In order to be your best, you need to make the most out of your mornings. More than anything else, how you begin your day sets the template for how the rest of it will go. Here are nine things you can, and should, do every single day to be your most productive self.
1. Make Your Bed (2:oo)
When this becomes first thing you do after you wake up, you accomplish so much more than flat blankets and straighten pillows. First, you immediately achieve a goal; the very first thing that happens during your whole day is a success. Secondly, though it might sound dramatic, you've ordered chaos. What was a mess is now straight and clear. Looking at an an unmade bed all morning is a distraction; it makes you feel like you have more on your plate than you actually do. Just eliminate the craziness first thing.
For the record, we're not talking hospital corners here. Just smooth out the sheets, square your blankets or comforter, and place the pillows neatly at the head of the bed. Grab any water glasses or other messiness from your bedside table, and process it.
2. Avoid Your Phone (0:00)
Sure, you can use it as an alarm clock (if you must), and perhaps an appropriate morning app, like a guided meditation (see below). But do not, for any reason, check your email, text messages, voicemail, Twitter or Facebook within the first hour of your day.
The idea is the same as making your bed. Our smartphones have become a constant deliverer of new things you have to do. Messages to respond to. Work emergencies. Lifestyle sharing. Current events and news stories you now need to process. There is absolutely no reason to add all of that input to your load the second you wake up. All that information will still be there when you're alert and ready to deal with it.
3. Get Dressed Immediately (3:00 - 5:00)
If you shower in the morning, do it as soon as you can. Then, or if you're a night time bather, get dressed now. The longer you spend in your pajamas (or, let's be honest, boxers and yesterday's t-shirt), the slower your day will begin. Lounging around in your bathrobe is for weekends only. Getting dressed ASAP will motivate you to begin your day, making it feel as long as possible.
4. Meditate (10:00)
You do not have to be good at meditating to do it. You don't even really need to know what to do. You simply need to sit.
And, until you've developed a practice, it need not take any more than ten to fifteen minutes. Just find a quiet space, and work on mindfulness. Clear your head. Notice things in your body. Don't think, just be there.
If you're a generally distracted person (and I certainly am), try a guided meditation. There are plenty of free ones of YouTube (audio-only, please), or you can try an app like Headspace or Insight Timer (I use the latter every day.)
5. Do 10-15 Quick Reps of Something (1:00)
Now that you've centered your mind, move onto your body. This is not a workout. It's an opportunity to make your physical self more present and improve your mood. Jumping jacks are just fine, as are pushups, or some quick crunches or pull-ups.
6. Make Your Own Coffee or Tea (2:00 - 5:00)
Everybody you look up to has their own personal, consistent morning beverage routine. Whether it's a detailed pourover coffee scenario, a flavorful tea combo like the Earl Grey Foglifter, or a simple mug of hot water with lemon, this is a treat you give yourself as you face the day. Coffee shops are awesome, but they're for mid-morning breaks, not a daily routine. You'll save money, sure, but more importantly, you'll save time.
7. Use a pen (5:00)
Writing without a specific end in mind accomplishes three things: it gets your creative juices flowing, it gets you into a clean, problem-solving state of mind, and it can help you get excited for the day. Do not do this on your phone, your tablet, or your laptop. Just. Start. Writing. On paper.
In effect, this will help you get over the negative beliefs and fears that inhibit the creative process. If you start writing with the idea that the outcome doesn't really matter, you'll be better prepared for when it actually does. Start with your hopes for the day. Start with things you feel grateful for. Start with things you like about yourself or your life.
If you absolutely can't get into this one, you can draw or doodle. Work on some hand-lettering skills, make a mind-map, or express some feelings. Just get that ink flowing.
8. Fuel Your Body (10:00)
Breakfast skippers are fools. You don't have to eat the second you wake up, but you do have to eat a morning meal.
If you can, skip the carbs and begin your day with some protein, fat, and good-for-you vitamins. (There's a reason eggs have been the go-to breakfast dish for hundreds of years). This is still my go-to breakfast, but anything that keeps your blood-sugar levels low and makes you feel full works.
9. Pick Three Achievable Goals for the Day (1:00)
This last one can happen any time. On your way out the door, on your commute, or after you've had your morning status meeting. But the goal is to employ this adage:
"If you start and finish three significant things in a reasonable amount of time, that's a pretty good day."
This is probably the single greatest thing I've given myself. Don't be fooled; It doesn't mean these are the only things you'll do today. You still have to clear your inbox and communicate with your co-workers and and exercise and text your mom back while you fold the laundry. You still need to show up for your schedule events. But these are about how you use your unstructured time. If you actually set out and complete three substantial items in a day, you've been pretty productive.
The best news: all of these can take place in well under an hour, shower included. And if you successfully complete nine things before you even head out the door, imagine how productive the rest of your day will be.