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Alarm clock

When you hear the word “morning,” what do you think of? Do you have visions of hurriedly grabbing a bran muffin as you run out the door after having hit the snooze button a few too many times? Do you get filled with anxiety thinking of the daily scramble of getting your kids to day care before heading into the office? Or perhaps you envision the barista you see every day as you pull through your local coffee shop.

No matter what your morning looks like, one thing is important: It’s the most critical part of your day. The way you get started shouldn’t be taken lightly, and having a routine that fills you with energy and excitement for the day ahead is paramount if you want to be productive from the outset.

Here’s how to set yourself up for success day in and day out with a solid morning routine.

Start strong

No matter what time you wake up in the morning, one thing appears to be true: You’re most productive in the first hours after you wake for the day. A study found that people have less self-control as the day goes on. Both your cognitive abilities and your physical abilities decline as the hours count down to dusk.

No matter what you do to start your morning, start with your biggest tasks. Remember that list you created the night before? Use it as your guide to choosing where you spend your most productive hours in the day. Pull the most important tasks from your to-do list and get to work.

Plan ahead

That emphasis to start your day strong brings us to the next point. That’s because a solid morning routine actually begins the day before. Before you close your laptop or power down your tablet for the evening, take a moment to reflect on what you accomplished. Then, think ahead to what you want to accomplish the next day.

Write down a list of everything you want to get done. Keep it realistic, though! When you’ve finished your list, prioritize it. This can be done by adding an “A” for the most important tasks, “B” for the “hope-to-complete” tasks, and “C” for the non-essential tasks. You can also add your tasks to a drag and drop list builder, such as Trello, and drag them around in order of importance.

With your list in place, you’ve set yourself up for success for the following workday.

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Think beyond the office

Until now, I’ve talked about the importance of prioritizing work-related tasks and tackling them first. That’s important. What’s equally important is what happens before you arrive at the office. Many of the most productive and successful people in the world start their day off with something other than work. For example, Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief at Vogue, starts her day off with an hour-long tennis match. William Styron, a novelist, on the other hand, would stay in bed until noon, and when he woke up, he stayed in bed another hour to think and read.

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