What is the best way to clear your mind in the morning to ensure a productive day?

Try these 5 ways to clear your mind in the morning (and 2 more to keep you focused the rest of the day):

TIP #1: Prep your brain for action.

Before you start anything new, get your brain on board with what you’re about to do. It helps you get motivated so that you can become fully absorbed in what’s in front of you. Here’s how:

  • Instead of approaching what you’re doing as a chore, turn it into a choice.Tell yourself, “This is something I really want to learn more about.” The benefits? It gives you a greater sense of control about what you’re doing.
  • Remind yourself of the value of your efforts with this question: “Why am I doing this?” Make the connection between what’s happening right now and the goals you have set for yourself. It can be to learn a new skill, research a topic you’re interested in, study for an exam so you can graduate and start your career, solve a particular problem you’re currently dealing with, etc.
  • Visualize what you’re about to do. This is a technique called building a mental model; you imagine in detail what you expect to see, learn, read, or do. As you imagine the details, be sure to cover all the steps you will be doing. For example, if you are researching something new, visualize covering a certain amount of material (chapters, paragraphs, sections), taking notes on important concepts, writing down questions to follow up on later. The benefit? By telling yourself a story, you train your brain to anticipate next steps and map out the entire learning process in a way that’s easier to understand.

TIP #2: Declutter your task list by answering this question: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?

  • Why this matters: it encourages you to think strategically and keeps you focused on your goals (both personal and professional), it forces you to prioritize, and it serves as a personal promise to yourself.
  • How you can incorporate it into your day: put it in writing. Write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. Read it out loud as you start your day, and come up with an answer on the spot. Then, as you go through the day, make sure you’re working on completing what you’ve identified as your one thing.

TIP #3: Calm your mind with prayer or meditation.

Before the busy part of the day begins, it is beneficial to find a few minutes of quiet time for cultivating your spirituality and for saying your prayers. Also, if you’d like to silence the chatter of your thoughts, try meditating. With an app called Headspace you can do a guided 10 minute meditation; 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.

TIP #4: Give your brain some oxygen.

To really wake your entire system 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.

TIP #5: Turn off all distractions.

Sometimes it’s hard to focus on what we are currently doing because our attention moves to little things we notice around us. Distractions can easily make you slip from your work. Multitasking is a great example: you’re reading email and constantly checking your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter feed. But did you know that multitasking can lower your IQ by 10 points? When you turn off what’s distracting you, you have a better chance to actually do what’s important to you. Here’s how:

  • Set your phone to Airplane mode when you need to focus.
  • Set expectations with others by letting them know you won’t be available in the next few hours, so they don’t interrupt you with their requests, questions or comments.
  • Check your email and social media apps only 2–3 times a day (around lunchtime, later in the afternoon, and evening).
  • Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news; leave these activities for later after you’ve completed what you need to do.

Here are 2 additional tips for clearing your mind later in the day to get more clarity and an added burst of energy:

TIP #6: Take a power nap.

To give your brain a chance to rest and absorb the new material you’ve covered during your work day, opt for a power nap in the afternoon, for about 30 minutes. Block away environmental noise with noise-cancelling headphones or a pair of soft silicone ear plugs, and listen to music that can help you relax (it can be classical music or sounds of nature).

TIP #7: Work out 4 hours after an intense study session.

Exercise is definitely important to boost memory, but timing of it is key. Scientists found that people who exercised four hours after their study session retained the information better a few days later than those who exercised either immediately after studying or those who didn’t exercise at all. Why is this important? Brain scans from the study show that exercising with a delay affects the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is important for learning and memory.

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