Industry Market Trends

Early to Rise: Get More Done in the Morning

May 22, 2012

Not all of us are morning people, but hectic schedules sometimes force us to start work earlier than we'd like. Here are some tips to get the most out of those early hours.

Some folks are able to spring out of bed in the morning and get right down to business, feeling fresh and alert from the moment they wake up. Others, however, have to struggle just to get anything done at the start of the day, whether due to lack of sleep, too much work or simply not being physiologically suited for an early schedule.

If you're the type who needs strong coffee and a blaring alarm clock just to get to your feet, you may benefit from some tips on improving your morning productivity.

"[W]hy is it so hard for us to be productive when we wake up? One of the reasons is because most people haven't made a habit of getting out of bed and being productive," Productivity Bits, a productivity and personal development site, notes. "There might be some things that have crept into your morning routine that may be stunting your morning productivity. These things may not seem like a big deal but they can drain a lot of your time and energy that could be directed towards something that will produce a better result."

Your first instinct in the morning may be to pull the covers over your head and try to catch a few extra minutes of sleep, but that will only make you feel more tired and ultimately hurt your chances of converting into a morning person. Try to open your blinds or throw off your covers to expose yourself to sunlight, which is the key to regulating your internal clock.

"If you have time, go for a short morning walk or jog," CBS MoneyWatch recommends. "The combination of light exposure, fresh air and increased blood flow will send an indisputable signal to your brain that this is the time to be up - and eventually, it will remember that message. Read: You'll be a morning person."

Having a tedious set of rituals to go through each morning can also make it difficult to wake up and get a good start to the day. You can reduce some of these unnecessary steps by adopting the "10 o'clock rule," in which you set your watch to alert you at 10 p.m. every night.

Once 10 p.m. rolls around, try to get as many things as possible prepared for the next morning, such as planning breakfast, grinding beans and setting your coffee machine, laying out your outfit for the next day, packing your bag for work, charging your cellphone, setting your alarm and checking your calendar for any early-morning activities.

"There are two main benefits to the 10 o'clock rule. First, you're much more likely to take care of those end-of-night chores that sometimes get skipped, from washing the dishes to flossing, because you're tackling them before you've completely run out of steam," LifeClever explains. "Second, you'll be much more likely to wake up on time, and have a pleasant morning, if you know that all the nasty morning chores are taken care of and everything's in order..."

Once you've mastered actually getting out of bed, there are several ways to maximize your work productivity in the morning. While your first impulse may be to simply dive in and clear through as much of your workload as possible, it may actually be wiser to take a more selective approach because the early hours of the day present certain opportunities.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but in some cases early risers should ignore their email. Messages always pile up overnight, but trying to tackle your inbox from the beginning of the day will invariably distract you from more important tasks on your to-do list. The hours spent reading, filing and answering email will eat up your morning. Instead, try to focus on larger assignments.

"As soon as you get up, work on something important for 30-45 minutes, and only then check [your email]. If you can stand it, wait even longer. Some days I don't check email at all until after lunch," personal-development trainer Sid Savara tells PCWorld. "And you know what? As long as you're ignorant of everything else that's going on outside, you can concentrate on what you want to work on."

Another important area that's often overlooked amid busy schedules is the importance of setting aside time simply to think and strategize about problems. The morning can be the perfect time to accomplish this sort of thinking, and may lead to valuable problem-solving results.

As Fahim Siddiqui, the chief product officer at business software firm IntraLinks, explains at Fast Company, "The first part of my day is my thought time; when I work on any strategic initiatives. I jump 'into the fire' of the day starting around 9:00 a.m. and take care of anything that needs to be addressed immediately... Then I'll typically go look at news sites for industry intelligence - and to catch up on cricket scores."

The most important thing of all is to avoid feeling overwhelmed. If you dread getting up and facing the day, make it easier on yourself: try to get more work done on a project in the evening. That way you'll know you only need to put the finishing touches on it in the morning, and the sunshine will seem that much brighter.