Like most people, the period of my days with the least amount of energy usually coincided with the blaring of my alarm clock. Cursing the mechanical device that had the indignity to pull me from my warm and comfortable relationship with the mattress, waking up was never a pleasant experience for me. Once I had finally mustered the self-discipline to awaken I would have a very slow acceleration back into my usual energies. In total it usually took me thirty minutes to an hour before I could consider myself at normal capacity.
About a year ago I decided to take some steps to change this. On the occasions that I did wake up with energy, those days were always more productive and energized. I couldn’t help but notice the incredible importance of starting the day on good footing. It has been a year since then and I have been slowly adding more mechanisms over the past year to ensure a higher percentage of my mornings start off with the most energy and motivation possible.
If you mornings are a painful negotiation between the alarm clock and your pillow, or if the snooze button has become an addiction, I can offer you some of my advice on how you can take this experience and use it to launch your highly energetic day. In energizing my mornings there has been three essential keys to creating a lasting momentum for the entire day.
Make Your Wake-Up Consistent
I learned this lesson over a year ago from personal development author, Steve Pavlina in his article, “How to Become an Early Riser”. The basic tenant of this idea is that if you wake up at the same time every single day your body will adapt to this sleep ritual. When your body has adapted to this ritual it will naturally start anticipating to wake up when your alarm clock sounds. This consistency also conditions a habit of waking up to your alarm clock every day.
Most people, instead, use the weekends as a time period to “catch-up” on sleep they missed during the week. Although I am far from a sleep expert, I disagree with this notion of catching up on missed sleep. I have found that this often throws off my sleep cycle making Monday’s wake up much more difficult. In addition, I believe this practice is used as a poor excuse for not getting enough sleep in the week nights.
Last year I originally set a thirty day trial to wake up at 6:30 AM every day. I now wake up at 5:30 every morning. On the rare occasions that I miss my alarm clock (or accidentally set it for PM) I notice that I usually wake up only a little later then when my alarm clock would normally sound. This is in stark contrast to my past natural wake up time of 9:00 – 10:00 AM.
I am definitely not a natural early riser. I usually have most my energy around 10:00 PM and I have had times where I could sustain this level of energy to as late as 4:00 or 5:00 AM without sleep. From my own experiences I believe that adjusting my sleep schedule to be shifted earlier than it might be otherwise has been worth the potential cost. Even if I had a level of alertness later in the night I noticed this time was rarely productive for me, so the trade off for more morning hours has been beneficial. You may decide that a later wake-up time is better for you. My only suggestion is to condition both alternatives before you make a decision.
Add Morning Exercise
This is a recent addition to my own schedule. Being a slow riser I greatly abhorred the idea of running around when everyone else was still asleep. I usually liked to exercise when I had more energy in the evenings. Currently I’m halfway through a thirty day trial to add a half hour of running immediately after waking up. I can honestly say this has been an excellent addition to my daily routine.
Exercise creates energy. Although many people complain about not having enough energy to exercise, the opposite is actually true. You don’t have enough energy because you don’t exercise. Exercise creates a whole host of brain chemicals that stimulate your body. I have learned through my own experiences that when I am feeling least energetic, exercise gives me a quick boost of energy. The natural extension of this idea was to add exercise in the morning.
Currently I do a half hour jog immediately after waking up. I prefer aerobic activity in the morning because it requires less planning or thinking then doing a strength training routine. In addition, you can jog just about anywhere which means you don’t have to be near a gym. I may replace jogging with sit-ups or pushups when the winter months hit. Living in Manitoba means jogging in darkness with minus forty degree temperatures is a little more difficult.
I still do an hour of exercise outside this morning exercise. Although using the morning to take some time to exercise can be a good way to get things moving, I’ve found that I’m too foggy to really maximize my workout. The first ten minutes of my jog usually have me still waking up and I am usually about twenty percent slower when jogging in the morning then at my peak speed for the same distance.
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their book, “The Power of Full Engagement”, point out that if time is an issue replacing a half hour of sleep with a half hour of exercise is generally a good trade as far as energy is concerned. I shifted back my sleep schedule a half hour to account for this additional exercise in the morning and I don’t usually go to sleep any earlier as a result. Even if you are low on time, inserting a small amount of exercise into your morning can actually save time and energy over the course of your day.
From my own subjective experience I can comment on how exercise creates an immediate boost in energy right afterwards. This boost in energy can be enough to set in a momentum of positive energy throughout the day. I find that building energy is as much about force and acceleration as it is duration. Changing the level of energy from low to high is more difficult than sustaining it. Building exercise into your morning routines can ensure a quick acceleration into a high energy state.
Motivate Your Mornings
As I’ve mentioned earlier, your mornings set the tone for the rest of the day. A lazy and carefree start may be a relaxing way to start your day but it tends to result in a similar attitude throughout your day. Similarly, a frustrated or stressful start to your morning will color your attitude thereafter. Grasp hold of the first few minutes of your morning and establish a positive ritual of motivation and productivity.
I carry around an mp3 player usually filled with around a dozen hours worth of motivational audio books. Although I listen to this material throughout the day I find the mornings are a particularly good time to inject some positive and motivational messages. Authors such as Anthony Robbins, Earl Nightingale or Zig Ziglar can provide you with a positive thrust that can carry you through the day. I wrote more about listening to audio programs, here.
Energy is as much attitude as it is a physical characteristic of the body. By getting your attitude into the right focus right after you wake up you can create the energy you need to last you through the day. Right after your morning exercise is a great time to look over your goals and daily objectives. Having a clear and directed purpose for the day and reminding yourself of that purpose from the start can create a tremendous amount of energy. You may even want to take some time to rewrite a summary of all of your key goals each morning. Writing out your goals creates an even greater emotional connection to them than reading them.
Take some time to visualize and plan out your day. Your purpose with this is to create an intense anticipation for the upcoming events of the day. Imagine yourself successfully accomplishing your to-do list. Visualize yourself as being highly productive, energetic, positive, friendly and enthusiastic. This intense anticipation and excitement can create a surge of motivation to push you forward.
Your goal is to build up momentum in your morning rituals. Once you are in a state of high productivity, it takes something very disruptive or negative to knock you back. By building this momentum quickly in the morning you are far more likely to maintain it throughout the day. Listening to audio programs, reviewing your goals and visualizing the upcoming day are all ways you can do this.
Use Your Own Experiences
I’ve made three suggestions for energizing your morning, but you probably know a lot more methods without even realizing it. Right now, think back to a day you had recently where you had an abnormally productive and enthusiastic start to your day. Think back to a time where you sustained this productivity boost throughout the entire day and you left feeling satisfied and fulfilled in the days work.
With this experience in hand, look at unusual factors that may have contributed to this success. What did you eat for breakfast? How much sleep did you get? What did you do immediately after waking up? What time did you wake up? Model yourself. Take a look at these behaviors and I promise you will come up with answers for how to inject more energy and momentum into your mornings.
Each of us has different preferences and internal biorhythms. By looking back at your own moments of peak productivity you may notice unusual patterns of behavior in your morning. I am often amazed at how many of the answers we seek already exist in our past if we just look for them. Once you’ve found these patterns, condition them into your life. If you aren’t sure how to do this, read my article on conditioning new habits.
The quality of your mornings will likely reflect throughout your day. Start off stressed and lazy and your day will mirror that. Fill your morning with energy, productivity and motivation and you can expect your day to replicate that same experience. Start by setting a habit to wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. This will begin to adapt your body to the sleep cycle and allow you to create a positive wake up ritual. Next insert some exercise into your morning to kickstart your day with energy. Finally fill the first hour of your morning with motivational material, reviewing your goals and visualizing the ideal outcome of your day. By setting a higher standard of what you expect out of your mornings you can get it. Take the energy from your mornings and use it to really get the most out of your life!