The First Thing Productivity Experts Do When They Wake Up

Here's how to get your morning off to a great start.

You’re reading First Thing, a weekly series on HuffPost UK helping to make your mornings happier and healthier.

How you start your day can set the tone for everything that follows.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a morning person, there are easy, small steps you can do as soon as you wake up that can make a big difference in your mood and stress levels as your workday gets underway.

Here are some of the things productivity experts say they do to get weekday mornings off to a good start. Their answers were lightly edited for clarity and length.

I drink a glass of cold water.

“Every morning, I start my day with a big glass of ice water. Although it’s tempting to head straight for the coffee, when you start your day with ice water you’re rehydrating yourself after seven to nine hours of fasting.

“Rehydrating with ice water helps me feel more alert, and supposedly there are benefits like jump-starting your metabolism and helping you flush out toxins. To make this morning step a no-brainer — especially because I am not a morning person — I fill up an insulated tumbler with ice water and place it on my nightstand before bed. When I wake up, it’s right there and ready for me without having to make my way to the kitchen to fill a glass. Once I’ve had my glass of water, I enjoy a delicious cup of that life-giving coffee.” — Anna Dearmon Kornick, a time management coach and host of the “It’s About Time” podcast

I do a breathing exercise to get centred.

“As a night owl, the early morning club is not for me. These three simple habits have been helpful for me for many years now: daily affirmation, meditation and gratitude journaling. Once awake, I silently say a positive affirmation. Usually, it is ‘I am calm. Breathe.’ But, if I [know I’m going to be speaking publicly that day], the affirmation could be ‘I am confident.’

“Then, meditation or a breathing exercise follows to deepen the positive affirmation. It takes 10 minutes, but if I do not have time, I would just do a one-minute breathing exercise. I love doing ‘4-2-4,’ which is inhaling for four seconds, holding for two seconds and exhaling for four seconds. It helps the body relax and focus.

“Finally, my gratitude journal helps me set the intention for the day because I write three things that I do to make my day great.” — Samphy Y, productivity coach

I meditate, then review my schedule.

“I meditate and journal every morning before I begin work. This helps me relax and prepare for the day to come. I then review my schedule for the day and week, making note of work sessions, upcoming meetings and appointments. Lastly, I create a short list of my daily to-dos.” — Rashelle Isip, productivity consultant

I decide how I want my day to end.

“Start the day by setting your own finish line. We live in a world where work never ends. There’s always more you can do: another idea to explore, another request to consider, another step to take in that ongoing project, another lead to follow up, article to read or social media post to comment on.

“So in a world where work never ends, it’s up to us to define our own finish lines. What’s on my agenda? What does success look like today? What’s most important? How do I want to show up today? When we check in with ourselves first, we can set our own finish lines for the day, and we can celebrate when we cross it. Our brains find this much more rewarding, and are less prone to being tempted by other distractions that might derail us.” — Grace Marshall, productivity coach and author of “How To Be Really Productive: Achieving Clarity and Getting Results in a World Where Work Never Ends

I write down my daily goals.

“The first thing I do after praying is write in a goal-setting journal. I write my daily goals, review my weekly and monthly goals and even set a few new ones.

“This is actually a newer ritual for me. It’s more holistic. Previously, I did very pedantic productivity things like ‘writing a to-do list’ only, but incorporating my prayer and affirmative work also helps me take [care] of my person.” — Lindsey Holmes, productivity consultant and CEO of Usable Tech Co.

I read and write to get in a creative headspace.

“I spend the first 90 minutes of my morning getting kids up and ready for school. But once I’m at my desk, I make sure to do two things: I read and I write a little in my ‘free writing file.’

“This year I’m reading through all the works of Shakespeare, so I read 3-4 pages in my collected works of Shakespeare. Last year I read through ‘War and Peace’ one chapter a day; there are 361 chapters. Then my experimental writing this year is about a single day in a character’s life, stretched over 365 bite-sized entries. So I write one of those (100-200 words). Both help me start the day in a creative space.” — Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert and author of the forthcoming book “Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters

I do a spiritual practice.

“For the past 10 years, I’ve started my morning with the spiritual practice of Bible reading and prayer. I wake up before my kids, pour a cup of strong coffee, and spend about 30 minutes on my most important relationship — the one I have with God.

“Of course, not everyone’s spiritual practices look the same. But I’ve found that starting the day by caring for my soul helps me to remain peaceful and grounded when life gets hectic. It also helps me to start my day on my own terms. For the first 45 minutes that I’m awake, I don’t have to react to my kids, my clients or anyone else’s agenda. It helps me remember that, as a human being, I’m not defined by how much I get done.” — Katie Wussow, a business coach for creatives and host of “The Game Changer” podcast

I do something that brings me pleasure before starting work.

“For several years, I’d wake up and scroll social media apps, which is a horrible way to start the day. Finally, I just moved my apps off my home screen so I no longer opened them out of muscle memory, and, since my intention with opening Twitter first thing was to catch up on the news, I’d simply ... open a proper news app instead.

“Once I’ve read the news and am a bit more awake, I pivot to the real nice way to start my day: doing a crossword puzzle (and, now, Wordle!). It’s a nice, gentle way to start the day that has nothing to do with productivity — these days, I don’t even make a to-do list until I officially start working — and everything to do with introducing a little pleasure into my morning routine.

“After the crossword, I putter around with coffee and podcasts and maybe even some knitting and/or ‘Real Housewives.’ Basically, I treat my mornings as my own time, free of the stress of work emails or too many Twitter takes, or even just limited to the most functional tasks like showering or taking the dog out, which allows me to start my actual workday in a focused and relaxed place.” — Rachel Wilkerson Miller, Vox senior editor and author of “Dot Journaling — A Practical Guide

First Thing is a weekly series on HuffPost UK Life giving you tips and advice on how to enjoy your mornings. Whether you’re an early bird or night owl, starting your day off right will make for a happier and healthier day. We’ll be sharing exercise advice, nutrition guidance, as well as ideas on forming new habits. (And no, the answer to a productive morning isn’t just setting an alarm for 5am!)