5 Ways to Make Your Mornings Matter

I’ve always been a morning person, so maybe it is easier for me…but when I wake up in the morning (usually at 5am) I have a couple of options:

  • Do I press the snooze button and go back to sleep? Sleep is important after all. That’s what the doctors say.
  • Do I wake up and get started working out?
  • Do I wake up and make a healthy breakfast?
  • Do I get up and start writing? Get up and read?
  • Or should I get up and start reading emails and doing work…

What we do with our morning matters. Especially in my case, one of the only opportunities I have to work without other distractions and get in that state of “flow” (that allows you to me to be hyper-productive) is in the morning hours.

So, what are some ways we can make our mornings matter? This is something I’m constantly struggling with and consistently challenging myself as well. There never seems to be enough time to go around to get done everything I want to in a day…and I’m sure you feel the same way.

Here are five ways that have helped me make my mornings matter. But I’m still working on it!

1: Plan Ahead

One of the great things about planning your week, or month, or even a longer time frame is the impact it can have on the actions you take to start each day. Each week I set up a plan for the week. What big goals do I want to accomplish? What ideas do I want to flesh out? What reading do I want to get done? Who do I want to reach out to? What are the various priorities on my plate?

Throughout the week, things are going to change. There are going to be new opportunities, challenges, and distractions. Yet, the weekly plan gives me focus each day on what I should be working on during my mornings. Sometimes you have to be flexible, but the structure actally will give you more time to move things around.

For example, I’ve been focused on writing a lot of fiction lately. The big picture goals I’ve created for the month have filtered down to my weekly and daily goals.

2: Take Care of Yourself/Body

This is one that people talk a lot about, but it is very hard to workout or do anything physically active after a long work day. You can be bogged down, stressed, and there is a lot going on at that time of the day. You come home to family and your life…and working out is hard to do after a day has taken place. This is different for everyone, and maybe that is not the best time for you…but for most people I know, it is almost impossible to work out after work.

For me, whenever I’ve stuck with a workout routine, it has been during the morning. The added benefit is that you feel great the rest of the day. You’ve accomplished something that you normally put off (like I do), and it gives you so much more energy.

3: Read or Write

James Clear recently wrote a post on how he is reading 36 books a year. How you may ask? He reads 20 pages everyday when he wakes up.

Do the math. If you consistently read 20 pages each morning, you are going to end up reading a lot of books in a short amount of time. The key is to keep this habit going over time. You’ll also be more likely to read at other times of the day if a particular passage or part of the book hooks you. This will help your mind, get you thinking, and motivate you (depending what you are reading).

One of my goals every year is to “read more”. But the problem is I never quantify how much more. Maybe you only want to read 20 books a year…then you can lower the number of pages you read each morning, and still reach your goal. It is the action in the beginning of the day (every day)  that drives results.

The same goes for writing. I wrote a post, ‘The Power of Writing Every Day” that describes what I was able to accomplish by sticking to a writing schedule each and every morning. I’ve never been more productive in accomplishing so many goals.

4: Complete Your Most Difficult Task

I read a free book called “The Flinch“. The book talked about how there is always those tasks that we put off. I’m the worst at this! They can be small or maybe very important…but it is usually something we don’t feel like doing and continue to “forget about”. The Flinch is finding those pain points and tasks that make you “flinch” and tackle them in the beginning of the day right when you get up before any other distractions cause you to put it off to the side and forget like I so often do.

While I still have these “flinch” moments, acknowledging what they are makes all the difference, and taking care of them in the morning is the best way I’ve found to fight the flinch.

5: Think Big

It is very easy to fall into the trap of waking up and checking your email, social media accounts, messages etc…but when you do this you essentially give up your mornings to someone else. Morning is the time to think big about not only your goals…but the possibilities that lay ahead. It is time to throw rational thinking to the side…and take a moment to think: What if?

Use these “What if?” moments to drive you forward. You may not try all of the “what if?” thoughts (and that is probably a good thing)…but thinking this way gives you the potential to do great work.

How do you make your mornings matter?

Photo Credit: David Leggett via Compfight cc

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Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • […] I think I would be more productive if I followed some of A.J. Juliani’s advice in 5 Ways to Make Your Mornings Matter. […]

  • Christine says:

    Perfect post at the perfect time of year…when I am filling in my planner with all the dates for next year. Now I’ll add a few morning habits as well.

    • AJ Juliani says:

      Thanks Christine! Planning can sometimes feel like a waste of time, but I like the way it structures things for me. Summer is for dreaming big!

  • Jon Harper says:

    AJ I love this post and it hits home with me. It’s funny you wrote this today because for some unknown reason I was up at 3 am today! During the school year I like to get up around 4, because like you, I find it is my one time when I can focus and flow. Sometimes I do waste the time and sometimes I am able to be productive. Your list has helped me think about ways to focus. It is interesting when I go on Twitter during the early hours I often find early risers like myself or those from a different continent. Either way it is fun, but I do need to use my time more wisely. I have been fairly productive this morning having started a blog, gone for a walk and read and commented on a few posts. I appreciate the list that is ever so important, especially with little ones that will be up any moment. Have a great day!

    • AJ Juliani says:

      Thanks for the comment Jon. Sounds like you did have a productive morning…I go back and forth on what is more important, and that may be the toughest challenge: choosing what to focus on.

  • This one has me thinking AJ! Thank you for sharing!

  • Alpaslan says:

    AJ, I liked your post a lot. But I am afraid I won’t be able to say that I wake up early as you guys. Whenever we come together with friends, I keep talking about the importance of waking up early and doing things that we can’t do during the day due rush of each day but I don’t have that beautiful and important habit yet. I think there are two reasons why I am not successful on; One, sleeping very late, two, not doing work out. Anyway, it was a good piece. I will keep trying. Thanks,

  • Tim Haag says:

    A.J.! Great post on ‘productivizing’ [using ‘hashtagification’ as my inspiration] our mornings. ;-]
    One of my summer bucket list items was to read four books. Thirty-six books dwarfs my goal, but still the 20 pages a day approach–good stuff!
    Keep up the great work.

  • Maggie says:

    Very inspiring! My goal is to start a teaching blog this year, and the ‘morning matters’ ideas are great!

  • Julie Chankow says:

    Thanks for sharing. I am not a morning person and I get things done at night when it is quiet and I am alone. But who knows, it can be quiet and everyone will still be asleep in the early hours, too, right? My eyes open at 4:30 am but I just go back to sleep. All these times, I’ve been telling myself to get up and exercise because it is healthy. Up till now, I haven’t done so but you know what I will try it tomorrow. It could make a lot of difference in my day!

  • Traci Ferris says:

    I use my mornings to learn from the many awesome twitter bloggers like you. The connection outside of my school and district has changed my teaching dramatically. I get up 40 min. Early to sit with my coffee and read about all of the amazing things teachers are doing around the world. Thank you so much for your innovation and outlook on teaching!

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