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Could Your Morning Routine Be Hurting You?

Could Your Morning Routine Be Hurting You?

Every day, I wake up and immediately start thinking about what I have to do during the day ahead, rolling out of bed only after my anxiety and stress levels are beginning to rise thanks to the to-do list in my mind that now seems so long. From there I wander to the coffee pot, pour myself some liquid wake-up, and shuffle sleepily to my home office where I sit in front of my computer and begin to read all of the emails that have come in since I went to bed, catch up with the happenings of family and friends on Facebook, and start to map out what I need to get done in the next 12-16 hours.

Although I’d never really given my morning routine much thought, just more or less did it on autopilot, a recent project that I worked on with a client made me realize how much my first actions of the day could actually be affecting me. In fact, what I learned is that they are likely hurting my progress both personally and professionally.

Why Morning Routines Matter

When you begin your day stressed and anxious by thinking about everything you have to do or dreading the activities ahead, you set the tone for the day. It’s like you’ve already resigned yourself that the day is going to be difficult, so that is exactly what it turns out to be. On the flip side, if you start your day with something that makes you feel more positive and encouraged, that is what your day will be like as well.

And if your first activities, such as checking work emails or getting sucked into family drama on social media, add to your stress and anxiety levels that isn’t a pleasant way to begin your day either. Especially when there are other things you could be doing that bring about more internal peace and solitude, and a clearer mind.

What Does Your Morning Routine Look Like?

Think about your mornings for a second. What is the first thought that jumps into your head when you wake up? Is it how wonderful the day ahead is going to be, or does your mind instantly go to all of the things you need to get done? Are you looking forward to the day ahead, like a child going to the beach or zoo, or is it more along the lines of a dread, similar to the times you have to go to the doctor where you know you’ll be waiting forever or even to the funeral home to say goodbye to someone you love?

And, as you actually get out of bed and begin your day, are you typically engaged in activities that energize you (like meditation, reading an inspirational book or passage, or planning your to-do list) or activities that drain you (such as watching the often-negative news, going through your work emails, and catching up on other people’s drama)? Take a moment and visually go through each step, paying attention to whether your body becomes more relaxed or tenser as you mentally walk through a typical morning.

Surprised? I know I was. But the reality is that the actions you take when you first wake up have a big impact on how you feel throughout the entire day. So, what should you do in the morning if you want to achieve higher levels of success?

Morning Activities that Promote Success

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can choose to do when it comes to creating the best and most results-producing routine for you. Here are some to consider, courtesy of a few people who have found success in their own lives:

  • Meditate to clear your head and boost your brain power. Brad Lande, head of Birchbox Man, meditates every morning for 20 minutes, right after drinking hot lemon water, clearing his mind so it is ready for the day.
  • Keep yourself in the present. John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell, spends the first five minutes of his day just lying in bed, keeping himself in the present and letting go of the past regrets or future concerns.
  • Engage in an activity you enjoy. Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, plays an hour of tennis every morning, keeping her body in shape while doing something she loves.
  • Read a chapter in a book. Among a host of other positive morning activities, Chris Winfield, a New York based writer and coach, makes sure he reads at least a chapter in a book to help him reduce stress and think better.
  • Creating a to-do list for the day and week ahead. Every morning, Dan Murphy, VP of business development at devises his to-do list so he knows exactly what needs to get done, keeping him focused amidst the chaos.

Don’t Sleep In Too Late Either

Science also suggests that you shouldn’t get up too late if you want to increase your chances of success. For example, in a Harvard Business Review article, author and biologist Christoph Randler discusses a study conducted on almost 400 college students that revealed that morning people tend to be more proactive, making them better at spotting potential issues and working preemptively to limit their effects. Randolph also points out that proactivity has been connected to “better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages.”

Additionally, a 2008 study that involved 509 adult males, which was published in The Journal of General Psychology, found that people who rise earlier had lower incidences of procrastination. Specifically, they spent less time avoiding things they needed to get done when compared to subjects who tended to be night owls instead. And, finally, an American Psychological Association study discovered that getting up earlier can actually make you happier, which is a bonus in anyone’s book.

So, what do you think? Is it time to give your morning routine a makeover? I know it is for me!

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by Christina DeBusk // Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.