No matter how unpredictable life can be, one thing always stays the same, day after day: you wake up, you start your day with a specific action and then continue on through the rest of your day.
That specific action or multiple actions, the thing or things you do first thing in the morning, contribute more to your ability to succeed and achieve than you might think. The key to a productive day, it turns out, is heavily dependent on what you do when you first wake up.
Here are three things successful people do every morning to stay productive and reach their goals. Adopting these morning rituals will make your days more fulfilling and allow you to achieve more than you ever thought possible.
1. They leave their devices alone
What is the first thing you do when you open your eyes every morning, after you turn off your alarm? Wonder what would happen if you closed your eyes for 10 more minutes? Turn on the light? Check your phone?
More likely than not, your alarm blares from the speakers of your phone, which means it’s the first thing you touch before you are even fully conscious.
It is very tempting to begin checking your texts, Twitter notifications and the weather first thing in the morning. It is also one of the worst habits you can keep if you want to have more productive mornings.
Checking your phone the moment you wake up—especially your email—is possibly one of the worst things you can do to set your day in motion. From the moment you rise, your brain is in overdrive, trying to take in and process as much information as possible before you’ve even crawled out of bed.
You’re already going to be consuming way too much information throughout your day; a 2013 study predicted that by now the average person will consume around 16 hours’ worth of media every single day. The more information you consume, the more overwhelmed you will feel.
The more overwhelmed you feel, the less you’ll be able to focus on your goals and priorities. Which is pretty much the golden rule of getting stuff done.
Leave your phone and other devices alone when you first wake up. Have your coffee, read something not on a screen, sit and think for awhile. If you can spend that time gathering your thoughts and mentally preparing yourself for your day, instead of just diving right in, you’ll be much more productive.
2. They eat breakfast
When you have a lot to do and not a whole lot of time to do it in, something has to go. You might have managed to convince yourself that leaving breakfast out of the equation is a simple and acceptable solution to your early-morning time crunch, but unfortunately, you’re doing yourself more harm if this is the case.
It turns out breakfast being the most important meal of the day isn’t just a phrase: it’s a reality.
Of all the scientifically backed reasons why eating breakfast is the best thing you can do to start off your day, the way it affects your level of alertness and ability to concentrate is probably the most important when we’re talking about success and productivity.
Think about it. If you finish dinner at 7:00 tonight and wake up at 6:00 tomorrow, your body will have almost been fasting for 12 straight hours. If you skip breakfast, your blood sugar is going to continue to plummet until you do get some food in you.
If you’ve ever felt the effects of low blood sugar—shaking, dizziness, chills—you know how difficult it can be for someone to concentrate when it’s almost lunch time and they haven’t eaten since dinner the night before.
The longer you wait, the less your brain is able to process what’s going on around you. Your brain uses glucose (“sugar”) to think, process and analyze. You’re not going to be a very helpful team member at work if you can’t perform basic mental tasks just because you didn’t eat breakfast.
Eating breakfast also will generally improve your mood, so if it’s Monday and you’re dreading the moment you have to step back into the office and answer all those emails, see if breakfast will better mentally prepare you for the figurative battle ahead.
3. They plan out their day before it starts
The best way to get distracted, stray off task and do things in the “wrong” order is to begin your day not knowing exactly what you need to get done, what needs to get done first and what you can afford to hold off on finishing until later.
Creating a to-do list is a simple and straightforward way to organize your thoughts and determine exactly what you need to get done throughout the rest of the day. It will help you recognize when you’re spending too much time on something less important or when you need to put a task aside and come back to it later.
Prioritizing your to-do list first thing in the morning is all about mental preparation. Have you ever subconsciously run through an entire task in your head before actually sitting down to do it? That makes the actual process of completing that task a little bit easier, doesn’t it?
That’s the major benefit of writing out and organizing your to-do list before you start your day for real. Things are a lot less overwhelming when you know exactly what you’re getting into before you dive in.
If you’re not a pen and paper kind of person, you can still make to-do lists using apps like Evernote or email the list to yourself from your phone (not right after you wake up, though).
If you don’t feel as though you are getting enough done throughout your day, you feel overwhelmed or you’re having a hard time concentrating, consider adding these habits to your daily routine. They might be able to help you stay focused and manage your stress as you continue working toward your most ambitious achievements.