Take Back Your Mornings to Get More Done and Win the Day

Overhead view of table with laptop, plants and cup of coffee

The trick to being truly productive is simple: Take back your mornings.

The sooner in the day you can get started, the better off you’ll be as the day progresses. By taking charge of your mornings you’ll get more done than you thought possible – and have more time for the things you love.

Don’t think you have enough time to do this because you’re too busy? High-performance coach Tony Schwartz has helped CEOs and other leaders at companies such as Apple, Google and Sony learn how to get more done. Here’s one of his keys to achieving excellence:

Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers … delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That’s when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.

But getting going in the morning is easier said than done, right? That’s why we’ve compiled seven tips to help you get your mornings back under control.

RELATED: Time Management Tips for Increased Productivity

1. Prepare the Night Before

A good morning starts the night before. Decide what you’re wearing and lay it out. This way, if you need something ironed or cleaned, you have enough time to get it done. If you’re bringing a lunch, pack it up the night before, too. Go over any notes you have for the next day and get your bag or briefcase in order before going to bed.

The idea here is that the next day everything will be lined up already, so you don’t have to worry about these little decisions.

2. Unplug 1 Hour Before Bed

Probably the most important tip in this list, this is also likely the most difficult for many people. Our brains work on a pretty simple system when it comes to sleep. When it’s dark we get tired and when it’s light we wake up. This is all nice and fine – unless you stare at a phone screen or watch TV for 30 minutes before lights out.

As Lifehacker notes, the Mayo Clinic did a study involving smartphone and tablet use before bed, and the results were pretty interesting. The bright light of the screen can stop the production of melatonin, which in turn disrupts sleep. Want a better night’s sleep? Cool it with the electronics and read a book instead.

3. Get Up 15 Minutes Early

Closeup of old-fashioned alarm clock

Everyone says to get up earlier if you want to get more done, but how early do they mean? You could try for an hour or even half an hour, but these are pretty big changes to your sleep schedule, and more likely than not, you won’t stick with them for long.

Instead, aim for just 15 minutes early. While this doesn’t seem like a lot of time now, in the morning 15 minutes can mean the difference between eating breakfast and being hungry all day, taking your time with your morning routine or rushing, and getting yourself some exercise or not. (More on that last one in a minute.)

Aim for 15 minutes early, and if that gets comfortable, try for 15 more. Don’t push it, and stick to whatever you decide on, no matter what.

4. Never Hit Snooze

There are few things that feel better than dozing off after hitting the snooze button, but this simple act is doing you a lot of harm. Corrie Pikul from the Huffington Post does a great job of explaining why the snooze button is terrible for you, but the short version is that you’re throwing off your internal clock, which actually makes it harder to get moving early in the morning.

In other words, get up with the first alarm and get things going right away. While sleeping a few minutes longer might feel good in the moment, you’re setting yourself up for disaster the rest of the day.

5. Set a Routine

The best way to get something done on a regular basis is to make it a habit. The best way to make good habits is to turn normal actions into a daily routine. From exercising to eating breakfast to reading a few pages of the book you’re working on, make a routine and stick to it.

Check out this Lifehacker post on upgrading your morning routine to see how you can organize your mornings better and set yourself up for winning the whole day. Famous thinkers like Benjamin Franklin made elaborate routines that lasted the entire day, but just starting off with your morning routine is a great start.

Duplicate contacts killing your productivity? See how Scrubly can help in this 100-second video.

6. Get Moving Immediately

Man jogging on sidewalk

It’s all too easy to stay in bed after your alarm goes off, but what you do when you first get up sets the mood for your entire day. Getting some exercise in as soon as you get up can help wake you up and set a positive pattern for the day.

This doesn’t mean you need to go for a bike ride or a run. Try some jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, or other exercise – whatever fits your mood and skill level. You’ll have more energy in the morning, and best of all, you’ll start your day with a sense of accomplishment you wouldn’t have otherwise. Studies show that you can also boost endorphins first thing in the AM with some exercise.

7. Hold Off on the Email

Anonymous person looking at tablet

Finally, don’t fall into the trap of checking your email first thing in the morning. While you might think you’re just getting ready for the day, what you’re actually doing is setting a pattern early on that will stick around the rest of the day. Use the time as soon as you get up to prepare yourself and get ready for the day, not for reading emails that you’re not equipped to deal with just yet.

Work email is all about communicating items that need to be worked on and completed, so if you’re not at a computer ready to do this, checking your messages is useless and will only frustrate you. Wait until you get in the office or at least in front of your computer for a period of time before starting on your email. This way, the drive in to work can be spent relaxing and preparing for the day instead of worrying about an issue you’ll have to deal with later.

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