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We're midway through the first quarter of the year.

How can you make the most out of this season? Why not start at the beginning? Specifically, the beginning of your day. Mastering your morning routine will put you ahead of the pack and also make you a whole lot happier. This post will highlight 9 of our best morning routine habits to jumpstart your day.

Related: Don't be busy, be productive: 7 ways to use time more wisely

1. Get enough sleep

Nailing the perfect morning routine actually starts the night before. Getting enough sleep is hugely important, no matter how much we might trick ourselves into thinking we can beat the system. The National Sleep Foundation (who knew, right?) recommends 7-9 hours per night for adults. Not convinced? The NSF also estimates that a lack of sleep costs the United States $66 billion a year in loss of productivity and health care expenses.

Another sleep-related thing to be aware of is the concept of sleep debt. When you don't get enough sleep, you actually owe sleep to your body and need to make it up to be fully rested. But, the best way to solve this problem is to not go into debt in the first place. Schedule your day so you can get enough sleep.

Can't get enough sleep
Ever felt like this at 3 p.m.?

2. Customize your alarm

If you're using a traditional alarm, it's easy to wake up thinking that a primordial reptile is perched over you, unleashing its hunting screech before going for your jugular. Not the best way to get things started.

Instead of the traditional—and highly unnerving—alarm, why not try waking up to one of your favorite songs? When you are gently roused from your slumber by a soft tune, you're likely to feel peaceful and composed—priceless emotions at the crack of dawn.

If you prefer to have a more punchy start to your day, there are songs for that, too. Here's a playlist with a few ideas for songs that work great as alarms. But pick any song that works best for you (here's the playlist in Spotify if you don't use Apple Music).

A little tip: change up your alarm song every week or so. This will preserve the positive effect of waking up to music. If you get used to a certain song as an alarm, it can become almost as annoying as a regular alarm.

3. Exercise

A peaceful vibe is great for the moments just after waking up, but there comes a time when you need to get the heart rate going and sweat a little. Exercising in the morning is the way to go, even if it's hard to get started. The benefits of A.M. exercise include:

  • Starting the day off with a victory (winning the battle against lethargy)
  • Getting a nice boost of endorphins to carry you through the day
  • Shaking off any residual drowsiness from your slumbers
  • Working up an appetite so you can have a hearty breakfast (more on that later)
  • Increased chances of interesting wildlife encounters (cool critters are more likely to be out in the early morning)

That's not even including all the benefits of exercise in general, which are many. Try exercising every day for two weeks, and you'll feel the difference.

Running to jumpstart your morning
The world is a beautiful place in the wee morning hours.

Morning exercise time is also a great opportunity to do some positive mental visualization and self-talk. Though there's nothing wrong with exercising to music, consider using the time to visualize the day ahead and go over possible scenarios, thinking about how you'll respond to each one. This will relieve stress and help you feel that you have everything under control.

While you're visualizing your day, try repeating positive mantras to yourself, using your name. For example, you could say something like "Jarom, today you're going to do your best." Or, "Jarom, you're going to blow everyone away with your presentation." Or maybe, "Jarom, you're so good-looking." Ah, shucks! Thanks! I appreciate that.

4. Eat breakfast

Guys, Mom was right. The saying is cliché, but breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. In fact, to get a little meta on you, I'm writing about the importance of breakfast while eating breakfast.

In today's fast-paced world, it seems that the delights of breakfast are often surrendered to a hurried cup of coffee before running out the door. This is a big mistake. One of the realities of being mortal is that we need fuel, and some hot bean juice water just isn't going to cut it.

But I get it—you're busy, and taking the time to prepare a three-course breakfast just isn't realistic. Here are some ideas for breakfasts that are fast, easy and pack enough punch to get you through the morning (they're healthy too):

  • Microwave some instant oats, then add a dash of salt, some brown sugar or honey, and a sprinkling of chia seeds. (Chia seeds might sound weird, but they're actually delightful in oatmeal, and they're a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. I promise grass won't start growing from your head.) To treat yourself, try a little butter mixed in with your oatmeal. Trust me.
  • Top a bowl of cottage cheese with walnuts, honey and fresh fruit (diced apple, blueberries, banana slices).
  • Peanut butter toast. It's simple and extremely fast, but it keeps you going. You can just do plain peanut butter on the toast, or you can top it with honey and banana slices to take things to the next level (and bulk up the meal).
  • Sprinkle some granola and fresh fruit on top of Greek yogurt. It's delicious and high in protein.

Waffle breakfast for a great morning start
This photo contains all the elements of a great breakfast: waffles, waffles and waffles.

Depending on your appetite, you could even combine some of these ideas, e.g. oatmeal with peanut butter toast. One thing I've found is that if you can get a good bit of protein in your breakfast, you'll feel full and energized for longer. One option is adding some fried or scrambled eggs to your meal.

Because I'm a recent convert to Soylent, I have to throw in a plug for them here. Basically, Soylent is a full meal in a bottle that not only tastes really good, it has all the vitamins and nutrients we need to be happy and healthy. Soylent has worked really well for me when I've been crunched for time or out and about.

Soylent meal replacement

5. Treat yourself

It always helps to give yourself a little reward for getting up in the morning and tackling the day. Find one brief activity that you enjoy, like checking your favorite news app or listening to a bit of a podcast. Personally, I like to glance over the NPR News app while I eat my breakfast.

Daily routine newspaper
Hey, if the business section is what gets you going in the morning, go for it.

Adding something you enjoy to your morning will help you feel more positive about the day ahead and give you a moment to settle the anxiety of the morning rush. It feels a million times better to not be frantic in the morning.

6. Take the stairs

This one's pretty simple. Once you've made it to the office, take the stairs instead of the elevator. It's a perfect way to naturally work some exercise into your day, and it feels great to power up the steps and strut into the office feeling like you're on top of the world.

To spice things up, you can challenge your co-workers to a little friendly competition: they take the elevator and you take the stairs, and see if you can beat them to the top.

You'll notice your endurance building as you consistently take the stairs, and your happiness will go up too. To make it even better, I recommend plugging in your headphones and listening to some jamming tunes as you walk up to your office from your car and bound up the stairs. When you burst through the doors of your office, you'll feel ready to take on anything.

Rocky steps in Philly
Me at the Rocky steps in Philly. As a firm believer in taking the stairs, I needed to make this pilgrimage.

7. Start off with something engaging

Beginning your day by slogging through emails can be a productivity and motivation killer. If you can help it, try starting your most important and demanding task right when you get to your desk. By channeling all the good energy from your morning routine into something engaging at the beginning of the day, you'll keep your momentum and save your brain power for when you need it most.

When I'm in the middle of working on a blog post, I like to jump right into writing first thing in the morning. I find that I can usually get a nice burst of around 600-750 words done in a fairly short amount of time because of all the energy I have. Then, when I'm tired later in the day, I can do a task that takes less concentration, like going through emails.

8. Use power poses

Adjusting a simple thing like your posture can make a surprising difference in your morning. Being hunched over in your chair is a submissive pose and can make you feel bad about yourself (subconsciously or not). Instead, sit with shoulders back and core engaged so you feel strong and ready for the day. If you're preparing for a meeting or presentation, you can even try victory poses like hands on hips or hands outstretched in the air. However, you may want to do this in private.

Ultimate power pose for a great day
Talk about a power pose. Maybe you could have a mural installed to simulate this effect.

For a little more about this, check out this TED talk about how body language affects the way we see ourselves.

9. Prioritize your day with Trello

I like to use Trello to keep myself organized and focused throughout the day. For those who aren't familiar with Trello, it's a free online service that helps you organize your to-do lists. I highly recommend it.

Trello even lets you share a board of to-do's with your team members so you can all stay up-to-date. Plus, you can assign yourselves awesome nicknames and photos to make things fun. Here's what the Lucidpress content team's Trello board looks like:

Trello board for organization

Bonus: Infographic

One more thing. We made a shareable infographic to summarize all these points. Feel free to pass along this image across your social channels!

Morning routine infographic
Icons made by: Freepik from www.flaticon.com.

Let us know how these tips worked for you in the comments below! And feel free to pass along your own tips as well.

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Author Bio

Jarom McDonald works as a content specialist on Lucidpress's marketing team. Outside of work, Jarom loves watching movies, occasionally watching birds, eating pizza, and driving a Prius (a vehicle he will defend passionately). Follow him on Twitter: @jarom2011.