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10 ways to make your morning routine more productive

Your A.M. action plan

Whether you wake up full of energy or drag yourself from the pillow in a fog, thoughtful planning can make your mornings unfold more smoothly. Research suggests that we have higher levels of energy and self-control in the morning, and by harnessing that willpower, you can establish personal habits that set a positive tone for the entire day.

This year, resolve to make your mornings more pleasant and productive by creating your own A.M. action plan. Here’s how to start.

  1. Skip the snooze button.

    Those 10 extra minutes of light sleep are unlikely to generate real rest. In fact, some morning grogginess is natural if you’ve gotten the deep sleep your body needs. Instead of sleeping in and starting the day 10 minutes behind schedule, get extra shut-eye by going to bed a few minutes earlier each night.

    Still can’t resist pressing snooze? Place your alarm across the room so you’ll have to leave the bed to shut it off.

  2. Don’t be derailed by technology.

    It’s easy to start checking social media and emails first thing in the morning, but even checking messages quickly puts you at risk of wasting valuable time before even leaving your bed. Focus on your needs first. You’ll save energy, stay on schedule and start the day feeling calmer and more centered if you save the screen time for later.

  3. Wake up with water.

    Our bodies are working even while we sleep, so hydrate with a glass of water once you wake up. You’ll replenish what’s been lost overnight, and that water also can jump-start your metabolism and help curb calorie intake.

    For extra flavor, nutrients and energy, juice half a lemon into your water. (Reach for a full lemon if you weigh more than 150 pounds.) To absorb all the benefits, drink lemon water on an empty stomach and wait 15 to 30 minutes before eating. Avoid drinking undiluted lemon juice, which can damage your teeth.

  4. Make movement a priority.

    Exercising early in the day raises your energy level and releases endorphins, the chemicals that improve mood, minimize pain and decrease stress. Research shows that even a 10-minute workout can soothe the brain and boost self-control. Morning exercise is ideal, because it gets your metabolism going and you won’t have to cancel a workout if life gets too busy. Plus, the benefits will last all day long.

    If you just don’t have the time or motivation for morning workouts, don’t worry. Start the day with a few simple stretches or take the dog for a quick walk. Then, complete a longer workout later, or add several 10-minute movement breaks to your schedule.

  5. Eat for energy.

    A healthy breakfast is as important as the gas in your car: Without adequate fuel, it’s hard to get very far. In the morning, reach for lean proteins and nutrient-rich foods such as fruit, whole-grain cereal, low-sugar yogurt, oatmeal or eggs. In addition to powering your body and brain, breakfast improves your concentration, keeps blood sugar levels in check and can limit the urge to snack later in the day.

  6. Schedule personal time.

    If possible, plan a few quiet minutes before the day gets busy. Read a magazine while eating your cereal, spend 15 minutes meditating, praying or journaling as the coffee brews, or simply stare out the window while drinking some tea. Giving yourself little moments to look forward to makes getting out of bed easier.

  7. Organize and strategize.

    Before you start working, spend some time outlining reasonable goals on paper or in a productivity app such as Todoist or Trello.

    Start with three of four goals instead of 10, and keep things realistic, specific and tied to time frames. Rather than vague plans like “Write the monthly report,” try, “Write the report introduction (30 minutes)” or “Spend an hour analyzing budget data.” Breaking down large tasks into mini goals can make them seem more manageable and help you take control of your day.

  8. The last thing you want to do? Address it first.

    Evaluate your to-do list and identify the most important, most difficult and least appealing tasks. Then, do those first.

    Finish two or three things that require real concentration when you have more energy. (If you can finish unfavorable tasks before using mental energy for emails, even better.) You’ll feel lighter and more motivated once challenging duties are done, and you’re less likely to procrastinate when you’ve already tackled the tough items.

  9. Avoid morning meetings and multitasking.

    If possible, avoid scheduling morning meetings so that you can cross items off your to-do list while your mind is still fresh. As you work, focus on one thing at a time. It’s tempting to multitask, especially if you’re full of energy early in the day, but that ultimately makes us less productive, more forgetful and more likely to make mistakes.

  10. Position yourself for success.

    To make mornings run more smoothly, start the night before. Assemble an outfit for the next day, and if you have small children, set out theirs, as well. Pack lunches, locate keys and make decisions that might stall your morning progress.

    Once the alarm goes off, don’t be afraid to delegate. Involve family members in regular duties, from making the beds to washing the dishes to filling the backpacks before school.