Not a morning person? Not true! They’re not born, they’re made, says Christine Carter, PhD, a senior fellow at University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More By Doing Less. “The real trick is to turn your morning into a series of powerful rituals. You want to eliminate decision-making and willpower as much as possible.”
You can make your mornings more productive by retraining your basal ganglia, the group of nuclei in the brain that help with motor control. Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it sounds: You simply do the same things every morning until they become as natural as putting toothpaste on your toothbrush. It may take a couple of months (and require getting up a little earlier at first) but the basal ganglia essentially takes over and puts you on autopilot, research from the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience shows. That means with little effort and no willpower you’ll soon have the effective—and efficient—mornings you’ve always wanted.
Start with these three simple tasks:
Create your ritual list. Make a minute-by-minute schedule of exactly the way you’d like your morning to go. Put it on paper, or try a task-management app such as 30/30 for iPhones and iPads, which Carter says helped her get her morning rituals humming. (Do Now is a similar app for Android devices.) It may be hard at first to stick to the schedule, but you’ll get faster as time goes on.
Feed your mind. Nope, not by checking your email or Facebook (a sure-fire morning derailer). Instead, fortify your brain and soul with a short meditation session, which will increase your focus for the rest of the day, reports the Journal of Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience. Simply take 10 minutes, sit quietly, close your eyes and concentrate on your breath.
- For extra oomph, spend five or 10 additional minutes journaling. Jot down a few (realistic and achievable) goals for the day. Or try a “best possible self” exercise—imagine your ideal life. What would that look like? Describe it in detail. You can even draw pictures. This should boost your mood and focus your mind on your grandest ambitions.
Put your breakfast on repeat. The easiest way to ensure you eat a healthy breakfast every day is to automate it. For a morning meal with staying power, go light on carbohydrates and load up on protein and produce. Try berries with Greek yogurt and nuts, scrambled eggs with veggies or whole-wheat toast topped with salmon or avocado.
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