You might think the day doesn’t really start until you get to the office and your boss starts pestering you about some new assignment.
But the truth is that the way you spend every moment, starting from the second you open your eyes, matters a lot. In fact, there are plenty of easy early-morning habits that can set the tone for a productive, enjoyable rest of the day.
Here we have rounded up 10 ways to start off the day on the right foot.
You certainly don’t need to adopt all these habits right away — instead, you should figure out which of these routines work for you and get you psyched to seize the day ahead.
1. Wake up early
Read about the morning routine of any successful figure, and you’ll probably learn that the person wakes up with — or before — the sun.
In fact, when time-management expert Laura Vanderkam polled 20 executives, she found that 90% woke up before 6 a.m. on weekdays. Ouch.
Even if you’re not a C-suite exec, getting an early start could help you advance in your career. Recent research suggests that employees who get into the office early are perceived by their bosses as better performers than those who get in late — even if the early arrivers leave early, too.
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2. Stretch out
If your impulse when your alarm goes off is to curl up into a ball and hope it stops beeping, you’d be wise to change your routine.
According to Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, the first thing you should do when you wake up is stretch your body as wide as possible. Cuddy suggests that your body influences your mind, so making yourself physically big could potentially make you feel more powerful, more confident, and happier for the rest of the day.
3. Make your bed
Why make your bed if you’re just going to mess it up when you sleep in it later?
In his book “The Power of Habit,” journalist Charles Duhigg explains that making your bed is a “keystone habit” that can spark healthful, productive behaviors the rest of the day. In fact, Duhigg writes, people who consistently make their beds tend to have “a greater sense of well-being and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.”
Plus, it takes only a minute or two.
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Celebrities from NBA star Kobe Bryant to actor Jerry Seinfeld get up early to clear their minds through meditation.
“We get up freaking out about our day, so it’s a great way to settle the mind and gain perspective,” Nichtern says.
Nichtern recommends a four-step process for those learning to meditate:
1. Take your seat. Find a clear, comfortable, and quiet place where you can stay focused and alert.
2. Check in. Take about 30 seconds to think about what’s on your mind and just let it all sink in.
3. Mindfulness of breath. Don’t treat it as a breathing exercise, but use peaceful and deep breaths as the anchor to your meditation.
4. Awareness of thoughts. Focus on your thoughts, and when your mind gets lost, be sure to bring it back.
Tim Ferriss, investor and author of books including “The 4-Hour Workweek,” is one of many successful people who spend each morning jotting down their thoughts and emotions.
Ferriss says that it’s the process of writing, as opposed to the final product, that he finds helpful. Most important, it gets ideas and conflicts out of your head so they won’t distract you throughout the rest of the workday.
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For some of us, the thought of putting on pants before 9 a.m. is awful. The thought of bicycling before 9? Positively nightmarish.
And yet research suggests exercising in the morning can help us stay focused and productive. A 2013 study found that after 15 minutes of cycling, participants performed better on cognitive tasks than those who didn’t exercise.
Plus, you’ll be able to check exercise off your to-do list before personal and professional conflicts get in the way later in the day.
7. Eat breakfast
Business Insider’s Rachel Gillett spoke with registered dietitian Lisa DeFazio, who told her that your first meal of the day jump-starts your metabolism and replenishes blood-sugar levels so you can focus and be productive for the rest of the day. Otherwise, you could feel irritable and have a hard time concentrating.
DeFazio recommended some easy breakfasts that are perfect for the workday, including fiber-filled oatmeal and protein-packed smoothies.
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8. Visualize your day
In his second book, “Smarter Faster Better,” Duhigg suggests telling yourself stories about how the day will unfold.
He writes about researchers at MIT who studied the most productive people at a recruiting firm and found that they were “obsessive, in fact, about trying to explain the world to themselves and their colleagues as they went about their days.” For example, they might ask colleagues to help them imagine how a future conversation or a pitch meeting might go, so they were more prepared when the events actually happened.
Duhigg recommends making a habit of this strategy by spending your morning commute telling yourself a detailed story about the rest of the day.
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9. Conduct a planning session
Resist the urge to dive headfirst into your inbox and start your day instead with what psychologist Ron Friedman calls a “planning session.”
Writing in The Harvard Business Review, Friedman suggests asking yourself this question: “The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?”
Friedman says you’ll want to break each goal into a series of specific action items and then prioritize the most important.
That way, you’ll know exactly what you need to accomplish for the next few hours — and how to get there.
10. Do your most important work
Psychologists recently identified a phenomenon called “decision fatigue,” which explains why it’s helpful to do your most cognitively demanding work first thing in the morning.
Essentially, we have a limited supply of mental energy, and as we exhaust that energy by deciding what to wear and whether to have a salad or sandwich for lunch we have less left over for the important stuff, like drafting a project report.
It’s worth noting that the concept of decision fatigue may be more nuanced than we once believed. If you think your willpower is limited, than you’re likely to feel mentally exhausted at the end of the day. But if you think your willpower is limitless, you may feel ready to tackle any challenge that comes your way.