Morning routines seem to be having a day in the sun.
You can’t research any sort of productivity or success habits without seeing articles with titles such as this: “The Ultimate Morning Routine of Highly Successful People.” In fact, Google has almost 20 million hits for the term “successful morning routines.”
Almost every piece starts with the advice to “wake up early”, and then moves on to tips detailing the power of breakfast, meditation, exercise, making your bed, and planning your day.
Success seems to be made in the mornings, and I’m not necessarily arguing with that premise. Instead, I’m theorizing that success begins well before your alarm clock chimes, and there are many proactive behaviors you can take the evening before to maximize your day.
Ahead of the Game
Knowing the triumph of your day starts many hours before it begins, these guidelines can help set you up for success. Use as many, or as few, as you’d like and notice the difference it makes in what you can accomplish.
Early to bed
The often-advertised advice to “wake up early” really only does you any good if you precede it with going to bed early.
Going to bed early, say, before 10 p.m. is hard. Evenings are often the only time to relax after a long day and who wants to cut that precious time short?Unfortunately, going to bed later than you should has very clear consequences for your morning productivity.
Aim to not just go to bed early (believe it or not, I go to bed about 9:30 p.m. each night), but to call it a day about the same time each night. This habit can be a hard one to make, and easy to break, but it’s one of the best ways to make your morning productive.
Make your to-do list
There’s little as frustrating as getting through your morning chores, sitting down to work, and having no idea where to start.
Prioritizing your pre-lunch hours should be done the day before. Figure out what needs to be done and where your focus should be.
Going blindly into the days’ tasks can make you less efficient. In comparison, a well-organized to-do list can help you determine what’s most critical, and what can be saved for later, less productive, hours.
Declutter the day away
Fifteen minutes spent putting away dishes, hanging up clothes, and simply clearing away the remnants of your day can help start the following day on the right note.
I, for one, have a hard time focusing on my to-do list when the house is a mess. Having a relatively clean house is the equivalent of a clean slate: it’s a clear signal that it’s a new day, and starting it as fresh as possible can be a mental boost.
Review your wins and losses
All of our days are made up of successes and failures. Acknowledge what you did well, and what could’ve gone better, so you can take into the next day any lessons learned.
Also, spending a few minutes on a gratitude practice touts nearly endless benefits. A gratitude practice is often advised for morning routines, but appreciating what went well during your day is a win in the evenings, as well.
Aside from the obvious benefit of obtaining new knowledge, reading daily has been shown to reduce stress and improve concentration and memory.
It’s also a great way to wind down, and signal to your brain that sleep is right around the corner.
This is always a tough one for me, as I usually read on my phone, but it’s hard to deny the research: using electronic devices before bed delays your body’s internal clock, suppresses the release of melatonin, and makes it harder to fall asleep.
The most successful people, including Arianna Huffington and Arnold Schwarzenegger, keep electronic devices out of their bedrooms, and if it works for them, it’s definitely worth considering.
The key to an uber-efficient day begins the night before. While mornings garner much of the press, don’t forget to maximize your evenings to ensure your day starts off right.
Your productive morning, and the rest of the day, will thank you.