Have a productive morning

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I wrote an article earlier this week where I discussed some sleep hygiene practices that I’ve implemented. Thanks to these, I noticed that I was able to wake up more alert and enjoy more productive mornings. This is a follow-up to my last article as sleeping and waking are two sides of the same coin.

I’d like to share a few thoughts regarding my morning routine and hopefully you can benefit from this.

Start doing

Wake up at the same time every day (even on weekends)

Hands down, the best thing I did for myself was to establish a schedule and stick to it, even on weekends. We all have different sleep needs, and once I figured out the number of hours my body needed every night, I set my schedule.

I used to sleep in on weekends, as a way to “catch up” on the sleep I was missing during the week. This became an unsustainable practice. I now wake up at the same time every day, and this has made a huge difference in my alertness in the morning. On weekends, I set my alarm for an hour later than during the week. This way, I can sleep a little bit more if my body needs it, but it’s not so out of control that it throws off my schedule.

Subscribe to a 24-hour news network

In my personal opinion, many local morning news programs contain a bit too much fluff. I understand why they do this: they want to entertain and wake people up in a fun way, but this wasn’t working for me. I would end up staying awake later at night to catch the “serious” news and this threw off my sleep cycle.

When I subscribed to a 24-hour news network, it was a revelation because I could get my “serious” news in the morning. Generally, news events don’t happen overnight, so I found the content between late news and early news to be quite similar. This then freed me to work according to my own schedule.

If you enjoy the more “fun” morning news programs, you can subscribe to The Skimm. It’s an American media company, founded by Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin. You receive daily emails, Monday to Friday at around 7 a.m. and it “skims” over the main news stories using fun, punchy jargon. It’s informs you about the main events happening in the world in a brief, complete, and entertaining way.

Meal prep

Meal prep is life changing. If you’ve never heard of it, basically it’s a practice whereby you prepare all or part of your meals in advance so when the time comes for you to eat, you have a healthy option that is just as easy to grab as junk food. Prepping breakfast saves time and money and it’s better for you health. Many grab-and-go breakfasts tend to be either too high in carbohydrates or are excessively caloric.

Start small. Perhaps on a Sunday night, you can prepare your breakfasts for Monday and Tuesday. You can hard boil eggs in advance, and cut up some fruits and vegetables then portion them in a “Monday” container and a “Tuesday” container. This way you wake up and you don’t have to think; you just eat.

Here’s a video from Motive Nutrition to get you started with meal prep. If you’re inspired, you can try this for all your meals, but even if you only implement meal prepping for breakfast, it will do wonders to save time in the morning.

Stop doing

Snoozing

I used to be a champion snoozer. My half-asleep brain could somehow magically do any mental gymnastics required to convince me that hitting snooze was the smarter than getting out of bed. Hitting snooze is insidious because you don’t get quality sleep – it just makes you late.

I discovered an app called Alarmy, which was the perfect antidote to my snoozeaholism. Alarmy makes you solve a problem before it will turn off. You either have to shake your phone, take a picture or solve a math problem or else the alarm keeps ringing. Once you succeed in turning the alarm off, it links directly to news and weather, so you can scan something mentally stimulating instead of allowing your head to hit the pillow. This is where “reverse” sleep hygiene can be helpful. The light from your phone or tablet simulates daylight, which signals to your body that it’s time to wake up.

Decision fatigue

I once read that the reason why Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg wore more or less the same thing every day was to control decision fatigue and avoid making unnecessary decisions on matters of little consequence. Decision fatigue refers to a reduced quality in decision-making due to the number of decisions one makes in a day. We become mentally depleted and risk making poor quality choices later in the day by having a morning filled with irrelevant decisions.

While most of us don’t run the free world or the largest social media platform, we can all benefit from reducing meaningless morning decisions and automating certain aspects of our morning routine.

My biggest drain was putting on makeup. It was my way of expressing my creativity, but making choices such as which brush or which colour to use were of little consequence, especially since no one noticed the difference! By establishing one makeup routine, it eliminated unnecessary decisions and I actually became faster at it because I was doing the same steps every day.

Wasting your morning commute

Because of where I live, I don’t have a morning commute anymore, and there are times where I actually miss it. I only had to commute for one job and I remember it being a 45-50 minute commute. At the beginning I played solitaire, but that got old really fast. So I started reading.

I read everything: business books, classic literature, anything my heart desired because the time was going to pass anyway. I have 10-15 minute commutes now and I can’t get through as many books as I did when I had a longer commute. If you drive, there are a host of options now, from podcasts to Audible to iTunes U.

I actually discussed this in an older article How to make time for continuous learning. We can all benefit from growth and development and capitalizing on your commute is one of the most seamless ways to incorporate continuous learning into your life.

Putting it all together

As mentioned in the introduction, getting a good night’s sleep and having a productive morning go hand in hand. If you want to improve one, you will notice that improving the other makes everything easier and both will improve the overall quality of your life in a small but meaningful way.