Start Your Day Strong: Establish a morning routine for more productive and less stressful days

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From Men’s Health


If you tend to rush around in the morning—attempting to pick out your power outfit, eat breakfast, make lunch, pack your gym bag, and answer e-mails sent while you were sleeping, all before you step out the door—it’s no wonder you’re frustrated by the time you reach the office. If you want to feel confident and perform well at work, it’s time you had a streamlined morning routine.

“Routines are time-saving,” says Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check E-mail in the Morning. “When you don’t have one, you lose time trying to figure out what do next, and you forget things.” And if you start the day off negatively, chances are the rest of the day will follow suit.

Instead, make time at home proactive, Morgenstern says. “You’re in charge, spending time on things that fuel you, energize you, and make you feel in control.” Then you’ll head into the office relaxed, focused, and ready to face the day. Just follow Morgenstern’s steps to establish an efficient morning routine.

1. Figure out exactly how much time you have in the morning. What time do you really rise out of bed (not what time does your alarm clock go off), and when do you have to leave home to arrive at work on time? Be realistic.

2. Inventory everything that has to happen by the time you head out the door. Eat breakfast, shower, iron, walk the dog, etc. If you normally read the paper before work, include that in your list.

3. Next go through Morgenstern’s four Ds: delete, delay, diminish, and delegate.
Delete: Eliminate the things you really don’t need to do. There’s little chance your boss will take “I was wrapped up in Sports Center” as an acceptable excuse for being tardy. And never check your e-mail or Blackberry. “It distracts your energy, puts you in a bad mood, and trains people that you’re available at all hours,” Morgenstern says. “And then you become trapped by it.”

Delay: Or, more accurately, do something at a different time. Identify the things you could do in advance. Most of these are simple—picking out your clothes, making your lunch, packing your gym bag and briefcase (leave them by the door so you don’t forget them)—but all of these little tasks add up.

Diminish: Create shortcuts where you can. If you enjoy long showers, consider saving those for nights and cutting your morning bathing to a quickie.

Delegate: Seek help from others for the things others could do. Could your daughter walk the dog? Or maybe you can convince your girlfriend to make you a portion of whatever she has for breakfast.

4. You now have less to do in the morning. For 2 or 3 days, time yourself to see exactly how long it takes to do everything you have to do. Then you’ll know, for example, that you don’t have time to cook and eat a big breakfast, and you can be sure to have grab-and-go choices on hand. And if you really must wake up earlier, you’ll know by how many minutes.

One more tip: Set up a realistic plan for your workday the night before. “People hit snooze and procrastinate because they’re intimidated by their day—they feel overwhelmed by their workload because they’re not realistic,” Morgenstern says. But an agenda that doesn’t stress you out (but still accomplishes what must be done) means you’ll be ready to tackle the day when your alarm goes off. “You’ll get up, follow your routine, and walk into work with a sense of conquest: I have a day I can do,” Morgenstern says.

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