It’s been proven that eschewing the snooze button and rising early is a good idea. “I found that a good chunk of successful people have some sort of early morning routine,” says Laura Vanderkam, a time-management specialist and author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. “Morning is a good time for anything that’s important to you that life has a way of crowding out. The people I researched took time for themselves before everyone else needed something from them.”
The key phrase here is “time for themselves.” The people Vankderkam researched for her book aren’t waking up early to get a head start on emails. They’re reading, exercising, meditating, writing novels, etc. To help us get our a.m. productivity juices flowing, we asked Vanderkam to draw up the perfect morning routine. Here’s her advice, paired with our picks for the gear that will help.
Vanderkam: “I found a number of people who meditated first thing in the morning, which can have the effect of clearing out the brain so it’s ready to be productive.”
Our Gear Advice: You don’t necessarily need gear to meditate, but if you’re new to the practice, you might find yourself sitting in the middle of the floor thinking about your favorite Seinfeld episode for 15 minutes. A little guidance will help. Pick up Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, considered to be the classic introductory to Zen practice. Also check out the app Headspace.
A meditation cushion also helps by creating proper body alignment while adding comfort to the process. A zafu is the traditional approach—it raises your hips and allows your legs to rest comfortably.
Make Exercise a Priority
Vanderkam: “Running outside at 5:45 in the morning in July is my favorite morning ritual. Getting some fresh air is a great way to wake yourself up, and exercising is a well-documented mood booster. But you can’t always run outside. Find some way to get your body moving in the morning before work takes over.”
Our Gear Advice: We say focus on yoga, proven to be a natural stimulant and mood booster. Not all yoga mats are created equal. The Manduka Pro is made in the United States and has a dense construction that sheds sweat and provides serious cushion. Better still, it could be the last yoga mat you ever have to buy, thanks to its lifetime warranty.
Kill the Snooze Button
Vanderkam: “It’s a bad habit. You’re not getting good sleep in those ten-minute chunks, and you’re not getting up and doing anything, so it’s a lose/lose situation. Get an old-school alarm clock, and put it on the other side of the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.”
Our Gear Advice: There are plenty of options for snooze-resistant alarm clocks. You can go with the Ruggie, which forces you to stand on it with a certain amount of pressure before it’ll turn off. The Clocky rolls away from you, forcing you to chase it down. Or go with the Wake Up Light, which gradually increases light and nature sounds (chirping birds!) so you can wake up more naturally.
Stay Off Your Phone
Vanderkam: “The main issue with using your phone as an alarm clock is you’ll get sucked into it. There will be social media alerts, email inbox numbers, news alerts, etc. If you’re trying to build a good morning routine, don’t start with your phone and social media.”
Our Gear Advice: You can avoid using your phone with apps like Freedom and SelfControl, which block internet use for a certain period of time. You could also take a page from Vanderkam’s alarm clock advice and simply create space between you and your phone. Put it in another room. Or go one step further and lock it up. The Kitchen Safe is a lockbox with a timer: Put your phone into the box, and set the timer for 30 minutes or an hour. You can’t get it out until the timer goes off.
Vanderkam: “If you’re trying to build a morning routine, bribery might help. What would help you get over the initial hump of waking up earlier? For some people, it’s really good coffee. Get a programmable coffee maker that you can set at night so you can wake up to the smell of really good coffee.”
Our Gear Advice: The Behmor Brazen Plus is the perfect machine for coffee nerds. It allows you to customize different aspects of your coffee cup, from water temperature to the amount of time your grounds will presoak. You can even enter your altitude, since that affects the brewing process. Pour that coffee into the Asobu Imperial Beverage Cup, a double-wall-insulated, stainless-steel mug that will keep your coffee hot while you knock out that early morning yoga routine.
Remember, This Time Is for You
Vanderkam: “It’s about doing the stuff that doesn’t have to happen. Don’t use this time for work. You’re going to meet work deadlines because you have to. This morning time is for stuff that doesn’t have to happen.”
Our Gear Advice: The sky’s the limit here. Like jigsaw puzzles? Spend 30 minutes in the morning doing jigsaw puzzles. We say carve out time to read more—and not the news on your phone. Read a book made of paper, preferably something adventurous that can also serve as a bit of motivation. Barbarian Days, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner about a journalist coming to grips with his life as a surfer, recently did the trick for me.