How to Get the Most Out of Your Morning (Even if You're a Night Owl)

You don't have to be a morning person to make the most out of your early hours. A little extra focus goes a long way.
Business Writers
February 27, 2012

Most people have said it, heard it or thought it on a daily basis: there’s just not enough time in the day to get everything done. And while running a small business is a hectic time- and energy-intensive endeavor, there are ways to plan better and maximize the time you have.

One of the simplest, surest ways to pack more productivity into your workdays is to rise early and take advantage of the extra time you gain in the morning hours. True, an extra 15 or 20 minutes of sleep might feel like it’ll be the difference between going through your day functionally or like a zombie, but if you approach the first part of your day the right way, you’ll be surprised at your focus, efficiency and get-up-and-go.

Studies show that early risers are more productive throughout the day. Plus, waking up early helps lower your stress and supplies extra time other ways too, like allowing you to beat traffic. Here are a few ways to start your mornings the right way, to lay the foundation for more dynamic days.

Eat a healthy breakfast

For generations, it’s been heralded as the most important meal of the day. Well, it’s time we listen. Studies have shown children who eat breakfast perform better at school, and it only seems natural that those results translate to adults. A combination of high-fiber and protein-filled foods (like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and eggs) will provide you the most energy and keep you full until lunch, and on your game when it comes to focusing and solving problems.

Get physical

Integrate a little bit of physical activity to your morning routine, and you'll find your energy levels on the rise—along with your productivity and general demeanor (thanks to those endorphins), too. But don't worry, it doesn't take a 10-mile run or an intense early-morning spin class to help you get a morning boost. Try biking to work instead of taking your car or public transit. Or, explore lower-impact options that are still effective, like taking a walk around your neighborhood or doing some yoga.

Pick out your clothes the night before

It's such an easy—yet often overlooked—way to streamline your morning routine. Michael Harrison at Wired names setting out his outfits the night before as one of his time-saving morning rituals. He rightly notes that even small challenges, like choosing this tie or that, can be more trying and time-consuming than they should be in the day's slow-going early hours. Raid your closet the night before to free up some valuable morning time.

Create a reason to get up early

Embracing the notion of getting up early is one thing, but getting inspired enough to actually enjoy doing it is something else. Having a reason that makes getting out of bed more worthwhile than hitting the snooze button is key. Dave Cheong, a software engineer and entrepreneur who wakes up at 5:30 a.m. every day, recommends thinking each evening about what you'd like to accomplish the following day. Be clear with yourself about what you'd like to accomplish and why it's valuable, and you'll be a more invigorated and enthusiastic early riser. Writing down your ideas can be helpful, Cheong says.

Meditate

Taking some time to center yourself can clear your head, help you to identify your workday priorities and help you cultivate a healthy approach to tackle your day. Jesse Langley at the Meditation Den says it's easy—you just need about 40 minutes of free time in the morning to do it, because it's pointless if you're rushed. That said, you’re free to blend in parts of your typical morning routine, like your must-have cup of joe, to meditation. Calm yourself, focus on your breathing and clear your mind. When your mind is empty, Langley says, start contemplating your priorities for the day, set your goals and decide how to accomplish them most effectively. As you incorporate meditation into your mornings.

So you're a night owl? You don't have to hate mornings

If you run on a more nocturnal schedule, early rising can still work for you—it just takes a little bit more work and adjustment. In order to embrace waking up early, make it part of your routine. It might be tough at first to go to bed at a set (reasonable) time, but the more you do it, the more natural it will feel.

You can help yourself fall asleep and sleep well by eating certain foods (Ecosalon recommends potatoes, bananas and yogurt as good before-bedtime foods). Relaxing activities before you turn in also help. (Dr. Joseph Mercola suggests journaling or listening to relaxing CDs.) Moving your alarm clock away from your bedside will help you start your day at the buzzer instead of snoozing away your morning, Mercola adds.

Photo credit: flickr/bark