The Unusual Morning Routines That Set Successful Founders Apart
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
I’m a morning person. When I wake up early, I am far more productive than I am when I rush through the early hours.
Just because I like to get up early doesn’t mean I’ve always had productive mornings, though. On the contrary, it took me several years of trial and error before I figured out the most effective ways to maximize my time.
If you want to get more from your mornings, afternoons and evenings, use these tips and tricks to start every day on the right foot:
Wake up once.
Timothy Morgenthaler, Mayo Clinic professor and sleep expert, is a prominent opponent of the snooze button. According to him, most people would get more rest if they set a single alarm and learned to wake up once.
Don’t respond well to noisy alarm clocks? Consider using a light therapy alarm clock to simulate the sunrise. Not only will this save your eardrums, but you’ll start every day with a pleasant, gradual shift into wakefulness instead of a sudden shock into consciousness.
Don’t work through breakfast.
Movies and commercials glorify the hardworking American who grabs a waffle on the way out the door. Ignore the stereotype and take time to sit down and enjoy your breakfast. Leave your phone in your pocket for 15 minutes to savor that waffle, talk to your family and exist in the moment before you start thinking about all the work to come.
Go all-or-nothing on office arrival time.
Commit to arrive at the office at the same time as everyone else or arrive at least two hours before. That might sound like overkill, but when you arrive at 7 a.m., you will hit your stride just in time for others to show up and disrupt it. If you want to get work done early, either do it from home or show up at the office long before anyone else.
Tackle the hardest thing first.
Many people like to start the day with easy wins. I disagree. In my experience, it’s better to start the morning by tackling my hardest project. That way, I can handle the inevitable complications that arrive and finish my work before other unexpected hurdles rear their heads later in the day.
Less talk, more focus.
Mornings are supposed to be the time for greetings, coffee and conversation about the night before. Unfortunately, idle chatter in the early hours usually translates into stressful afternoons. Avoid scheduling any meetings for the morning so you can spend your most productive hours on actual work.
Keep your weekend schedule tight.
When I committed to waking up at 5 a.m. every day, my weekends changed radically. I stopped staying out until the wee hours and started going to bed long before midnight. That caused my social schedule to shift, but rather than force me into becoming a homebody, that change made it easier to work during the week and play on the weekends. I could relax in the evenings without fear that I hadn’t done enough.
For the first few months to make sure this would happen, I had to block out time on my office calendar to make sure this happened. This ensures that even my wife knew not to schedule things later.
Your phone should sleep while you sleep.
Sounds silly, but it needs to be said: Sleep.com reports that 71 percent of people fall asleep with their phone within arm’s reach on the nightstand, in the bed or in their hands.
By staying connected to technology until your last waking moments, you limit your ability to get a good night of sleep, tanking your morning in the process. Set the phone across the room and lean on your new light therapy alarm clock to get up.
Move your body.
I like to exercise in the morning for a variety of reasons. It helps me focus, keeps me healthy and assists with the transition from sleeping to waking. Even if you don’t go for a jog, though, make it a point to move around for the first hour or so you’re awake. Read the news and drink a coffee while you stroll around the living room. Create an extra walk from your office to fill your water bottle or use the restroom.
Write down thoughts, not tasks.
Morning to-do lists are useful in certain circumstances, but they’ve become overrated. Use your evenings to write to-do lists so you can go to bed with your next day planned. In the morning, use your writing time to journal your thoughts and sketch out ideas.
You can handle your tasks when it’s time to work -- until then, let the creative juices flow. You never know which idea will turn into a successful business venture.
Ignore everyone else’s habits and do your own thing.
This might sound counterintuitive in an advice article, but it’s good advice nonetheless. All the tips I’ve provided are supported by science and experience, but just because something works for most people doesn’t mean it will work for you. Maybe you like loud alarm clocks in the morning. Maybe you prefer to exercise over lunch and enjoy creating your to-do list over breakfast.
Do what works for you, but don’t mistake comfort for effectiveness. Just because you’re used to spending your mornings a certain way doesn’t mean you might not be more productive with a different routine. Pick a few of these new habits and try them out for 30 days. Keep the ones that work for you, adjust the ones that don’t and start getting more from your mornings.