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Published on January 13, 2020

30 Practical Ideas to Create Your Best Morning Routine

30 Practical Ideas to Create Your Best Morning Routine

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

This wise reflection by the American author Annie Dillard from her book The Writing Life is perhaps my most favourite (and most eloquently expressed) advice on life, motivation, being present in one’s own life and on success, that I have come across during my self-enhancement journey.

It is true—how we choreograph our days says a lot about the people we are and strive to become.

We can take this thought a bit further too:

How we spend our mornings is how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Agreed— life plays out differently for everyone and we all follow our own trajectories, have our own interests, preferences, personalities and circumstances. But there is barely anyone out there—from scientists to celebrities to personal coaches—who will ever tell you that what you do every morning is unrelated to the things you aspire as success, fulfilment, health and wellbeing.

It all matters, of course. So much, indeed, that to be able to get better at our lives, we have to first get better at how we spend the precious personal time we have at the start of each day, before we submerge ourselves in our hectic, often frustrating and highly- demanding everydays.

Here are some 30 practical ideas about how to charge your mornings with more positivity and excitement about what lies ahead in the day.

1. Do Not Wake up Earlier

In a wonderful post for Thrive Global,[1] Arianna Huffington talks about the recent obsession of the self-help industry with morning routines and how it’s gone a bit too far.

She makes an excellent point regarding giving our minds and bodies a chance to rest and recoup.

“Getting up at 4:30 or 5:30 or 6:30 a.m., without getting enough sleep, simply means that your body will automatically crave carbs and sugars during the day — and that you’ll be less productive and experience less joy throughout your day.”

Point taken.

2. Take Few Deep Breaths

Diaphragmic or belly breathing is a widely recognized relaxation and meditation technique.[2] It also strengthens the brain and improves attention span, according to science.[3]

So, go ahead, breathe stress away.

3. Say Your Thanks

Gratitude hardly needs further introduction. It’s been a well-established fact that it helps our mental and physical health.[4]

The most important thing it does is to help you focus on and appreciate what you have, on abundance, not on scarcity.

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In fact, there’re a lot you can be thankful for: 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

4. Reflect on the Day Ahead

Think about what you need to do today and plan how you are going to approach your to-do-list.

Reflection is important for other reasons too—it improves self-awareness provides perspective, allows you to respond, not react.

Regular practice will make you happier and more successful, we are told.

5. Visualize

Linked to the above, this is another helpful tool for thriving and prosperity—the practice has been popular among many accomplished individuals, from celebrities to entrepreneurs.

It’s simple enough—see yourself as the person you want to become and, over time, your behavior will adjust to bring you closer to this image.

Here’s How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

6. Impression Management

Spend a minute in the morning looking at the mirror. Do you see someone confident, happy, content?

Practice different posture, face expressions, gestures. What we say with our body language is more important than our words. Make it count.

7. Smile at Yourself in the Mirror

According to Darwin’s facial feedback hypothesis,[5]

“the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.”

What this simply means is that smiling can make you happy. Do it more often.

8. Do the Power Pose

Amy Cuddy’s ground-breaking idea has been favored by many as a way to boost courage, confidence and well-being.

Two minutes a day is all we need, she advises. Easy enough.

9. Stretch

It’s a great way to wake up your body and mind, to feel more refreshed and ready to face the day. Here are some helpful ideas for your morning exercise.

10. Drink Some Warm Water With Lemon

Lemon water will not only give you a boost of Vitamin C. It’s much more than that.

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It helps regulate weight, cleanse your body and improve digestion. It energizes you, especially if you are a morning-challenged individual.

11. Do or Think of Something That Makes You Happy

It may be as simple as having a good cup of coffee or tea. Or more advanced as purposely bringing to mind a funny or joyful memory. It’s an instant mood-changer.

12. Make a Healthy Breakfast

I don’t need to convince you in the advantages of having a balanced diet—and this starts from the mornings.

Respect your body, care for it, and it will be good to you too.

Check out these 31 Healthy Breakfast Recipes That Will Super Boost Your Energy.

13. Prime Yourself With Some Good Music

Research tells us that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.[6]

Choose something energetic in the morning that will lift you up and put you in a The-World-is-Mine mode. Some ideas for you: 30 Inspirational Songs that Keep You Motivated for Life

14. On the Way to Work, Listen to a Podcast

This is another priming technique to help you motivate yourself.

My favourite ones are The Tim Ferris Show, Happier by Gretchen Ruben and The Savvy Psychologist by Ellen Hendriksen.

Check out these 15 Really Good Podcasts to Keep You Motivated and Reach Your Goals.

15. Finish Your Morning Shower on the Cold Side

Nothing like a cold shower to become immediately awake and alert. But it gets better — it also boost s your mood, improves your immune system, enhances emotional resilience.[7]

It’s worth the pain, for sure.

16. No Emails Screening Until You Get to Work

The morning belongs to you and your wellness. Don’t overload your mind right away, give yourself some Me-time.

Your emails are not going anywhere, trust me. They will be patiently waiting for you at the office.

And if we are to believe the media, many successful leaders embrace the ‘no-email’ rule in the mornings, so seems to be the right move.

17. Take a Minute to Marvel at Something

It may be the sunrise, blooming flowers or birds chirping, the light reflecting in a window, or the colours of the season. Whatever it is, use the power of Awe[8] –it’s one of the greatest mood and motivational boosters.

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18. Think of 3 Things That You Will Do Today, and Make Sure You Do Them

Following through and successfully completing tasks creates a success track record, which in turn lifts your self-assurance and general wellbeing.

19. Give Your Loved Ones a Hug

Hugging, research tells us, is a great way to boost your immune system, heart health, can make you happier, fearless and boost your self-esteem.[9] The simple act can serve as a powerful morning uplift.

Take a look at the 7 Ways Hugging Makes You Healthier and Happier.

20. Think of a One-Word Description

It’s a lovely idea:[10]

“In only one word, think about or write down how you feel about the day ahead, where you are in your life right now, or what you need to hear. Put that word somewhere where it’ll be visible during the day.”

21. Fire up Your Brain

Do a crossword to alleviate your anticipatory anxiety of what lies in the day ahead. It will also help sharpen the brain cells and get you into a thinking state of mind.[11]

22. Make Your Bed

This simple enough task can serve as a powerful spark of your energy and productivity.[12]

It’s not the chore itself that will make you get more done at work, but creating the habit, which can lead to more good habits, leading to a better overall efficiency.

23. Think of One Thing You Could Do Today If You Were Not Afraid (And Do It)

To paraphrase the famous moto, which is favoured by Sheryl Sandberg, fear often stops us from going after what we want.

Challenging yourself daily can help you build up the courage to become who you want to be.

24. Eat a Live Frog

First thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.[13]

The famed technique developed by the author and speaker Brian Tracy simply means “Do your biggest tasks first.” When you start with a big item (a project/frog), the rest of your day looks pretty great by comparison.

25. Dress Simply

Many famous leaders have spoken in favor of wearing the same or similar variations of clothes every day. Remember Steve Job’s famous black turtlenecks? Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg are fans too.

Simplifying your wardrobe saves time and can free up some mental energy.[14]

So, choose elegant and clean lines for your clothes. There are better ways to get noticed than wearing ten blingy bracelets on one hand. Really!

26. Think about Failure

At first thought, this may not be the best way to charge with energy and positivity in the morning. But again, it’s about facing your fears, accepting that not every endeavour has a happy ending,[15] and that is perfectly okay: 6 Reasons It’s Okay To Fail

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Imagining failing is a great way to come up with a remedial plan too and strengthen your mind.

27. Walk Your Dog or Just Go for a Walk

Walking in nature changes your brains, says research. A wonderful piece in the New York Times explains that a visit to a green space helps quiet your mind, quells anxiety and promotes mental health.[16] We certainly have a winner here.

28. Read

It may be on your commute to work or by dedicating some time before your leave your house but, reading the news or a self-enhancement book will help you build knowledge and expand your horizons.

Take it from the Greats. Warren Buffet, for instance, spends 80% of his time during the day reading.[17]

While not everyone has this luxury of time, even 10-15 minutes in the morning can still be beneficial.

29. Meditate

Meditation has so many benefits, so it is truly a no-brainer that it should be part of our morning routines.

I know, it’s lack of time again that often gets in the way of best intentions. But here is the thing—you don’t need to do it at home, in a separate room, listening to the sounds-of-the-sea music. I usually do it on the bus to work.

With practice, you can learn to shut out the world around you.

Take a look at this guide for meditation: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

30. Think of One Good Deed That You Can Do Today

Give some money to a homeless person, help a co-worker, volunteer. Whatever it is, it’s important that we are not only grateful for what we have going in our own lives, but give back too, help others.

Every little thing counts.

Summing It All Up

Often, our days are busy and hectic and may turn out completely different than the paths we’ve mapped out.

But nevertheless, it’s important that we do have a plan on how we want to spend our waking hours, and our lives respectively. After all, no one wants to live in a hamster wheel, endlessly spinning without direction, am I right?

Building a purpose starts with a quiet mind and a healthy body. And a good discipline starts from our morning routines.

To be able to thrive in our intense world and to face each day with the best we’ve got, we must first learn to properly care for ourselves.

Arianna Huffington’s favourite quote sums it up beautifully:

“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”

More About Morning Routines

Featured photo credit: Julia Caesar via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Evelyn Marinoff

A wellness advocate who writes about the psychology behind confidence, happiness and well-being.

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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

It’s 6:00 am. You have just woken up and are ready to take a shower. After the showering, it’s time to eat breakfast, catch the news by reading the morning paper, and then start your work.

You are feeling wonderful, relaxed, and happy. You have very high expectations for the day and you want to be as productive as possible.

Fast forward to 2 pm the same day. You are working in a rush and you barely had a chance to take a lunch break.

You start to feel a bit stressed and tired because of the busy schedule. Besides, it seems that you have to go back to certain tasks and fix them, because you didn’t have time to focus on them properly.

The day which started so fine has turned into a stressful one. You just jump from one task to another – as quickly as possible – without doing anything properly.

You wish you’d find a reset button, so that you could start your day from all over – with a different strategy.

What you probably experienced was this: you planned your day the night before and you felt you were on top of your tasks.

However, things started to go wrong when you kept adding tasks after each other to your list and finally your task list was many miles long. Your to do list also contained tasks which were pretty much impossible to get done in one day.

The other point which contributed to your hectic and stressful day was not understanding how much time completing a particular task would take and when to execute the task. If you had this information, it would have been easier to figure out the right timing for executing the task.

Finally, there really wasn’t any flexibility in your plans. You forgot to add a buffer between tasks and understand that certain tasks are much larger than what they seem outside.

But you know what – these reasons alone weren’t the main reason for your stress and busyness …

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What People Are Wrong About a To-Do List

Do you really know what you are supposed to do?

How much time did you actually spent on planning your day – was it just 5 minutes while the television set was distracting you?

If so, then this was probably the biggest reason why your day became so stressful.

When you plan your days, you should truly understand the tasks you are about to do – and what it takes to accomplish them. This is necessary especially with important tasks, because you are able to make progress with the tasks that matter the most.

The lack of time spent on planning will also be shown as too many big tasks stuffed to your daily list. If you haven’t broken down the task into smaller pieces, it’s probable that you are not going to get them done during the day. This in turn makes you to beat yourself for not completing your task list.

Finally, don’t treat creating a task list just like some secondary thing that you try to do as quickly as possible. In fact, when you pay more attention to your next day’s task list, the more likely is the list going to be realistic and less stressful for you.

Components of a Good To-Do List

When I talk about a good task list, I consider these characteristics to be part of it:

Balanced

The task list contains both important and less important tasks. Let’s face it: although we all would like to work on just important tasks ( e.g. goal related ones), we have to take care of the less important tasks as well (like running errands, taking care of your household or other everyday stuff).

Enough Flexibility

What happens when you have planned a task, but you are unable to take care of it? Do you have a plan B in place? If not, try to figure out the alternative action you can take in these scenarios.

Time for Transitions

Understand that transition times also eat your time. Make sure that when you plan your task list, this time is also included in your plans. Adding some extra buffer between tasks will make your list more flexible and realistic.

Not Too Many Tasks for One Day

Giving you an exact figure on how many tasks you should have on your daily list is difficult. It depends on your situation. But I’m willing to say that anything between 5-10 tasks should be enough for a day.

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Understand that certain tasks are very quick to take care of, so it’s easier to include more tasks on certain days. Just make sure that there are also important tasks on the list so that you are able to move on with your bigger projects.

Shield of Protection

Build a shield of protection around your task list, so that as few tasks as possible can land to your list and that the number of items on your list won’t increase during the day.

In the first case, try to eliminate the sources for your tasks. This is done by reducing your commitments and limiting the projects you have. The fact is that the more commitments (or projects) you have, the more likely they are going to end up as tasks for your daily list.

In the second case, make your list a closed one. I learned this concept by reading Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management by Mark Forster. In order to create a closed task list, all you have to do is to draw a line under the last task on the list. When you have done this, you are not allowed to add any new tasks to your list during the day. This ensures that the number of tasks is actually decreasing as the day goes on.

How to Create a To-Do List That Boosts Your Productivity

To make a list that you can actually accomplish the next day, do the following:

1. Eliminate the Tasks

Go through your commitments and decide if you really need each one.

For instance, I was an active member of our local computer club in my hometown, but then I realized that I don’t have enough time for that activity anymore. Although I’m still a member of the club, I don’t participate in its activities anymore. This has eliminated the tasks related to that commitment.

2. Take Your Time to Plan the List

Don’t rush creating your task list – spend some time on the planning phase. If required, “isolate yourself” for the planning part by going to a separate room in your home (or even going outside your home). This way, you can actually think the tasks thorough before you enter them onto your list.

Try to spend at least 15 minutes with your list when you plan it.

3. Move Important Tasks to the Beginning

When planning your day, make sure that the important tasks are at the beginning of your list. This ensures that you get those tasks done as quickly as possible.

For instance, as a blogger, I make sure I have the content creation tasks at the beginning of my list. As soon as I wake up, I attack those tasks immediately and they get done before I go to work.

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4. Track the Recurring Tasks

You might have recurring tasks on your list, but do you know how much time they take to accomplish?

If you don’t, make sure you do some time tracking to figure it out. This helps you to plan your day better, as you know how much time a task takes and if there is a certain time slot in your daily schedule, when the task could be executed.

5. Batch Similar Tasks

Look at your list and find out if there are similar tasks that you can batch-process. This way, you can get certain tasks off your list faster and easier.

6. Define the Tasks in More Detail

Don’t just include a task like “build a website” on your list; make sure you have broken the task to smaller pieces. The smaller the tasks are, the easier it is to take accomplish them.

7. Do Some Prep Work in Advance

Make sure that you prepare for certain tasks in advance.

For instance, I write the outlines for my guests post on Sundays, so that it’s easier (and faster) for me to start writing the actual posts when I wake up. With a little bit of prep work, I speed things up and make sure tasks get done when the right day comes.

8. Automate the Maintenance

Naturally, you could use a pen and paper approach to your task list, but try to take advantage of technology too. In fact, try to find a tool that takes care of the maintenance of your task list for you. My preferred tool is Nozbe, but there are other task management applications that you can try too.

9. Know Your Task Types and Your Schedule

Finally, when you plan your day, ask yourself these questions:

What else do I have on the schedule?

This question refers to your personal schedule. For instance, if you are traveling, make sure that your list reflects to this fact. Don’t try to “overstuff” your list with too many tasks, since it’s more likely you get only a fraction of them done.

Is the task a gatekeeper?

This question asks if the task is blocking other tasks to be executed.

Every once in a while, we might have a task, which has to be taken care of first. After you have done that, only then you can take care of the sequential tasks.

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When you focus on creating your task list in a focused manner, you’ll be able to spot the gatekeepers easily.

Do I have icebergs on my list?

This question asks if your task is actually much bigger than what it seems. Sometimes when you start working on a task, you’ll soon realize that it’s much bigger than what you initially thought (compare them to icebergs, where only the tip of the iceberg is above the sea level, but the majority of the ice is below the water).

Once again, when you focus enough on your task list during the creation phase, it’s easier to spot these “icebergs” and split the tasks into smaller, much more manageable chunks.

Is the task distraction-proof?

This final question asks if the task is distraction-proof. Not all the tasks are created equal: some tolerate more distraction, while others require your full attention.

For instance, I can check my Twitter stream or do simple blog maintenance even when I’m around my family. These tasks are distraction-proof and I can take care of them – even if I don’t have my full attention on them.

The Bottom Line

If you still have a hard time of achieving your daily tasks, make sure that you analyze the reasons why this happened. If anything, do not beat yourself up for not finishing your task list.

No one is perfect and we can learn from our mistakes.

It takes a bit practice to create a “smiling” task list. However, once you learn to put all the pieces together, things are going to look much better!

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Featured photo credit: Jacqueline Kelly via unsplash.com

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