While many of us are slamming the snooze button or silencing our phone’s alarm, successful entrepreneurs are cashing in on a not-so-well-kept secret: Morning is the best time to get stuff done.
That’s because willpower is strongest in the mornings, before we’ve zapped our physical and mental energy for the day. That means making big decisions, clarifying thoughts and feelings, executing tasks, and even feeling optimistic comes more easily in the first hours of the day. Plus, morning rituals set the tone for the rest of the day — if you’re grumpy, rushed, and stressed every morning, that’s likely to bleed over into the rest of your life.
Want to start the day on the right foot? Transform your morning routine — and hop aboard the success train — by adopting any or all these morning habits.
Wake Up Early
In a poll of 20 executives, 90 percent reported waking up before 6 a.m. on work days. Some of the most extreme cases? PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi wakes up at 4 a.m. and arrives at the office by 7 a.m. every day, while Disney CEO Bob Iger is up by 4:30 every morning.
Even if just contemplating waking up that early makes you miserable, you can still take advantage of the day’s most productive hours by setting the alarm just an hour or two earlier than you’re used to getting up. The great thing about being up early is that most people aren’t, so you’ll be able to control what you do during that time without distractions or external demands.
Early-morning exercise is one of the most common habits shared by successful people — including the POTUS, the First Lady , and Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour. Working out in the morning ensures that you actually find the time to exercise, which is critical to maintaining physical and mental wellness. Plus, it’ll help keep you energized and focused for the rest of the day.
Create an Action Plan
Ensure you’re productive for the whole day by crafting an effective to-do list that clarifies which tasks need to be given highest priority. This is also a good time to analyze how successful you were at completing yesterday’s to-do list and note any productivity issues before they become major problems.
While you’re at it, take a few moments to remind yourself of your ultimate goal for these and other projects. Is it to support your family? Grow your business? Make the world a better place? Or, make like Steve Jobs and ask yourself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
Reinforcing your value system will help you make decisions that are aligned with those values for the rest of the day, making it easier to prioritize certain tasks and say no to others.
Eat the Frogs
Yep, this is a real thing — but don’t take it literally. The idea is drawn from a Mark Twain quote: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” In other words, do the day’s most unappealing task first (sending faxes, anyone?). After that, it’s all uphill.
Bonus? Without the distractions of emails or coworkers, it’s likely the task will take you less time to complete — so you can get it done and get on with your day.
Simone de Beauvoir reportedly started her day with a cup of tea. Gwyneth Paltrow wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to do yoga. Disney CEO Robert Iger catches up on what’s happening in the world by reading papers and surfing the net. Whether it’s hanging out with your kids, connecting with your spouse, meditating, or pursuing a hobby, claiming some quality “me” time in the morning is a great way to feel centered and practice self-care. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, so long as it helps you feel more grounded, calm, and ready for whatever the day brings.
It may take some time to turn these routines into habits, but doing so is worth it. Each of these morning rituals will help you stay healthy, get focused, and approach each day from a place of clarity and poise. That’s worth skipping the snooze button.
Featured photo credit: Ben Stanfield via flickr.com