Even if you're not a morning person, you’re probably called upon to do your best work between 8 a.m. and noon. So rather than sleepwalking through the morning or relying on quick-fix caffeine solutions, why not position yourself for high performance during the hours before the afternoon doldrums set in?
Here are 10 things that will keep you healthy and productive:
1) Get enough sleep.
We have a much more efficient, higher quality of work if we sleep for the recommended period of eight hours or at least seven hours. "Sleep is the foundation of everything we do," says Scott Peltin, co-founder of TIGNUM, a performance institute for corporate leaders. "It allows us to rebuild our bodies, to replenish our chemical stores, and to have the alertness to function throughout the day." Sleep deprivation can interfere with memory, energy levels, mental abilities, and mood—all of which you need for a productive workday.
2) Drink plenty of water.
After sleeping for six or (hopefully) more hours, your body is dehydrated. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, start the day with a 20-ounce glass of water. When you leave the house, take a bottle of water with you. Drink on the way to work and keep a bottle on your desk. Even minor dehydration impairs concentration, coordination, and reaction time. Drink 1/2 to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day to maintain hydration.
The best time to train is whatever time works best for you. For many people, the only time is first thing in the morning. An early workout gives you a sense of accomplishment and energy that sets a productive tone for your workday. And if you finish the day wondering what you got done amid a flurry of meetings, phone calls, and e-mails, take consolation in knowing you at least got in a workout.
4) Maximize your workout.
If training before breakfast, you still want to “break the fast” from not eating since the night before. Eat something small with about 15 to 30 grams of carbs and 5 to 10 grams of protein, along with 16 ounces of water. A small scoop of whey protein and watered down orange juice will do the trick. If you don’t have time for a traditional breakfast after your workout, at least have a post-workout shake with a good mix of carbohydrates and protein. At this point, your cells are wide open and screaming for nutrients, and by drinking one of these shakes, you expedite the recovery process.
5) Eat breakfast.
Skipping breakfast or settling for a combination of coffee and a sugar-laden donut or pastry is no way to start the day. Fuel your body for a productive, fat-burning day with a healthy breakfast such as oatmeal, lean meat, and low-sugar yogurt.
6) Follow a calendar or to-do list.
Without a list of priorities, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of putting out fires via the phone and e-mail. Prioritize your morning with must-do action items and leave the afternoon for planning, returning calls and emails, work-related reading, and other business housekeeping.
7) Eat a mid-morning snack.
There are likely five to seven hours between your breakfast and lunch. Keep your metabolism firing with a nutrient-dense, mid-morning snack that will keep hunger pangs at bay. Try fruit, veggies, nuts, sunflower seeds, or beef jerky. If you have access to a blender or shaker bottle, a shake or smoothie consisting of fruit and whey protein also is a good option.
8) Posture checks.
It can be difficult to maintain good posture while spending the bulk of your day sitting down. That’s why it’s important to check your posture a couple times each morning. Are your shoulder blades pulled back and down? Is your chest elevated? Have you kept your tummy drawn up and in? Read our rules for perfecting your posture.
9) Tighten your core.
Even if you’re stuck at your desk or in a meeting, you still can activate your muscles. Start with your glutes, which are taking a beating from you sitting on them. Alternate between activating (squeezing) your left and right cheeks. There’s no limit to how many of these you can do, but think in terms of doing a set of 10 every 30 minutes. Next let's move to the core region. Draw your belly button in away from your belt buckle. This is not the same as sucking in your gut and holding your breath. Simply pull your belly button in. Do a set of 10 every 30 minutes.
10) Periodic movement.
Most people make it a point on long flights to get up and walk around. So why do most of us not rise from our desks for hours unless nature calls? Take periodic five-minute breaks and do some simple some simple Movement Prep — a series of dynamic stretches — like a lateral lunge, drop lunge, or backward lunge with a twist. These counteract the effects of the modern sedentary workplace, which rounds our shoulders, locks our hips, and weakens our core.