In his book titled Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey examines the daily rituals of some of history’s most creative minds. One commonality he found among them was that they all had some sort of morning and night routine that helped set the tone for their day and allowed them to get the most out of their time.
He concluded that in the right hands, rituals can be a powerful tool for productivity. They allow you to take advantage of limited resources such as time, willpower, self-discipline, and optimism. The result? You can get more done in less time, with less effort.
While not all of us are world-renowned artists, we can still benefit from having our own set of rituals that can help us make the most out of each day.
Here are the basics of morning and night routines that can help you to be more productive.
What’s The Best Morning Routine?
The best morning routine is the one that works for you. It should be something that you can stick to even on days when you don’t feel like it. It should also be flexible enough to accommodate last-minute changes and disruptions.
With that being said, there are a few key components that every productive morning routine should have:
1. An Ideal Wake-Up Time
Your wake-up time should be based on your natural body clock or circadian rhythm (6). This is the internal process that regulates your sleep-wake cycle.
Most people function best with around 8 hours of sleep, so a good rule of thumb is to wake up 7 hours after you go to bed. This means going to bed at a reasonable hour too. Early mornings are often the most productive time of day, so if you can, try to wake up early and make the most of it.
Researchers in one study found that early risers report feeling more energetic and optimistic than those who sleep in. This is not to say that you can’t be productive at other times of the day, but if you can swing it, getting up early is a great way to start your day.
2. Minimal Screen Time
Rolling over and reaching for your phone first thing in the morning is a bad habit that can lead to wasted time and feeling of being overwhelmed. Instead, try to disconnect from technology for at least the first 30 minutes of your day.
This will give you time to clear your head and focus on what’s important. One way to achieve this is by having your phone in another room so you’re not tempted to check it first thing in the morning.
Quieting your mind first thing in the morning can help you to feel more relaxed and focused throughout the day. Meditation is a form of mindfulness that has been shown to reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase productivity (5). It’s also something that you can do anywhere and only takes a few minutes.
There are no hard and fast rules on how one should meditate. Just find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, then just close your eyes and focus on your breathing. If your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back to your breath.
You can also try guided meditation if you need some help getting started. If meditation isn’t your thing, that’s okay. There are plenty of other ways to quiet your mind in the morning. Taking a few deep breaths and sitting in silence for a few minutes can also be helpful.
4. Make Your Bed
The little things can make a big difference when it comes to productivity. Making your bed first thing in the morning is a small task that can help to set the tone for the rest of your day. It’s a way of telling yourself that you’re in charge and that you’re going to get things done.
Plus, there’s nothing quite like coming home to a made bed at the end of a long day. It’s a simple way to make yourself feel good and it can help you relax and wind down before bed.
Numerous studies have shown that exercise can boost energy levels, improve mood, and increase productivity (3). So, if you can, try to squeeze in a quick workout first thing in the morning. Even just a few minutes of activity can make a difference.
It doesn’t have to be a strenuous workout. Just something to get your heart rate up and your body moving. Taking a brisk walk, going for a run, or doing a quick home workout are all great options. Yoga is especially beneficial as it combines movement with mindfulness.
6. Take A Cold Shower
Research shows that cold showers can have some pretty impressive health benefits (8). They can increase alertness, improve circulation, and boost immunity, to name a few. So, if you’re looking for a way to wake up in the morning, a cold shower might do the trick.
Of course, not everyone enjoys cold showers. If the thought of one makes you cringe, start with a lukewarm shower and gradually make it cooler. You may also try alternating between hot and cold water throughout your shower. Over time, you might find that you actually enjoy the feeling of a cold shower in the morning.
7. Eat A Healthy Breakfast
Skipping breakfast is a recipe for low energy levels and poor productivity. A healthy breakfast will give you the fuel you need to power through your morning and can also help improve your mood and concentration.
Start your day with a nutritious meal or snack that includes protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Eggs, oatmeal, avocado toast, and smoothies are all great options.
What if you’re not hungry in the morning? Drink plenty of water and prepare a nutritious breakfast that you can eat later in the day. This will help to prevent mid-morning hunger from derailing your productivity.
A cup of coffee or tea is also a good idea. Caffeine can improve focus and alertness, but be sure to drink it in moderation. Too much caffeine can lead to anxiety and jitters. Follow it up with a glass of water to stay hydrated.
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8. Make A Detailed Plan
The most productive people have a plan for their day. They know what they need to do and they have a system for getting it done. Having a plan will help you stay focused and on track.
Start by making a list of everything that you need to do. Include both big and small tasks. Then, prioritize your list by importance.
Planning is a double-edged sword; it can help you to be more productive, but it can also lead to paralysis by analysis. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by your to-do list, try the Pomodoro Technique.
This time management strategy involves working in short bursts with breaks in between. It’s a great way to stay focused and get things done without feeling overwhelmed.
Your plan should include breaks. Even the most productive people need to take breaks. Working for long periods of time without a break can lead to burnout and can make you less productive in the long run. It’s important to give your mind and body a chance to rest and rejuvenate.
Schedule breaks into your day, and make sure to step away from your work during those times. Go for a walk, take a nap, or just take some time to relax. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever is next on your list.
Your plan should also specify how much time you’ll spend on a specific task. If you find yourself getting bogged down by a task, tell yourself that you’re only going to work on it for a certain amount of time, and then move on to something else.
This will help you to stay focused and avoid getting bogged down in the details. It can also be helpful to set limits on other activities, such as checking your email or social media. Constantly checking for new notifications can be a huge time waster. So, set some limits and stick to them.
9. Simplify Your Work Space
A cluttered workspace can lead to a cluttered mind. If your desk is covered in papers and knick-knacks, it will be harder for you to focus on your work. So, take some time to declutter and simplify your space.
Get rid of anything that you don’t need and organize the items that you need. This will help your mind to feel clearer and more focused. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it can make.
What Is The Perfect Night Routine?
How you wind down at night can greatly impact how productive you are the next day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 50 to 70 million US adults have a sleep disorder (7). This can lead to daytime fatigue, poor concentration, and an increased risk of accidents. A well-designed night routine can help you to sleep better, feel more rested, and be more prepared for the day ahead.
Just like the morning routine, there are also a few key components in order to have a perfect night routine:
1. Establish A Consistent Bedtime
Your body has an internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, that regulates your sleep-wake cycle (6). This clock is influenced by environmental cues, such as sunlight and temperature.
To help regulate your circadian rhythm, it’s important to establish a consistent bedtime. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help train your body to sleep better.
2. Avoid Caffeine And Alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol are both stimulants, and they can interfere with sleep. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 8 hours, so it’s best to avoid it after 2 pm. And, while a nightcap may help you to fall asleep, it can disrupt your sleep later in the night. Research shows that drinking alcohol before bed can lead to poorer sleep quality. Thus, it’s best to avoid it before bed (1).
3. Eat A Light Evening Meal
Eating a big meal right before bed can lead to indigestion and can disrupt your sleep. So, it’s best to eat a light evening meal. If you’re hungry before bed, try eating a small snack, such as an apple or a handful of nuts.
Some foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can help you sleep (4). So, if you’re looking for a bedtime snack that will help you sleep, try eating some turkey, cottage cheese, or yogurt.
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3. Create An Ideal Environment For Sleep
Your bedroom should be a haven for sleep. It should be dark, quiet, and cool. If you can’t control the noise level in your environment, try using a white noise machine or earplugs to block out the sound.
Your body temperature naturally decreases at night, which helps you to sleep. To support this process, keep your bedroom cool and comfortable. According to research, the ideal room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Avoid Screen Time
The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with sleep (2). According to research, using screens before bed can delay sleep onset and reduce the amount of time you spend in deep sleep.
So, it’s best to avoid screen time for at least an hour before bedtime. If you must use a screen at night, try using dim light settings or wearing blue-light-blocking glasses.
5. Wind Down
In the hour before bed, avoid anything stimulating or stressful. This includes exercise, work, and arguments. Instead, do something calming, such as reading or taking a bath. This will help you to relax and prepare for sleep.
There are several relaxation techniques that can help you to sleep better. These include deep breathing exercises that help slow down your heart rate and progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. Some gentle yoga poses can also be helpful.
8. Check Your Medications
Some medications can interfere with sleep. If you’re taking medication, talk to your doctor about their possible side effects. They may be able to prescribe an alternative that doesn’t have the same effect on sleep.
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The Bottom Line
The best morning and night routines are those that work for you. Experiment with different habits and see what makes you feel more productive and rested. Furthermore, remember to be patient. It can take some time to develop new habits and see results. But, stick with it and you’ll eventually find a routine that works for you.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Commonly used stimulants: Sleep problems, dependence and psychological distress (2015, nih.gov)
- Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology (2016, nih.gov)
- Exercise for Mental Health (2006, nih.gov)
- How important is tryptophan in human health? (2019, nih.gov)
- Meditation and Mindfulness: What You Need To Know (2022, nih.gov)
- Physiology, Circadian Rhythm (2022, nih.gov)
- Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem (2006, nih.gov)
- The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial (2016, nih.gov)