The Morning Routine - Tips to prepare, focus and increase productivity

Author: Leigh
One of the most underestimated elements of our daily lives is in how we manage our mornings. I've spent the past eight months fine-tuning my morning schedule. Typically, I try to avoid routines at every opportunity and they can easily get stagnant, restrict flexibility and allow us to function on auto-pilot rather than making clear, conscious decisions. I have learnt to appreciate the morning routine as being beneficial – so my every move up until around 10am is now setup for maximum productivity, after which I resort back to working on instinct. Getting this morning routine right will allow you to get the most out of each and every day.

The first step is to find your ‘optimal sleeping period'. That is to say, the time of sleep after which you function most productively. Only after experimenting with this did I realise that the suggested 8 hours sleep is simply too much for me, I now find myself much more awake and motivated after just 5/6 hours per night. You may need more, you may need less – but make sure you take the conscious steps to discover your optimal sleeping period and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
Start your day as early as possible. I find that 5am is the best time for me as it allows me to get certain things done before others are awake, such as exercising, eating, reading and writing. Whatever time is best for you, make sure that you try to keep it consistent. The body clock is a powerful thing and you will be best served to adjust the time you go to bed rather than the time you wake up at. If you only get 80% of your ‘optimal sleeping period' because of work/personal commitments, so be it, but stick to getting up at the same time.
It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom - Aristotle
Make sure you know what you want to achieve by the end of the day. You will ideally have a plan made the evening before so it is just a case of working through your essential tasks and moving towards your long-term goals afterwards. Don't get too bogged down with allocating vague times for mundane tasks such as reading email, eating or unnecessary meetings.  The morning will likely be the time at which you work hardest and produce the best results, so make sure you take this into account when planning your day.

Getting started
Find a morning schedule that makes you feel grounded, clears your head and inspires you for the day ahead. Get up instantly after your alarm goes off – this is a hugely important habit to form and you should be sure to void hitting the ‘snooze' button. If your natural instinct is to hit snooze, you should ask yourself why. Either you are not allocating yourself enough sleep or you are not looking forward to the day ahead and should be sure to change your routine/job/whatever it is that is making you feel this way. Your daily tasks should provoke enough passion, excitement and enthusiasm that you almost welcome the sound of your morning alarm.
When you're up, make sure the first thing you do is leave the room and focus on avoiding any urge to go back to sleep or watch TV. Feel free to try this routine I use - head straight for the kitchen sink, pour a large glass of water with ice, stand still and just focus on breathing and drinking. Not only is rehydrating yourself important in the morning, but this will also give you a bit of time to come to life. Leave the thinking until after you've washed and changed. Now is the time to get your head straight and make yourself feel comfortable, at peace and stimulated for the day ahead.
Make sure you eat well. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and this cannot be taken too lightly. I would suggest that you eat whatever makes you happy, gives you energy and gets you started for the day ahead. Remember this is much less destructive than eating too much in the evenings as there is plenty of time to get rid of these calories throughout the day. There are many detrimental effects to not eating properly at the start of the day, so be sure to at least eat something to keep you fit and healthy before your next meal.
Try not to read your email before 11am. (Include Facebook, Twitter etc in this). Checking email has become a catalyst for procrastinating and can cause your mind to lead off onto a number of various tangents. You will find checking email becomes a much quicker process when you get to 11am and you are in full stride. Try to tick off at least 50% of your daily workload for that day before checking your email. By that time, you will be in a much better position to adjust your day to cater for the additional tasks contained in your emails, having already completed the majority of your work for the day.

You should be looking to ensure your morning routine remains highly effective. Don't be afraid to consistently track, review and streamline your morning routine as your priorities inevitably change week by week. Find a way to cut down the time taken for each task as much as possible. Is it quicker to prepare breakfasts, iron clothes or read your blogs in the evening or maybe even once a week on a Sunday? Is there a certain time of the morning during which you are best able to complete a certain task? I can highly recommend taking a 30 minute run within one hour of getting up.
Most important of all, when you have woken up and are prepared for what lies ahead… Seize the moment!!
"The moment when you first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful of the twenty-four hours.  No matter how weary or dreary you may feel, you possess the certainty that, during the day that lies before you, absolutely anything may happen" – Monica Baldwin
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About the Author
My name is Leigh and I am the author of a blog entitled 'Live Consciously'. I post regularly on subjects including minimalism, productivity, lifestyle design, time-management, travelling and achieving the work/life balance.