Researchers at the University of Nottingham recently published findings from their exploration of 83 separate studies on energy and self-control. What they found will change the way you start your day.
The researchers found that self-control and energy are not only intricately linked but also finite, daily resources that tire much like a muscle. Even though we don’t always realise it, as the day goes on, we have increased difficulty exerting self-control and focusing on our work. As self-control wears out, we feel tired and find tasks to be more difficult and our mood sours.
This exhaustion of self-control kills your productivity, and it makes the morning hours, when self-control is highest, the most important hours of the day.
Whether you naturally wake up feeling alert and productive or wake up with the brainpower of a zombie, these tips will help you transform your morning routine and set a positive tone that lasts the entire day.
Start with exercise
Researchers at the University of Bristol found that people who exercise during the workday have more energy and a more positive outlook, which are both critical to getting things done. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. Exercising first thing in the morning ensures that you’ll have the time for it, and it improves your self-control and energy levels all day long.
Try drinking some lemon water first…
Drinking lemon water as soon as you wake up spikes your energy levels physically and mentally. Lemon water gives you steady, natural energy that lasts the length of the day by improving nutrient absorption in your stomach. You need to drink it first thing in the morning (on an empty stomach) to ensure full absorption. You should also wait 15-30 minutes after drinking it before eating (perfect time to squeeze in some exercise). Lemons are packed with nutrients; they’re chock full of potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants. If you’re under 150 pounds, drink the juice of half a lemon (a full lemon if you’re over 150 pounds). Don’t drink the juice without water because it’s hard on your teeth.
No screen time until breakfast
When you dive straight into emails, texts, and Facebook, you lose focus and your morning succumbs to the wants and needs of other people. It’s much healthier to take those precious first moments of the day to do something relaxing that sets a calm, positive tone for your day. Jumping right into electronics has the opposite effect—it’s a frantic way to start your day. Try exercising or even some meditation!
Eat a real breakfast
Eating anything at all for breakfast puts you ahead of a lot of people. People who eat breakfast are less likely to be obese, they have more stable blood-sugar levels, and they tend to be less hungry over the course of the day. And these are just the statistics for people who eat any breakfast. When you eat a healthy breakfast, the doors to a productive day swing wide open. A healthy breakfast gives you energy, improves your short-term memory, and helps you to concentrate more intensely and for longer periods.
Set goals for the work
Research shows that having concrete goals is correlated with huge increases in confidence and feelings of control. Setting goals specific to the day puts everything into motion. Narrow your goals down to a few achievable ones that can easily be broken down into steps. Vague goals such as “I want to finish writing my article” are counter-productive because they fail to include the “how” of things. The same goal re-phrased in a more functional way would read something like this: “I am going to finish my article by writing each of the three sections, spending no more than an hour on each section.” Now, you have more than simply something you want to achieve—you have a way to achieve it.
The right morning routine can make your day, every day. The trick is to be intentional about your mornings, understanding that a.m. hours are precious.
Adapted from an article by Travis Bradberry, LearningLink February 2016.