Morning Habits That May Be Killing Your Daily Productivity

As a go-getting boss babe, you have a lot going on. Chances are, you're juggling work, studies, a side hustle or two, and a personal life. But with only 24 hours in a day to get it all done, staying productive is key — and that depends a lot on how you start each day.

According to Forbes, the morning is the most important time of day to put your productivity into motion. If you start your day off on the right foot, the rest of the day will be a breeze. But if you fall behind before you've even finished a cup of coffee, that'll carry throughout the rest of the day, too.

However, the a.m. hours are also considered the most stressful, according to a survey by ValuePenguin. You may find yourself rushing around or falling into bad habits in the morning, which might hurt your productivity — and success — later. Here are some morning habits to watch out for that could be messing up your entire day.

Hitting snooze

Your alarm goes off and you hit the snooze button for just a few more minutes of sweet dreams. Seems harmless, right? Not quite. Snoozing is bad for your health, and your productivity.

According to Cleveland Clinic, hitting snooze means you're disturbing your restorative REM sleep, which triggers a stress response in the body. And even if you fall right back to sleep, the few minutes of Z's you're gaining aren't so beneficial.

Hitting snooze can also lead to sleep inertia, a feeling of grogginess that can last up to four hours (via HuffPost). When you wake up only to fall back asleep again for a few minutes, your body doesn't know whether it should return to a restful state or be alert and ready for the day. Spending the majority of your morning in this zombie-like state means you probably won't get much done, all for those nine additional minutes of shut-eye.

Checking your phone in bed

If you check your phone first thing when you wake up in the morning, you're not alone; 71% of Americans do the same, according to Reviews.org. But your productivity throughout the day might take a toll because of this habit. Forbes explains that the brain goes through different stages upon waking that allow for productive visualization. Checking your phone forces the brain to fast forward through these valuable stages.

Similarly, psychiatrist Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi told Elite Daily, "The information overload that hits [you] before you're fully awake also interferes with your ability to prioritize tasks." So rather than deciding how you'll move closer to your goals that day, your mind is fixated on that spam email in your inbox or the photo your ex just posted on social media.

One last reason to not check your phone right when you wake up: It can be just as stressful as it is comforting. Sure, there might be some cute cat videos in your feed. But there might also be a disturbing news story or a ping from your boss. Stressful content and notifications can leave you feeling mentally exhausted before you've even brushed your teeth.

Getting ready in the dark

Getting ready in the dark isn't only a bad idea because you might accidentally leave the house with mismatched socks; it can also wreck your productivity for the day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that the body is especially sensitive to sunlight within the first hour of waking, and this a.m. sun exposure plays a key role in alertness.

Morning sunlight also affects something called the cortisol awakening response, or CAR, which preps the brain for the day ahead, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Stress. According to The Conversation, CAR is highest when people wake up with light. Rising and getting ready in a well-lit space boosts mood, learning capabilities, and cognitive functioning for the rest of the day.

Rather than chugging coffee, you might just need to open your curtains and let in the sunlight. If you must wake up before sunrise or it's a particularly gloomy day, consider using sun lamps or light-up alarm clocks for a similar effect.

Skipping a healthy breakfast

There's some debate over whether breakfast is really the most important meal of the day. But having healthy grub in the morning is crucial when it comes to productivity, nutritionist and life coach Kimi Sokhi told Fast Company. "Our brains need fuel to work. When you eat, you give your body and brain the fuel they need to operate," she explained. Skipping a morning meal will have you running on empty, stopping you from hitting your targets for the day. And if you think caffeine is a good stand-in for breakfast, Sokhi warns that you'll likely end up feeling more frazzled than fresh throughout the day.

Additionally, you should think twice before grabbing a donut or breakfast bar on your way out the door. Healthline says that sugary, high-fat foods can cause sluggishness and irritability. To stay full longer and increase productivity, fill your breakfast plate with brain friendly foods like berries, eggs, low-sugar yogurt, wholegrains, and salmon (via Insider).

Putting everyone else first

If you kick off every morning rushing to support other people in your life, you might not have enough steam left to support yourself later in the day. This is a problem many parents are familiar with. As Moms explains, many parents wake up when their kids do, and before they've even had a chance to wipe the sleep from their eyes, they're changing diapers or preparing their child's pancakes. But when parents wake up before their kids, they can put their own goals first, taking time for self-care or organizing their work for the day.

Even if you're not a parent, you might make the mistake of giving your attention to others before you've even given it to yourself. Perhaps you respond immediately to a.m. emails from your boss, or you wake up just in time to do the dishes your roommate keeps nagging you about.

Carving out time for yourself before you start caring for others will give you the energy you need to meet the day's demands. Motivation blog Divas With A Purpose suggests putting yourself first every morning by prioritizing physical health, taking time to cuddle a pet or loved one, or deciding on a reward for yourself that day.

Staying in your sweats

Sweatpants and oversized sweaters may feel cozy, but they're not so great for productivity. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, people behave differently depending on what they wear. In the study, participants who wore a lab coat performed better than those who didn't.

You don't have to wear a lab coat to be productive, but you should wear what makes you feel ready for the day. In most cases, this probably isn't your pajamas or sweatsuit sets. Business casual dressing may be a better fit for busy work days. Similarly, a little makeup can go a long way when you need to feel positive and professional. A 2020 survey by OnePoll and Neutrogena Makeup found that nearly one in three women felt more productive at home when they wore makeup (via Study Finds). Whether you're spending the morning working remotely or commuting to the office, make sure your appearance on the outside reflects the ambition and confidence you have on the inside.

Not moving your body

On sleepy mornings, it can be hard enough getting out of bed. Getting off your sofa or desk chair to exercise? Borderline impossible. However, fitting in a morning workout can set you up for success for the rest of the day, according to Healthline. You'll likely feel more alert, focus better, have more energy, and get more items ticked off your to-do list if you make time to move your body. A 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine also suggests that 30 minutes of moderate physical activity in the morning boosts productivity and brain power.

To reap these benefits, you don't have to sweat it out at the gym or hit the pavement for an intense run. Going for a walk can be enough to enhance cognition, according to Psychology Today. An easygoing yoga flow in the morning can also give you the energy to power through the day ahead. Whether you choose a morning HIIT class, a stretch session, or a walk around the block, any movement is better than no movement.

Overloading decisions

Weighing yourself down with too many trivial decisions in the morning might make it more difficult to make meaningful decisions later in the day. This is due to decision fatigue, a psychological phenomenon where the ability to make decisions becomes depleted (via Medical News Today). Decision fatigue usually strikes after you've been forced to make several decisions in a short amount of time, even if those decisions were things like what to eat for breakfast or which shoes to wear.

Psychiatrist Dr. Rashmi Parmar explained to Real Simple, "More often than not, [decision fatigue] leads to one of two endpoints: You either give up and stop making decisions completely, or you'll make impulsive or irrational choices." Either scenario isn't so great for productivity.

So what can you do? Start by automating as much of your morning routine as you can. This can include preparing breakfast and packing your work bag in advance. Simplifying your clothes with a thoughtfully curated capsule wardrobe can also keep you from becoming paralyzed by too many options. Saving your decision-making resources in the morning ensures your mind is still sharp when you need it most.