5 Hacks to Increase Your Productivity in the Morning

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🖊 This article was last updated on August 22, 2022

Productivity is probably not the first word that comes to mind as soon as you wake up in the morning. You’re tired and exhausted, hardly in shape to get down to work. We wake ourselves up with a mix of coffee, breakfast, and a commute to work.

The problem is that for many people, being productive in the morning is hard. They waste the first few hours doing mindless tasks like checking their email and having small talk with their coworkers.

To avoid wasting your morning hours and boost your productivity, turn to these five productivity and time management hacks.

#1: Improve Your Melatonin Production

Feeling dazed in the morning is a natural process. You should expect your body to take some time to adapt to waking up. But if it takes you several hours to awaken, you may be having problems with your melatonin secretion, the hormone that regulates your sleep.

After sunset, the human body naturally starts releasing melatonin, which allows us to go to sleep. The problem is that exposure to blue light—the type of light that computers and mobile devices irradiate— breaks your biological clock and diminishes your body’s capacity to produce melatonin.

By disrupting your natural biological clock, your body starts producing melatonin later at night and stops its production later in the morning. As a consequence, you stay sleepy even several hours after you wake up.

You can fix this by cutting your exposure to blue light. For example, you can shut off all your computers and phones two to three hours before going to bed. Doing so may be harder to do when you work from home, but with discipline, you can achieve it.

You can also increase your exposure to sunlight as soon as you wake up. Just as your body produces melatonin at sunset, your body produces a hormone called serotonin at dawn. Serotonin works as a natural caffeine pill; it wakes you up, boosts your mood, and helps you feel calm and focused.

After waking up, open your curtains and let sunlight enter your room. Even if it’s cloudy, your body can still absorb sunlight. But if you live in an area of the world where sunlight is scarce—think anywhere close to the Arctic pole—get a light therapy lamp. These lamps mimic natural sunlight, which causes your brain to produce serotonin and reduce excess melatonin.

Whatever option you use, Dr. Dianne Augelli of Weill-Cornell’s Center for Sleep Medicine recommends 30 to 45 minutes of sun exposure within an hour or two of waking up to spike your serotonin production.

#2: Warm-Up

It’s common to feel sluggish and irritated after leaving the bed. Instead of waiting for your body to wake up, warm it up with light exercises.

Exercising in the morning, even if it’s a brief 10-minute warm-up routine, will help you spike your energy levels. Exercising also makes your body release other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are associated with motivation and alertness.

A team of researchers at the University of Georgia found that doing low-intensity exercises for a few minutes can boost energy levels by 20 percent and decrease fatigue by 65 percent. Consider going for a walk early in the morning—which will also expose you to sunlight—doing bodyweight exercises or stretching.

#3: Start Your Routine

Considering that our brains have a hard time concentrating after waking up, you don’t want to get down to work as soon as you wake up. Instead, create a morning routine of tasks that requires little mental effort but that sets your day for success. These tasks could include meditation, visualization, journaling, and reading, all of which have been shown to have benefits of their own both to your well-being as well as to your productivity.

Your morning routine’s goal is to include tasks that energize you, and that increase your productivity. When designing your morning routine, consider your time limitations. If you are a mother of two, you won’t have as much time as a single man, so make sure to focus on executing the most essential and productivity-inducing tasks in your morning routine.

Study the morning routines of successful people to find new potential activities to add to yours. Books like What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, Daily Rituals, and Deep Work will inspire you to create a highly productive morning routine.

#4: Organize Your Day

If you feel overwhelmed as soon as you start working, it will be hard to feel productive later. You need to feel like you are in control of your time and life throughout the day by organizing your day with to-do lists.

A to-do list organizes all the daily tasks you want to get done. With the help of to-do apps like Todoist, you can even prioritize the most important tasks, set deadlines and reminders, and add team members who share your responsibilities with you. What’s more, to-do lists help you free your mind from all your tasks so you can focus on getting them done.

When creating your to-do list, focus on the big wins: ask yourself, “what three tasks can I do today that will make my day successful?” Make sure you highlight them, so they are more visible. 

As soon as you start working, visualize doing these tasks and achieve those three critical tasks as soon as possible. Doing so will increase your motivation even further, creating a virtuous cycle of productivity that will last the entire day.

Remember to delegate tasks you can’t do or that require other people’s input to others. You want to focus your energies on those tasks you can do best and give those you can’t to others.

Also, make sure to have tasks that require you to complete on that particular day. Time management apps can help you figure out which tasks are the most urgent and how much time you need to dedicate to each one. Don’t be afraid of postponing tasks that aren’t a priority or that you can break down, so you can execute them separately and achieve smaller wins.

#5: Get a Quick Win Fast

The way you visualize success will define how you approach your work. Thinking about your workday as a monumental challenge will not help you approach it successfully. Conversely, thinking of it as something enjoyable and easy will improve your productivity.

According to Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer, knowledge workers i.e., scientists, computer engineers, and marketers tend to feel the most productive when they think they are making progress in meaningful work. This idea, which the researchers called “the progress principle,” compounds over time the more frequently you feel productive, the more productive you will become.

To follow this principle, you want to get a quick win fast as soon as you start working. Take one of the key daily tasks you defined in your to-do list and get it done as soon as possible. If one of these tasks requires other people, or if they are time-sensitive (e.g., a meeting), complete a smaller task, like reaching inbox zero.

Even completing small tasks can boost your motivation, reinforcing the progress principle.

Your main goal is to make progress. Get things done, and get them done well, not just to tick a task on your to-do list. The satisfaction you earn will build a positive virtuous loop that will transform your mornings into the most productive part of your workday.

Veselin Mladenov
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