“Every morning, I wake up saying, I’m still alive, a miracle. And so I keep on pushing.” – Jim Carrey
“Every morning we are born again” – The Buddha
Ahh mornings. Whether you spring out of bed with some pep in your step, or hide under the covers for dear life – there’s no denying it, the sun has risen and it’s time to get up.
Having a peaceful night’s sleep and a good morning routine, almost go hand in hand when it comes to preparing for a productive day.
But why is sleep so important? The Case for a Good Night’s Rest
We’ve all heard that we need anywhere between 6-8 hours of sleep (it varies depending on your age and weight), but why is this so important? What happens when we shut down and how does this affect us?
Firstly, not getting enough sleep essentially “dumbs us down.” It reduces our emotional intelligence and constructive thinking skills and in the workplace, its effects can be seen in reduced efficiency and productivity, errors, and accidents.
Indeed, research shows our cognitive functions are impaired, so we are more likely to overreact. Our emotional intelligence is degraded, so we are more likely to be irritable–and there’s even research connecting sleep deprivation to mental health problems and depression.
Secondly, during the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “categorizing” memories in the mind. In the movie “Inside Out”, sleep is presented as a time for moving the day’s new memories into long-term storage. During this active time in the brain, our memories become solidified and whatever you learnt during the day, gets entrenched. That’s why our dreams include snippets of the days’ events, only distorted and with the addition of outlandish and sometimes bizarre elements.
(Further Reading: Inside Out’s Take on the Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Perspective)
Thirdly, it’s simply not good for you body, hormonal regulation, and growth. What’s the point of eating healthy, taking all those CrossFit classes, but not getting in enough sleep to maximize the rewards? Science has linked poor sleep with all kinds of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system.
Here are 5 Pro tips on how to develop a good morning routine from highly successful people:
1. Try to wake up usually at around the same time
Whether you want to wake up at 4:30 am or 7 am, consistency is key. The best way to transform a task into a daily habit is to just keep doing it.
Circadian rhythms are the cycles in the body that fluctuate over a 24-hour period. If we wake up at the same time every day, we can reinforce the circadian rhythm and be prompted to go to sleep at the same time every night. This is such an important topic that the Nobel Prize was recently granted for research on circadian biology and its implications for our health and wellbeing.
Over time, if you remain on the same schedule, your body’s clock will become so precise that you will occasionally wake up up a few minutes or even seconds before your alarm is set to go off.
2. Stretch – even if you it do while you’re still in bed
After you’ve slept in one position for several hours during the night, the blood in your body may settle. By luxuriating in a good morning stretch, you literally get the juices flowing again.
Stretching helps to massage fluid gently back into the normal position so you start feeling revitalized and refreshed, which allows you to awaken faster.
3. Avoid screen time for at least 10 minutes
Open up the blinds and (hopefully) enjoy some natural sunlight.
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” – Helen Keller
Let’s face it, sunlight on your face just feels good. Start with natural light, instead of the artificial glare from your phone. Yes, you may have to look at it to check the time, but delay checking your emails and other notifications for even just 10 minutes. Instead, take this time to set an intention for your day, think of something you’re grateful for and to just be still. Trust me, your tweets and emails will still be there waiting for you, all 200 and counting.
Why is it important to enjoy some natural light? Studies show that early-morning sunlight helps you sleep better at night. Light tells the brain to wake up and it sets the body’s natural Circadian clock into motion.
Get out for an early morning walk. Position your desk by an east-facing window. Look for simple ways to soak up the sunlight. While you’re at it, delay looking at your phone. It can enhance your day—and may also improve your night’s rest.
4. Make all the big decisions for the day ASAP
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” ― Francis of Assisi
Let’s face it, we have limited self-control. That’s why, your first work of the day should be something meaningful and important, a task that might take a lot of focus, will, and determination to accomplish.
The quiet hours of the morning can be the ideal time to focus on an important work project without being interrupted.
Behavioral scientist Dan Ariely says the two hours after we become fully awake are, potentially, our most productive.
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day,” Mark Twain infamously said. What he meant is that if if cross off the hardest activity off your To-Do list first, the rest will be a breeze.
5. Prepare for the your day the night before
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Have a list you keep handy, either on your phone or a notebook next to your bed, where you can jot down key tasks you want to accomplish the following day.
Time blocking is also a great way to set up your daily/weekly schedule in advance. This is when you dedicate a certain amount of time to a task or project every day and you block off your time to other people, projects and distractions. Essentially, this makes it easier for you to say “NO” because you’re on a schedule.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Georgetown University professor Cal Newport believes this structure helps you stay the course and get more work done.
“This follows because it allows you to schedule work for the time where it makes the most sense—batching together small things, tackling hard things when you have the long stretches to make progress, and so on. The other advantage is that it provides you more accurate feedback on how much free time you actually have most days and how long certain recurring tasks actually take,” he says.
Time blocking helps you stay focused when notifications and alerts are pulling you in a million and one directions.
All in all, it’s the little steps you take that will make a big difference. Good luck and remember…
~ Persist and Grow Forth ~
Know any other great tips on how to establish a good morning routine ? I’d love to hear them, share it in the comments below.