Late? Groggy? Hack Your Morning Routine

Published: Mar 27, 2013

 Workplace Issues       
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Still dragging your feet from the "spring ahead" hour change? Put a little pep in your step (and get your feet out the door faster) with a little morning streamlining. With these tips, you might just get to work on time--with your shirt pressed and your lunch packed to boot.

1. Don't hit snooze

Did you know that an extra 15 minutes of sleep can actually make you more tired?

It's less about the amount of sleep than about where you wake up during your sleep cycle. If you hit snooze because you woke up too early (as in, you feel exhausted and yanked out of "deep sleep"), letting yourself take another 5 minutes could drop you into an even deeper sleep--leaving you feeling worse.

A better bet is to simply set your alarm later and get up when it goes off, no matter how tired you are. (Going to bed and waking up at the same time will also help—and your body will start producing its "wake up chemicals" when you need them!)

2. Cut down on "activation energy"

If you tend to get overwhelmed by a bunch of tasks facing you while you're still in bed (leading you to hit snooze and pull the covers over head), try simply starting the tasks for yourself the night before. Studies have shown that once the barrier to starting a task is removed, we're much more likely to go through with it--thus, getting the morning ball rolling much faster.

Try putting coffee grounds and water in your machine, so all you have to do is hit the start button; if you hate making breakfast or packing lunch, just grouping the ingredients in the fridge or setting out clean Tupperware might help you get going.

Have something should do something but usually skip, like a workout? Arrange your routine so that you have to go out of your way to avoid it. For example, sleeping in running clothes. Since it takes more energy to remove them than to just lace up your shoes and go, you're much more likely to follow through.

3. Become a creature of routine

Even in the middle of your morning rush, make an effort to put items back where you found them, like a trail of bread crumbs for your tired, confused morning self: a coffee mug set out by the machine, clothes for the day by your shoes, last night's leftovers wrapped up and ready to grab in the fridge. The more streamlined, organized, and predictable your routine is, the less time you'll waste frantically hunting for tie or eyebrow pencil when you're already late.

One thing to leave out of the workday routine: emails. If you need to do a quick email check on your phone to plan your morning or prioritize work tasks, fine, but resist the urge to park it in front of your laptop. The distractions are too many, and their distracting, time-wasting pull much too strong. Stay focused, and stick to your routine.

4. Reward yourself

Ever have leftover Sunday pancakes waiting in the fridge on a Monday morning? You may have noticed it was unusually easy to get out of bed.

If you have a treat prepared for yourself—fancy coffee, a delicious smoothie, a great smelling shower gel—it will be a lot easier to get out of a cozy bed. Even better: have a treat waiting for you at the office. Emails count, too.

5. If it's important, do it the night before

Ironing at 7am? You may be overestimating your willpower a little. Prepare for the worst: if it's imperative to have a smooth shirt, do it the night before, along with other tricky or decision-oriented tasks, like preparing breakfast or lunch, or choosing an outfit (you can't go to work naked!)

Same goes for packing things you'll need throughout the day, especially if the day is important (extra resumes for a job interview, notes for your big presentation, etc).

The truth is, you can't trust your morning brain—it's forgetful, and it doesn't like making decisions, which is why you end up with a pile of rejected clothing options when you try to dress. Your morning brain also thinks you don't really need to pack a lunch, nobody will noticed the wrinkles in your shirt, and that 9 more minutes of sleep will make a difference. So hack ahead! The results will show when you're calm, composed, and at your desk 5 minutes early.

--Cathy Vandewater,

Read More:
Science Explains Why You Should Stop Hitting The Snooze Button (Life Hacker)
How to Change Careers: A Hop, a Skip and a Jump
How to Stop Procrastinating at Work