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by Kaitlin McManus | December 26, 2018


Sad Sleepy Pug

I know I’m not the only one out there who is almost useless in the morning. It’s not a “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” thing so much as a “I am essentially a vegetable until after noon” thing. I work, but I often find that my brain doesn’t kick into high gear until well after lunch. If the work day was at night, I’d be twice as productive—or so I’d like to think while I stare at my ceiling at 2 a.m. But come 9 a.m.? Nothing. Here are a few tricks I use to make sure that I actually do things when I get to my desk.

Start at 5:00—yesterday

One thing some people like to recommend is to come into the office and write a to-do list, to get yourself organized before you start your day. That’s all well and good, but oftentimes I find myself too sleepy or train-haggard to properly asses what I need to do that day, and I’m left scrambling through all my emails, trying to remember what my priorities are. So take some time at the end of your day to write yourself a to-do list for tomorrow. You have a much clearer picture when you call it quits of all the things you still need to get done, so capitalize on that mindset and set yourself up for success.

Establish a routine

We’ve all got our morning routines at home—be it yoga and a nutritious breakfast, or hitting the snooze button eight times before running out the door and forgetting your lunch. But you should have a morning work routine, too. Experiment a little to see what helps you focus—is it more beneficial for you to read fifteen minutes of industry news with your coffee before diving into your backlogged emails, or are you more productive if you cross some of the little nit-picky stuff off your docket first thing? Once you find what works, stick to it!

Plan your day wisely

What gets you going in your job? Is it client interaction and collaborating with your teammates? Or is it really digging in with a project and not letting anything distract you from it? Whatever it is, try to do that stuff in the morning. Working on a task or project that excites you can keep you motivated at a time when enthusiasm can be a struggle. If you come into the office “not all there”, doing a task you find draining is only going to make it worse. So do you best to plan your workflow in the way that works best for you.

Go outside

This is kind of a tough one in winter, but at some point in the morning you should go out and get some sunshine (or some overcast—it still counts). Take a quick stroll around the block to get the blood into your brain. I’m not trying to sound like some hippie tree-hugger, but human beings are not built to be inside all day. That’s just science: we need Vitamin D from the sun or we’ll wither away (or suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder). So if you are continually too tired to be effectual, especially in the morning or during the winter months, make sure you go outside and reacquaint yourself with Mother Nature (or, in my case, the Concrete Jungle).

Try not to rely on caffeine

…I say, sipping coffee from a mug so enormous I need both hands to pick it up. But let me tell you, my caffeine addiction is mild compared to what it was a few years ago when I was working two jobs in retail/food service. “Addicted to Red Bull” doesn’t really cover it—I literally did not function without the stuff. So while caffeine can seem like a relatively convenient way to perk you up, I would advise you keep your coffee consumption to one or two cups a day. Otherwise you’re just creating another condition under which you’re functional in the morning, and digging yourself a deeper hole.

Garfield was right—lasagna is delicious, and mornings are terrible. But rather than let your sleep-addled (or commute-weary) brain get you down, take some steps to make sure that you’re using your whole work day in as effective a manner as possible.