This is the time of the day when you have the most energy and focus—don't waste it.

By Hannah Baker
September 30, 2019

If you have trouble waking up and being productive in the morning, you're not alone. How many mornings have you woken up with the intention to exercise and instead laid in bed scrolling through your Instagram feed? Chances are, many. According to productivity expert and author Laura Vanderkam, your missing out if you don't take advantage of your mornings. "Most people have more energy, discipline, and focus in the morning. Not everyone, but most people," she says. "This means that it's a shame to waste this energy on things that you're going to do anyway: answering emails, attending a regular status meeting, chores, and so forth. Instead, mornings are best used for the things you'd like to do, but don't have to do—the 'important but not urgent.'"

To help make the most of your mornings, we spoke to Vanderkam for her tried and true tips for being more productive during this time of day.

Related: A Very Martha Morning: Eight Things the Boss Does Everyday Before 10 A.M.

Start with the Harder Stuff

Instead of looking at social media or your email, where there are myriad distractions that will eat away at your time, get up and work on something you won't be able to do (or won't want to do) later in the day, says Vanderkam. "At home when you wake up, you're better off spending 30 minutes exercising versus 30 minutes checking social media posts," she says. "You can check the posts later when you have zero energy, but you probably won't run 2.5 miles at 9:30 p.m." Plus, the added benefits of a morning workout (like increased energy and better focus) can only help you to better tackle the rest of your day.

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Don't Check Work Email

Although it may seem like you're checking off to-dos by opening up your work email, it actually isn't the best place to start first thing in the morning. "When you start your work day, if you spend an hour thinking about how to pitch a new client, you'll still get to your email eventually," she says. "But if you dive into your inbox first, you might not get around to brainstorming the pitch, because your inbox will have all sorts of other emergencies to deal with."

Give Yourself a Bedtime—and Stick to It

When it comes down to it, the most important part of your morning starts the night before, says Vanderkam. "Go to bed on time. That's truly the key to a great morning. There's no point waking up early if you'll just be sleep deprived. Instead, figure out how much sleep you need. Count back from your wake-up time. That's the time that you need to be in bed." Although Vanderkam says that may sound like incredibly simple advice, it's something most people just don't do. "They act like the time they go to bed and the time they want to wake up are totally unrelated variables!"

Set a Lights-Out Alarm

To help you further wind down so you're fully ready to get into bed at your set time, Vanderkam suggests setting an alarm to alert you when it's 30 minutes before lights-out. "Spend those 30 minutes getting ready for bed, reading or hanging out with your partner. I know a lot of people have lingering issues over childhood bedtime battles, so here's one way to think about it: Going to bed early is how grown-ups sleep in." And while she doesn't think a day is ruined by not starting out productively, it certainly helps. "In general, if you wake up rested and spend the first bit of time both at home and at work on things that are meaningful to you, you'll probably have a better day. If nothing else goes well, you've at least scored those victories."

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