The reason I find this question so difficult is that it assumes that personal development is something we do in order to get “success.” And by success we usually mean having a successful career. It rarely occurs to anyone in our culture that someone (a Trappist monk for example) might become an artist, entrepreneur, leader, or politician as a means to personal development and not the other way around.
As a result “personal development” is compartmentalized; it becomes something we do off the clock and in our spare time in order to “get ahead” in the “real world.” Slowly and unwittingly we become like the real estate agent who religiously accompanies his family to church only because being perceived as a family oriented, God fearing man is “good for business.”
This entire world view tragically puts the proverbial cart before the horse. Whether you call it personal development, personal growth, self-actualization, self-transcendence, or spirituality does not matter. What matters is realizing that the reason you were born is to become the best human being you can possibly be. Personal development is not a tool for reaching a bigger goal. Becoming a complete human being is already the biggest and most noble goal you can aspire to.
Ironically, my entire book is an argument for making personal development the central mission of our lives rather than merely the means to a more limited end—a fact that makes answering a question from a bright, well- intentioned interviewer who apparently missed this argument even more difficult to answer.
Trappist monks have been among the world’s most successful businessmen for over 1000 years precisely because they dedicate their entire lives to personal development. Being on time for work, for example, is not just part of a monk’s “job description.” It is a way to build self-discipline; a way to show the same compassion to customers and fellow monks that he prays God will show to him. In other words being on time is not a result of a monk’s personal development it is a form of personal development.
The secret to the amazing business success of Trappist monks is not that they have managed to establish the mythical “healthy balance” between their personal and professional lives. The secret is that their personal, organizational, and business lives are all subsets of their one, high, overarching mission- becoming the best human beings they can possibly be. Business success for the monks is merely the by-product and trailing indicator of living for a higher purpose. Trappist business success is living proof that when we seek first the kingdom of personal development everything else will take care of itself. And this is true of our personal lives as well.
So back to the question: What do I do for personal development? On one hand I don’t do anything for personal development. Like the monks I simply live my life. Yet on the other hand I’ve built my whole life around personal development, and it remains to this day the only thing I truly care about. It is just that pursuing personal development has become so habitual that I never think about it. In this sense everything I do is filtered through the screen of personal development.
Throughout my career, for example, I sought out companies, bosses, challenges, and mentors that would help me grow. I did so even if it meant baffling friends and family as I repeatedly seemed to trade the lucrative “safe bet” and “sure thing” for an opportunity to learn and grow. Similarly, I’ve spent many years cultivating people like the monks of Mepkin Abbey who continually inspire and challenge me to become a better human being. When in 1993 I decided to become an entrepreneur I did so because I felt that the pressures of entrepreneurship would provide a perfect incubator for personal development; a way to put myself and my principles to the ultimate test. When seven years later my partners and I sold the company we started on a shoe string in a shoe box of an office, it was not the money or prestige that mattered most but what we had learned and who we had become.
* * *
“Man is a mystery….” I have moved many times over the years, but Dostoevsky’s quote has graced the door of every refrigerator I have ever owned or rented since college. Dostoevsky penned those lines in a letter to his brother when he was just 17, and every time I read it I marvel that it was written by a boy so young. But what I love most is that this boy, destined to become one of mankind’s greatest writers, never mentions a job, a career, a profession, or material gain. A few years later he would achieve overnight success with his first novel Poor Folk, but he doesn’t even mention any aspiration to become a writer. Instead all he wants from life in exchange for a lifetime of labor is “to be a man.” Like a good Trappist monk, Dostoevsky didn’t see personal development as a way to become a great writer, but writing as a way to pursue personal development. And if we want authentic rather than ersatz success in life we must do the same.
For more great leadership strategies read my book: Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity (Columbia Business School Publishing; July 2013)
Let’s face it, sometimes life feels like it’s falling apart at the seams. Perhaps you’ve lost your job, or your marriage just ended, or you failed to pass an exam and now you are simply feeling helpless and defeated. Winston Churchill once said: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loosing enthusiasm.” Today I want to remind you why, even though you may be feeling a bit like a failure, you are most definitely not. Here are 15 signs that show you are doing well in life even though you don’t think so!
1. You’ve lived and learned
No one said life was easy and while the bumps on the road may hurt, the ride is definitely worth it. Think back to your failures and defeats. You must know they were all for a reason and part of a grander plan. Each difficulty has led you to where you are at today, each trial has molded you into the magnificent, resilient, person that you are. Continue to move forward in faith, hope and love, knowing that each experience has taught you what you need to become who you were born to be.
2. You have a comfy bed to sleep in
I’ll never forget an interview done on NPR a while back. A young Haitian mother told her story. She had little ones that constantly wondered when they would be able to eat and go to school like all the other kids around them. What impacted me the most about this story was their sleeping arrangements: they all laid on the dirt floor, and at night if it rained everyone would have to get up, grab whatever was left of their “bed” and move to a dry spot. This story gave me a whole new appreciation for my bed and I hope it does the same thing for you!
3. You strive to be better
The fact you are feeling a bit down because you haven’t achieved what you want to achieve shows you are trying. In the grand scheme of things, you always strive to be better and for as long as you continue to do that, happiness, success and love will come – just don’t give up. Einstein once said: “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s that I stay with problems longer.” Hang in there and never stop striving to be all you can be!
4. You have/had a job
Whichever way you look at this one, it is still a win-win situation for you. If you have a job: kudos! Keep at it and know that you are richly blessed. If you recently lost your job, don’t fret! You’ve gotten a job before, you can get one all over again. Perhaps this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to do something you truly love to do. Keep searching, keep hoping, and know that you can accomplish the seemingly impossible if you work hard and believe you can.
5. Knowledge is at your fingertips
In this day and age, you can learn anything and everything you want. Knowledge is truly at your fingertips! Since knowledge is power, seize that power and let it assist you in the pursuit of your dreams. Take advantage of all the “learning” opportunities that come your way.
6. You have food to eat
Sometimes a bit more than you should! Food is such an overlooked blessing, yet if you miss it for a few hours you start feeling the necessity of it. Take the time to enjoy your next meal, whatever that is, savor each bite and remind yourself that happiness is found in enjoying the simple things of life, such as eating a piece of pie.
7. You have the power of choose
Aristotle once said: “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” Need I say more? Claim your power to choose.
8. You’ve experienced love butterflies or something like it
Ahh! To be in love…to feel your whole body literally react to that moment when you simply steal a glance from the one you are infatuated with. Experiencing such a natural, basic and simple, yet passionate moment will give you memories that will last a life time. You are beyond blessed to have experienced such a sublime moment!
9. You have clean water
This one should not be overlooked. Do you ever watch Bear Grills and all his desperate moves to get just a few ounces of muddy water? There are also people who aren’t going without water because they have a survival show, but instead because it is their harsh reality. Around 783 million people do not have access to clean water around the globe. Be thankful and fully aware that you are doing well in life even if you don’t think so.
10. You have a dream
Whatever your dream is, it’s yours. You have the ability to embrace it and create it. Don’t give up on dreaming or on your dreams. They are what life’s best things are made up of.
11. Your happiness is real
You have the power to choose happiness for your life in everything you do and in every circumstance. Your happiness is defined by whether or not you are able to discern and seize an opportunity to feel happy. It may be something as simple as enjoying the laughter of a child.
12. You have clothes to wear
And sometimes too many options, which trumps your productivity, but that is another subject. The bottom line is, you don’t have to go naked through the streets or poorly dressed. You enjoy the blessing of being properly dressed for every occasion and have the ability to shield your body from the elements. Really, life would get very cold without clothes.
13. You have the ability to forgive
Can you imagine what this world would look like without forgiveness? Never mind the world, just your life! Imagine how bogged down, bitter and unhappy you would be if you did not have the ability to forgive other’s mistakes as well as your own. It would make it nearly impossible to live and most definitely a nightmare to move on with life when difficulties arose. You have the unique gift of forgiving and moving on.
14. You believe in something greater than yourself
For all the times you were so caught up in your own little world and drowning in a kiddie pool version of life’s problems, you’ve had the ability to step back and realize that you have something greater to live for than yourself. Whether it is God, your family or friends, you can believe that your purpose is to achieve something that will be for the greater good or to simply bring honor to your God.
15. You have the opportunity to build global friendships
In today’s day and age, your best friend can literally be five thousand miles away yet you can still experience the beauty of that friendship. You have the unique capacity to be acquaintances with one person in almost every country of the world, something no other generation before the 1900’s was easily able to do. As far as I am concerned, your global ability to make friends is definitely a sign you are doing well in life, even if you don’t think so.
That procrastinator in us is like a little “devil” that makes us put off things that we should be doing in favor of doing those things we would much rather do right now, even if the more enjoyable activity is just daydreaming!
We procrastinate for a number of reasons, but the most common one is that the task we are facing is just not pleasant – it’s that report that is going to be hard to write; it’s that lawn that has gotten out of control with weeds and other growth; it’s that garage that needs to be cleaned out; it’s that visit or phone call we need to make that won’t be fun; it’s that conversation we need to have with a subordinate or a boss about an issue or concern.
Nothing will take the unpleasantness away, of course, but here are 7 things that you can do that may get your going and get it over with!
1. Be Afraid
Try to instill some fear inside yourself. What are the bad consequences of not getting this task completed? Will the boss be angry? Will family members be angry? Who will you disappoint that you care about? When you can come up with someone who will hold you accountable for getting something done, you are much more apt to get to work on it!
2. Break Large Project Down
You really don’t have to finish the whole thing in one “sitting.” Set a goal of one section of that report and then take a break; get online and check your email; check out your Facebook home page; read something just for fun. But set a timer for yourself, and when that timer goes off, you get off too!
3. Put a Reward in Place
When you get the entire task finished, you get a reward, and make it a valuable one. You get to go out for Chinese (or another favorite food); you get a new piece of clothing you’ve been wanting; you and a friend meet for happy hour. Whatever you choose, make it so worthwhile that you are motivated to finish the task.
4. Put The Unpleasant Tasks at the Top of Your To-Do List
And here’s the rule for that list. You don’t get to go to item #2 until item #1 is finished. And, as each item is finished, you get one of those rewards we just spoke about!
5. Block Out Distractions
If you are not in a productive work environment for yourself, then that unpleasant task will only sit longer. You will find all sorts of places for your ears, eyes, and mind to go – that TV on in the other room (or in your working room), that open door to your office so that you can see all that is “going on” elsewhere, that large window that lets you gaze outside and daydream. You know what distracts you, and you
know that you need to remove it all if you are really going to focus. And here’s the upside: once you remove all of those distractions, the task will go faster, and the faster you finish, the sooner you get that big reward you’ve promised yourself!
6. Stop Over-Thinking the Task
So much of procrastination is consumed by thoughts of, “How am I ever going to organize this,” “how can I be sure I don’t leave important stuff out,” “how will I meet this deadline,” ad infinitum! Just begin – begin in the middle if you have to – just begin! The thoughts and the ideas will come as you work along – that’s a guarantee.
7. Tell Someone Else
Tell someone who will be around that you are going to get the task completed. Once you tell another person that you are going to do something, you will feel much more of an obligation to do it.
When you’re a new business leader, everyone loves to tell you about the myriad of challenges ahead — making difficult decisions, analyzing market trends, and staying innovative — but few tell you how difficult time management becomes as your business evolves and your role changes.
Before you know it, you no longer have the freedom to participate in shipping, advertising, social media, product development, and budgeting. It can be tempting to get overly involved in one project or initiative, but if you’re careless with your time, you risk getting too caught up in one area of your business and letting other areas fall behind.
Good time management skills help you keep your sanity and allow your business to grow faster than it would with you trying to do everything yourself. The people around you will appreciate it, too; nothing sours relationships with clients and co-workers faster than making them feel like you don’t prioritize them.
Thankfully, the key to good time management isn’t a secret. You need discipline, but by following some basic tips, you can make the most of your time and put your business in the best position to succeed.
1. Stop Multitasking
Every business owner has days when 10 things require attention at the same time. Rather than try and fail to tackle all of them simultaneously, give your undivided attention to the most immediate task first.
Despite the misdirected idea that the best business owners handle several demands at once, multitasking doesn’t make for a more efficient worker. In fact, multitasking makes you do things worse and more slowly than you would if you focused on one thing at a time.
One of the best philosophies for effective single-task time management comes from Leo Babauta’s Zen To Done system. This system focuses on changing habits to make the most of your time. But rather than forcing you into an instant turnaround, Zen To Done encourages focusing on changing individual habits. This mindset helps you get more done in a smaller timeframe without the frazzled feeling that comes with multitasking.
2. Track Everything
You can’t make the most of your time without knowing how you spend it. Carry a notebook, and log everything you do — including conversations, appointments, meetings, planning time, and labor. Do this for as long as necessary until you have a feel for what areas of your business put the biggest demands on your schedule.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate
New business owners should do as many jobs as possible in the beginning to learn how every facet of the business operates. Doing so teaches you how your business runs, allows you to notice opportunities for improvement, and tells you what skills to look for in future employees. However, when your business gets big enough, the time will come when you simply can’t do it alone.
Delegating tasks can mean huge changes, like outsourcing shipping, or smaller ones, like hiring an administrative assistant. Once you track your time, look at which areas don’t necessarily need your personal attention, and delegate those tasks to free you up for more pressing matters. For me, that meant putting my time into other tasks instead of packing and shipping 7,500 bicycle wheels.
4. Hire Dependable People
You can’t delegate if you aren’t surrounded by an efficient, dependable team. There’s nothing worse than counting on someone to meet a deadline only to find out the project is only partially finished when the deadline hits. So vet your partners and employees thoroughly. Talent, intelligence, and drive are important, but unless someone is reliable, you’ll spend too much time worrying about whether something will get done and find yourself constantly making up for lost time.
5. Set Specific Goals
It’s easy to make a list of things you want to accomplish, but unless you attach that list to a timeline, you’ll never know whether you’re making real progress. Figure out what timeline works best for your business, determine the scale of the goals you want to achieve, and put them in writing.
Create multilayer goal timelines to make your goals more achievable. If your annual goal is to increase your market share by 5 percent, create monthly goals detailing the sales numbers you need to hit to accomplish that goal.
When you set out to accomplish personal goals, make appointments instead of lists. Even if the appointment is with yourself to brainstorm ideas for a new product, set a time and keep it. When a goal is just sitting on a list, it’s much easier to put it off than it is to break a scheduled appointment.
Getting into good time management habits takes time — just like any other new habit. Learn as much as you can about your current time demands, identify areas for improvement, and take the necessary steps to see results. You’ll get more done, waste less time and money, and be able to create a more effective customer experience.
It’s truly fascinating how successful people approach problems. Where others see impenetrable barriers, they see challenges to embrace and obstacles to overcome.
Their confidence in the face of hardship is driven by the ability to let go of the negativity that holds so many otherwise sensible people back.
Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania has studied this phenomenon more than anyone else has, and he’s found that success in life is driven by one critical distinction—whether you believe that your failures are produced by personal deficits beyond your control or that they are mistakes you can fix with effort.
Success isn’t the only thing determined by your mindset. Seligman has found much higher rates of depression in people who attribute their failures to personal deficits. Optimists fare better; they treat failure as learning experiences and believe they can do better in the future.
This success mindset requires emotional intelligence (EQ), and it’s no wonder that, among the million-plus people that TalentSmart has tested, 90% of top performers have high EQs.
Maintaining the success mindset isn’t easy. There are seven things, in particular, that tend to shatter it. These challenges drag people down because they appear to be barriers that cannot be overcome. Not so for successful people, as these seven challenges never hold them back.
I remember a professor in graduate school who told our class that we were all too young and inexperienced to do consulting work. He said we had to go work for another company for several years before we could hope to succeed as independent consultants. I was the youngest person in the class, and I sat there doing work for my consulting clients while he droned on.Age really is just a number. Successful people don’t let their age define who they are and what they are capable of. Just ask Betty White or any young, thriving entrepreneur.
Without fail, people feel compelled to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do because of your age. Don’t listen to them. Successful people certainly don’t. They follow their heart and allow their passion—not the body they’re living in—to be their guide.
They follow their heart and allow their passion—not the body they’re living in—to be their guide.
2. What Other People Think
When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own destiny. While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to hold up your accomplishments to anyone else’s, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within.
Successful people know that caring about what other people think is a waste of time and energy. When successful people feel good about something that they’ve done, they don’t let anyone’s opinions take that away from them.
No matter what other people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.
3. Toxic People
Successful people believe in a simple notion: you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Just think about it—some of the most successful companies in recent history were founded by brilliant pairs. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple lived in the same neighborhood, Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft met in prep school, and Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google met at Stanford.
Just as great people help you to reach your full potential, toxic people drag you right down with them. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people create stress and strife that should be avoided at all costs.
If you’re unhappy with where you are in your life, just take a look around. More often than not, the people you’ve surrounded yourself with are the root of your problems.
You’ll never reach your peak until you surround yourself with the right people.
Fear is nothing more than a lingering emotion that’s fueled by your imagination. Danger is real. It’s the uncomfortable rush of adrenaline you get when you almost step in front of a bus. Fear is a choice. Successful people know this better than anyone does, so they flip fear on its head. They are addicted to the euphoric feeling they get from conquering their fears.
Don’t ever hold back in life just because you feel scared. I often hear people say, “What’s the worst thing that can happen to you? Will it kill you?” Yet, death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you…
The worst thing that can happen to you is allowing yourself to die inside while you’re still alive.
Life won’t always go the way you want it to, but when it comes down to it, you have the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else does. Successful people make their time count. Instead of complaining about how things could have been or should have been, they reflect on everything they have to be grateful for. Then they find the best solution available, tackle the problem, and move on.
When the negativity comes from someone else, successful people avoid it by setting limits and distancing themselves from it. Think of it this way:
If the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke?
Of course not. You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with all negative people.
6. The Past or the FutureA great way to stop complainers in their tracks is to ask them how they intend to fix the problem they’re complaining about. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.
Like fear, the past and the future are products of your mind. No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future. Successful people know this, and they focus on living in the present moment. It’s impossible to reach your full potential if you’re constantly somewhere else, unable to fully embrace the reality (good or bad) of this very moment.
To live in the moment, you must do two things:
1) Accept your past. If you don’t make peace with your past, it will never leave you and it will create your future. Successful people know the only good time to look at the past is to see how far you’ve come.
2) Accept the uncertainty of the future, and don’t place unnecessary expectations upon yourself. Worry has no place in the here and now. As Mark Twain once said,
Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.
7. The State of the World
Keep your eyes on the news for any length of time and you’ll see it’s just one endless cycle of war, violent attacks, fragile economies, failing companies, and environmental disasters. It’s easy to think the world is headed downhill fast.
They focus their effort on doing what they can every single day to improve their own lives and the world around them…And who knows? Maybe it is. But successful people don’t worry about that because they don’t get caught up in things they can’t control. Instead, they focus their energy on directing the two things that are completely within their power—their attention and their effort. They focus their attention on all the things they’re grateful for, and they look for the good that’s happening in the world. They focus their effort on doing what they can every single day to improve their own lives and the world around them, because these small steps are all it takes to make the world a better place.
Bringing It All Together
Your success is driven by your mindset. With discipline and focus, you can ensure that these seven obstacles never hold you back from reaching your full potential.
What other challenges do successful people overcome? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
This Person Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here's What Happened By James Clear
In 2010, Dave Brailsford faced a tough job.
No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), Brailsford was asked to change that.
His approach was simple.
Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.
They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.
But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.
Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time.
He was wrong. They won it in three years.
In 2012, Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That same year, Brailsford coached the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympic Games and dominated the competition by winning 70 percent of the gold medals available.
In 2013, Team Sky repeated their feat by winning the Tour de France again, this time with rider Chris Froome. Many have referred to the British cycling feats in the Olympics and the Tour de France over the past 10 years as the most successful run in modern cycling history.
And now for the important question: what can we learn from Brailsford’s approach?
The Aggregation of Marginal Gains
It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.
Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time.
And yet, how easily we forget this when we want to make a change.
So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, traveling the world or any other goal, we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.
Meanwhile, improving by just 1 percent isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t evennoticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run.
And from what I can tell, this pattern works the same way in reverse. (An aggregation of marginal losses, in other words.) If you find yourself stuck with bad habits or poor results, it’s usually not because something happened overnight. It’s the sum of many small choices — a 1 percent decline here and there — that eventually leads to a problem.
Inspiration for this image came from a graphic in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.
In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.
On a related note, this is why I love setting a schedule for important things, planning for failure, and using the “never miss twice” rule. I know that it’s not a big deal if I make a mistake or slip up on a habit every now and then. It’s the compound effect of never getting back on track that causes problems. By setting a schedule to never miss twice, you can prevent simple errors from snowballing out of control.
The Bottom Line
Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. —Jim Rohn
You probably won’t find yourself in the Tour de France anytime soon, but the concept of aggregating marginal gains can be useful all the same.
Most people love to talk about success (and life in general) as an event. We talk about losing 50 pounds or building a successful business or winning the Tour de France as if they are events. But the truth is that most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. Aggregating these marginal gains makes a difference.
There is power in small wins and slow gains. This is why average speed yields above average results. This is why the system is greater than the goal. This is why mastering your habits is more important than achieving a certain outcome.
Where are the 1 percent improvements in your life?
Good Morning! 7 Ways to Jump-Start Your ProductivityBy Brittney Helmrich
How does your morning usually look? If it involves hitting "snooze" repeatedly and rushing out the door, you're probably not in store for a productive day.
If you want to take on the work day and win, you need to make your morning routine as simple and stress-free as possible. That means being prepared ahead of time, getting quality sleep and doing things that will wake you up, boost your energy and motivate you to make it through the day.
Ready to rise and shine? These seven simple tips can help.
Pack your lunch in advance One easy way to cut out added morning stress? Decreasing the number of tasks you need to complete when you wake up. If you're one to bring your lunch instead of stepping out midday to pick up food, you may want to consider preparing your meal the night before.
Rushing to make your lunch right before you walk out the door takes up time from your morning routine that could be used for other productivity-boosting activities and adds another responsibility to your to-do list: washing the dishes. Instead of waiting until the morning to pack your lunch, try preparing everything right after you've made dinner — this way, you're cutting down on how often you have to do the dishes, and in the morning all you have to do is open the fridge, grab your food and go.
BuzzFeed has some great tips for making your lunch even easier, and if you're struggling for easy-to-pack lunch ideas, check out this list from The Kitchn for some inspiration.
Lay out your clothes the night before Another way to cut down on responsibilities in the morning is to take some time before you go to bed to choose and lay out what you're going to wear the next day.
Unless your job requires you to wear a uniform, deciding what you want to wear can often be frustrating and time-consuming, and if you're distracted and in a hurry while you're getting ready, you could end up leaving in clothes that don't even match. Prevent that from happening by raiding your closet the night before, choosing pieces that work and laying them out so that in the morning, you can just get dressed and save yourself the hassle.
And if you want to get really creative with your closet, check out Business Insider's genius way to plan your outfits (and change things up) using Pinterest.
Switch out your alarm clock Are you used to getting jolted awake by an obnoxious alarm clock? It could be the reason you keep hitting the snooze button or why you might still feel tired and cranky first thing in the morning, and it's called sleep inertia.
According to the New Yorker, "sleep inertia refers to that period between waking and being fully awake when you feel groggy," and the more abruptly you're woken up, the worse it gets. [10 Most Sleep-Deprived Careers ]
So how can you combat this to make your mornings less miserable? Try switching out your typical alarm clock for an alarm clock that slowly wakes you up using light and gradual sound — the light simulates a sunrise and makes waking up feel more natural. Or, you can use an app like Sleep Cycle, a smartphone alarm clock that tracks your sleep patterns based on your motions. Just set a half-hour time window of when you need to be up, and the alarm will sound off when you're in your lightest sleep phase during that time period.
Wait to check your emails It can be tempting when you first wake up to grab your phone and check all of the emails, texts and social media posts you missed while you were snoozing, but it might not be the best way to start your day.
It's tricky, because it seems like it would be more productive to start your day getting your emails and notifications out of the way, but according to the Huffington Post, it can be quite damaging. Why? As author and consultant Julie Morgenstern told the publication, email is reactive, not proactive, so you wind up "bouncing from task to task, letting your inbox set your agenda."
Instead, take a tip from Tumblr founder David Karp, who told Inc. that he waits until he gets into the office to check his emails in the morning.
Get in a few minutes of exercise Exercise has a lot of benefits for your physical and mental health, but it is especially effective in the morning if you want to be more productive and motivated.
Exercising in the morning is an energy boost and gets your endorphins up, according to the Huffington Post, which means you'll be more awake and ready to take on the day. And a morning workout can boost your mental clarity, too — the HuffingtonPost reported that you can feel these effects for four to 10 hours post-exercise.
Plus, exercising in the morning can help you sleep better at night. Exercising too close to the time you typically go to bed can actually make it harder to fall asleep, the Huffington Post reported.
If you can't get in a full workout, try to at least set aside a few minutes to stretch and do some light exercise to help perk you up in the morning.
Eat an energizing breakfast Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You've probably heard that a thousand times, but it's true — the right breakfast can be the boost you need in the morning to stay motivated, plus, in the long run, it's good for your health.
According to US News, eating breakfast can boost your metabolism and help you feel fuller longer, but more important, it can make you more productive. But it's not just eating breakfast that matters — it's about eating the right foods.
Nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky told US News that foods rich in vitamin B, like oatmeal, avocados, bananas and pineapple, can give you an energy boost and help improve your concentration.
Plan out your goals (but not your to-do list) Planning your goals for the day can be a great way to start your morning, but if you get too detailed, you could find yourself feeling discouraged instead of motivated. According to Fortune, detailed planning only works well if you have one major task to complete for the day, but the longer your to-do list is, the less specific you should get.
Why? Because the more detailed you plan out your responsibilities, the more you realize how difficult it may be to complete them, professor Amy Dalton told Fortune.
"[You'll] feel overwhelmed and, because you don't think you can pull it all off, you're less committed." Dalton said. "By contrast, people who don't form specific plans are more likely to believe they can achieve it all.
So, if you're feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list, take a step back and look at the bigger picture instead.