Are you one of those agents who always say: “I am definitely not a morning person?” Do you “burn the candle” at both ends and always finding yourself dragging throughout most of the day? Do you find it hard to focus on important tasks, especially around 2PM? Do you pound that snooze button every morning in an attempt to squeeze out a few more minutes of shut-eye?
If you’re like many people, you’ve answered yes to one or more (or maybe all) of these questions. Surely you’ve heard the 17th century English proverb: “The early bird catches the worm.” The author of this proverb obviously knew a thing or two about the link between early preparation and success. In this context, we look at “early” as being the kind of early associated with first thing in the morning.
If you are not a morning person today, perhaps you should re-calibrate your lifestyle to become one. There is extensive research on the value of creating an early morning routine. Much of the research points to the fact that your first, waking 2-3 hours can be the most productive of your entire day.
If you don’t currently have a morning strategy, here are 5 steps you can today that will transform your life:
- Start your mornings the night before. You may not be a morning person because you insist on staying up and may even believe that you are producing good work during these late hours. But the simple truth is, your cognitive capacity fades as bedtime approaches, so you might be kidding yourself about the quality of the work you think you’re producing. Get into the habit of crawling into bed early. Before you do, create your to-do list for the next day. Be prepared when you wake up. And NO electronics in bed; they can disrupt your sleep waves. Oh, and NO reading work documents or reports. Shut work down at least three ours prior to getting to bed.
- Don’t hit the snooze button. The snooze button is not your friend. Avoid it at all costs. We become used to the extra 3-5 minute reprieve from starting our day. But you will benefit much more by forcing yourself to jump out of bed, splash some water on your face and start focusing on the day ahead.
- Create a morning ritual. We are creatures of habit. Develop simple rituals for your initial awake hours. Drink at least 16 ounces of water to counteract your natural morning dehydration. Take a few minutes to sit quietly in meditation or prayer or whatever works for you to quiet your mind and center you. Perhaps you can take a few minutes to read something spiritual or uplifting, again, to center and quiet the mind. Morning exercise has been shown to increase energy and production for the day. But you may not be the kind of person who can get to the gym so early. If that’s the case, a few pushups, sit-ups and dips can get your blood pumping and move you into the rest of the day.
- Send important emails. Once you’ve completed your morning ritual, take time to review your to-do list from the night before and also handle your initial email work. Research by YesWire shows that 45% of emails sent between 6-7AM and around 8AM elicit a response. You don’t need to spend too much time on email, just enough to share important information.
- Focus on your most important work. Use the early morning time to work on to-do projects requiring the greatest amount of cognitive ability. This could be drafting a proposal or writing a presentation. In a recent article in Inc. Magazine, Dan Ariely, Duke University Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics suggested that we focus too much of our morning time on trivial matters. “One of the saddest mistakes in time management is the propensity of people to spend the two most productive hours of the day on things that don’t require high cognitive capacity,” he said. “If we could salvage those precious hours, most of us would be much more successful in accomplishing what we truly want.”
Are you maximizing your early morning cognitive capacity?