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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

16 Better Ways to Start Your Day (That Have Nothing to Do With Breakfast)

morning coffee

I bet I can predict what your morning looks like: You wake up to a generic alarm clock sound, roll out of bed, get dressed, grab a mediocre breakfast, and leave the house still rubbing your eyes and yawning.

How’d I know? Because we all do it—it’s the only way we know how. (And if you’re not one of us traditionalists, I salute you!)

However, there are so many better ways to start your day than by following the usual patterns. Yes, you can journal, exercise, read, or meditate—but you can also get a little crazy and try any of these 16 other unique strategies to having better morning. While you can’t possibly incorporate all 16 (or can you?), you can start with one or two.

1. The Two-Minute Exercise

A lot of people suggest that you meditate every morning to increase your energy, confidence, and sense of stability—but let’s be real: No one has time to really meditate and fully free their mind. Instead, Muse writer Lily Herman suggests trying these two super-quick breathing exercises when you wake up.

2. The Seven-Minute Routine

For the people in a hurry, take seven minutes to think, breathe, doodle, and make a plan. Even this small amount of time can create a positive mindset for the rest of your day.

3. The 15-Minute Routine

We can almost guarantee that John Gannon’s morning routine will change the way you brainstorm.

What does he do? He gives thanks, writes to get his creative juices flowing, and jots down 10 new ideas every day. The results: After 30 days of doing this and sharing his input with others, he came up with an exciting new product for his startup that lead to great success and got offered a job. And it only took 15 minutes out of his day!

4. Take a Shower

Only like to get clean at night? You might want to rethink that. As Muse writer Jennifer Winter says, “Jumping in the shower has a way of shocking your system and getting your circulation going. If you absolutely can’t get yourself into the shower, then at a minimum do a thorough scrubbing of your face in the sink and finish off with a splash of cold water. You’ll look and feel more awake than you would if you’d simply rolled out of bed.”

5. Buy a Festive Coffee Mug

You’d be surprised how much your cup of coffee can brighten your morning—and I’m not talking about the caffeine part. Spruce up your routine with something that’ll make you smile, laugh, or even entertain you while you sip. For some ideas, look at this shopping guide and this one.

6. Use an Alarm Clock That Actually Works

Yes, it is possible to find an alarm that doesn’t make you want to hit snooze a bagillion times. Just remember—once you’re out of bed, everything can only get easier. So try these better solutions on for size—waking up will be a piece of cake. (Just kidding, waking up will never compare to cake.)

7. Blast Some Great Tunes

There’s no better way to stimulate your mind in the morning—without exhausting it back to sleep—than by listening to music. And we’ve got the perfect playlist for just about every mood you’ll face.

8. Stay in Bed Longer

“For many, the hardest part about waking up and getting out of bed is the “getting out of bed” part. So, don’t! Winston Churchill spent the first three or four hours of each day working from bed, reading stacks of mail, and dictating responses to his secretaries,” writes Muse contributor Alexandra Franzen. While it’s unlikely you have the luxury of three to four hours (unless you’re waking up right after you go to sleep), treat yourself to 10 or so minutes.

9. Create Something

Muse’s Senior Editor of Branded Content Erin Greenawald has three suggestions for starting your day right: Have any networking meetings first thing in the morning, listen to podcasts while you get up and ready, and finally, instead of reaching for your phone, reach for paper and a pencil, or ingredients for breakfast: “It doesn’t have to take long, and it doesn’t have to be big—or even good, for that matter—but you’ll be starting your day by engaging a part of your brain that many of us don’t get to work with often.”

10. Create a Step-by-Step Schedule

If you plan out, step-by-step, how long each AM task takes you to complete, you’ll more accurately see how much time you truly need to get ready in the morning. You might also realize what things can be done later in the day, or even the night before. And once you set a realistic timeframe for showering, getting dressed, or eating breakfast, stick to it. Muse Career Coach Adrian J. Hopkins believes that “if you take a moment to plan ahead, you’ll find that one stitch, in time, really does save nine.”

11. Do the Dishes

According to a article by LearnVest, “Rolling up your sleeves to hand wash a sink full of dirty dishes from last night’s dinner may be the last thing you want to do first thing in the morning, but a recent study found that mindfully cleaning dishes—in other words, staying in the moment while scrubbing away—reduced anxiety and made study subjects feel more inspired.” And bonus, you won’t have to worry about them later when you’re exhausted from work!

12. Check the News (Fast!)

The first thing I do each morning is open my email on my phone to read theSkimm, an entertaining roundup of breaking headlines. It’s just what I need to start to stimulate my mind and think about my day without thinking too hard. For even more quick-fix news outlets, check out this list.

13. Exercise for 10 Minutes

Muse writer Kat Moon says that this science-backed exercise tip will increase your mental processing speed—and it doesn’t require any heavy lifting or five-mile sprints. For example, you can take a walk around the block, watch a yoga tape, or even do a few rounds of push-ups. (True story: the Muse team can attest to this strategy.)

14. Set Your Clocks Five Minutes Ahead

It seems silly, but even just tricking your brain into thinking you’re late will help you wake up faster. Plus, you’ll always be guaranteed to be on time.

Muse Managing Editor Jenni Maier loves using this technique to get moving in the morning: “Just seeing the (incorrect) time on your microwave, in the car, and anywhere else you can manually change it will make you start operating five minutes ahead. I can’t explain it, I can just tell you that every morning I leave my house at 8:10 AM, look down at my phone, see it’s really only 8:05, and think about the fact that my stupid stove clock tricked me again.”

15. Play Some Soothing Ambiance

Fun fact: Ambient noise is proven to increase creativity and productivity—so consider turning on the sounds of a coffee shop or a cozy rainy day to set your mood. To create your own background noise, try apps such as Noizio or A Soft Murmur.

16. Keep Your Blinds Open

Sunlight is the best way to naturally wake your body up—so don’t hide from it. Muse writer Lily Herman suggests that this will make the night-to-morning transition a lot easier: “It’s hard to go from pitch-black darkness to bright light (especially if you hop on your phone or computer first thing in the morning), so make it easier on yourself by keeping your blinds somewhat open. I can personally attest to the fact that not drawing my curtains means it’s a little less jarring to wake up to my alarm each morning.”

I’m going to try every tip—one at a time, of course—starting today. You should too! Tweet me to let me know how it’s going.