Imagine how much life would improve if you felt good in the morning. For many of us, it can take hours before the brain fog clears and we're able to actually start working productively. Others experience back pain in the mornings, headaches or just low energy; and the result is an uncomfortable start to the day with hampered productivity…
The solution? Upgrade your morning routine! With the right routine you can wake yourself up in a gentle and effective way that will promote productivity for the first half of your day and help you to feel better as well. Here are some tips that will help you to win back those lost hours and to beat the brain fog.
Wake Up Early
Tip number one is to wake up early. Why? Because it gives you more time to come around in the morning, meaning you'll be more likely to be fully awake by the time you have to start being productive. Furthermore, waking up early gives you time to enjoy a longer morning routine, during which you can eat a fuller breakfast, read the morning paper and generally come around from your stupor and prepare yourself for the day ahead. Ideally, you should aim to wake up one-to-two hours before you actually intend to leave for work.
This might be easier said than done for some. If that's the case, then you will need to start going to bed earlier and gradually changing your body clock. Shift your waking hours in small increments to see a difference.
Don't Hit Snooze!
Whatever time you want to get up in the morning, that should be the time you set your alarm for. Otherwise, you will find that far from benefiting from a few extra minutes, you actually end up feeling much worse as a result of the slight nap. Meanwhile, sleeping that extra time gives you less time to come around and feel human again.
It takes a lot of willpower, but the ability to jump straight out of bed in the morning is one of the most important skills if you want to enhance your morning creativity. Next time you're lying in bed and considering hitting snooze, remind yourself that you will feel worse not better if you do and focus on what that feeling of grogginess will be like.
Choose Your Alarm Wisely
The best kinds of alarms to wake you up in the morning are 'daylight lamps' which gradually get lighter and create light with a wavelength similar to that of the sun. To our brains, this feels a lot like being woken naturally by the rising sun and this helps us to wake naturally and to reduce melatonin in the brain – which is partly responsible for making us feel sleepy.
Failing that, you could choose an app that will calculate roughly when you will be in certain stages of your sleep cycle based on what time you went to bed and how long it usually takes you to fall asleep. It will then wake you as close to the time you want to get up as possible (before, not after) at the point where you're in a lighter stage of sleep. These things are great in theory but only somewhat effective in practice – especially if you wake up with a partner who is determined to wake at a particular hour.
The very least you can do though, is to choose a sound for your alarm that will wake you a little more gently rather than startling you with loud beeping or buzzing. Being 'shocked awake' is a terrible way to start your day and is likely to cause anxiety and stress.
Shower Right Away
The first thing you should do on waking is to take a shower. This will help you to freshen up and you'll find it's one of the surest ways to improve productivity. If you put it off, then you will often end up procrastinating while feeling sweaty and grubby in pajamas until all hours.
If you're feeling really brave and you really want to be productive, then you can even try taking a cold shower to start the day. This will wake you up much more effectively and stimulate the production of norepinephrine – a hormone that makes us feel alert. Cold showers are also good for the immune system, testosterone production and weight loss. Give it a try!
Make Yourself a Tea or Coffee – Maybe
If you want to give yourself that mental boost to wake up and get going, then drinking a cup of coffee or tea first thing in the morning is essential… for some people.
The thing is, that studies are starting to suggest that caffeine is actually only effective for waking us up because we're already so addicted. In other words: the grogginess that we feel in the morning is actually caffeine withdrawal (1).
So if you drink coffee, then drinking some in the morning is a good way to get your day off to a good start. But what would be even better would be cutting the coffee out of your diet entirely.
Breakfast at this point should be something that will set you up for the day and provide you with a steady stream of energy. This means you should be looking at eating something high in fiber (which slows down our absorption of sugar) but high in energy. Oatmeal with slices of banana is a great example of instance. Take your time over breakfast and enjoy it with paper or the news.
Avoid Your Phone!
During all this, you should be avoiding looking at your phone – and especially looking at your e-mail. This is the advice offered by many productivity gurus regarding morning workflow, seeing as answering emails puts us in a 'reactive' state of mind meaning that we're working to someone else's schedule other than our own. Instead, avoid any form of communication so that you can start your day with something productive from your to-do list.
Meditation is a useful tool that can once again help you to start your day with a clear head and few distractions for more productive starts. Studies have shown meditation to have numerous health benefits (2) and it's a great exercise if you want to take charge of your day.
Exercise can also be an invigorating way to start the day and by working out in the morning before 'life gets in the way' you'll find you are much more likely to be able to stick to a training regime. Just make sure you give yourself a good 15 minutes to come around before you start your routine – otherwise you risk damaging your back while it's more susceptible to injury having been inactive for so long.
The morning is a great time to be creative without distractions. If you have a side business, you're writing a book or you enjoy drawing, then you can use the quiet hours of the morning to pursue those things. This is especially effective as studies suggest we are actually more creative when we first wake up and late at night (no link available sorry).
The early morning is also a great time to run errands. If your local supermarket is open at 7am, then you can head there now and beat the queues in order to avoid stress later on.
Go For a Walk
Alternatively, you could just go for a walk. The world is particularly peaceful first thing in the morning when nobody is awake yet and this can be a great way to get some light exercise to get the blood flowing and to drink in your surroundings.