There are generally two types of “morning people” in the world: Type A gets up 2 (give or take) hours before they need to leave for work, preps for their day, has a good breakfast and never feels rushed. Type B, on the other hand, presses snooze 8 (give or take) times before shooting out of bed in a panic with just enough time to put some sort of clothing on before getting out the door. Of course some of us may fall somewhere in between but the important thing here is one type is much more productive than the others. Can you guess which one?
You’ve probably already figured out which of these types is scratching things off their to-do list at record speeds. That’s right, it’s Type A. But don’t worry if you’re Type B or somewhere in between, we’ve hacked into the brains of some of the most successful people in order to share what you need to do to kick your productivity into overdrive, all before breakfast!
1. Get Up Incredibly Early
We’re taking a bit of advice from ourselves and putting Worst Things First. You knew it was inevitable to see “get up earlier” on a list of “morning hacks” so let’s get it over with and out of the way!
All joking aside, this has got to be the fastest way to bring more productivity into your day. Many of the most successful CEO’s and Entrepreneurs start their business day before 6am. Why? To have a few hours under their control, before the day gets eaten up by meetings, phone calls and emails. For example, PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi wakes up at 4am and is in the office at 7am. Disney CEO Bob Iger gets up at 4:30am to read before his day starts and Jack Dorsey CEO of Square, gets up at 5:30am every morning to go jogging.
Simply put, waking up early allows you have a bit of extra time to get your day started on the right foot. It keeps you from feeling rushed and frazzled and it creates a strong, calm foundation to base the rest of your day on. Keep in mind though, getting the adequate amount of sleep is still essential so try adjusting your schedule slowly so you’re in bed earlier and up earlier.
2. Get Your Blood Pumping
Just like waking up extra early, exercising is another “non-negotiable” step in having an amazingly productive day (we know, it’s not what you wanted to hear). But, while this may seem like the last thing (in the world, ever) you want to do after waking up early, we promise that the benefits will have you coming back for more. It’s strangely addicting.
If you’re just starting out, knowing that your morning exercise routine doesn’t need to be intense (unless you’re into that sort of thing) to be effective will probably help ease your mind. Even simple things like 15 minutes of Yoga or a couple rounds of push-ups can get your blood pumping and your body ready for the day.
Not only will exercise make you feel more invigorated, it’s also scientifically proven to clear your mind, alleviate physical pain and even generate new neurons. So, on top of the fact that you’re kick-starting your current day into overdrive, you’re also investing in all your future mornings as well.
3. Make Your Mind Calm
It’s been said many times, how you start your day is how the rest of it will go (or something like that). That’s why waking up early, exercising and calming your mind are essential things to do before you even consider tackling the chaos that is the outside world.
There are many different ways to calm and refresh your mind and everyone’s practice will be slightly different. Essentially, you just want to find what feels good for you and work with it, everyday. Many people turn to traditional meditation (think sitting cross-legged with your hands in the prayer like above) for getting their head fresh and clear. Other people may just take a moment to sit on the couch and reflect on things they are grateful for or use an app like Headspace to guide them.
As easy as it sounds to veg out on the couch for a couple of minutes, meditation can be difficult at first, especially if you’re not used to “shutting your brain off”. The most important part is that you try each day. A simple way to start is to turn on some soft background music, sit quietly and focus only on your breathing, nothing else. Like anything, the more you practice the better you will get at this and the benefits are endless.
According to a study conducted at Harvard University, participants who were asked to practice relaxation methods on a regular basis showed significant changes in their bodies. The researcher noticed that, “genes that helped fight inflammation and kill diseased cells were switching on and the more people practiced, the better it got. They also increased their chances of remaining free of arthritis and joint pain, gained stronger immunity and healthier hormone and blood pressure levels.” Now if that isn’t a reason to start we don’t know what is!
4. Do Some Nighttime Prep
Nighttime prep can have a huge impact on how your morning goes. Whether it be preparing a healthy breakfast, packing your lunch or laying your clothing out, taking a little bit of extra time each night will be well worth it when you wake up.
This can be especially helpful for people who are trying to get not only their day off to a good start but maybe their kids as well. Even if you’re waking up an hour earlier, getting 3+ people ready from scratch probably isn’t going to happen smoothly without a little planning.
Put your bag by the front door (along with your keys), set your coffee maker to start when you wake up (most of us need coffee) and have your breakfast ready-to-eat (thank goodness for overnight oats!). These may seem like small, menial tasks that will only take a second or two but consider how much they help streamline your day next time you’re frantically searching for your keys last minute.
We’re almost certain that you’ve left the house before having had no breakfast because you didn’t plan ahead. How many times have you gone to have a bowl of cereal just to realize there’s no milk or a piece of toast and no butter? Yeah, more than a couple times if you’re anything like us…
A little planning can go a long way when it comes to stream-lining your mornings. One of the biggest time savers you can use is making your breakfast the night before. There are some great recipes that cater to this kind of prep like Overnight Oats, or you can just plan ahead and boil some eggs or have everything you’re going to need in arms reach (and at the very least make sure you have the milk to go with your cereal).
You know breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day so don’t skip it! Keeping your body nourished will increase your overall functioning and keep you focused longer to be more productive throughout the day. And no, coffee doesn’t count as breakfast.
6. Plan Your Day
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”. We find this little tidbit of information especially poignant if you’re someone who is incredibly busy. Do you really trust yourself to remember to put the garbage out, start the crockpot, pick up that package that’s been at the post office for a week, return that early morning call to your boss and drop off the kids at school all before 7am?
Well, even if you can remember all that and execute it flawlessly (we’re jealous) it’s a good step towards better productivity to make a habit out of writing these things down. Not only will your plan remind you of important things you have to do throughout the day, crossing each thing off will give you a little boost of confidence knowing you’re accomplishing what you set out to do.
Another great thing about planning is you don’t necessarily have to do this step in the morning. In fact, you could include this in your night time prep so all you need to do is quickly skim it in the morning to see how your day is going to play out and what needs to be done first.
7. Wait To Check Your Phone
This step will most likely prove to be incredibly difficult for most people! Checking your phone is probably one of the first think you do when you wake up each morning, but avoiding it for the first few hours of your day may be the best for you in the long run.
Have you ever woken up, checked your phone and been greeted with an angry email from your boss? Or maybe a text message from your spouse saying your car has a flat tire? Those things can quickly put you on the fast track to grumpy-town, but how would you react after exercising, meditating, having a nourishing breakfast and doing something you love before hand? Probably a little differently, right?
Getting in the right mind set to tackle these not-so-pleasant tasks will change how you handle your entire day. While the urge may be tough to fight, try to go a week without checking your phone first thing in the morning. You might see a big change in your attitude and overall productivity levels throughout the day! Oh, and it’s also super distracting and can eat up an hour in what feels like seconds if you get sucked into the world of Instagram.
8. Do Something You Enjoy
Once all your necessary morning tasks are completed (like putting on pants), you should try to take a bit of time for yourself. It’s probably pretty safe to say that after a long day of work, you’re not very likely to come home, pick up that paintbrush or pen and have the passion (or energy for that matter) to create the masterpiece you’ve been dreaming of, but that’s okay.
Your answer to your persistent “hobby neglect” may lie in the early morning hours. Our brains are at their best in the morning (believe it or not!) and are ready to take on anything complex, creative or challenging. Your mind is also more eager to get going because it’s refreshed and ready to go from your nights’ sleep, which quickly negates your usual excuse of being “too tired”.
So whether you like to do something simple like reading a few pages of a book or something more complex like painting an original piece of abstract art, taking the time to tackle it in the AM will not only ensure you get it done, it will also boost your mood for the rest of the day, putting you in a more productive head space.
9. Eliminate Choices
Have you ever noticed both Barak Obama and Mark Zuckerberg wear pretty much the same outfit everyday? If you haven’t, take a second to google it. You’ll be hard pressed to find either of them out of their trademark blue or grey suits (Obama) or grey t-shirt and jeans (Zuckerberg) and it’s for good reason.
There is a well-known phenomenon called decision fatigue that occurs when we are bombarded with too many choices throughout the day (and why we can never decide what to make for dinner). One study by Columbia University tested this by watching parole hearings and tracking if the number of times and times of day the Judge granted parole. The results showed that the judge was more likely to grant parole early in the morning and after a lunch break and more likely to deny parole at the end of the day or close to lunchtime regardless of the type of crime or inmate history.
Each time you make a decision it’s like doing a rep at the gym according to James Clear (Behavioural Psychologist). The more choices you make, the more tired you get and the more likely you are to choose the easy way out (remember all those times you meant to go to the gym after work?).
So by cutting out a large chunk of the unimportant decisions we make each day, like what to wear to work that day, Obama and Zuckerberg are freeing up their minds for more important matters. You can do this too by making all your small decisions for the next day the night before. Soon you’ll be thinking as clearly as the President!
10. Do Your Thinking in the A.M.
Just like your favourite cup of coffee, your brain works best first thing in the morning. Taking advantage of this natural “hack” can give you the boost you need to start your day off on the right foot. So, take the first hour of your day or so to work on your most complex, creative or dreaded task while your still riding the “I’m so refreshed from a good night’s sleep” high.
Using this first hour to your advantage makes you more likely to finish the project your working on and do a great job in the process. Alternately, starting a hard (or boring) project late in the day when your energy levels are low makes you much less likely to finish it. On top of your low energy, you’re also going to have to compete with your (probably) more negative mood after a day of being bombarded by decisions and meetings.
So whatever it is that you need to do that requires extra brain power, do it in the morning so you’re not dragging your feet trying to finish it up later in the day.
11. Connect With Family
For some families this may be next to impossible, but taking some time to reconnect with any loved on in the morning can be great for your day (and your health!).
Whether it be making a phone call to your mom who lives miles away or sitting down with one of your children over breakfast, taking time to reconnect is the perfect way to boost your mood each morning. You can discuss your household to-do list, plan for the rest of the week or chat about what you’re looking forward to on the weekend.
Who said dinner has to be the only family meal of the day?
12. Be Grateful
Starting your day off by listing all the things you are grateful for is a sure fire way to boost your mood. And as you know by making it through this article, a good mood means greater productivity throughout the day.
Some of the worlds most successful people (ie. Oprah) keep daily gratitude journals to keep themselves grounded and focused and studies have shown it has a great impact on actual productivity levels. Yale University says that keeping “a gratitude journal will result in higher alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.”, while research at Harvard and Stanford has shown improved health and relationships in students as well as a 27% reduction in stress levels.
Not only is this habit super quick, but it’s also super effective. It “hacks” into your happiness and subsequently increases your productivity levels. It’s also said to improve sleep and enhance overall satisfaction in ones life. That’s a lot of benefits for a very little amount of time!
All in all, what you’re doing by waking up earlier, getting your body moving and spending some time with your family is all doing one thing. Making you happier. And the happier you are, the more productive you will be, so do what makes you happy every morning to become more productive! Unless that means sleeping in…