Note: This is a guest post by Ali Hale of Aliventures
Have you ever had one of those mornings where you woke up filled with energy and fired with enthusiasm, and got straight into your day? Chances are, you raced through a stack of work before lunch, and kept up that sense of momentum in the afternoon. In the evening, you felt happy and relaxed, pleased with what you’d accomplished.
Or … have you ever had one of those mornings where you dragged yourself out of bed, downed a mug of coffee, and pried your eyes open whilst surfing the web or watching television? Chances are, your day didn’t really pick up from there: you found yourself procrastinating, wasting time, and making mistakes. In the evening, you felt like you’d wasted the day.
Getting your morning off to a great start lets you have more good days and fewer bad ones. There are a few simple steps and routines you can put in place to maximise your chances of an energised, productive morning – and a great day to follow:
Get Enough Sleep
If you find yourself extremely reluctant to part from the duvet in the mornings, it could just be that you’re naturally lazy … but it’s more likely that you’re not getting enough sleep. Some people are fine with six or seven hours, others need nine: so don’t assume that your current sleep quota is enough for you.
Ways to maximise your chances of a good night’s sleep include:
- Going to bed earlier (set an alarm to remind you to go to bed, if necessary!)
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening
- Switching off the computer and television and reading for an hour or so before bed – bright screens can prevent you from getting sleepy
Drink Water and Eat (a Healthy) Breakfast
Many people swear that they’re not human until they’ve had their morning coffee. I’d suggest holding off on the coffee for at least a little while after waking up, and drinking a big glass of water instead: being slightly dehydrated will knock your concentration levels right down.
Don’t forget the importance of eating breakfast: your brain won’t run well without fuel. If you don’t feel hungry in the mornings, you’re probably eating too much at dinner. A healthy breakfast like baked beans on wholewheat toast, or oatmeal, will give you slow-release energy to see you through the morning.
Pray, Meditate or Write
Starting off the day with some quiet, inward-focused time really helps you to think about your priorities and goals, and to decide how this day is going to contribute towards your general purpose and aims in life. Depending on your religious beliefs, you might find prayer a helpful way to do this – or you might prefer to meditate.
If you find your mind wandering during prayer or meditation, try writing instead: taking the time to work through your thoughts in a journal will pay dividends, as it often helps you to work out solutions to problems, or to articulate worries that have been nagging unvoiced in your mind.
Get Straight Into Your Day
The first part of the morning is often spent either idling (catching up with friends on Twitter, watching the news on television) or rushing around (finding the kids’ school books, packing lunches, hurrying to work).
Try to set up your morning so that you can get straight into the important part of your day. That might mean doing your work first and saving distractions for when you really do need a break. If your mornings are often fraught and busy, get into the habit of putting as much as you can ready the night before.
Tackle a High-Resistance Task
All of us have jobs on our “to-do” list which we really don’t feel like getting on with. Perhaps we’ve been putting off a particular phone call or email for weeks. Maybe we’re writing a book or a dissertation, but can’t ever seem to get started.
If you tackle one of these high-resistance tasks right at the start of your day, you’ll get a huge sense of achievement. It doesn’t need to be time-consuming – just something that you feel a strong reluctance to do. When you overcome this, you set yourself up for a great day when everything else feels like a downhill ride!
Ali Hale runs a blog, Aliventures, about getting more from life – not just from your mornings! (Grab the RSS feed here.) She also writes for several personal development blogs, including Dumb Little Man and Pick the Brain.
Photo by McPig
Steven Covey, author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about the need to have private victory before you can have public victory. What we do in the morning in private, will show up in our outer world. The more time we spend cultivating quiet time with ourselves and with our Creator, connected, is like having the cell phone charged sufficiently. Without the power from our Creator, we won’t have much strength to give during the day.
Thanks a lot for the great article! I’ve often felt both days, and haven’t quite put my finger on how to get the “good one” ever single day, but I’ll definitely try the advice you wrote here, it all makes sense to me.
Excited to see what this next week will look like! –Thanks again 🙂
Steve, great point. I’ve been reading “7 Habits” recently and taking notes — I think Covey says some tough but true stuff. I’ve definitely found I function best with some quiet time myself: for me that’s prayer, but I know meditation or other practices suit other folks’ beliefs better.
Jonathan, when you find the sure-fire way to guarantee a great day, make sure you let us all know! Seriously, though, I’ve found the various tips above do result in a massive improvement in the quality of my morning. Looking forward to hearing how you get on this week. 🙂
Its essential to start your day off on the right foot. By doing the hardest ask first, it gives yourself a sense of accomplishment already. You feel as if, everything else is a piece of cake.
Its a great way to make sure , the most out of the day is made.
Really motivating post!
I totally agree that it’s best to get straight into the day. Over the last few months, I’ve basically “slid” out of bed and straight into my home office to start work immediately and it’s been great. I get a lot done in that first hour or two.
Again, like you say, that early morning efficiency and freshness can be wasted with checking mails, tweets etc. You need to be strong and focus on the big stuff.
I have always found that the great morning starts the night before in planning the day out and what I want to achieve for the next day. I also do like I did in school by getting every thing from the coffee ready to having my clothes ready. Like the other post said take on the tough stuff first. There was a great book on that called eat the frog. Like you said always give Thanks . Great article
Jonathan, yes, I agree, starting off with the hardest task guarantees the rest of your day will be a downhill glide!
Kaizan, glad you found it motivating! I work from home, and like you, I’m best when I can get straight into things.
Paul, I’ve not read “Eat That Frog” but I’ve haerd good things about it. Putting clothes etc. ready works for me too — also a habit I picked up in school days!
Well for me personally meditation really works and I really do have a very good night sleep. SO, I will be able to wake up early fully energized….very great post…
You are absolutely right, a great start is very important in the morning. Whenever I lack of motivation for the upcoming day, I read a few lines from the Secret, or read a new blog from my favourite sites, or lately I watch a motivational video. It’s really inspiring, you might want to check it out, it helps me a lot to get a good start:
Paste a note on your mirror, table, or PC that will set you on the right track. Something you know works for you, a reminder to be happy?
“Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead.” – Scottish Proverb
Today is only here for today and so I will enjoy it.
Worry is only a worry if I worry about it and I won’t.
I accept myself as I am and others as they are.
Life is healthier as I eat well and exercise regularly.
Frequent stops and peaceful thoughts are soothing.
I will try to give and not take, share not hoard.
In all I really have so very much to be thankful for.
– Grampa Ken
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Good info in your post!
I liked your opening description of a really good day. I’ve been fortunate to be having a lot of those 🙂
One thing that really helps me start my day is to get out and go for a walk. My dog comes with me and he enjoys it too.
The walk ends up being a sort of meditation for me. My mind is clear and I just enjoy the nature around me.
After 20-60 minutes I return home feeling GREAT and ready to start my work day.
Nice tip, Grandpa Ken, I’ll have to think about finding a text I like (the Scottish proverb is great, but possibly a bit dour if I wake up on the wrong side of bed!)
Beth, I like your suggestion of a morning walk, I may have to give that one a try too…
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These are elements of what I do in the mornings:
-time amount of sleep so it fits with a round number of ultradian cycles (for me either 4.5 hours, 7.5 hours or 9 hours, plus/minus 15 minutes)
-once awake, put headphones in and jump around and dance to exciting happy music for several minutes (“gabber” music works really well for me). This is very energizing, gets you warmed up, focuses your mind on positivity and happiness.
-drink icy cold water (much much better than coffee for waking you up). avoid all caffeine in the morning if you want true focus.
-have a low Glycemic index breakfast (scrambled eggs for me, or porridge with water). stuff like cereals, juice, toast etc. will give you crap energy that will burn out quickly and negatively affect your ability to focus.
-watch the funniest comedy you can find whilst eating breakfast (I use “whose line is it anyway?”, every episode is on youtube). laughter is very good for you.
-jump straight into focused work. I listen to pure white noise and some groovy trip hop music, as well as masking my desktop and menu bar so I can focus better.
Try this for a few days and see how you go. Also consider taking up yoga. You’ll feel amazing.
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