For many of us, the morning doesn’t seem like it’s anything important. The time between your initial wakeup and your arrival to the office is usually a blur, and your routine has become so second-nature that you never think to change it.
Unfortunately, our morning tasks are much more significant than we’d like to admit, and our bad habits tend to accumulate over time. The morning sets a tone for how the rest of the day is going to go, and even a handful of small mistakes can take its toll on your productivity in the afternoon and beyond.
Take a look at these five common morning routine mistakes, and think critically about how you can change your mornings for the better:
1. Waking up to unpleasantness
Sometimes, waking up to an unpleasant noise or an unpleasant situation is unavoidable. But choosing the most annoying alarm noise on your phone isn’t the best decision — it’s going to make your first feeling of the day one of irritation or annoyance.
Similarly, don’t let yourself fall into a cycle of hitting snooze for five minutes only to hear the annoying sound again. When you wake up, wake up for good — even if it’s hard — and try to gently bring yourself out of sleep. Using some of your favorite music or going to bed early to nab some extra sleep are good tactics to make the awakening process easier.
2. Rushing through your routine
You’re more likely to have off days when you’re running late and you need to rush through your entire routine to make it to the office on time, but when that morning rush becomes a habit, it starts to have damaging consequences.
Flying through your routine gives your brain no time to decompress or prepare for the day. Instead, you’re stressing out over all the mini tasks you have to accomplish and how long it’s going to take you to get them done. If this sounds like you, try waking up a half hour earlier so you have more time to finish things in a reasonable timeframe.
3. Skipping breakfast
This is sometimes the result of rushing through your routine, but many people have given up on breakfast altogether. They view it as an unnecessary meal, or prefer to start the day with something non-nutritious, like a cup of coffee or tea. While coffee can perk you up, it’s not going to provide the nutrition you need for long-term energy.
Eat a hearty breakfast of fruit, complex carbohydrates and protein to keep yourself focused for a longer portion of the day. All it takes is an extra 15 minutes of preparation. If your routine can’t spare those 15 minutes, you probably have bigger problems than breakfast.
4. Throwing yourself into work
You wake up and one of the first things you do is check your email, make a call to one of your clients or start tackling a big problem from the day before. Does this sound like you?
It may seem like throwing yourself into work immediately is one of the most productive choices you can make — after all, you’re eliminating down time in favor of more direct working time. But doing so can actually harm your long-term productivity because you have no warm-up or cool-down period.
Take some time in the morning to meditate, exercise or do something you enjoy doing. This will “reset” your brain and allow you to better focus on your work when it’s time to actually start.
5. Putting off your difficult tasks
There’s always a major challenge on the docket, whether it’s a last-minute rush or a huge project that isn’t due for months. Whatever it is, you probably dread doing it, and when you get things started in the morning, the last thing you want to do is something challenging. But tackling your most challenging tasks early on in the day is actually beneficial. It leaves you feeling a sense of motivating accomplishment, and all your other tasks will seem easier by comparison.
Your mornings will never be perfect. You aren’t going to nail down a “perfect” routine that always goes right and always sets your day up for success, but you can mitigate the detrimental habits that tend to creep into your routine after years of repetition.
Don’t be discouraged if you encounter difficulty at first. Routines take consistency, discipline and time to change effectively, and introducing a sudden change to your routine may throw you off for the first few days. Stay committed to your target changes, and eventually, they’re going to pay off with greater productivity and a better mental attitude to start the day.
Read next: 8 Questions Successful People Ask Themselves
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