Do your consider yourself to be a morning person? (Answer honestly.) Don't feel too concerned about your reply to this question – because not many of us truly are. However, just because you might reach your physical and mental peak later in the day, doesn't preclude starting your work day headed in the right direction.
Like any workplace strategy, you must identify what works for you, and stick with the program. Ultimately, we may not all be genetically blessed with the prescribed "up at 6 a.m. and happy about it" circadian rhythm – but we can still super-charge our morning routine.
Here are a few ideas to set you on the right course.
Sharpen the pencil. We wouldn't think of exercising vigorously without an appropriate warm up. So, think of your normal morning routine as a way to "prime the pump" and energize your mind. Some find that listening to a favorite piece of music with their morning coffee is the perfect starter. Others utilize their commute to read about an inspiring or prominent individual in their industry. Find the activity that stimulates your mind, motivates you and provides the needed "first course" to power through your day.
Record ideas. You may characterize yourself as a "non-morning" type, but that may not be an entirely accurate assessment. Some of us wake with ideas flooding our minds, but the thoughts are often fleeting and are lost. If this is your pattern, keep a notebook handy, being sure to record every idea and moment of inspiration. Capture these morning bits of inspiration regularly. After a week or so, review what you have collected.
Avoid the "downers." Starting your day slogging through countless emails, texts or messages is not always the way to begin a "power" day. Tell yourself that tasks such as these can wait. Add a substitute activity, and spend the first 15 to 30 minutes of each day doing something that will have a far greater payoff. For example, try drafting five meaningful, yet small, goals for your day. If you find yourself in the midst of a job search, identify two interesting job postings, or identify two to three people to add to your job-search network.
Innovate your schedule. Start each morning assessing whether or not you are utilizing your time wisely. First of all realize that you must value your own time (if you don't, neither will anyone else), then adapt methods such as the one devised by Anthony K. Tjan in a blog post for Harvard Business Review, "Make Time for Time." Review your schedule for the previous day and evaluate the value of your spent time. Does the time spent align with your work-related strategic priorities? If you find that your time investment doesn't meet snuff – try not to repeat the activity, if possible. This may help you start the day with the confidence that devoted energy will transact into progress.
Start with a positive gesture. Before your first meeting or call, identify one person who you would like to thank, congratulate or recognize in some manner. Research has shown that these behaviors go a long way in helping us to feel more positive.
Enough sleep? Ultimately, make an honest assessment – are you really getting enough rest? Your brain needs time to renew and recharge. If you manage to squeeze in an extra hour or two of sleep, you may find mornings are much easier to handle.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who specializes in workplace success strategies and organizational change. She helps individuals, teams and organizations develop intelligently—to meet work life challenges with a sense of confidence and empowerment.