There is a lot of advice online about being more productive and time management apps are popping up by the day. This is because more people than ever are facing sleep deprivation and often insomnia, due to the ease of access to communication tools and technology. Sleep is one of the most important things in our lives as it can increase our learning speed, helps us remember more information, and allow us to be happier individuals in general.
But… the biggest bottleneck that few of us attempt to improve is our morning habits. If you want to become more productive and effective during your day, then you need to optimize your morning habits. How we structure and spend the first few hours of each day will determine how the rest of our day will play out, and how effective we can be in our lives.
Luckily, there are simple and easy-to-implement habits that you can do today to increase your productivity for the day, and for the rest of your life.
1. Wake up next to sunlight
Studies have shown that those lacking sleep and suffering from insomnia is mostly due to artificial light confusing our internal clocks. When a group of individuals suffering from sleep deprivation went on a camping trip without exposure to artificial light or alarm clocks, their sleep inertia rapidly disappeared within days.
The conclusion from researchers was that the best way to fall sleep sleep and improve the quality of your sleep is to be next to natural sunlight, which is also helpful for waking up in the morning naturally.
There’s a lot of advice online on how to approach meditation, and it can seem overwhelming to someone who’s never experienced it. The truth is: there’s no one way to meditate. Everyone has a different approach.
While the methods of meditation vary, the benefits are clear. Meditation reduces our anxiety levels, increases our productivity, and even improves our memories. Studies have shown that after a 20-minute meditation session, our brains are more focused and less distracted, which allows us to remove multi-tasking, achieve our goals for the day faster, and become a top performer.
3. Automate your decisions
We only have so much willpower in a typical day. In order to effectively use our willpower towards the tasks that matter, it’s better to minimize the number of decisions we make in the morning. Most of us go through the same routines in the morning, but there are always routines we can automate.
Can you picking out your outfit before bedtime, eat the same breakfast each morning, waking up earlier to avoid route changes, and more? This may seem boring at first, but you’ll be surprised how morning automation can provide you the flexibility to be more productive and spontaneous throughout the rest of your day.
4. The “One Thing”
According to Gary Keller, the author of The One Thing, the best way to prioritize our never ending to-do lists is to pick “the Domino Effect”. The Domino Effect is when a task that you complete or an action you take, will make everything else on your list easier to complete or even unnecessary.
For example, if your goal is to learn Spanish before travelling to South America this year, is it worth paying a $1,000 to go to a language school for 3 months to learn everything about the language? Or is it better to focus your time, energy, and money on learning the common Spanish phrases you’ll use with a native speaking professional teacher from South America for less than $150? The second is the right choice.
Take a look at your to-do list. How necessary or important are each of the tasks in achieving your end goals? Then pick only one from the list that will create a Domino Effect for you, and block out time on your calendar to achieve it.
5. Do the hardest thing first
As we mentioned before, most human beings (unless you’re Elon Musk), have a limited amount of willpower, creativity, and energy in a day. This study done on the human brain shows that our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for creativity, is the most active when we wake up. This explains why creatives, such as writers or designers, do their best work early in the morning upon waking up.
If this is true, then we must organize our morning schedule to do the hardest, if not the most creative task first thing in the morning. This allows us to most effectively use our brain capabilities and free up brain space to complete tasks that require less creativity or willpower throughout the rest of the day, such as editing, sending emails, phone calls, etc.
6. Prepare the night before
While this is a post about morning habits, how we spend our night has a massive impact on our productivity the following day. The biggest impact is preparation. Before you head off to bed, take 15-20 minutes to pick your most important tasks and schedule them in your calendar. The reason why scheduling is so important is because you can manage for time and how long a single task will take, which is very difficult to do on a typical to-do list.
7. Hot and Cold Hydrotherapy
Although not common in North America, Cold and Hot Hydrotherapy is enjoyed not only as a luxury in Finland, but a necessity. Several studies show that hot and cold hydrotherapy has multiple benefits for our health, including reduced stress, stronger immune system, increased ability to burn fat, and even fighting depression.
The method is rather simple. Simply shower and wash yourself the way you would normally in normal temperature water. Then, crank the nozzle to the coldest possible temperature and wait for 30 seconds. From there, crank the nozzle to the hottest possible temperature you can handle and hold for 30 seconds. And lastly, go back to cold temperature, and hold for 30 seconds.
Fair warning: if you’re not used to shocking your body in the morning, this may be a difficult approach to adopt at first, but it becomes easier and easier over repetition, like most things. This wakes you up quickly and effectively.