8 Ways to Make Your Morning More Productive

Use these tips and tricks to upgrade your a.m. — and optimize your whole day.
According to a University of Georgia study, a low-intensity morning exercise can boost energy. (Photo: De Visu/Shutterstock)

As a small business owner, you have a full plate every day. There’s no time to waste. So figuring out how the make the most of your waking hours is key.

How you spend your morning is especially important, as it can make or break the rest of your day.

Here are expert tips for making your mornings — and days — more productive.

Start the night before


“Your desk is your work center. Keep clutter cleared away and knick-knacks to a minimum.” -Cathy Sexton (Photo: Cathy Sexton)

Declutter your desk. Productivity speaker and coach Cathy Sexton is an advocate of organizing your workspace to help keep you focused on completing tasks. At the end of each workday, straighten up. “Remember, your desk is your work center,” said Sexton. “Keep clutter cleared away and knick-knacks to a minimum.”

Of course, plenty of successful leaders and innovators are notorious for having messy desks, so take this advice with a grain of salt and see what works best for you.

Make a to-do list. Write a short to-do list before you go to bed, advised Sexton. “Make a list of your priorities so you’re already in work mode once you get to work.” The list needn’t be long. “Decide what your are your top three things that need to be completed so you can jump-start the morning.”

Get enough sleep. “Lack of energy is the number one reason behind procrastination,” said Sexton. To make sure you’re starting your day energized, go to bed early enough that you log sufficient Zzzs. Keeping a regular sleep schedule (and getting that to-do list written down) will help you nod off at night and sleep more soundly. “When it comes to sleep, it’s better to have quality over quantity,” said Sexton.

If you must check email before bed, turn on the Night Shift function on your iPhone, which switches the insomnia-inducing blue light to yellow.

Power up on protein


“Eating a balanced breakfast keeps you from reaching for coffee-shop bagels, muffins or scones, which are basically all refined carbohydrate.” -Elizabeth Ward (Photo: Elizabeth Ward)

A donut (or bagel) and coffee does not a breakfast make. And the refined carbs will likely crash your energy later on.

Whatever you eat, be sure to include protein, whether it’s milk in your cereal or cottage cheese or peanut butter on your bagel or toast.

Elizabeth Ward, M.S. R.D. and blogger at Better Is the New Perfect, said to aim for at least 20 grams of protein — and include foods with complex carbohydrates and some fat. “The combination of protein and carbohydrate helps you to feel fuller for longer and keeps your blood glucose levels steady so that you feel more energetic and productive.”

Ward suggested Greek yogurt mixed with berries and slivered almonds, two scrambled eggs with spinach and reduced-fat cheese in half of a small whole-wheat pita pocket, or oatmeal microwaved with 1 cup of milk and mixed with a sliced chopped banana, plus a hard-cooked egg.

You don’t have to eat it all at once if you’re not that hungry; feel free to break it into two mini-meals.

Eating right in the morning can benefit you later in the day. “Eating a balanced breakfast keeps you from reaching for coffee-shop bagels, muffins or scones, which are basically all refined carbohydrate,” said Ward.

Bring a snack with you to eat later. Sexton recommended nuts.

Skip the java (or stick to one cup)

While most of us are conditioned to reach for a cup of joe to keep us going throughout the morning, Sexton suggested taking short breaks throughout the day to stay productive instead.

“A quick walk, a short power nap, or stepping away from a task to grab a healthy snack can give you that extra burst of focus and energy you need to get through even the most tedious tasks,” she said.


Sexton advised exercising in the morning. You don’t have to go for a long run, just do something to rev yourself up.

It may sound counterintuitive, but exercise actually gives you more energy. According to a University of Georgia study, low-intensity exercise works best for boosting energy in tired people.

Do the most important thing first

Your to-do list identified the key things you need to accomplish. In the morning, start by tackling the most important one.

Sexton recommended turning off your phone and ignoring your email for 90 minutes while you do it, though that advice might not be feasible or appropriate for every business owner.

Set your work environment for “go”

Do you work best to music? If so, hit play on that jazz or rock or classical music CD or Pandora station. Do you feel more energized when it’s cool? Open the windows or turn down the thermostat.

“Have an environment that works for you,” said Sexton. “Don’t work against your own grain. Remain authentic to yourself.”

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