Morning choices can make or break your day. Should you check your phone or hop in the shower? Should you make coffee or prepare lunch?
These and many other choices can be paralyzing. And by the time you make a decision, your day is already thrown off kilter.
If that experience feels familiar, it’s a sign that you need to inject some structure into your mornings. A consistent morning routine is just the thing to set a productive tone for the rest of the day.
Creating a successful routine comes down to two things: picking the right activities, and ensuring you have enough time to tackle them. Here’s how to do it:
1. Wake up Early
They say the early bird catches the worm. And judging by the fact that many successful people wake up well before the workday begins, there must be some truth in that saying.
If you get up early, you have time to go about your morning routine without feeling rushed. That sense of peace allows you to do important things like reading the news or practicing self-care — things that usually get sidelined when you’re in a time crunch.
2. Turn on the Light
Are you having trouble waking up to just your alarm clock? Instead of hitting the snooze button, try using light. Your eyes have light receptors that detect brightness. Light automatically sends your brain a message that it’s time to wake up.
Try keeping the curtains open and waiting for the sun to rise each morning. If you need help getting up before sunrise, look into wake-up light alarm clocks.
Switching this environmental cue could help change your body’s natural clock. If you’re used to waking up late, it’s an easy way to rewire your brain for early rising.
3. Avoid Screen Time
According to an IDC report, 80% of smartphone users check their devices within 15 minutes of waking up. In fact, that’s the last thing you should be doing when you wake up.
Smartphones are filled with distractions that can keep you in bed longer than you should be. They interfere with your productivity by wasting valuable time.
Keep your phone out of your bedroom. That forces you to get out of bed and start your day before you can look at it. If you find yourself looking at it too frequently during the day, get an app to limit your access to certain apps or lock you out entirely.
4. Meditate Productively
Try productive meditation in the morning to problem-solve. Cal Newport introduces the concept in his book “Deep Work”: Productive meditation is a way to find solutions to your problems while commuting or doing something physical, such as brushing your teeth.
When practicing this, focus on the questions that arise from your problems. When you let questions marinate in your mind, answers will naturally bubble up to the surface. The perk of productive meditating is that the solution often comes to you when you least expect it.
Experts say that morning is the best time to exercise. An invigorating morning workout boosts your energy levels, starts your metabolism, and burns fat. All of these benefits contribute to a feeling of accomplishment and increased levels of productivity.
You could do it in your home, go out for a run, or hit the gym before heading to work. Whatever you decide, squeeze at least 15 minutes of activity into your morning.
6. Eat a Healthy Breakfast
It’s easy to downplay the importance of breakfast, especially when so many breakfast foods are filled with sugar. In addition to skin- and weight-related benefits, a healthy breakfast improves your cognitive performance and gives you the energy you need to be productive.
Say “no” to pancakes, donuts, and sugary cereals. Build your breakfasts with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
7. Set Daily Goals
The happy feeling we get from accomplishing goals is priceless. But in order to accomplish goals, we need to be clear on what they are.
The morning is the perfect time to set your goals for the day. Write a realistic list of daily tasks, perhaps while you eat your healthy breakfast. Cross off items as you finish them during the day.
Break down large tasks into smaller ones. For example, if you’re working on a 100-page business proposal, make it a goal to complete three pages per day, every day. Making steady progress encourages you to keep going when it gets tough.
8. Keep it Simple
There is so much that you can put in your morning routine. Don’t overdo it: Trying to do too much can be just as problematic as doing too little.
It’s better to do a few things well than doing many things poorly. If you like to journal in the morning, great — but don’t expect to fit in exercise and a call to your mom, too. Keeping your routine simple helps you stay calm and focus on activities that actually matter to you.
Ultimately, your morning routine only needs to work for one person: you. Take what you need and leave the rest. Once you’ve found a routine that works for you, your morning becomes one less thing to worry about.