6 Ways to Have Your Most Productive Morning
What it does: Turning up the heat makes it hard to stay sleepy. Body temperature naturally tends to drop when we're in the deepest part of our sleep cycle, which is two hours before we wake up, says Rafael Pelayo, MD, a sleep specialist at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center. That's why those hours of sleep right before the alarm goes off tend to be the most cozy.
How it makes you more productive: Your body will feel literally warmed-up and ready to go, and your mind will follow.
What it does: While we're all generally on the same time schedule (i.e., asleep in the dark, and bustling around in the light of day), our internal clocks vary by minutes to hours. For example, you might feel more energized after waking up at 6:15 a.m. than at 6:30 a.m.
How it makes you more productive: You'll do your best work when you're naturally more alert. When schools pushed back start times from 7:15 to 8:40 a.m. to partially accommodate the circadian rhythms of teenagers (who tend to be three hours behind), they found that students' grades and test scores drastically improved.
What it does: Activating the large muscles in the thighs and butt quickly gets blood flowing to the brain, says John Ratey, MD, a Harvard associate professor and the author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, reinvigorating it with oxygen, nutrients (like glucose) and performance-boosting chemicals. This move is still uncomplicated enough to do with a toothbrush in your hand.
How it makes you more productive: It activates your brain and turns on the cells you'll need for creative thinking, says Ratey (and brushing, of course, freshens your breath).
What it does: Any kind of food fuels the brain, but the complex carbs in whole grains have a low glycemic index and are absorbed slowly, keeping blood sugar levels stable and energy levels consistent. That's why they could be considered the breakfast of (Jeopardy!) champions.
How it makes you more productive: Studies have shown that breakfast eaters are more alert, have sharper recall and improved cognitive performance than those who don't eat breakfast. One example: Schoolkids who eat something in the morning seem to perform better on tests. The effects are strongest if the meal is eaten within an hour of waking—which means we're talking about breakfast, not brunch.
What it does: Caffeine works by temporarily blocking the action of a natural, sleep-inducing brain chemical called adenosine, explains Allison T. Siebern, PhD, a sleep specialist at Stanford Sleep Medicine Center. It essentially buys you hours of awake time.
How it makes you more productive: A strong cup of coffee can boost both mental alertness and physical performance by up to 30 percent within 15 to 30 minutes. You might notice the effects even sooner: The aroma of coffee beans alone can alter the activity of genes in the brain to reduce the stress of sleep deprivation, found Korean researchers working with exhausted rodents.
What it does: As you repeat the ritual, it will become a habit. And the brain loves habits—they spare cognitive energy and make us more efficient. Soon your brain will be craving the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing your ritual, and it will become automatic.
How it makes you more productive: Murakami has written 13 novels (and has completed more than 33 marathons); Trollope completed over 24. Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity. Enough said.
Next: Ways to boost your energy when you haven't slept