It’s Still Dark Out
Kicking off a day early with energy and focus doesn’t just happen for most people. A quick survey of influencers and leaders who have a reputation of being innovative idea-makers will show you that most, if not all of them, take intentional steps to discipline their morning lives to ensure they start the day positioned for success.
I was never a “morning person” growing up. It has taken years of working at disciplining my life toward the value of an early start. As responsibilities have increased in my life, I came to realize that there weren’t enough undistracted hours in the day with team responsibilities to do everything I needed to do. I suppose rearranging my morning became a necessity. Nevertheless, it wasn’t easy to reframe life this way.
Here are five helpful tips I’ve picked up over the years that have helped me start early and with energy and focus:
#1–Start the Night Before
The battle for the morning starts the night before. Resist the urge to “decompress” by watching TV, surfing the web or catching up on emails late into the night. These types of cognitive stimulation increase brain activity that causes neurons to race. The “glow” alone from devices that go through our eyes delay the release of melatonin that helps induce sleep. In other words, there’s nothing super helpful that comes from these types of late night activities. Give yourself 90 minutes to a couple of hours before bed time to relax and slow down your mind in preparation for the next day. I promise you’ll be better off for it. You can always catch up later or on the weekends when it comes to entertainment.
#2–Kickstart the Senses & Embrace the Cold Shower
Many people recommend that we kickstart our senses in the morning to help get our brains and bodies going. Since most of us can’t afford to build a freeze chamber used in cryotherapy, something as simple as a cold shower can be helpful. I know what you’re thinking … NO WAY!!! Yes way. Cold showers actually improve blood circulation, immune strength, metabolic rate and even mood (once you’re done, that is). For those of you who are fortunate enough to have access to a swimming pool, go ahead and dive in!
#3–Move Your Body
We all know exercise is good to regularly engage in. If you don’t have time to exercise in the morning, consider getting to work 10 minutes earlier to go for a brisk walk around your building. This will help kickstart some blood circulation and get you refocused on the day ahead. I often get to the office early, drop off my stuff and then go for a quick 10-minute walk before sitting down. It’s amazing what 10 minutes can do to help reframe your mind and body.
#4–Recenter Your Thoughts
Most leaders that I’ve spoken to make time each morning (minimally five to 10 minutes) to refocus and prioritize their day. It’s not so much about meditation or emptying of the mind. It’s actually the opposite. This is a time to refocus the mind and center one’s life to things that truly matter for the day. I usually ask myself two core questions each day: (1) At the end of the day, what will matter most? and (2) What is enough? These two questions allow me to focus in on things that truly matter and guide me in better framing how much is enough for this upcoming day.
I used to just skip the morning meal because I never felt I had enough time. This was a big mistake. Meals fuel our bodies and help us become more productive. Of course, eating anything is rarely a good thing. I try to get some protein and fruits in and try to stay away from carbs (when possible … I LOVE carbs!). Also, I don’t try to eat large amounts of food at one sitting (unless it’s the weekend!). I hate the feeling of being full sitting at the desk so I try remind myself of that disgust while eating the meal. Yes, a mind trick there.
Stay Practical & Listen to Your Body
Look, no one’s perfect. I’m definitely not. Nevertheless, this can’t be an excuse we use not to take better care of ourselves. Let’s continue to do what we can to start our days well.
Disclaimer: If you are a parent of young children, these tips may not directly apply to you. You have a lot to handle in the morning. Nevertheless, do what you can with the time you have. Little spurts of self-filling activities will do wonders for your parenting and relationships.