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The Ultimate Guide To Your Most Productive Morning Ever

The Ultimate Guide To Your Most Productive Morning Ever

There’s something magical about the morning hours. This quiet, calm time of the day is unrivaled. In fact, the morning time is so unrivaled that it’s the only time of day in which thousands of articles and hundreds of books are written about every year. Benjamin Franklin said one of the most quoted phrases in history about the morning time:

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

We’ve all heard that before. So, what’s so special about mornings? Why do so many successful people give the early morning so much credit? I’m going to tell you.

This guide is going to empower you with everything you need to wake up early, be unbelievably productive and even help you understand why you should wake up early. Let’s get started.

1. Why Be a Morning Person?

morning person productive

    “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” — Jim Rohn

    Your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. That’s great news, because you can control your mornings. You can use them to achieve your goals and accomplish some pretty amazing things. However, we all know that a bad start to your day can bring the rest of your day down with it.

    Being a morning person doesn’t mean you have to be disgustingly cheerful from the moment you pop out from under the covers. It simply means that you start your day on purpose, as opposed to only waking up because you have to be somewhere.

    Why are mornings so great? Here are a few reasons:

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    • Peace and quiet. If you live with someone, especially young children, you may have a hard time finding a quiet place to do anything. Waking up before everyone else will give you the peace and quiet you need.
    • Your time. You need time to yourself. For yourself. Waking up early is a great way to make that time happen. Many successful people spend the first hours of each day alone, to reflect, think, meditate and grow.
    • Your happiness. Morning people are generally happier than evening people. One study showed that morning people are less likely to be depressed than people who prefer evenings to do their work.
    • Accomplishing goals. Morning people are more likely to set and achieve goals. Waking up earlier allows you to plan for the day, which means you can plan to make progress towards all of your goals.

    It’s simple. If you wake up earlier, you’re more prepared. You’re not going to be rushed like you may be if you wake up just in time to be somewhere. If you’re used to over sleeping, you can add several hours to your day just by waking up earlier.

    That’s all great to hear and it sounds wonderful, but what if you have a hard time dragging yourself out of bed each morning? I thought you might ask that. Now you know the why, here’s the how…

    2. How to Actually Wake Up

    how to wake up early

      I used to sleep until noon everyday. It didn’t matter if I went to bed early or not. Eventually, I stopped being a complete loser (not that waking up late makes you a loser, but I was definitely a lazy loser) and got a job that required me to start waking up around 8:00 am.

      Once I decided to start controlling my mornings, I began waking up earlier. I started by waking up at 7:00 am, and over the years I have started waking up earlier and earlier. Now I wake up at 4:00 am. Yes, the world is in motion at 4:00 am.

      This wasn’t something that just happened. It was completely intentional. It had to be. It would have been impossible for me, a former noon-sleeper, to start waking up at 4:00 by some stroke of luck.  Here’s what I did and what you can do to actually get out of bed each morning:

      1. Make a gradual change. Like anything else, if you start this in full force tomorrow by waking up five hours earlier than you usually do, you’re going to fail. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Start by waking up 15 minutes earlier than normal. Then wake up 15 minutes earlier than that every few days. Slowly adopt this new habit.
      2. Find your reward. Think of something you would really look forward to. It could be a steaming cup of coffee or tea. It could be a large breakfast. It could even be an early morning walk. Find something that motivates you and look forward to it every morning.
      3. Start with your passion. What’s your passion? Reading? Writing? Working out? As humans, we are most disciplined in the things we are most passionate about. Start your day with something you’re passionate about and you’ll be much more likely to get up and do it.
      4. Move your alarm clock. Once you’re out of bed, you’re less likely to go back to sleep. Move your alarm clock to a shelf across the room. This is a great way to make sure you get out of bed. Once you’re up, stay up. And wake up to a pleasant sound, not an ear-shattering beep.
      5. Wake up at the same time. If you go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day, you’ll condition your body to naturally be tired and wake up at those times. If this doesn’t work with the hours at your job, try to stay on a schedule as much as possible.
      6. Use natural light. Since you’re reading this, you probably prefer waking up before the natural light of the sun is shinning through your window, but you can find a natural light alarm clock that will do the trick. Natural light helps your body to naturally feel awake.
      7. Understand sleep cycles. One sleep cycle is about 90 minutes, so plan to sleep for a number of hours that’s a multiple of 90. For most adults, 7.5 or 9 hours is a good goal to strive for. Worst case scenario, sleep for at least 6 hours. If you wake up just before your alarm, go ahead and get up; your sleep cycle is over. You can always try the Sleep Cycle alarm clock. It monitors your heart rate and attempts to wake you up once your sleep cycle is over.
      8. Get moving. You don’t have to head to your local CrossFit box or run a marathon, but get your blood pumping as soon as your get out of bed. A quick walk or a few minutes of jumping jacks will do the trick. Just do something that wakes your body up physically.
      9. Change your mindset. If you dread mornings, change your mindset. Start looking forward to them and all the productivity they bring. I know it’s possible to shift your mindset, because I am a self-made morning person. It wasn’t natural at first, but now it is.

      It’s important to figure out what works for you and do it. Whatever it takes to get out of bed, it’s worth it. Don’t go off how you feel. It’s likely that you’ll feel a little groggy at first, but once you get up, even just 10 minutes earlier, you’ll feel much better.

      Sometimes my morning self seems to think my night self is cruel for setting the alarm so early, but a few minutes after I’m out of bed, my morning self is thankful for my responsible night self.

      If you’re still having a hard time rolling out of bed, you may just need a little will power. When you wake up in the morning and you don’t feel like getting up, consider these 4 tips from Leo Babauta for what to do when you “don’t feel like it”:

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      1. It’s on my plan, I gotta do it.
      2. Past Me said to do it, and Future Me will thank me, so let’s do it.
      3. Once I start, I’ll be glad I did. I just have to take the first small step.
      4. I don’t need to decide on this, or think about it. It’s already decided.

      If all of that somehow fails you, you can always try acupuncture to wake yourself up. Or perhaps a cold shower?

      3. Your Productive Morning

      guide productive morning

        Start your morning on purpose, at a specific time. And for God’s sake stop hitting the snooze button. That extra nine minutes can be quite productive if you’re awake and it won’t help you feel better. If anything, it will make you even more tired and groggy than you were the first time the alarm went off.

        Just get up. Get out of your bed. If you really want to go back to bed, promise yourself a nap later in the day. Even better, try a coffee nap later on. They’re better than coffee or naps alone.

        One of the most important factors to waking up early is getting enough sleep. Let’s talk about sleep for a minute…

        4. How to Get Better Sleep

        how to get better sleep

          “When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, ‘Did you sleep good?’ I said ‘No, I made a few mistakes.'” -Steven Wright

          If you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, your not going to have a very productive morning. Here are some tips for getting better sleep:

          1. Avoid caffeine and alcohol within the last eight hours of your day.
          2. Get a high quality mattress and pillow. They make a difference.
          3. Make sure the temperature is at a comfortable setting for you.
          4. Avoid heavy meals at night. They decrease sleep quality.
          5. Avoid “blue light” during the last few hours before bed.
          6. Use visualizations when going to sleep. They are quite effective.
          7. Use sleep technologies, such as black out curtains and sleep monitors.
          8. Exercise regularly. Studies have shown that people who do, sleep better.

          Now that you know how to sleep, let’s move on to morning time. For many, a morning isn’t complete without a cup of coffee. Should caffeine be part of your morning routine? Perhaps, but you should use caffeine strategically.

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          5. How to Effectively Use Caffeine

          caffeine mornings

            Caffeine can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If you have ever had a caffeine withdrawal headache, you know what I mean about the latter. There are highly effective, healthy ways to use caffeine, but first, I have a challenge for you.

            If you consume caffeine on a daily basis, try completely cutting it out for a couple weeks. At least one week. This will allow your body to reset your tolerance to caffeine, thus making it more effective when you start using it again. It is a drug after all.

            Once you have cut the caffeine and are ready to add it back to your life (oh caffeine, how sweet thou art), try some of the following ideas:

            1. Drink coffee or tea over a longer period of time. This will release the caffeine more steadily, over a longer period, which will help sustain your energy levels instead of spiking and crashing.
            2. Drink water first, before the coffee. Hydrating your body can increase your energy and you may not even need the coffee. Or you can instead use caffeine later in the day when you start to lose energy.
            3. Don’t go back to drinking coffee daily (switch to decaf if you must). Use caffeine when you need it. It will be much more effective to only use caffeine when you have a big job to do or when you need an extra boost.
            4. Don’t be so quick to grab a second cup of coffee or tea. You may not need it, or it may be more effective to save it for later. Give the caffeine time to start working. Wait before you make the quick decision to grab another cup.
            5. Eat before your coffee. Consuming caffeine on an empty stomach can be a bad thing. I admit that I like taking caffeine on an empty stomach when I really want to get a boost and it is very effective for that, but don’t make it a habit. Here’s why:

            “Drinking coffee on an empty stomach, such as first thing in the morning, stimulates hydrochloric acid production. This can be a problem because HCl should only be produced to digest meals. If your body has to make HCl more often in response to regular cups of coffee, it may have difficulty producing enough to deal with a large meal.” Source.

            6. Create Your Perfect Morning

            morning rituals

              “Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.” -Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

              You will wake up about 25,000 mornings in your adult life. Make them count. There are many ways to start your day each morning. You will be most productive if you have a ritual.

              I use the word ritual, because “routine” usually creates a negative, boring, mundane picture. I define a ritual as “an activity or group of activities, practiced daily, that leads you toward your goals.” Doesn’t that sound a lot better than some boring routine?

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              To maximize your productivity, you need a plan. Here’s how to create your plan that creates your perfect morning:

              Plan the night before.  It only takes 10 minutes to plan your morning if you do it the night before. If you wait until morning, you may still be a little groggy. Not having a plan for your morning can be enough to motivate you right back to sleep. When you wake up, you should know exactly what you need to do.

              7. Creating Your Morning Ritual

              productive morning ritual

                “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” -Steve Jobs

                What should be included in your morning ritual? Steve Jobs started his day with a question and then preceded to spend time with his kids and help them finish up any homework they had left. That was part of his morning ritual. Here are 12 ideas of what to include in your morning ritual:

                1. Affirmations. Affirmations are a highly common way to start the day. The process is simple: remind yourself of everything you have and everything you have done and can do. Write these down and read them to yourself each day. There is power in writing these down and even more power in speaking them out loud.
                2. Breakfast. Unless you’re an intermittent faster, you probably eat breakfast most mornings. You’ve just went many hours without eating (break-fast). Eating a healthy breakfast can not only calm your appetite, it can give you plenty of energy, if you do it right.  Stick to high-energy foods like vegetables, fruit and smoothies. Protein foods are good too. Stay away from heavy grains that will make you feel tired and sluggish.
                3. Exercise. Exercise gives you energy. Often we have a false sense that, when we are tired, we need more sleep. That may not be the issue. You need exercise to increase your energy levels. This goes together with eating a healthy diet. Both are important to increase your energy.
                4. Family. As I mentioned above, Steve Jobs spent the mornings with his kids. Wake them up a little earlier for some early morning family time or spend some quiet time with your spouse before the kids get out of bed.
                5. Gratitude. Start your day by being thankful. We all have many things to be thankful for. Even if you’re an extreme pessimist, you can find something. The things we have, the things we’ve accomplished. Even the ability to breathe and wake up each day is something to be thankful for.
                6. Meditation.  Many people swear by meditation, while others still think it’s some form of voodoo.  This doesn’t have to be spiritual (though it can be).  Meditation can be as simple as sitting in silence and focusing on one thing, such as your breathe, for a certain amount of time.
                7. Prayer. If you’re not spiritual or religious at all, this could just be a time of silence, like I mentioned above. But if you do have someone or something to pray to, it’s a great way to start the day. Connecting with your spiritual senses first thing in the morning will set a positive course for your day.
                8. Reading. Read something positive. A good book, non-fiction or fiction. A spiritual book. Whatever you like. But positive books are going to lead to a more positive day.  There’s no better way to begin your day than growing and learning.
                9. Silence. Starting your day with complete silence is a great way to set a relaxed mood for your entire day. It could be just a few minutes, but early morning silence has a huge positive impact on your entire day.
                10. Visualizations. This is becoming more popular everyday. You can use visualizations in different ways. The traditional way is to visualize yourself having already achieved the goal your striving for. The more modern way has you visualize yourself doing the action it takes to reach your goals, such as writing like a madman or running as fast as you can. I prefer the modern form, but it’s your ritual. Your call.
                11. Water. If you don’t include any of the other ideas, include this one. Drinking a liter of water, or at least a full glass, will boost energy levels and hydrate your dehydrated body. You probably don’t drink water in your sleep, so you just went several hours without the most important thing your body needs. Drink water, first thing.
                12. Writing. If you’re a writer, this is a no-brainer for you. If you’re not a writer, you may think this doesn’t apply to you. It does. Even if you’re not writing a book, article or blog post, simply buy a journal and start scribing. You can write about yesterday or just record your thoughts. You will grow to love this habit.

                There are many ways to start your day and create your ritual. You can find an entire plan, like the Miracle Morning, or you can create your own. Either way, create a ritual so you’ll know exactly what you plan to do each day. It’s also important to do what you do best. You may be highly creative in the mornings. If that’s the case, create something!  If you’re mind doesn’t work too well before 10:00, you may want to stick with more trivial tasks. Either way can be productive as long as you do what you do best, at the right time.

                You’re responsible for creating your morning and waking up on purpose. You’ve got to find your “why.”  Figure out why you want to wake up early and what you want to accomplish.

                “Every morning I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.” -Robert Orben

                Your goal may be to earn more money. It could be to become filthy rich. Or you may want a closer relationship with your family or your God. You may simply want to grow as a person by becoming more fit or learning something new each day.

                There are thousands of reasons to get up each morning. You’ve got to find your reason. Once you find it, do everything in your power to make it happen. You’ve got thousands of mornings left. Make them count.

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                Kalen Bruce

                Military, Writer

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                Last Updated on April 19, 2021

                The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

                The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

                Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

                The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

                Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

                In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

                When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

                Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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                1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

                When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

                As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

                That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

                The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

                What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

                Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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                There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

                So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

                2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

                When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

                No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

                3. Move Your Body

                A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

                It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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                So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

                4. Connect With Another Person

                Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

                One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

                Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

                5. Use Your Imagination

                When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

                That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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                And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

                Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

                Final Thoughts

                Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

                Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

                More on the Importance of Taking a Break

                Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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