Mornings are sacred.
There was a time when humans rose and retired with the sun. For us, that meant better health, more energy, and more importantly for those of us concerned with productivity, more time early in the mornings to plan and work. We are no longer forced to follow the daily cycle of the sun, but the simple act of waking up early in the morning can literally revolutionize your work-life.
Mornings are the singular uninterrupted time during the day when you can do whatever you like, uninterrupted. Its like a mini-vacation during which you have the power, the energy, the drive and the resources to accomplish the most difficult tasks of your day.
Why, then are so many of us struggling with waking up late, squandering our mornings and not living up to our potential? A lot of it comes down to planning.
If you don’t plan for work in advance (check out this post on using planning) then you end up just going with the flow and most times the flow means you are just lounging around being ridiculously unproductive. Using your mornings wisely can make all the difference between staying on task throughout the day and fumbling about without any apparent purpose.
Clarity of thought. Your mind isn’t bogged down, distracted or confused with worldly things first thing in the morning. You can use that focus and momentum to knock out a huge chunk of your work first thing in the morning.
No interruptions. No colleagues emailing you or calling you with “urgent” queries, no employees coming to you for more budget allocations, no friends inviting you to random events on Facebook
More will power. Will power is highest at the beginning of the day and goes down as the day goes by, so focusing on your health and productivity first thing in the morning makes inherent sense.
Increased motivation. If you wake up in the morning and accomplish important tasks even before others are starting to wake up, that motivation carries you through the workday and gives you an energy boost better than coffee or redbull would.
More time in the day to do what you need to do. This is self explanatory.
Peace and quiet. Experiencing the solitude of the early morning hours helps ground you and put problems in to perspective. Your whole day starts on a calm note.
Setting an example for others. Getting to work early in the morning with a positive attitude shows how seriously u take your work. As a boss and employer, that speaks louder than any training. You don’t need to pay someone a ton of money to motivate your employees, you just have to be a role model for the behaviours you want to promote.
[message_box title=”Quotes from Successsful People” color=”beige”]
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]You can always strive to get out of bed a little earlier. you could get right to work, or for something personal like working out. Use commutes wisely – no one is competing for your attention. Tim Cook, Apple[/quote]
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Working out early on monday (even if it seems too busy). It’s a way of making yourself a priority when you otherwise wouldn’t. Plus, you’ll have a clear head and the accompanying endorphin rush, which always helps make otherwise dreadful Monday mornings cheerier. Barack Obama[/quote]
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, you’ll have it behind you for the rest of the day. Mark Twain[/quote]
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]I normally walk her for about an hour in the morning. It’s the only time of day I get to myself. Joanna Coles, the Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine[/quote]
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]I’m really not a morning person at all. It’s just sheer determination. I’m very strict with myself. When I practice six days a week and eat clean food, I feel much better. Gwyneth Paltrow[/quote]
So how exactly do successful people use mornings to stay on top of their game and power through the rest of the day?
Some experts say you should tackle your email the first thing in the morning. Some say don’t. I say do what works for you. If you’re the type of person that gets derailed when someone jumps in with an item on their agenda, where you quickly give up your own to help the other person, then definitely, don’t check your emails. But if you’re the kind of person that can shut out other people and look at your priorities effectively, then starting the day with an email is a perfectly natural way to plan for the hurdles you will be up against later in the day. By checking your email you are alerting and preparing brain for the things to come. For years I used to avoid checking emails because I always ended up getting side tracked by someone else’s demands. Until I realized that every time I missed an important memo and a colleague asked me about it, I risked looking like an incompetent baboon. So check your emails. Just don’t get so engrossed that you forget to do your work.
You can use email to plan your day out, or you can skip it altogether by penciling in your most important priorities first. This way, when you are bombarded by external demands and gripes, you always have that perspective on what your priorities are. Planning is also important in helping you pace yourself so you’re not burned out, or taking it too easy.
Doing difficult things first.
If its good enough for Mark Twain (see the quote below), its good enough for you. Start the day with the most difficult tasks. Laura Vanderkam, author of What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, talks about experts and millionaires with morning habits and how they impact their lives. She cites a study by a Florida State University professor named Roy Baumeister. They found in this study that will power is like a muscle that becomes fatigued from overuse. So make the most of your reserve of will-power in the morning to blast through some of those giant tasks that you’re afraid to touch, but you know you have to at some point. In fact, the sense of achievement from having dealt with that monster first thing in the morning will keep you powered through the rest of the day, breezing through it because the headrest part is, literally, already behind you.
[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]”Diets come undone in the evening, just as poor self-control and lapses in decision-making often come later in the day. On the other hand, early mornings offer a fresh supply of willpower, and people tend to be more optimistic and ready to tackle challenging tasks.” -Prof. Roy Baumeister as cited in What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast[/quote]
If you don’t take care of your physical and mental needs, you will burn out at some point. Its so obvious on paper (or screen), isn’t it?
If powering through the crummiest tasks of the week is too much of a herculean feat for you in the morning, try relaxing instead. Go for a walk, indulge in some yoga or meditation which, incidentally, is also good for regulating your hormones and really getting into the optimum physical and mental space for working.
Last summer, I visited my family in Toronto where my sister dragged me to a hot yoga class. I loved it so much, that every morning, I’d hover over her bed and wake her up unceremoniously to go attend the 7 am class. We were working on this start-up at the time and I found that after yoga, a shower a light meal, I was totally primed for some marathon writing and creative action. I got so much more done when I took an hour out for myself in the morning. More than I had in the last two years of trying (and failing) to get content up on this website. Go on. Try it yourself.
Labor of love.
Do something you love. A side project. That dream book you plan to write. The guitar lessons you’ve been putting off. Whatever your passion is that you’ve saved up for the proverbial ‘someday’. Starting the morning with something you love can have the same motivating effect as tackling an unsavoury task first thing in the morning. What you’re aiming for is that sense of achievement when you do something you don’t normally do.
Mornings are a perfect time to plan out healthy meals. Of all the things we know are good for us, this is the one that falls to the way-side when we are busy getting through the buzz of life. I once knew a girl who had a tattoo on her arm that said “food is fuel”. Indeed, food is fuel. You don’t expect your car or lawn mower to run on the wrong kind of fuel. Why would you expect that of yourself? Greens, beans, fruits, grains, vegetables and lean protein. If you’re upto it, use your mornings for a quick mental check for what healthy meals you will be eating for the rest of the day.
Here is an excellent excerpt from Personal Development Guru Robin Sharma’s website on how to wake up earlier in the day:
1) Don’t eat too late in the day, it will help you sleep more soundly.
2) Jump out of the bed and start your day as soon as the alarm clock goes off.
3) Get into the best shape of your life. When you’re working out, you sleep better, wake up fresher, and getting our of bed earlier gets easier.
4) I love this one – Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Raising the bar and striving for a personal dream will fire u up and give you something to look forward to in the morning.
5) Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier than your usual wake up time.
Robin Sharma ends his post with the following words:
“Get up early. I dare you to do it for a few weeks. Your life is too precious a thing to waste. You know you were meant for your own unique form of greatness. You know you can do more, have more and be more. You know that you can be bigger than you currently are. So join The 5 O’Clock Club. Win The Battle of The Bed. Put mind over mattress. Get up early. And as Benjamin Franklin once noted: “there will be plenty of time to sleep when you are dead.” Smart guy.”
How’s that for some early morning inspiration?