Just as breakfast is the most important meal of the day from a nutritional standpoint, a structured morning routine is the best way to ensure the rest of your work day goes smoothly. Studies have proven the positive link between the way you start your day and your levels of energy, concentration, and productive output by the time you leave the office.
Perhaps that explains our society’s fascination with the morning routines of highly successful people—how could they consistently achieve so much valuable work in a single day? Here are six tweaks to your morning routine that have been proven by the most successful entrepreneurs to kickstart your productivity all day long.
Check in with Yourself
Steve Jobs would stare in the mirror each morning and ask himself one question: “If today was the last day of my life, would I be happy with what I’m about to do today?” This is a powerful question to ask yourself, because it forces you to take stock of how you’re spending your time and energy, and whether those choices are making you happy. Try writing it down and posting it by your bathroom mirror, and see if you feel any differently after a month of asking yourself that question. You are likely to make some powerful changes to your routine based on what you learn from the exercise. Steve Jobs said that if too many days went by where he would answer no to that question, he would change his circumstances to bring about a yes.
Get Your Blood Flowing
Whether you like to log an hour on the treadmill first thing like Bill Gates, walk the dog, or bike to work, getting some form of exercise before sitting at your desk all day is a no brainer with proven results. Successful entrepreneurs routinely talk about the importance of exercising before hitting the office; statistics polling the morning routines of successful professionals have found that 78% prefer to start their day by getting their heart rate pumping.
Eat a Frog
Mark Twain was the original time management expert. The prolific author had this advice on how to kickstart your productivity in the mornings: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” While few health experts would advise a diet of live frogs for breakfast, what Twain is really saying is to tackle your biggest tasks early in the day, when you’re less likely to run out of steam. Before you can get distracted by emails, meetings and everything else your workday might bring, work on the one thing that is most important for you to accomplish on a given day. At the end of the day, write down tomorrow’s frog, so you’ll see it right when you get into the office. Just think how motivated you’ll feel the rest of the day if you get the most challenging task out of the way first thing.
While checking your email and social media feeds first thing is as tempting as it is mindless, resist the urge in favor of some contemplative time. Not only does this allow you to get in touch with what that frog for the day might look like, it also clears the digital chatter to allow you to start your day with a sense of calm focus. Tumblr CEO David Karp has a policy of not checking his email until arriving at the office. Others prefer a few minutes of meditation or mindful yoga. Find what works for you, but be sure to allow for some away from text messages, tweets, and all other digital distraction.
Get Your Synapses Firing
A common theme in the morning routines of successful people usually involves some form of mental stimulation to put your mind in work mode in a seamless way. Bill Gates likes to listen to educational videos while walking on the treadmill, killing two birds with one stone. Others prefer podcasts on their morning commute.
Refine Your Routine
Every morning Ben Franklin started his day by asking, “What good shall I do today?” At the end of each day, Franklin would check in with himself, asking, “What good have I done today?” Holding yourself accountable to your morning routine will go a long way in helping you stick with it. If you feel unsatisfied with the answer to Franklin’s evening question, ask yourself what you can do to set yourself up for success tomorrow. Whether it’s laying out the next day’s outfit, preparing a healthy breakfast to take on the go, or going to bed a little earlier, your morning success depends just as much on your evening habits. By reflecting on what’s working about your morning routine, you can finetune it for even better productivity enhancing results.