How we choose to start our day often predicts how it all unfolds.
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Credit: Getty / Paul Strowger

When we wake up, our sleep quality and mood directly influence whether we have a positive and productive day. While some of us prefer to hit the snooze button until the very last second—before jumping out of bed and doing all that we need to before heading out the door—others choose to wake up slow, adding in extra buffer time to tame the rush. According to experts, the latter is usually the best option for most, as how we choose to start our day often predicts how the rest of the next 12 hours unfolds. "Many of us think of the morning as a 'fresh start' and an opportunity to write our day in advance, says psychologist Dr. Emily Guarnotta, Psy.D. "This thinking can become like a self-fulfilling prophecy, where we actually benefit from engaging in planning and predicting our day."

Establishing a morning routine, then, can help you feel more in control and lead to positive messaging that carries you through your daily to-do list. When we start our days unintentionally, on the other hand, by scrolling through the news, social media, or your email, says London-based integrative nutrition health coach Lianna Nielsen, we begin your days in a reactive rather than a proactive mode. "This can set you up to be less productive, especially for achieving your own personal goals, and give you less agency over the direction of your day," Neilsen says. "Also, exposing yourself to negativity, fear, or comparison first thing in the morning can create a lens through which you see the world."

If you fall into this category, it's time to break the cycle. Here, experts break down the 7 things that might be sabotaging your morning—and limiting your productivity for the rest of the day.

Hitting the Snooze Button

While hitting "snooze" might seem like a convenient way to score just a little more sleep, it's not actually giving you rest, says Dr. Amanda K. Darnley, Psy.D., the owner of Chrysocolla Counseling in Philadelphia. In fact, it's only creating more stress, since you're cutting into the time you actually need to get ready and be mentally prepared to take on your day. "If you are hitting 'snooze' at the expense of being on time, try to find something to look forward to in the morning that will get you out of bed the first time your alarm sounds," Dr. Darnley says. "Maybe it's planning to eat your favorite breakfast item or pre-setting the coffee maker so that you already have a hot cup waiting for you."

Immediately Opening Up Your Electronic Devices

In effort to catch up on anything you might have missed during the evening and early-morning hours, you might think to check your phone, tablet, or computer to scroll through email or social media. However, experts warn that this behavior can hinder your productivity and sour your mood. "Not only can scrolling be a major time suck, resulting in rushing the rest of your morning, but it can also leave you feeling stressed out or worried, depending on what you read," notes Dr. Darnley. "Instead of hopping on social media or checking email, have a quick, five-minute guided meditation cued up. Or, set your alarm to play music and, instead of turning it off, spend a few minutes stretching to the music before leaving your bedroom."

Starting Your Day with the News

In the same vein, the news should also be off limits, according to Nielsen. "If you start your day exposing yourself to the problems of the world, it tends to create a more negative and fear-based lens through which you see your life, which can affect how you make decisions and communicate," she says, noting these resulting feelings can also hinder productivity. She recommends starting your day by intentionally checking in with yourself and your needs before you engage in the news. "If you need to, skim the headlines and read any pertinent articles once you get to work, instead," she adds.

Not Giving Yourself Enough Time to Wake Up

It's important that you have time to fully wake up—which requires at least 30 minutes, according to Aimee Bernstein, a psychotherapist, executive coach, and mindfulness-in-action teacher and author of Stress Less Achieve More ($17.95, amazon.com). "If you don't have time to actually wake up, you're at risk for getting swept away by the people and situations you encounter and having your energy drained," she says. "Instead, take a moment to experience the beauty of being, feel where you are, sense your breathing, and give gratitude for all that is in your life."

Loading Up on Sugar and Carbs

Bagels and donuts might be the most appetizing choice for many, but they can send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride—leading to a high spike and a crash, warns Nielsen. "Our mood and focus follow our blood sugar, so if you start your day eating simple forms of carbs, you can expect your blood sugar to crash a couple hours into your morning, which can sabotage your productivity, mood, and focus," she explains. If you are someone who enjoys breakfast, she recommends starting the day by balancing out carbs with protein, healthy fats, and greens. "Try putting some avocado, nut butter, or eggs on the toast or add some greens to your smoothie," she says. "Eating for blood sugar balance will set you up to be the most productive, so keep in mind balancing protein, healthy fats, fiber, and greens at every meal."

Leaving Your Bed Unmade

You might think that making your bed is just for show, but it actually goes a long way towards setting yourself up for a day of productivity. "Being productive requires both an energy flow and a structure," says Bernstein. "Without an energy flow, you won't have the motivation or creativity you need and without structure, you lack organization and may spin your wheels and accomplish very little." She recommends making your bed every morning as a ritual that provides a structure you can build upon throughout the day. "Over time, this simple accomplishment develops a muscle for completion and organization, which leads to a sense of wellbeing and other accomplishments," she adds.

Investing in the "Sunday Scaries"

"In our culture, Monday mornings are deeply associated with a feeling of dread about the week ahead," says Dr. Ashwini Nadkarni, M.D., associate psychiatrist and an instructor at Harvard Medical School and director of wellness for the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women's Hospital. This dread, however, can affect our sense of purpose and inevitable productivity. She recommends reframing this feeling as a sense of purpose—think about what you can change about these negatively anticipated events. "For instance, if you begin your mornings dreading a noontime meeting, consider thinking of it as the moment during the week where you plan to pitch a new idea or make it an opportunity to interact with greater depth with someone on the team," she says. "Reframing the 'dread event' as an opportunity to have a personalized goal or purpose can help."

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