If you're wondering what to do with your early-morning time that will get your day off to a productive start, I suggest the following things -
Meditate: Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington both start their morning with 20 to 30 minutes of meditation. Oprah says, "only from that space can you create your best work and your best life." Setting aside this little morning ritual can make the rest of your day seem manageable. You'll notice a weight come off your shoulders.
Start with an early workout: Exercise is an obvious running theme (no pun intended) here. Entrepreneur Russ Perry jumps on the first gym class of the day, at 5 a.m. "I've actually made some friends with similar schedules and lifestyles," Perry told Journal.
Do this breathing exercise: Shawn Achor, Harvard-trained happiness researcher and best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage, tells us to breathe and watch our breath go in and out for two minutes. He says do this every day. This allows your brain to focus on one thing at a time and, Achor says, it will improve levels of happiness and drop stress levels.
Sleep in your workout gear: Shankman also told Journal he sleeps in his gym clothes and puts his sneakers on within 10 seconds of waking up. "It's very hard to go back to sleep once your shoes are on."
Find a reason to get up: It sounds like a cliché but: What gets you up in the morning? Really, I'm asking. Don't get up at 4 a.m. for the heck of it. Have a plan--something you want to do for yourself, preferably something fun or stimulating that will bring excitement to your day.
Change the location of your alarm clock: Having your alarm clock (or smart phone) next to your bed and within arm's length is the number one reason most people can't get up in the morning. How many times have you turned off your alarm without being alert enough to know that you turned it off? Exactly. Best place for it is in the bathroom since you're headed there anyway to shower and do your morning "business."
Imagine what you could do with an extra hour: This is a creativity exercise, so picture in your mind: what would you do if you had an extra hour in the day? Would you use it to exercise? Read more? Cook breakfast for the kids? Water your garden? Take the dog for that long walk you know it will love?
Whatever you do, don't skip a healthy breakfast: Trade your bowl of sugary cereal for something healthy like oatmeal or a protein berry smoothie (have all the parts cut up the night before and ready to be blended). You'll avoid being tired and hungry later when the sugar jolt wears off. Try fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and lean protein options that will keep you going until lunch time.
Set three goals for the day: Again, don't think daily tasks on your work to-do list. The most successful people start the day by putting their mental focus on something that will make them better. What will grow you, give you more energy, make you happier, and set the stage for an epic productive day?
Clear your inbox: If you choose to use this time slot for work-related tasks, you could plan to answer all your emails and messages from the previous day or week. If you're that hardcore, more power to you: Challenge yourself to having a "zero inbox policy" by 6 a.m.
The writer is a speaker, leadership coach, ----Marcel Schwantes
advisor, and columnist.
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