favorite tracks, walk your dog, knit, etc.).
- Pick the top 5 activities from the list that you think you’ll most enjoy during your morning routine;
- Highlight the 3 that inspire you the most.
- These 3 will be your must-do’s every morning. The other 2 (numbers 4 and 5) will be bonuses for when you have the time.
When you’re done, think about when would you like to wake up every morning. For a better result, it’s important to go to bed and rise at the same time every day. What will work best for you?
Next, try to think how much time it will take you to do all the things on your list, and plan your morning accordingly. Set your wake-up time, and how much time you will spend on your routine. It may be as much as 2,5 hours, or as little as 15 minutes – regardless, you have to write it down to visualize the time. Now, according to your set timeline, put your top three picks in the order you want to perform them and break down time-slots for every activity.
If you’re not sure you’ll be able to stick to this schedule, gamifying your routine might help. Tons of apps help people form good habits. With HabitMinder, for example, you can make your own set of habits and track your progress.
Don’t worry if you only spend a little time on your routine, it’s your emotional state – your state of mind – that matters, not the duration. The most important point is that you find your perfect routine and a comfortable schedule that works best for you and lets you be the best version of yourself.