Benjamin Franklin said the certainties of life are “death and taxes.” He forgot to add “mornings” to the mix. After all, dawn’s hours creep up like, well, clockwork.

Ironically, many people brush off mornings, not realizing that they can be the most productive period of the day. When else do you have the space to breathe? Rather than hit the snooze button one more time, embrace morning as if it were the scarcest resource and a treasured period for setting up an incredibly effective day — because it is.

Everyone’s experienced a rushed, stressful morning. The coffee spilled. The milk spoiled. The kids got up late. Having that type of introduction to the day makes recovering practically impossible.

While some hectic mornings are inevitable, they don’t have to become the status quo. Jan Lehman, executive coach at CTC Productivity, often recommends that professionals who constantly feel hurried from the moment they arise leverage their first few hours by doing strategic, deep-thinking work. For Lehman, this means ditching the email responses, which aren’t necessarily high-priority items, and laser-focusing on intense projects.

To be sure, creating and following a morning sequence isn’t natural for everyone. At first, it might feel forced as you avoid falling back into past unproductive behaviors. But as you start to gain momentum and make inroads, you’ll discover a road to less stress and more personal fulfillment. Ultimately, those feelings of accomplishment will help you stay the course and learn to love the opportunities of dawn.

Structuring a Productive Morning Routine

It doesn’t take a lot of work to set yourself up for a successful day. Just follow a few simple rules as you plan out your waking process:

1. Concentrate on “me time.”

Mornings are opportunities for self-care. As certified professional organizer Ellen Delap notes, incorporating exercise, hydration, and healthy eating into the mix are essential to giving yourself a little love. Delap advises adding protein to your breakfast, as too much sugar and empty carbs can leave you feeling groggy and hungry by mid-morning.

As part of your “me time,” push aside the desire to head straight to social media or television. Reading a book, listening to a motivational podcast, or engaging in a similar activity is stimulating to your brain’s creative centers. After 15 minutes, you’ll be able to power through the important work that requires concentration and creativity without distractions.

2. Create a calmer nighttime routine.

The state of your morning hours depends on what you do the evening before. For instance, Amy Tokos, a certified professional organizer, suggests cleaning the kitchen, setting up the coffee maker, charging devices, and doing meal prep at night. At the same time, she’s a firm believer that even though late nights are inevitable, they shouldn’t be standard.

Unless you get a handle on your sleep cycles and circadian rhythm, you won’t be able to get the full benefits of a productive morning routine. Because every sleep cycle takes around 90 minutes to complete, aim for six, seven-and-a-half, or nine hours of sleep. You might even want to monitor your sleep and cardiovascular responses using a sleep-habit improvement app like Sleep Cycle.

3. Keep your routine simple.

One of the biggest threats to morning efficiency is complexity. When Tokos works with clients, she asks them to do only what’s necessary when they first wake up. In other words, don’t take on so much that your mornings turn into a chaotic, lengthy to-do list that never ends.

As part of a simplified routine, carve out time for pure meditation and peace. You needn’t spend too much time in calm reflection. An app like Headspace can walk you through a few minutes of downtime that will center your thoughts. By allowing yourself to have some peace and quiet, you set yourself up to more clearly make decisions that will power you through your day.

The next time you’re tempted to ignore your chirping iPhone or the blinding light coming in through the window, rethink your choice. Rising with — or even before — the sun might not be what your “sleep mind” wants, but it’s what your professional goals need.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Karakaian is the host of the popular podcast "Stand Out: Growing Your Organizing and Productivity Business," produced by the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals ( Sarah also has been working with her handy hubby Nick since 2014, creating beautiful spaces full-time at Nestrs LLC — a professional organizing, design, and handyman company. Sarah and her husband are also Airbnb superhosts, and their work and expertise have been featured in the HGTV television series "Beach Flip," The Washington Post,, and The New York Post, among others.