How to have the most productive day possible
It's all about how you wake up.
A while back, I got in the habit of the email inbox wake-up call. My alarm would go off and the only thing that seemed to render me awake was refreshing my mail feed on my phone and slowly coming to consciousness over J. Crew Factory sale notifications and Groupon deals of the day. I'd click around for a while, half-awake, until my eyes were open enough to function and my Facebook feed was reviewed in its entirety. And then I'd stumble out of bed to seize the day.
Things started to change when I was training for the Brooklyn Half, and I got in the habit of waking to my alarm at a horrible, ungodly hour of the morning, jumping into shoes next to my bed and hitting the road. While waking up was hard, the rest of my day was brilliant. Even if I was surviving on five hours' sleep, I was more productive at work and was more sensitive to inspiration throughout the day.
I'm not suggesting you run six miles every morning to get in the zone. Waking up the right way doesn't need to take long and is different for every person. The key is to wake up and immediately do something you love - something that makes you feel good, makes you appreciate life and opens your mind to the day ahead.
1. Take a walk or go on a run
Set your sneakers out at night, grab your jacket and mosey on out the door. This morning, I was lucky enough to wake up on vacation at the beach (this admittedly makes waking up a LOT easier). I wandered down to the water in my pajamas and walked along the foggy shoreline. Starting the day off with so much appreciation of nature put me in such a creative mood and I worked effortlessly on design projects for the rest of the day. But you don't need to be on vacation to start your day with a simple mile-walk around your neighborhood. Something as easy as that gets your body moving and creativity flowing.
2. Put some love into your breakfast
While grabbing a banana as you run out the door is usually the easiest option, set aside ten extra minutes to make breakfast from scratch. I'm mad about this oatmeal recipe from Joy the Baker, and the best part about oatmeal is you can make it in advance and heat it up with a little milk in the morning. Ta da! Instant non-instant breakfast. I'm currently on a mission to replicate all the menu options at Oatmeals, an obsession-inducing Greenwich Village establishment in NYC. They have savory and sweet options and pile on the toppings. If the "Elvis" bowl can't convert you to an oatmeal lover, I don't know what else can.
3. Stretch it out
This can be as easy as reaching high to the ceiling and stretching to the end of the bed to touch your toes. Stretching not only wakes your body up, but some scientists believe that in addition to other health benefits, yoga causes endorphins to release from the brain. If you have time in the morning, roll from the bed to the mat and follow Eoin Finn's Blissology podcast. My favorite is his Conduit 58 Minute Flow, but he has "yoga quickies" available on the iTunes store (all free)! If you're looking for minimal time and effort, roll over on your belly and chill in child's pose for a hot second.
4. Set your intention for the day
We should all do this every day. The moment right after you wake, when you're laying in bed, unaffected by your surroundings is the perfect time to trust your intuition and ask yourself what you want to accomplish during the day. Is your goal to finish a project at work? Maybe you want to focus on family, a hobby or your health. Set an intention that begins with "I am..." and refer back to this throughout the day. If your intention is "I am healthy and well today," it will be that much easier to choose dinner at home vs. happy hour-turned bar food dinner when a friend extends the invite for post-work drinks. You'll feel good about sticking with your intention - and you can always reschedule happy hour for a better day!
5. Read (a book)
Don't read the notifications on your phone. Don't watch the news on the TV. Read a good old-fashioned book. Reading is an active mental process and gets your brain working bright and early. (This is super important because the days where your brain wakes up after your body wakes up result in car keys in the refrigerator and orange juice in coffee... not speaking from experience, or anything...) My favorite recent read was The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper.
Waking up right is so easy in theory, but much harder in practice. Plan ahead to start tomorrow off right, and spend 10 minutes in the morning doing something you absolutely love. Your most productive, creative days start with a little love and inspiration.