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Why People With Morning Routines Are More Productive (and How You Can Start Yours)

Why People With Morning Routines Are More Productive (and How You Can Start Yours)

In the middle of a dream you are having, you become faintly aware of a song playing in the background. The sound is familiar; you know it. It seems to go on forever, and what started as background noise is now fully in the forefront and very, very annoying. With sleepy eyes, you awake to realize the sound is your alarm, and it’s been going off for thirty minutes. Once again, you have slept through your alarm(s) and will undoubtedly be late for work with little, if any, time to make coffee and eat breakfast.

Chances are, any time this has happened to you, you drive to work promising yourself that tomorrow will be different. You’ll get up as soon as your alarm goes off and even get to work thirty minutes earlier than usual. But the next morning comes and goes, and you find yourself over-sleeping cocooned in your warm comforter. But not having a morning ritual does more than start your day in a frenzy – it impacts how successfully you approach everything in your life.

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Stick to Your Morning Routine Can Make You Happier and Healthier

We’ve all heard the cliche expression, “the early bird gets the worm,” but we aren’t birds and we don’t want worms, so why rush around in the morning when we could be sleeping?

An interesting study showed that night owls are more prone to moodiness and addictive habits,[1] while those who rise with the sun are more alert and higher-functioning. This ultimately results in a healthier immune system and a generally positive outlook on life.

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Getting Up Early Can Reduce Your Stress Level

I don’t know about you, but if I can take any kind of steps to decrease my stress levels, sign me up! A University of London study showed that individuals who are up by 7 at the latest were not only at a lower risk of weight problems, but they were less stressed and depressed. In fact many of the individuals showed signs of easier weight loss.

I know sometimes I can wake up really grouchy, but if ultimately it means I could wake up smiling then I’m sure I can grin and bear it!

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When You Aren’t Distracted by Stress, Negative Emotions and Poor Health, You Are More Productive.

It’s pretty simple: when all you have to do is wake up earlier to lose weight, stress less, and feel generally better about your entire life, you have so much less to worry about when it comes to meeting those deadlines at work and staying on top of your social life. You may suddenly find yourself making plans for coffee with friends rather than a late night cocktail. You could even become a morning jogger, freeing up those evenings you usually spend at the gym.

Starting Your Morning Routine Can Be Hard at First

  • You might be a little grouchy at first. If you live alone, this may not be such a problem, but if you live with your spouse or a roommate, you may want to give them a heads up that you could wake up on the wrong side of the bed for a while.
  • You may not feel like you’re being productive at first. When you start getting up earlier, you may be dragging a bit. Though it may feel like you’re a zombie while brushing your teeth or feeding your pets, it will get better. You just have to keep it up!

How to Get Up Early and Become a Productive Person

Now that you know you want to become an early riser and see your life change for the better, you have to figure out how you want to do that. The following scenarios are ideas to help you kickstart a new routine while you find what works best for you. While it would be great to wake up early tomorrow and drive to the gym, let’s take some baby steps. First we need to get out of bed and put our feet on the ground.

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Hydrate, Eat, Breathe.

  • When you first wake up in the morning, you have to get out of the fasting mode your body enters during sleep. The best way to wake your body up is to drink a full glass of water. If you need to turn the coffee pot on, go ahead, but while it brews enjoy some ice water. This helps increase your energy while also telling your metabolism that it’s time to pay attention.[2]
  • Have a healthy breakfast! While it cooks, do a little stretching to work the kinks out of your muscles. Bringing oxygen to your muscles wakes your whole body up and let’s your mind know it’s time to stay alert.

Make a List, Catch Up on Current Events, Envision Your Day.

  • When you wake up, set aside just a little time to catch up on current events. Wake up your brain by engaging in the world around you through the news. We’re all connected to our phones, so it’s a safe bet you can just scroll to a news app while standing at your kitchen counter.
  • Make a list of the things you want to accomplish throughout the rest of the day. Start small. You don’t need to change the world before 8am, but if you want to get to work before 8 and make those copies before 9, write that down! As you go through the day, check off what you’ve accomplished. If you make it feel like a personal challenge, you’re more likely to increase those completed tasks day after day [3].

Don’t Roll Over and Check Your Phone Right Away.

  • Yes, this one thing is a habit all on its own. When you’re trying to wake up earlier and change your routine, the worst thing you can do is hit ‘stop’ on your phone alarm and then fall into the Facebook hole. Before you know it, you’ve been scrolling through your timeline for 45 minutes and the time you allowed yourself to get up earlier and be productive is totally gone. When your alarm goes off, roll over, turn it off and get up!

General Tips and Tricks

  • Get up at the same time every day, and try to go to bed around the same time, too. This helps your body develop a natural sleep pattern that can go a long way in becoming a morning person.[4]
  • Have something to look forward to. This can be anything from trying a new lunch spot later or just planning a really delicious breakfast. Find what works for you and get excited about it.
  • Be selfish about it. Remember that you’re waking up earlier to be less stressed and more zestful. Don’t get down on yourself if it takes a week or two to really get into the swing of things. You’ve probably been an over-sleeper for a long time. Give yourself time to break that habit.

Do you have other suggestions on how to be a morning person? We’d love to hear them! Be sure to share.

Reference

More by this author

Heather Poole

Technical writer

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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