Establishing healthy morning habits can be an integral part of our individual formula for success. Each day is unique so the goal is to develop a script that’s not overly prescriptive.
Habit #1 – Wake Up 15 Minutes Earlier
When we’re constantly rushing in the morning, that anxiety follows us throughout the day, creating a drain on our mental game and overall productivity. An additional 15 minutes of “me time” or prep time can truly make a difference, although 15 minutes may not sound like much. Do some strength training before hopping in the shower, or meditate, pray, or practice a pitch you may have to do that day. Or use the time to pack a great healthy lunch for the kids while listening to an inspirational podcast. The key is avoiding the temptation to wake up with no time to spare in the mornings – you’ll be glad you did.
Habit #2 – Exercise Improves Productivity
Many high performers start their days with some form of exercise. The Harvard Business Review article “Regular Exercise is Part of Your Job” cites a list of the benefits, including improved concentration, sharper memory, prolonged mental stamina, enhanced creativity, faster learning and lowered stress. Whether your lifestyle supports a full morning workout or a quick 20 minute walk, research suggests that even moderate activity consistently executed yields measurable productivity benefits.
Habit #3 – Jot Down 2-3 Daily Priorities
Another benefit of infusing some sort of exercise into our daily routine is that it often spurs creative thought. My morning jogs often create space for my brain to remind me about something I forgot, shift my thinking about a conflict situation or spur creative ideas about how to address a problem. It’s important to develop a habit of identifying just a few key goals for the day. They might include sending an email to kickstart a task or project, carving out critical “think time” to focus on an important issue that’s gone neglected for too long or even making time to connect with someone you’ve been meaning to call for months. Avoid writing an overly ambitious laundry list of random tasks which might just leave you feeling unsuccessful and depleted at the end of the day. Instead, jot down a few key priorities to reinforce a sense of focus for the day. Defining those 2-3 daily goals in the morning encourages us to plan our days proactively (instead of reflexively responding to the first e-mail we see) and also encourages a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day when we actually achieve them.
Habit #4 – Practice Gratitude
There are many ways to practice gratitude – praying, repeating an inspirational message or sending a thank you e-mail. Incorporating gratitude into your morning routine can boost your mood for the entire day. “Science has shown that practicing gratitude promotes positive emotions, well-being and health, and it works to counter negativity bias,” says one expert. It can be in interaction with others (sending a note of appreciation) or on your own. Susan Hodgkinson, executive coach and author of The Dignity Mindset, says: “On Monday mornings, I send at least one thank you e-mail to a client, mentor, family member or colleague, which I find gets me in a great mood and a gratitude mindset for the rest of the week.”
When Every Day Counts
With unprecedented levels of unemployment and general stressors and anxiety around the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing racial tensions, most of us can’t afford to wander aimlessly through our days. There’s a looming sense that every day counts.
One of the best ways to make each day productive is developing healthy morning habits that set us up for success. If you’ve been racing through your mornings with the sense that you’re already behind before you open your first e-mail or say your first “good morning,” step back and rethink what mornings should look like.