How to make your mornings the most productive part of your day

With the days now brighter and the weather improving, we find ourselves wanting to make the most of our days. Our days are spent in work looking longingly out at the sunshine and the evenings are full of things to do and places to go now that everywhere is opening up. 

But where has our important me-time gone that we got so much of during the pandemic? Our time to connect wth ourselves and our goals that made us feel organised and ready for anything? I liked how organised I felt during the lockdown, because I ahd lots of time to feel organised, but now I can slowly feel that habit slipping away as social and personal obligations need to be met.

Our mornings are where there is a little extra time to regain that 'best self' feeling - a little time to recoup and set ourselves up for a day of productivity and success. Here are some habits to incorporate into your morning to get that 'on top of everything' feeling that we've gotten used to.

Don’t press snooze

Photo of Person Holding Alarm Clock

You know how some days you wake up still wrecked even though you’ve had a pretty good night’s sleep? You’ve got your solid eight hours, but as you try to haul yourself from the ebd, you feel groggy and out of it for the first few hours you’re up?

Well it could be because of the snooze button.

We sleep in cycles, having natural periods of light sleeping, deep sleeping, dreaming and waking points. If you’re good at falling asleep you can actually hack your sleep cycles to ensure you wake up at the optimum time in a cycle to feel super refreshed, But if, like most of us, falling asleep instantly isn’t your forte, one thing you can do to wake up feeling refreshed is avoid the snooze button. By putting off our sleep for 5 to 10 minute increments, we fall back asleep, re-entering the cycle. By waking every few minutes to turn off a new alarm, we enter and re-enter the cycle in useless little naps that actually make us feel more tired than if we had just gotten up at the first alarm. Feel fresher and more ready for the day by seizing it at the first alarm.

Dress well

Woman in Black Coat Holding Black Smartphone

There has been so much talk of boundaries in the last while when it comes to separating home and work life, now that those activities are happening in the same space. But when it comes down to it, implanting those boundaries can be difficult. One way to get yourself ready for a workday when you’re working from home – or just going to work in general – is to dress in something that makes you feel great.

 The term ‘enclothed cognition’ was first coined in 2008 by researchers focusing on the effect that clothing can have on our psychological states. What we wear and when we wear it may be more powerful and more impacting on our brains than we think. Our clothes carry connotations or are ‘symbolic’ and when that symbolism combines with the physical experience of wearing them, we can alter our mindsets significantly. Beyond even doing this for others and for productivity, it’s important for your mental health to feel good about yourself. So throw on an outfit that make you feel powerful and get to it!

Drink water

Woman In Black Tank Top Drinking Water

Hydration is key! Starting your day off with a large glass of water can set you up for the day, making you more alert, improving your digestion and allowing your body to fulfil essential functions.

It’s not only refreshing, but also is a great time to get one or two of your eight glasses a day in to really kickstart your morning. Bonus points if it’s super cold to wake you up!

Cold shower

Black Shower Head Switched on

This is one for the brave ones! Even just thirty seconds of cold water at the end of your morning shower can shock you into alertness by activating your immune system too! It’s supposedly better for circulation and a mood booster, so definitely something worth trying out.

The shock can boost your heart rate, relieve some tension and generally make you more alert in the mornings which, although cold, sounds good to us! (Plus, washing out your conditioner with cold water will leave your hair super shiny and healthy!)

Set intentions

Make It Happen Book With Black Stylus

An aimless day can quickly become a wasted day. But having an overarching goal, like ‘I want to feel I did my best today at work’ or ‘I want to cook myself really good food and prioritise my exercise or health’ or ‘I want to make some real progress on that project today’ gives you clear aims for the day. You have goals to work towards and writing them down and having them near to hand all day keeps you accountable, stopping you from reaching for the freezer meal at the end of the day or slacking off when you feel unmotivated.

Clear your head

Woman Meditating In Bedroom

The morning slump can get to us all, especially if we’re going through a busy or tiring time in our lives. Whether it’s the thought of that project that you can’t seem to make headway on, the one task you just can’t crack or a scarily full inbox, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, stressed and stuck.

It’s important to take a few minutes to disconnect from these intense moments, especially in the mornings, or you’ll be beaten before you ever start.  Getting back in touch with your breath to find a place of calm can create intention, boost productivity and allow you to approach the tasks with a clearer head. A quick meditation on YouTube can bring you back to a place of calm, positivity or productivity – whatever you need in that moment.

When negative emotions and thoughts come at us, it can be a real struggle to push them away, especially if we’re having a stressful day at the office. Feelings of inadequacy, stress and generally unhelpful emotions can impact our day, taking control when there’s really no substance to them. Another handy hack is taking five minutes in the morning with a pen and blank sheet of paper and writing down all the things that are taking up unnecessary space in your mind. It’s called stream of conscious writing and it doesn’t matter what comes out on the page, it’s just that you’ve dealt with that thought now and can put it to rest in favour of your work or life. Recognise where these thoughts may be coming from without engaging with them, giving them power. If they aren’t helpful, they aren’t worth it.

Plan your day

Green Note Card and Four Scrabble Tiles on Gray Surface

Again, like setting intentions, planning your day can keep you on schedule. Sitting down at the start of the day and making a list will allow you to allocate the time that each task needs, meaning you’re not under pressure and rushing towards a deadline at the end of the day.

There’s also major satisfaction in ticking off each job as it gets done, and seeing a checked off list at the end of the day can feel like a great achievement and that you’ve made the most of your time. Be careful not to overschedule however, as consistently failing to meet unrealistic goals can actually make us feel more under pressure.

Clean your space

Turned-off Silver Imac

Taking a little time each morning to clear up your space can make the world of difference. Making your bed and putting away pyjamas, opening your curtains and picking just 5 things off of your bedroom floor makes it a more soothing place to return to after a long day. The less clutter there is around the place the less distracted your mind is. Alternatively, put away things on your desk and organise it in a way that is conducive to a smoother workday. Instead of head-melting piles of paper, just taking ten minutes at the end of each day to file away documents in their proper place can save on stress the next day.

Exercise

Woman Standing and  Holding Blue Yoga Mat

Set yourself up for a productive day with a little change in your morning routine. Finding a way to centre yourself, call on your energy and harnessing it for the day ahead gives you the headspace to tackle any challenges. Wake up your body with some yoga or a fun, dancy cardio video first to shake off the sleepiness and get a burst of energy to see you into a productive day. It will also give you a chance to connect with yourself and take a little time to reflect and check in with yourself before the day begins.

Have a substantial breakfast

Served table with breakfast on street

Breakfast is essential. It literally sets you up for the day ahead, giving you the fuel you need to get the day started on a good foot. Breakfast can be difficult for some people as they aren’t hungry when they first wake up, but try to make it the last part of your morning routine before you go to work – do your skincare routine, goal setting, exercises and hair and makeup before trying to eat, that way you’ll have been up for a while and may be hungrier.

Eating a proper breakfast is also important. Having a banana or a slice of toast or a cup of coffee isn’t enough to have you be at your best. Fuelling yourself with the vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins you need in the morning will stop you from overeating later on in the day and give you the boost of energy needed in the morning.

Incorporating even two or three of these things in to your routine could be the change you need to make the most of your mornings, rather than losing them to your snooze alarm! Which ones will you try?

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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