It can be hard work setting out on a journey to create change. Where do you start? How do you go about it? If you're starting a social enterprise, charity, change project, or growing one that exists, being productive is key. A morning ritual for productivity can make all the difference to the day ahead.
We've all had those moments where we haven't quite been on the form we'd hoped for starting the day. Procrastination can creep in, and before you know it, we haven't done half what we intended.
So why would you need a morning ritual?
A popular saying is
“How you start your day determines how it goes”.
If you've ever started a day lazing around even when you had tasks to complete, telling yourself, "I'll get to it soon," then you know that you hardly ever "get to it." Even if you managed to complete those tasks, you went at them with the least effort, your main goal being to get them over with instead of doing valuable work.
This is why every changemaker needs a good morning routine. To make the most of the available time, the actions you take from the moment you open your eyes should be in line with having a productive day.
Related: 150 Morning Affirmations to start the day off the right way
Something as simple as choosing to turn on the tv could seriously alter how much work you get done on that day. We can even take it as far back as the night before. If you don't prepare yourself mentally for the next day's tasks, you'll probably be too disorganized to get much done.
The importance of having a morning routine should not be underestimated.
It doesn't have to be strict, i.e., the same set of actions every morning. To be at our most productive, our mornings should be a routine that is filled with positive actions that will lay the path for a good day or getting stuff done.
Morning routines give you a reason to drag yourself out of bed in the mornings, especially if they are filled with things you enjoy doing. They introduce excitement to your day, e.g., stretches that feel heavenly on your sore muscles or a fun meal you have planned for breakfast.
There's nothing more disorganizing than not knowing what you're supposed to do. When you have a morning routine, your daily tasks are laid out, and you can focus on getting to them one by one, increasing your level of productivity, and reducing the amount of time you spend worrying or asking yourself, "What did I say I was going to do today?"
Getting out of bed and completing a morning routine every day is not easy. It takes a lot of discipline, and you will probably slack more than once. But this is good. The more you apply yourself, the easier it gets.
That ease comes with self-discipline. This discipline won't just help you jump out of bed every morning ready to work, it will also reflect in the quality of your work, and the growth of yourself and your project.
You're probably pumped to start planning your own unique morning routine, but you should know that we're not talking about meditating to the sunrise and avocado-covered toasts. You can still do those if you enjoy them (not hatin'), but your morning actions should prepare you for long hours of sitting at a desk to get the work you need to do done.
So here are some helpful additions to your morning routine to help you kickstart your morning and stay happy and productive throughout the day.
I see a ton of advice (online) to make a to-do list in the morning, but it doesn't always work that way. As a busy changemaker with a mountain to get done, your tasks are everywhere. It's more likely that these things pop up on your mind randomly. This means you can't wait till the morning of a workday to write them down, as you could easily forget.
Keep a notepad handy (if you're a pen-and-paper type of person), or install a digital notepad on your mobile device. I personally use ToDoist and Evernote to create my to-do list, schedule tasks on different days and write down reminders as they come to mind. Your time management will improve as the important tasks get crossed off one by one.
It doesn't have to be all work work work. You can also use your to-do list to allow yourself some time for creative thinking or to get outdoors for a break. In fact, a short walk at lunch is a great idea to get the blood flowing and create valuable time for reflection away from screens and tasks.
You don't have to wake up at 5 am every day, but you shouldn't have a reason to be in bed beyond 8 am. Set an alarm for your best waking hour between 5 am to 8 am, and pull yourself out of bed when you hear it go off.
Regardless of how tempted you are to hit snooze and go back to sleep, don't. Drag, pull, roll yourself out of bed. This is the hardest part of your morning routine, but if you can push through rising early, it's smooth sailing.
Some of us, on the other hand, are night owls. There isn't a hard and fast rule here; rather, create your timing to suit you and your body's clock. An early start works wonders for early risers, but if you've been up all night burning the midnight oil, shift the timing of your daily rituals to allow for your own preference.
Stretching will help to get the remnants of sleep out of your system first thing in the morning. A light exercise will also help power up your brain and get you ready for the tasks ahead. Exercising promotes your physical health and keeps you in shape. Even a 20-minute workout where you get your body moving can boost energy and help you approach day-long productivity with a more positive outlook.
Also, if you're like me and always have a million things running through your mind, even while asleep, you should consider adding meditation to your morning routine.
It will help you achieve a few minutes of 'mental quietness,' giving you a clear head to start the rest of the day.
Your body uses up water while you sleep, so it is very important for optimal brain function that you drink enough water before starting your day. You might not easily notice if you are dehydrated, but it could affect your focus and level of productivity. When you drink water first thing, it also prepares your stomach for breakfast, which is the day's most important meal.
Studies have shown that eating breakfast is necessary to promote better memory and concentration, which is helpful for anyone who juggles several tasks every day. Your energy level will also be sustained throughout the day when you eat a healthy first meal, or at least until lunch if you eat breakfast. Steer clear of the sugar to avoid stress. You can also get your coffee maker ready to brew the night before; that way, you can simply turn it on, and your coffee will be ready in no time.
A clean workspace is very much like a fresh start. To avoid getting distracted by everything that might be out of place, take out a few minutes to clean your workspace and put everything back in order.
A cluttered workspace can affect your level of concentration and make it harder to focus on the work at hand. In contrast, a clean and organized one can reduce stress and help you feel at ease with the tasks ahead, which in turn can help boost productivity.
You probably have a to-do list, but you need to break it down into realistic goals. What I mean is that you need to identify how many of those tasks can be accomplished within your work hours. It is better to focus on two to three things and go at them one-by-one than to try and juggle them all and accomplish nothing valuable.
Write out the major tasks and what you have planned for the day in a new list, and remember to add other things that help your project, such as replying to emails, publishing a post on your LinkedIn page, contributing to the groups you're a part of, etc. Goal setting is crucial to a feeling of accomplishment and achievement, which all aids productivity.
Related: Our selection of best productivity quotes to get up and get going.
A productive morning routine is intended to improve your efficiency levels, so you should be focused on 'perfecting' it, in a way. Constantly time yourself doing these tasks, so you know how long it takes you to complete a few stretches, make breakfast, decides on your daily tasks, etc. The purpose of timing yourself is not to hurry up because that will be counterproductive. In fact, the exact opposite is true; your mornings should be relaxed, so you are calm and ready to get to work.
The purpose is to fix appropriate waking and work hours that suit you. For example, if it takes you 1 hour to finish your morning routine and you work 6 hours a day, you can wake up at 7 am and be done by 2 pm. However, if you take 3 hours to go through all the motions, you'll be done with work by 5 pm.
If you want to change this, you can then focus on reducing the time spent on your morning routine or waking up two hours earlier than usual.
Working on your morning ritual for productivity? Here are some things to avoid to make the most of every day.
It's easy to assume that you can handle everything at once, especially if you just had your daily dose of coffee. However, the following effect of multitasking is quick burnout. This means you'll probably get through halfway, but finishing the tasks will prove harder as the hours go by. Tackle each task individually, and only switch to a new one when you are satisfied with the results.
You might also find it a good idea to tackle the most important task first, so it's done, and then you can get on with the rest.
As changemakers, social media could either help or harm our projects. It all depends on how we choose to use it. Many people have grown their reach, started movements, and built reputations online using social media. However, it could also serve as a distraction that keeps you from completing your tasks.
To avoid getting lost in the black hole that is your social media feed, avoid it entirely until you are done with your priority tasks for the day.
This might seem odd, but I would recommend you stay away from the news in the morning. For many of us, our parents passed down the tradition of checking the news or reading the papers in the morning to stay in the know. However, the things you see in the news every single day can heavily affect your mood, which could kill any zeal you have to work.
To be at your best, you have to insulate yourself from external factors that can influence how you feel until you are done with the task at hand.
A fresh morning start feels promising, and you know that if you manage your time well, you can accomplish a lot. However, this knowledge can encourage us to say "yes" to unrealistic tasks or deadlines. To avoid stress, burnout, or even depression, say "no," as it might cause you more harm than good to say "yes."
The most important tip is to give yourself a day off once in a while. As much as you need to stay disciplined, don't get out of tune with your body. Set aside time to lay in bed, eat, watch movies and do absolutely nothing else. Successful people at the coal face of change need days to go out and enjoy life outside the grind as much as anyone else.
The healthiest lifestyle is one that promotes balance. Make sure you stick to healthy eating as much and possible. If you stick to a routine and complete your tasks at the right time, it will be easier for you to set out the needed time for self-care and socialization which are necessary for your mental health, and ultimately your productivity.
Perhaps the most important thing amongst all these tips is to find the right balance for you so that you feel like you can set yourself up for a great day following your morning routine. Try a few things, tweak them to suit, and explore the optimal routine for you.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.