More often than not, people rush through their mornings. They snooze their alarms until the last possible second and then hurry out the door to make it to work on time. As a result, they start their day off groggy and cranky. But what if they didn’t press snooze a million times? What if they woke up in enough time to carry out a pleasant, productive morning routine?

Taylor Jacobson, Founder and CEO of Focusmate and former executive coach, says their days would drastically improve.

Generate Mental Momentum For Your Day

Sure, sleeping in is great—but it’s nothing compared to an effective morning routine that sets you up for a productive and enjoyable day. The trouble is finding a routine that truly works for you, as explained by Jacobson: “The morning routine is one of those productivity memes that is often discussed without a lot of nuance. We’ve all seen that headline a thousand times: The Morning Routine of XYZ Famous Person. It’s these eye-grabbing headlines that perpetuate myths. Wake up at 4 a.m. vs. sleep until you wake up; eat a healthy breakfast vs. skip breakfast. These leave a lot of people baffled. Simply put, your morning routine matters because it dictates how you feel for the rest of the day.”

“Start your day off by mindlessly cruising social media, checking email and eating a donut, and your mind starts playing a damning message: I’m lazy, I’m a slob, I’m not as good as these people, I’m a loser, I’m behind on work. That will be accompanied by a cortisol drop, which means more space for feelings of depression, anxiety, and worthlessness, and right away you have a downward spiral effect. But the opposite is also true: if you spend your morning mindfully taking care of things that matter—hygiene, a bit of stretching, some educational reading—now you are literally a different person.” Jacobson explains how each element of the latter routine is beneficial:

  • Taking care of hygiene sends your brain the message that you are someone who takes care of yourself and pays attention to the details.
  • Stretching helps improve blood flow, releasing cortisol and boosting your IQ.
  • That educational reading stirs some new ideas and gives you a sense of calm.

He says that once you get into the hang of a routine such as this one, “you’ll start relating to yourself as the kind of person who gets important things done. That mental momentum is very real and very powerful.”

5 Elements of an Effective Morning Routine

Jacobson says a major key to carrying out an effective morning routine is giving yourself plenty of time to do it: “Allow plenty of time. Going slow might sound counterproductive, but remember: the morning routine is about building self-efficacy. Doing it is more important than what you do or how fast you do it.” Jacobson says he can get his routine done in about an hour, but typically gives himself two hours to do so instead—this way, he can relax and enjoy it and start the day off on the right foot. “I used to think I was losing time,” he says, “but the real cost is when I am not intentional about my day. Going slowly in the morning pays off with much higher efficiency throughout the rest of my day.”

1) Get adequate sleep

“Sleep is the ultimate life hack. A mountain of evidence proves that getting enough sleep is critical for focus, happiness, and longevity.”

2) Make a checklist.
“Write everything down in a checklist. A list acts like a set of instructions from your better self, preventing you from making any decisions in the moment. Staying away from the rabbit hole of addictive tech is key, so an analog list is a good idea.”

3) Check items off in order.
“Making decisions requires willpower and opens up opportunities to get off track. As a result, doing your routine in order improves your chances of success.”

4) Move your body.
“Exercise comes in right behind sleep in the hall of fame of ultimate life hacks. It doesn’t matter how you move your body, just find a way to do it. The best workout is the one you actually do! In this case, it can be as simple as a few air squats or five minutes of stretching.”

5) Remove items you consistently ignore.
“Your morning routine isn’t meant to be aspirational. It’s meant to build momentum and help reinforce your identity as someone who is intentional about your day. You can add things but do so incrementally, and be patient with yourself. The most important thing is to do the routine.”