Are you a snooze button type of person? Photo via Bigstock

How often does your morning live up to expectations?

If you’re like me, you go to bed at night expecting great things and great progress by 10:00 a.m. Unfortunately, three snooze buttons later, with two different shades of blue socks on, the gym bag forgotten at home, rushing to your first meeting and already behind – those great intentions all of a sudden become “most mornings.”

We all have mornings like this (some better, some worse). But there are things you can do (including the night before and the morning of) to mitigate if not eliminate the typical causes of unproductive mornings. Because when you’re able to start the day right – feeling strong, energetic and productive – it impacts your productivity and success the entire rest of the day.

1. Write your top five and “1 of five” the night before

When you leave work, you probably already know what your top priorities are for tomorrow. And even if you keep working a bit at home or after dinner, you can clearly go to bed having already “laid out” your top five priorities and your “one of five” priority for tomorrow. Unless you’re in customer service, system administration or PR, it’s unlikely that an overnight emergency is going to derail that priority list from the night before.

It’s important that you’re very clear about what that “one of five” thing is, too. We all know how easily the rest of your workday can disintegrate into fire drills and distractions. So what’s the one (and only one) thing that absolutely has to get done? Separate that one out, and get it done first (more on that later).

2. Pack up as much as possible before you go to bed

This includes having your laptop bag back in one piece, having a gym bag ready, lunch prepared and packed up if you’re taking it with you, etc. Good intentions of doing this in the morning will always make you feel more rushed. If possible, put this stuff in your car the night before too so it’s ready to go. Worst case, think of this night-before preparation as a “hedge” against other things going wrong in the morning. So you hit the snooze button once…or twice. Or your kids throw a fit and take longer than usual to get ready. Even when these things happen, other prep work you’ve done in advance makes it easier to absorb these.

3. Wake up 30 minutes earlier

Whatever time you usually get up, start setting your alarm at least 30 minutes earlier. It might be mildly painful at first, but you’ll get used to it and have that much more time to get rolling. Sometimes the hardest part about this earlier alarm is simply getting your ass out of bed, and feet on the floor. Which leads me to the next tip…

4. Put your alarm clock across the room

Photo: Alan Cleaver

Or course, there’s an alarm clock on the market now that posts to your Facebook account if you dare hit the snooze button, or fail to turn the alarm off after 10-15 seconds. But that’s just rude. Instead, set your alarm and put on the other side of your bedroom. Force yourself to get up and walk over to turn it of.

If you really want to get up at that time, the simple act of getting upright and taking a few steps will help get your blood pumping, and make it easier to head to your coffee pot instead of back to bed (And speaking of coffee, set your pot to automatically start making coffee for you at exactly the same time as your alarm goes off. Nice, little extra motivation when you can hear, and smell, that coffee waiting for you downstairs).

5. Keep your smart phone in another room

Pretty sure this will be the most controversial tip on this list. I know most of us sleep with our phones on the bedside table. And it’s one of the first things we look at in the morning. Maybe that’s still important to you, and worth continuing. But I bet whatever urgent-but-not-important email you respond to, or thread you engage in, isn’t as important as the top five list you built the night before. And engaging in those emails right now will inevitably disrupt the rest of the rhythm and morning routine that will help you be more productive with those emails (which will wait for you, by the way) and more important priorities.

6. Eat a better breakfast

Smoothie time. Ken Hawkins photo

The two best things you can do for yourself in the morning, physically, is to exercise and eat a really good breakfast. If a workout isn’t part of your morning routine, fine. But commit to a good breakfast. Not energy bars. Not Pop Tarts. Mornings are the best time of the day to indulge in carbohydrates (since you have the rest of the day to burn them), and also a great time to have some protein to help sustain you through the morning hours. A couple eggs, toast made with fresh bread…money.

7. Read for 15-20 minutes

I’m not talking about reading email. Read the Wall Street Journal, for example, to see what’s going on in the world. You’ll likely find an article or two to share with others (make a note for these later so you’re not tempted to crack open your email if you don’t yet want to). Mornings are a great time to scan the LinkedIn home page for updates from your network too. You’ll likely be too busy to give this a thorough review later in the day, so now’s a good time to find updates from those you haven’t spoken with in awhile, who are worth following up with now.

8. Spend time with your family

I always regret the mornings when my nose is already buried in my laptop and I’m less attentive to my family around me. I miss those little moments with my kids, for example, that can really motivate and sustain me through the rest of the day. And it only takes a few minutes of dedicated, “in the moment” time to feed you, your spouse, your kids and other family members (yes, dogs too).

9. Do your “one of five” before checking email (or maybe even Twitter!)

Cheat a little on this if you have to. I expect most people reading this will find it nearly impossible to not check email until, say, 9:00 in the morning. So if nothing else, ensure that (as many days as possible) your schedule is free until at least 9:00 or 9:30 so that you can dig in on and ideally finish that “one of five” early in the day, before you get sucked into everything else.

Because after your great new morning habits and getting your most important task done early, think how great you’ll feel about the rest of the day.

Matt Heinz is president of Heinz Marketing, a Redmond-based sales & marketing firm. You can connect with Matt via emailTwitterLinkedIn or his blog. He writes occasionally on GeekWire under the column Productivity Porn. Previous columns…An introduction to productivity porn: How to be lazy, productive & successful… 15 New Year Resolutions for Entrepreneurs.… Productivity Porn: 7 tricks for beating procrastinationAlarm clock photo via Bigstock.

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Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/lawlam Lawrence Lam

    My smartphone *is* my alarm clock, so I put my smartphone on the other side of the room

  • http://twitter.com/dakliegg Donovan Kliegg

    Wow! That sounds like a quick trip to an early grave.

    Here is a practice I learned by studying under Taoist matters. When you wake up in the morning ask yourself the one thing you want to do that that day. Don’t over think it, you already have that base covered. Whatever that thing is, plan on doing it that day.That way no matter how cluttered you brain gets with trivialities and chaff that light post of clarity will remain.

    Do this practice  and I promise that soon everything you do will be in harmony with the Tao.  You will live an untroubled, blissful, and very powerful life.

    I also recommend destroying the alarm clock, they are of the devil ya know.

  • Lena Scott

    These are some very good reminders. Very simple to follow as well, but sometimes it is not easy to change ingrained habits. I have crafted a schedule which follows the above guidelines, but was reminded of the importance of prep the night before. :) Thank you!

  • Barefoot Guy

    My smart phone is also my alarm clock – I keep it under my pillow but end up smothering it so not to wake my wife – so I end up falling back to sleep anyway. At least I don’t have to worry about the mismatched socks since I never wear socks – or shoes for that matter!

  • Michael

    I would like to do it since the better morning will lead me to better thing.

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