Mind & Body

How To Become A More Productive Morning Person

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#MUNIonThis: I know the benefits of waking early, and I even wrote an article making a case for it and maximizing your mornings, an argument backed by Laura Vanderkam, author of “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast”. My article was all wonderful-sounding and well-intentioned. However, I would struggle in getting up in the morning, oftentimes waking early, but pressing the snooze button, going back to sleep to catch more zzz’s, or just lying in bed staring aimlessly at the ceiling. So how did I go about changing this habit to become a more productive morning person?

Find your intention

Most of us struggle with changing some habits because we forget to start with WHY. Whether it’s getting some exercise, eating breakfast with the family, working on a personal project before the workday starts, or avoiding the mad rush to the office, understanding the core motivator for that behavior will better help in getting you out of bed. [1]

Furthermore, I believe that the most sustainable habits are the ones founded on really good intentions that go beyond yourself as an individual person too, e.g. I want to get up earlier in the morning to exercise – so I can be in a better mood and have more dopamine in my system (naturally) – so I have more energy and focus – so I can produce better work – so I can better share, find, and create more ways for others to live more mindfully. (That’s just one of my personal motivators. Jot down yours.)

Tackle change at the root

One of the main, and most basic reasons why many well-intentioned morning person wannabes struggle is because we fail to address another obvious, but often neglected root of the problem: sleep. We may sometimes set our alarm earlier, without changing the time we go to sleep, perhaps with the thinking that sleep is for the weak, this work must be done, or we don’t want to miss out on X event.

Truth is we need anywhere from 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep. [2] In fact, going a day without sleep, or a number of days on reduced sleep, makes your cognitive performance (or impairment) equivalent to being legally drunk. [3] So truth is, it is sometimes okay to miss out, and almost always, the work can wait, and you’re probably going to be more efficient after some quality sleep anyway. [4]

So how do I develop a better sleep routine?

  1. Shut down before bedtime
    Bright lights from screens stimulate our brains and inhibit restful sleep. [1] So, it would ultimately better for sleep and our psychological well-being, to spend an hour away from the TV, laptop, tablet, or phone to wind down before bed time. If an hour is a bit of a stretch for you, try 15 to 30 minutes. If you feel a little restless, try a savasana while lying in bed, and you’ll be asleep in no time.
  2. Follow the sun
    Allow your circadian rhythm follow the earth’s rhythm too. This means shutting down lights at night (saving energy), and making the most of morning sun. In the mornings, with exposure to light, the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), which controls our body clock, sends light to the optic nerve, raises our body temperature, signaling our bodies to wake up. At night, the SCN also responds to dark by increasing levels of melatonin, which encourages sleep. [4]
  3. Make the most of your weekend mornings
    Most people look forward to the weekends as a chance to sleep in. However, compensating on the weekends disrupts your natural body clock. So, having a consistent bedtime on the weekends seems to lead to better sleep and easier waking during the week, according to research in Chronobiology International. And, you get to maximize your weekend to do productive things you love too. [4]
Photo c/o wpwide.com

Again, being a productive morning person doesn’t end with the ability to wake up early, but also having purposeful intention for this habit too. And perhaps, there are those individuals who are indeed more prolific at night. However, I find that this works for me, as long as I get up early enough to avoid the rest of the world’s “noise”, and that many of the world’s respected thinkers and doers swear by early mornings too.

Check out these other resources on becoming a morning person:

What habits help you function more productively?

Jen HornJEN HORN (@nomadmanager) is a wanderer, writer, and designer out to build the MUNI community, create a culture of caring for self, others, and the planet, and make choosing better a way of life as MUNI’s Chief Collaborator. A graduate of AB-Psychology from De La Salle University, she has always had a fascination with the inner workings of the human mind, though she opted to pursue entrepreneurship, writing, and design after graduation. She is the Manila ambassador for 99U, a creative’s resource on Making Ideas Happen. She is also a lover of handwoven textiles, and aims to keep weaving traditions alive through the use of Philippine textiles with her side project Tala Luna.

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