Maximize Your Mornings
Mornings aren’t always easy – we know that. But sometimes we don’t have much of a choice. Here are a few tips on how to jumpstart your morning in order to maximize your day!
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re making a conscious effort to wake up earlier. Why? Everyone has their own reason: some are more common (e.g., work, school) and others are a little more unique.
External Force: There is some new life event forcing you into a morning routine. This may be a new job, second job, class schedule, other responsibility, or etc. Regardless, it is some outside factor requiring you to now wake up early.
Internal Force: This is for those who have an internal desire, or “force” to wake up earlier in order to get things done. It may be due to a hobby, side hustle, or something you are passionate about. No one is putting you on a timesheet here but you are just as required to wake up early.
Irrespective of external or internal, the end result is the same. You need to get up earlier! How do we incorporate this into our busy lifestyle?
Recognize the power of adequate sleep
Find out how many hours of sleep your body requires to properly function. For some, it is 5 hours and others, 8. I know I need at least 7.5 hours of sleep per night so that I can function properly and be on my A game. Yes, I will still reach for that morning cup of coffee but I feel ready to go both mentally and physically. We all know life isn’t always predictable and 7.5 hours per night can often be challenging. For instance, I know I can get away with 6 hours of sleep but only for a few days, max. By day 3, I’m exhausted and I will need to head to bed early in order to make up for the lack of sleep. By understanding how your body functions relative to sleep, you are more likely to adapt to life’s unpredictable nature.
A common misconception is sleep is the antagonist of productivity. Sleep is often the first to go when we are searching for additional time to do “more”. This should not be the case. In actuality, sleep is one of the enablers of productivity. I cannot stress the value of adequate sleep. There are a number of cognitive and physical benefits when getting adequate sleep; both imperative to promoting mental and physical health.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, studies have shown that a deficiency in sleep can negatively affect the activity in some portions of your brain. This leads to more difficulty making decisions, controlling your emotions, and solving problems. Long-term, sleep deficiency has been linked to a number of chronic diseases such as depression, obesity, and diabetes. All of which are factors that can shorten overall lifespan. It may seem counter intuitive to prioritize sleep when you are attempting to attack your goals. However, it is important to realize you are not not only far less efficient when sleep deprived, but also open yourself up to a number of potential long-term diseases.
What’s the science?
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sleep deficiency has been associated with lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells the brain your body is full while ghrelin is the hormone that tells the brain your body is hungry. So the more sleep deprived you are, the more likely you will feel hungry. Adequate sleep not only helps maintain a healthy balance of the two hormones that control appetite, it also reduces the production of cortisol, or also known as the “stress hormone”.
Additionally, adequate sleep helps promote muscle recovery and growth through protein synthesis and release of human growth hormone. This natural human growth hormone (which is released during deep sleep) helps repair cells and tissues which ultimately promotes healthy muscle development and can boost muscle mass.
What about naps?
Naps should be viewed as a supplement to night-time sleep and not a substitute. Current research shows that short incremental periods of sleep (i.e., 90 minute naps) do not offer the same restorative benefits for your mind and body when compared to a full night of sleep.
Preparation is key
Now that you have figured out the number of hours you need to function, let’s focus on how to get your morning started through proper preparation broken down in two parts.
Mental preparation (set your mind)
- Write down the major items (the night before) for the next day that cannot be moved (e.g., meetings, classes, etc.). I typically plan my day around these items simply because you have less control over them.
- Next write down the main to-do’s and tasks that you need to accomplish for the day. It often helps to write down what exactly needs to be done and visualize the steps to accomplishing them. Rather than having a very broad and general “goal” for the day, try breaking down your to-do’s into smaller, more tangible tasks that are realistic. Finding how to accomplish a large general goal in one day is often very difficult and can lead to frustration.
- Visualize the steps on how to accomplish your goals for the next day. Spend a few minutes and put some active thought into how you might accomplish these tasks. You probably will not have all the answers initially and that’s ok – this isn’t an exercise for that. However, by placing some active thought on a particular task the night before, you are telling your mind to continue thinking through a solution. You are much more likely to come up with a solution when it is on your mind throughout the next day, whether subconscious or not.
Physical preparation (set your day)
Try to have everything you need for the day ready to go by spending 10-15 minutes preparing the night before. This may be getting the coffee maker ready so that coffee can be brewed with a touch of a button, laying out your gym outfit, or having your work/school bag packed. By getting some of the controllable items out of the way, you are able to start your day off with a clear mind and ready to accomplish your goals. Waking up early is hard enough so don’t make it more difficult by spending time on the little things that can be done the night before. The last thing you want to worry about when starting your day is if you packed the right notepad in your bag.
Adequate preparation can be the key to jump starting your day.
Find your balance
Like everything else in life, balance is key. I’m not suggesting that you become so rigged that you must sleep X hours a night or spend hours strategically planning your day and laying out every single item you will require the night before. Everyone functions differently and you must find what works best for you. And maybe that means being a morning person is simply not for you (see below).
There is a common perception that the early bird gets the worm and that the idea of waking up later in the morning means you’re lazy. This is simply untrue and goes hand in hand with “finding your balance”. Notice how I said “waking up later in the morning” and not “sleeping in”? Depending on what your personal situation is, you may need to wake up later and that doesn’t mean you’re lazy. Imagine if someone is working two jobs and the second shift does not end until 3AM every night. Or if you’re doing business with someone overseas, you may have no choice but to start your “work day” as they begin theirs.
So why should I even wake up early? If you aren’t part of the group of exceptions mentioned above, chances are your day more or less follows your local time zone. This means, there are more places open, people to connect with, and resources available to you in the morning than late at night – all the more reason to wake up and get your day started early!