Most mornings by 7:30 a.m., I’m lucky to have finally won the battle with my “snooze” button. After rolling out of bed, I waste time checking my Instagram and choosing what to wear, often racing out the door a few minutes behind schedule. On mornings like this, I start my day feeling frazzled, lethargic or absentminded. In my rush to complete an hour’s worth of preparation in 20 minutes, I have probably forgotten my lunch, my plans for that evening and maybe even my purse or cell phone.
By the time I arrive at work, it’s no wonder I’m already feeling behind.
Your average morning may not look exactly like mine, but if it follows a similar pattern, it’s no wonder we often start our days feeling stressed, unfocused and tired. What’s the secret to gaining greater control of your day and having improved energy and focus from the get-go?
The lives of successful executives, public officials, athletes and many others have shown that developing the habit of rising early can be the key to a productive, goal-driven day. While waking up before the sun isn’t intuitive, people who rise early are able to accomplish tasks that may otherwise be crowded out by distractions, work or family responsibilities later in the day.
Here are 10 things many successful people do in the early morning hours to get a head start on their days:
The benefits of exercise are no secret, and most successful early risers’ routines include some form of exercise. If exercising in the morning seems like a daunting task, know you’re not alone; however, running, going to the gym, practicing yoga or even just doing sit-ups next to your bed will help boost your mood, improve your fitness and give you added energy throughout the day. In addition, research shows that people who exercise in the mornings tend to be more consistent in their efforts to live an active lifestyle.
2. Quiet time
Whatever your spiritual beliefs or practices are, take time each morning to pray, meditate and be still. Each day is filled with constant distractions: phone calls, emails, texts, social media, TV, family and work demands, etc. Taking time for quiet meditation or prayer in the early morning hours is proven to increase focus, reduce stress and prevent common health ailments.
3. Plan and set goals
Planning, scheduling and setting short and long-term goals are habits of most successful early risers. By taking a few minutes each morning to review your schedule, your to-do list and your goals, you’ll be able to stay on track to accomplish your most important tasks, priorities and dreams. Benjamin Franklin, known for his dedication to self-improvement, is said to have reflected each morning: “What good shall I do this day?”
4. Tackle big projects
Science shows our willpower and discipline is strongest in the morning. Plan to take on your most important, complicated or dreaded project first thing in the morning when your focus is sharpest and your determination is robust. Imagine the feeling of accomplishment you’ll enjoy the rest of the day, knowing you’ve already completed the monster on your to-do list!
5. Stay informed
Many successful people say they couple early morning exercise and quiet time with reading newspapers, magazines or blogs to stay informed. It can be difficult to keep up with national, world and industry news, but setting aside time each morning to update yourself on current events will allow you to join in on discussions at work or with family, helping you develop professionally.
6. Read and learn
Successful people don’t just read the news. They also read fiction, religious texts, psychology, poetry and more. Successful people are always learning, and reading in the early morning hours will allow for a pattern of lifelong learning while avoiding distractions that might draw your attention away from reading later in the day. The morning hours are also a great time to learn new fields and subjects by taking an online class or studying.
Imagine if you had a few moments away from the constant distractions of work, email, Twitter or Instagram? Choose to disengage from email or social media in the early morning hours to take advantage of undisturbed quiet time. This will help you focus on whatever your morning priorities may be — reading, spending time with family or exercising.
8. Nurture family relationships
Happy and successful families eat meals together, but if family dinner is next to impossible between piano lessons, soccer practice and work, why not try developing the habit of family breakfast? While not for everyone, having a relaxing, fun breakfast with your spouse and children can be an appropriate substitute to family dinner that will help nurture family relationships. If breakfast isn’t a possibility, try substituting morning TV time with reading or creative play time with children.
9. Think of others
Want to be happier, healthier and wealthier? Spend a few minutes each morning thinking about others. It might sound backwards, but research shows that people who serve and volunteer are happier than those who don’t. So who might need your help today? Who would benefit from a phone call or a text message from you? Who may need some encouragement? Taking time in the mornings to think about others and plan action steps to help others can mean the world to those within your circle of influence, and it will help make you a happier person.
10. Maintain consistency
There is no right morning schedule for everyone. Successful individuals prioritize what they would like to accomplish and experience in the morning. Then they make a plan and track their progress. The perfect morning routine won’t happen overnight, but with discipline, evaluation and consistency, you can make the most of productive early morning hours.
If developing a morning routine is difficult for you, you’re not alone. Even former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, known for rising at 4:30 a.m. to exercise before managing the country’s foreign affairs, said, “I’m not on automation, I don’t wake up every morning thinking, ‘Oh yeah, let’s go!’ I have to push myself.” Our challenge for you? Just break that snooze button habit! Commit to setting goals and taking action to make your mornings more productive, enjoyable and energizing.