The secret to having a productive day is a morning routine, according to some of the most effective and high-powered people like Oprah Winfrey, Anna Wintour and Barack Obama. It forces you to carve time out of a busy day for yourself. You’ll be happier, more productive, and generally able to slay your day.
Wake up to what you love – it energises you
Every other day, Serena Adsit gets to the stables by 7am for horse-riding sessions. It’s a hobby that has given her immense satisfaction as her riding skills have improved. The founder of model and talent agency Mint Singapore says her morning routine invigorates her and starts the day on a positive note. Besides, mornings are the only time she has for herself as post-work hours are usually spent with her young son or at work-related events.
“Indulging my interests may seem like a time-waster to some people, but I’ve learnt that doing something which makes me happy is the best way to enjoy life,” Serena says. “Having work-life balance also makes me more fulfilled and helps me do better at work.”
You’ll be more organised
You don’t know what to wear to work, can’t find your keys, and there’s nothing to eat for breakfast because you forgot to buy more bread. Sounds familiar? Scrambling to pull yourself together in the morning puts you on the back foot for the rest of the day. So a morning routine helps you “get on autopilot mode because you are being proactive instead of reactive to situations”, explains clinical psychologist Joel Yang. “Regularity eases your cognitive load, helps you become more efficient, and gives you motivation to continue being productive for the rest of the day.”
Being organised in the mornings works for Jaelle Ang, CEO and co-founder of co-working space The Great Room. The first thing she does when she wakes up is to spend 10 minutes bullet-journaling, which includes writing down three things she needs to accomplish that day. “Writing helps me think, so I see this as a ‘braindump’, and it helps me feel less stressed about what’s ahead for the day,” she says
During this quiet time, she also puts her phone aside, so there are zero distractions. After that’s done, she sticks to a minimal makeup regime, and selects an outfit from a wardrobe of dresses that all have the same silhouette. Call it her “work uniform” of sorts. “This streamlined routine gives me more mental bandwidth to focus on what counts,” she adds.
If you exercise, the adrenalin keeps you going
In the age of #fitspo, waking up early to clock some miles is practically the norm. But the benefits of a morning run extend beyond healthy living for features writer Davelle Lee. The adrenalin spike she gets from her 5am runs helps her be more productive.
Post-run, she embarks on getting through an extensive to-do list before heading for the office. This includes oil-pulling (gargling coconut oil for 20 minutes to aid oral hygiene), doing a load of laundry, and preparing breakfast while listening to the news on the radio.
“My runs not only improve my health but my mood as well,” she says. “I consciously construct my routine to include household chores so as to help me make the most of my morning.” The satisfaction of completing numerous tasks gives her clarity and focus for the rest of the day.
Your mind is quieter
There’s a reason why yoga enthusiasts get up at dawn to roll out their mats. “There’s a certain quality to practising yoga in the morning that you just can’t get in the evening,” says Debbie Chua, who works in banking and wakes up daily at 5.45am for a two-hour yoga session. “It’s called brahmamahurta (a period of one and a half hours before sunrise), which is the time for spiritual contemplation or meditation.”
Morning meditation gives you time to be alone with your thoughts. Creating that headspace before the noise of the day sets in cultivates self-awareness and drives you to stay calm and focus on what’s important, says Joel.
Here’s how to get started, even if you’re not a morning person
1. Start small
Go to sleep 30 minutes earlier, and get up 30 minutes earlier. Start by making your bed, and stick to just one or two morning activities. Build from there once you get comfortable. It’s important to be realistic so that you can stick with it.
2. Do something worth waking up at 6am for
Think about what would get you out of bed at dawn, and use that to create your routine. If you’re forcing yourself to do an activity you’re not that keen on, you won’t make it past the first week.
3. You don’t have to do the same thing every day
“Routines don’t have to be boring,” Joel points out. Don’t go for the same thing every day if it will bore you out of your mind. If workouts are your jam, for example, go ahead and do them every morning – just switch up the exercises.
This article was first published in the January 2018 issue of Her World magazine.