Dread. Panic. Unpreparedness.
These are all feelings you shouldn’t have — but very well could have — when you hear your morning alarm go off. And, if you’re starting your days without a set-in-stone routine, you’re bound to exacerbate any negativity surrounding your wake-ups each morning.
The positive side effects of having a morning routine are well-documented. Those who have gone from chaos to structure have found themselves much less fatigued in the morning. That’s because they don’t have to challenge their minds as soon as they hop out of bed: They know what they have to do, and in what order. They’ve got everything ready to grab before they walk out the front door, too.
By following a morning routine, you set your entire day on a productive track. Now, you can feel confident about accomplishing the items on your to-do list — after all, you’ve been doing so since you woke up. It’s the same reason why experts tell you to make your bed every day: Small accomplishments can inspire you to keep achieving until the day is over.
So, what are you waiting for? Here are the five best tips for creating a functional morning routine that’ll make you less stressed and more productive.
1. Find the Right Time to Wake Up
Creating a morning routine doesn’t mean you have to wake up at the crack of dawn, especially if early mornings aren’t your thing. Instead, find the right time for you to wake up so you aren’t overwhelmed by the hour as soon as your alarm goes off.
This tip holds especially true if you tend to be more productive at night. Pressuring yourself to wake up extra-early won’t serve you well if you’re a natural night owl. Even if you’re waking up a bit later than everyone else, your morning doesn’t have to be a throwaway, either. You can still find steps to follow in a routine so your day is just as productive as those with a 5 a.m. wake-up call.
2. Track How You Spend Your Time Now
How long does it take you to get dressed? Do your makeup? Pack your lunch? Shave your face? Knowing how much time you need is another key step in building a schedule. Be sure to set your alarm so you have enough minutes — or hours — to do everything you want before you have to walk out the door. Building in a comfortable, realistic commute time will be key here, too.
3. Decide What’s Most Important – and Do It in the Morning
Your morning routine doesn’t just include making breakfast, getting dressed and brewing your to-go cup of coffee. It includes the first tasks you take on in the earliest hours of your workday, too. Some experts believe your most productive time of day falls within two hours after you wake up, so setting yourself on a schedule as soon as you wake up gets you on track to tackle the day’s most important tasks within your highest productivity window.
4. Take It Slowly
It will take time and effort for your new morning routine to stick. Introduce one new habit or step at a time, and don’t add on until you’re 100 percent set with the latest modification. There’s differing research into how much time it takes to solidify a new habit: Some believe it’s 21 days, while others are adamant that a habit will be set in stone after 66 days. Either way, be patient and don’t expect to build a new set of habits overnight.
5. Be Willing to Bend
The schedule you set up now might not work a year from now. It’s up to you to recognize when your schedule is no longer working and switch things up. You can add the morning activities of the powerful and productive into your schedule to spice it up and spur you to go further. Things like exercising, sitting down for a full breakfast and avoiding emails until you reach the office are all things you can add to your morning routine. And, if anything stops working for you, it’s OK to swap it out for a new task that gets you going on the right foot.
Once you get the hang of your morning routine, extend it into the weekend to keep your good vibes going week in and week out. Before long, you won’t know your life without a solid schedule to follow every morning — and, because a routine can be so effective in stifling morning stress, you won’t want your days to start any other way.