Health

Good days start with good mornings: How a routine will help

Be happier and more productive when you stick to a routine before heading to work

The secret to a productive day is a morning routine, according to some of the most high-powered people, including Oprah Winfrey, Anna Wintour and Barack Obama.

A morning routine forces you to carve time out of a busy day for yourself. You will be happier, more productive and able to make the most of your day.

WAKE UP TO WHAT YOU LOVE

Every other day, former model Serena Adsit gets to the stables by 7am for horse-riding sessions. It is a hobby that has given her immense satisfaction, as her riding skills have improved.

The founder of model and talent agency Mint Singapore said her morning routine invigorates her and starts the day on a positive note.

Besides, mornings are the only time she has for herself - post-work hours are usually spent with her young son or at work-related events.

"Indulging my interests may seem like a time-waster to some people, but I have learnt that doing something that makes me happy is the best way to enjoy life," she said.

"Having work-life balance also makes me more fulfilled and helps me do better at work."

BECOME MORE ORGANISED

You do not know what to wear, cannot find your keys and have nothing to eat because you forgot to buy bread.

Sounds familiar? Scrambling to get your act together in the morning puts you on the back foot for the rest of the day.

A morning routine helps you "get on autopilot mode because you are being proactive instead of reactive to situations", said clinical psychologist Joel Yang.

"Regularity eases your cognitive load, helps you become more efficient and gives you motivation to continue being productive for the rest of the day."

Being organised in the morning works for Ms Jaelle Ang, co-founder and chief executive officer of co-working space The Great Room.

The first thing she does when she wakes up is spend 10 minutes writing in her bullet journal, which includes three things she needs to accomplish that day.

"Writing helps me think, so I see this as a 'braindump', and it helps me feel less stressed about what is ahead for the day," Ms Ang said.

During this quiet time, she also puts her phone aside, so there are zero distractions.

After it is done, she sticks to a minimal make-up routine and selects an outfit from a wardrobe of dresses that all have the same silhouette. Call it her "work uniform" of sorts.

"This streamlined routine gives me more mental bandwidth to focus on what counts," she added.

IF YOU EXERCISE, ADRENALINE KEEPS YOU GOING

The benefits of a morning run extend beyond healthy living for features writer Davelle Lee - the adrenaline spike she gets from her 5am runs helps her be more productive.

Post-run, she goes through a to-do list before heading to the office. This includes oil pulling (gargling coconut oil for 20 minutes to aid oral hygiene), doing a load of laundry and preparing breakfast while listening to the news on the radio.

"My runs not only improve my health but my mood as well," she said.

"I consciously construct my routine to include household chores to help me make the most of my mornings."

The satisfaction of completing numerous tasks gives her clarity and focus for the rest of the day.

GREATER SELF-AWARENESS

"There is a certain quality to practising yoga in the morning that you just cannot get in the evening," said Ms Debbie Chua, who works in banking and wakes up daily at 5.45am for a two-hour yoga session.

"It is called brahma muhurta (a period of 11/2 hours before sunrise), which is the time for spiritual contemplation or meditation."

Meditation gives you time to be alone with your thoughts. Creating that headspace before the noise of the day sets in cultivates self-awareness and drives you to stay calm and focus on what is important, said Mr Yang.

Here is how to get started on a morning routine:

Start small

Go to sleep 30 minutes earlier and get up 30 minutes earlier.

Start by making your bed, and stick to just one or two activities. Build from there - it is important to be realistic so that you can stick with it.

Do something worth waking up at 6am for

Think about what would get you out of bed at dawn, and use that to create your routine. If you are forcing yourself to do an activity you are not that keen on, you will not make it past the first week.

You do not have to do the same thing every day

"Routines do not have to be boring," Mr Yang said.

Do not go for the same thing every day if it bores you out of your mind. If workouts are your jam, for example, go ahead and do them every morning - just switch up the exercises.

This article first appeared on

Her World Online (www.HerWorld.com).

MEDICAL & HEALTH