Do you dread the morning? Does the workday come at you and you find yourself scrambling to get things together and get out the door? Do you wish that you could figure out a system for automating your morning? If you said "yes" to any of these, read on.
One secret to productivity in the AM is to be attentive to your habits in the PM. It was Marcia Wieder who said "It's how we spend our time here and now, that really matters. If you are fed up with the way you have come to interact with time, change it." In other words, if things could go smoother in the morning, start the day before. Here's how:
Take a shower or bath. Even if you've bathed in the AM, a pre-sleep ritual of showering is almost guaranteed to improve your sleep. If you keep things to less than 5 minutes each time, you're not really "wasting" water at all.
Get to bed "on time". If the average person needs about 7-8 hours of sleep a night, simply count backwards. If you need to get up at 5am the next day, you'll need to be in bed by 10pm. This of course also means that you'll need to start winding down at about 9:30pm. It's hardly rocket science but many folks ignore what their body needs when it comes to sleeping patterns. (A good resource for rest-related advice is Craig Huggart.)
Read something inspiring. I enjoy books of quotes and find that a quote is just the right size for a pre-bed reading. Instead of falling asleep with a book on my chest and waking up to tussled pages in the middle of the night, I try to read a short quote and then hit the sack. It works for me and just might for you as well.
Prepare your clothes. I used to iron and arrange my dress clothes in the AM until I realized that it stressed me out. Keep your wardrobe simple and always prepare the night before.
Prepare your lunch. Again, a simple task which will pay off the next morning. Even if your lunch consists of an apple and some bread, putting those items in a place where you can "grab and go" is a great way to save time the next morning.
Do something that is truly relaxing. My wife enjoys watching decorating shows while I find about 30 minutes of internet surfing to be relaxing. Make some progress on some project which you enjoy but keep it under an hour. Sometimes an evening walk can be relaxing. If your average evening gives you 1-2 "free hours", give yourself the gift of at least some chunk of that time to relax.
Be attentive to your eating. Here's a simple rule: if you're not hungry, don't eat. Too many of us get in the habit of snacking at night…just because. The problem with this is that our body isn't able to process all of that food throughout the night as well as during the day. If you like to snack, check your hunger meter and have something before 10PM. A no-no would be an extra caffeinated cup of coffee but an alternative might be a mug of decaf green tea.
The key in all of this is to keep it simple and knock out the little things which might annoy or delay you the next morning. Heading these off at the pass (i.e. the night before) can pay huge dividends in terms of stress levels and personal productivity.