Every hardworking busy woman knows the eternal life span of a to-do list. And with time flying by like a rocket, it’s tempting to feel like nothing is ever accomplished. If you actually want to feel like you’re making progress, it turns out that daily productivity depends more on how we spend our mornings than it does on the rest of the day. Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative and Louder Than Words, discusses this concept in his podcast “The Power of a Morning Ritual.” Henry explains that solid morning habits allow you to act with intent throughout the entire day.
What Henry is showing us is the heart of the “work smarter, not harder” practice. To start making the most of your mornings, and therefore your whole day, follow these four tips to pump up your productivity.
01. SKIP THE SCREEN TIME
These days, smartphones have replaced many planning tools in our daily lives. We’re talking about everything from Post-its and notebooks to planners. Unsurprisingly, for many, smartphones even double as our alarm clocks.
However, a tiny little screen that sets off your morning is the ideal setup for procrastination. You’ve got the world at your fingertips without ever leaving bed. This happens to be a guaranteed ticket down the black hole of social media or work emails. Think of it this way: With every click and swipe, your precious morning minutes are ticking away. In just half an hour of mindless scrolling, you could have made both your bed and breakfast or even done a quick morning workout.
A study by the Journal of Experimental Psychology reports that a cell phone notification is a recipe for cognitive distraction. While the life expectancy of a notification is fleeting, it’s enough to steal your focus from a task, such as work or errands. In our case, that task is getting your day going on a productive and focused foot.
If you just can’t help but go through a morning scroll, try turning your phone off before you hit the hay or leave it in a separate room. As for your wake-up call? Use a separate physical alarm clock instead. Alarm clocks have become a dying breed, yet they are very affordable. A quick Amazon search will yield a variety of styles, making it easy to pick one that fits your style and living space. By making this small investment, you’ll increase the chances of being in tune with yourself come sunrise.
When you start your day by perusing other people’s lives, you’re hindering yourself from starting yours. Make your mornings intentional and substantial; you’ll be surprised at what more you can achieve.
02. DRINK WATER RIGHT AWAY
When it comes to sleepy mornings, it’s tempting to fuel up on caffeinated goodness from the get-go. And while one cup of coffee or tea won’t hurt, there’s something way more effective out there: water.
Before you even reach for the coffeepot, take a second to fill up on H2O. Staying hydrated is vital for preserving attentiveness and alertness. Basically, it’s the most natural source of energy one could ask for, and it’s free.
According to the Journal of Nutrition, mild dehydration is correlated with lower concentration levels, feeling down, and decreased performance. As a result, researchers suggest that staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining a good mood.
Make it easy for yourself by keeping a glass or bottle of water by your bed. Once you wake up, you’ll have it ready and waiting, increasing your chances of drinking up. Rehydrating is even more essential after a night of sleep.
Remember, that first glass should be one of many. Over the course of your day, aim for nine 8-ounce cups of water. If this is overwhelming, start with a smaller daily goal of six or seven glasses. Every little bit counts.
03. STRETCH IT OUT
The insides of our bodies are amazingly synergistic—one part impacts the next. And when it comes to increasing attention and focus, tending to your physical health can do wonders for your mental health. Stretching exercises, such as yoga and Pilates, are a rejuvenating place to start.
Morning stretching preps your body for the day, much like it does for an exercise routine. The University of California shares that stretching gets the blood and nutrients flowing through your body, fueling your brain power. The result is a calmer mind and improved energy–the perfect medley for full-on concentration. Plus, stretching is an effective tool for managing stress: It gives your mind a break from the world (allowing it to recharge), decreases anxiety, and lowers heart rate.
You don’t have to morph into a pretzel to be productive. Simple stretching exercises are more than enough to warm up your muscles and ensure your blood flow is moving and grooving. For ultimate stress relief, the National Women’s Health Resource Center suggests focusing on your upper neck, back, and legs. If you’re the visual type, turn to YouTube for an endless supply of free how-to videos.
04. DO ONE CREATIVE THING
Every morning is a brand-new canvas, waiting for your embellishment and flair. What you put forth is a representation of what you do during the rest of the day. Artist and New York Times bestselling author Austin Kleon presents this concept in his blog post titled “Problems of Output Are Problems of Input.” Kleon stresses the importance of taking things in and remembering why you were inspired in the first place. In one sentence, Kleon explains it effortlessly: “All writers are readers first.”
How can this notion be applied to morning rituals? When you wake up, whatever your mind absorbs will impact your ability to lead a productive day. So now that you’ve ditched the phone come daylight (right?), try writing in a five-minute journal or listening to music. These activities will feed your brain in a healthy manner. Plus, according to the American Journal of Public Health, creative tasks can reduce psychological stress. Merely observing a creative work, such as reading a book, is enough to produce such benefits. And when you’ve got a day full of responsibilities, there’s nothing better than starting it off with a shield of stress relief.
Forming healthy morning rituals takes time and practice. Don’t be hard on yourself if some days are less productive than others; we are only human. But by following these tips as regularly as you can, you’ll allow room for your mind to flourish and grow in the richest way possible.
Photo Credit: Belathee Photography