How do I become a morning person?

Maybe you can approach this challenge with three steps.

STEP ONE. Ask.

Before you even contemplate practicing a new habit of waking up earlier and seizing the day, answer this question:

Why do you need to switch from being productive at nighttime to getting stuff done earlier in the day?

The reasons should be relevant to where you are in your life right now, and why you feel something needs to change. For example:

  • Is the switch necessary to achieve a personal or professional goal?
  • Are you looking to improve your fitness level and your health?
  • Do you feel you’re wasting a big chunk of daytime that you’d like to use differently?
  • Did you recently start a new job that requires you to be more alert and productive earlier in the day?

Be as honest with yourself as possible, and when you are sure you want to make the change, move on the the next step.

STEP TWO. Get some inspiration.

You want to switch something about your lifestyle so that you feel more productive in the morning. That means you will need to be awake earlier than you are used to. How do you get yourself to that point where it is sustainable?

I recommend listening to a podcast that will seriously get you to rethink the way you look at mornings. It’s called Achieve Your Goals and it’s hosted by Hal Elrod, the author of a book called The Miracle Morning. It is an in depth guide to structuring your mornings so that you can be more productive early in the day. Since following the podcast and reading the book, I have become a real fan, so much so that I started writing about my experiences with cultivating a morning routine (here is one post that describes it in more detail).

STEP THREE. Tips and hacks.

Here are some habits you can focus on that can help you become a better morning person:

Keep a gratitude journal. For five minutes each morning, write 3 things you are grateful for today: it can be something as simple as a roof over your head, food in the fridge, a warm bed, running water, a positive relationship with people you love the most, etc. Practicing gratitude about what we have going for us can restructure our brain to focus on positive things, which sets the tone for the rest of the day, and that directly impacts our productivity.

Always have breakfast. If you’re pressed for time, pick something simple that doesn’t require any cooking and that takes 5-10 minutes at most to put together. A breakfast gives you energy and it’s fuel for your brain. A great example is a combination of protein, fruits, and healthy fats (such as nuts): it can be oatmeal or yogurt with granola, fresh fruit, walnuts (an excellent brain booster) and almonds.

Try meditating. I found that meditating early in the day, even for 10 minutes, helps to “clean” my brain of any cluttered thoughts and prepare it for the day ahead. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. With an app called Headspace you can try a guided 10 minute meditation and once you complete 10 sessions you can move on to the next levels, at 15 and 20 minutes each, or you can stay with 10 minutes if that’s all the time you have.

Get moving. To really wake your entire body up, pick  any type of physical activity. It can be a session at the gym, or it can be something shorter and even more simple: a morning yoga routine, a set of hindu pushups, a 20-minute power walk or a brisk run before hitting the shower. The goal is to be consistent; smaller chunks of activity can give you energy, and you can always supplement them later in the day with another 30 minutes of walking during your lunch break or a workout later in the afternoon.

Do your deep work EARLY. This is work that requires a lot of concentration. Some scientists call this the brain’s peak performance time, and it’s roughly  2-4 hours after we wake up. So, for example, if you wake up at 6, your peak times are between 8 and 10  a.m. Instead of checking emails and your social media feed, block this time off for your analytical brain to perform the most complex tasks that require a lot of focus.

Dedicate your evening work to strategic thinking. This is typically the time of day when the brain slows down, doesn’t go at top speed to adhere to deadlines, so it has space for more creative thinking. If you are thinking of setting goals, strategizing where you want to be in 6 months’ time or a year with your personal development or career, this is the best time to write things down, plan them, and contemplate the big picture.

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