Do you feel stressed during the day? Always feel like you're rushing around playing catch-up? The culprit may not be your day. It may be your morning.
The tone we set for ourselves in the morning sets the tone for the rest of our day. If you start your day feeling rushed and unsettled, chances are you're going to feel the same way when you get to work and throughout the rest of the day. So anything you can do to start your day on a calm, happy, and stress-free note is well worth the effort
... and it does take effort.
Productive people are not effortlessly productive; it requires planning, commitment, and excellent time management. The good news is that what works for them can work for you. Here are five of the most commonly used strategies for highly productive people who want to get the most out of their mornings and set the tone for a calm, productive mind-set to get them through their hectic days.
1. Plan ahead. Prepare for your day the night before. Unless you're single, this doesn't necessarily mean preparing only for yourself. In addition to picking out your clothes and organizing/packing everything you'll need for the next day, you also should plan as much as possible for those you take care of. If you have children, help them get their things together the night before as well. Not only will this make for a less frantic morning, it will teach the kids good habits that will help them as they grow. If you or they take lunch to work or school, make as much of it as you can the night before, or if your children are old enough, have them do it (see #5). Get home work backpacked and school projects put together/ready to go before going to bed. Some people even get breakfast started the night before, such as making overnight crock pot oatmeal or putting together protein shake ingredients in a blender the night before and refrigerating. The more you take care of before you go to bed, the less you'll have to do in the morning.
2. Get your blood flowing. Most experts recommend a morning exercise routine. However, a structured work-out program is not everyone's cup of tea nor is it the only way to get your blood flowing and your mind ready for the challenges of the day. If you're not the work-out type, take your dog (or yourself if you don't have a dog) on a brisk walk around the neighborhood. The fresh air and sunlight will stimulate hormones that will lift your mood and give you energy throughout the day. If walking isn't your thing, try turning on some up-beat tunes and shake it up as you're dressing or making breakfast.
3. Eat. The best way to start your day is by fueling your mind and body with a healthy breakfast. We don't expect our cars to run on empty. Why would we expect our bodies to do it?
4. Don't let technology derail you. In the tech-frenzied world that we live in today, it's rare to find someone who doesn't wake up and immediately (or almost immediately) check their gadgets for messages. Unless your job requires this, my advice is to resist the pull. It's very easy to get derailed by emails and text messages, which will lead to unnecessary rushing to get out the door on time. Getting out the door late sets off an entire series of bad situations, including speeding (dangerous) and arriving late to work (stressful), so why set yourself up for that? Check your work email at work and your personal email on breaks. Rarely does something so urgent happen during the night that you have to know about it first thing in the morning (and if the message is that urgent, it wouldn't be sent electronically anyway).
5. Delegate. High-achievers tend to be poor delegators because they usually can do what needs to be done better and faster than others. However, not everything needs to be done better or faster. Does it really matter if your bed or your child's bed isn't made perfectly? Of course not, so delegate this task to your children or your partner. Many time-consuming household chores can be delegated the night before or in the morning, so that you have time to do the things that require your involvement.
By developing a calm, productive pre-game routine to start your day, you give yourself the best chance of having the same kind of day. Here's to a great morning!
© 2013 Sherrie Bourg Carter, All Rights Reserved
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Sherrie Bourg Carter is the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout
(Prometheus Books, 2011).