How to Start Your Day
Managing Mornings When You're Not a "Morning Person"
The alarm rings with the sunrise, and you leap out of bed, shower and get dressed. Next, you brew the perfect mug of coffee before heading off to work with a spring in your step!
Sound familiar? Perhaps not. And you're not alone: many dedicated, conscientious people struggle to "get going" in the mornings.
Research shows that biology determines whether you're a "lark" or an "owl." A lark will wake up and fall sleep early, while an owl is an evening person who will peak later in the day. This is called your "chronotype."
There's not much you can do to change your chronotype, but you can manage it. In this article, we explore strategies that you can use to set yourself up for the day if you're more owl than lark.
Making Your Mornings Matter
This article is not about pandering to people who simply don't like mornings. Nor will it compensate for poor sleep. It offers practical tips and advice to those who are hard working, conscientious and productive team members – but whose biology means they are just not at their best early in the day.
One of the most effective ways to start your day is with a routine. Positive morning habits can help to reduce unnecessary stress that could tire you out before you've even started working.
Here are some ideas to help you develop routines that can turn even the most sluggish morning into a productive part of your day.
Establishing your ideal routine will likely be a process of trial and error, and not all days will yield the same results. Be patient, and look for ways to improve and refine.
Developing a Pre-Work Routine
You likely have the most control over your time in the hours before work. This time gives you the best opportunity to make positive changes and start your day right.
Get everything ready in advance. Preparation saves time and removes the stress of making choices in the morning. This is especially important for working parents whose mornings involve getting their kids ready for school.
Try picking your outfit, making your lunch, packing your bag, and laying out your keys or purse the night before. This can reduce time spent getting ready or frantically looking for things you need.
- Wake up at the same time every day. This can help your body to establish a natural routine. And if you wake early enough to get ready at a leisurely pace, that's even better!
- Eat breakfast. We all need energy to get through the day. If you're not a "morning person", you may require more energy. Have simple healthy breakfasts that you can make quickly, or choose good food that you can eat on the go.
- Listen to something. Commuting can be tiresome, but it's a good chance to stimulate your brain first thing in the morning. Silence will likely keep you feeling sleepy, so listen to invigorating music or your favorite podcasts, or the news.
- Get some fresh air. Don't worry, you don't need to go on a long stroll through the woods. Spending five minutes outside or getting off the bus early and walking the last few stops can do wonders for your mind and body.
Developing a Work Routine
One proven method that owls can use to help them through the working day is to match their routine with their chronotype. Many organizations have fixed working hours that favor early birds, but there are ways to adapt – even in the most regimented environments.
For example, you could:
Build up to important tasks. Try arriving at work 10 minutes earlier. This can give you time to get into a "work" mindset before you're expected to engage with co-workers or clients.
Next, make something. Whether it's a To-Do List or even just a hot drink, kick off your day by creating something from scratch to help get the creative cogs in your mind whirring.
Finally, as you wind up to your peak energy levels, stay productive by completing less intensive tasks. Perhaps you could book meetings, answer emails or complete any outstanding admin. Save your bigger or more important tasks for when your energy levels are highest.
Everybody is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. The key is to try a few different methods and see what has the most benefit.
- Take notes during meetings. Morning meetings can be difficult if you haven't "switched on" yet. Take notes to help you to focus. Similarly, you could ask to record conference calls so that you can revisit them later if you forget certain details.
- Plan routine tasks and activities. Preparing for tasks, or even automating them, can make your mornings easier. If you submit a report every Monday morning, could you prepare for it in advance, or use spreadsheet macros to simplify the process?
- Explore alternatives. Some organizations' processes or ways of working are done a certain way because that's how they've always been done
For early morning assignments, consider whether they do need to be done at that time. Discuss with your manager whether pushing it back until later in the day would disrupt other activities. But make sure that you're not impacting on other people's schedules just to suit your own.
- Catch up with your team. Connecting with your co-workers is a great way to tune into their energy and to give yourself a boost. Chances are, at least some of them will be larks!
If you're fortunate enough to set your own schedule – perhaps you're self-employed, or your organization offers flexible working – you could use these early periods to work on your professional development, or to do some research on industry trends.
These are all valuable but less energy-intensive uses of your time. This makes them perfect morning tasks if you normally peak later in the day.
It may be worthwhile telling your colleagues and manager that you're not a morning person. Explain that it is not a sign of disengagement, but a part of who you are. They may respond by scheduling tasks or meetings with you for later in the day.
Be careful not to use your chronotype as an excuse to "slack off." It's important to respect your natural rhythm, but remember that you have a responsibility to your employer to fulfill the requirements of your job.
Some people naturally have more energy later in the day. This can make mornings genuinely challenging.
Having a routine that works for you is essential. Start by choosing your outfit and packing your bags the night before. Wake at the same time every day, eat a good breakfast, listen to music or podcasts, and get some fresh air.
Get into work early to give yourself time to get into a working mindset before others arrive. Try automating routine tasks and respectfully querying long-standing processes. Alternatively, catch-up with colleagues, or work on low-energy tasks like admin or your To-Do List to start the day.
Consider telling colleagues that you're not a morning person, so that they know you're not being rude or disengaged.
This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!