7 Tips for a More Productive Morning (and why I’m not following most of them!)

posted by Andrea | 10/30/2014


For my entire life, I have been a morning person — like a crazy morning person who wakes up without an alarm and can easily be out the door by 6:30am (with a full breakfast under my belt).

When I was in high school, there were many mornings I left the house before anyone else was awake because I had choir practice before school… and when I was in college, I requested all the 8am classes (which were AFTER my 6am sports practices.)

When Dave and I were first married, he needed to wake up around 5:30 or 6:00 for work. I didn’t need to be up until 7:30 but we almost always woke up at the same time. I would do laundry, get dinner started, sometimes even get groceries and clean the entire house before I went to work at 8:30.

When I quit my day job and started working from home, I used to joke and say I did more by 10:00am than most people did in a day — and honestly, based on my current productivity, I think that was often true.

I just LOVE early mornings.


Due to the nature of my blog and the fact that I’ve openly professed my love of early mornings, it’s not surprising that some of the most commonly asked questions I get regarding productivity and time management are about morning routines and how to create a super productive morning.

It’s also not surprising that I have a pretty darn good answer to all those questions 🙂

However, what might come as a surprise for you is that I’m not following most of my tips… and yes, this means that my mornings have not been extremely productive lately!

If you’re looking for a few tips to get your morning off to a great start, definitely keep reading (I promise, my simple tips really do work!)

On the other hand, if you’re feeling totally overwhelmed by the thought of even attempting to chisel any shred of productivity out of your mornings, don’t worry… I’m right there with you, and I think you’ll take comfort in what I have to say at the end of this post.

7 tips for a more productive morning

1. Make your to-do list the night before.

Every night (and I do mean every night) Dave and I make out our to-do lists before we go to bed. It takes me 5 minutes and I’m assuming it doesn’t take him any longer. I’m almost to the point where if I don’t have a pretty detailed to-do list for the next day, I can’t sleep.

If I could encourage you to do ONE SIMPLE THING to drastically increase your productivity, THIS would be it. (Read the entire post I devoted to this topic here.) Even though my mornings are currently not very productive, I’m still making my lists the night before and it helps me SO much.

Make a list, my friends, and make it the night before. Your brain will be free to sleep without worrying about forgetting anything and you’ll know exactly what you need to do when you wake up the next morning (whether you actually get around to doing it or not… but that’s another story!)

2. Go to bed on time.

Duh! I can’t write a good “Tips for a Productive Morning” post and not state the obvious.

Of course, if you’re going to be waking up on time (see #3 below) in order to start your day in the most productive way, you certainly need to be getting to bed on time.

Dave and I try REALLY hard to be in bed by 10:30pm every night — but I’ll be honest, this is one of the tips I’m not following very well right now.

Yes, there are many nights we are in bed by 10:30… but there are just as many nights where both of us are still working past midbight. And unfortunately, since I’ve learned how to be super productive at night, I’m known to stay up WAY too late!

3. Wake up early – preferably before everyone else.

I know, I know… if you’re not a morning person, or if you have little kids who don’t sleep, you are cursing me right now. Although I can’t understand not being a morning person, I definitely CAN understand not wanting to pull yourself out of bed in the morning because you’re just so stinkin’ tired. Believe me, I get it!

As you’ll read below, I AM waking up early — but it’s only because that’s when my kids wake up! However, I can confirm that after years and years and years of personal experience, I’m positive your morning will be significantly more productive if you wake up on time BEFORE everyone else.

You’ll be able to clear your head and do all the other tips I mention in this post before everyone else wakes up and before your home turns into a mad rush for everyone to get out the door.

4. Get dressed and ready right away.

I don’t know about you, but the faster I get dressed and ready, the more productive I FEEL — and the more productive I FEEL, the more productive I am.

Although I love a good “lounge in my PJs until noon” kind of day, I know I’m more productive when I take 15 minutes to get dressed and ready (I shower at night). Plus, if I’m ready right away, I can easily head out the door earlier if plans change without feeling rushed or sudenly behind.

And of course, if you actually get dressed and ready in the morning, you won’t be embarrassed when the plumber or the UPS guy stop by much earlier than planned and you’re in a robe with crazy morning hair {totally fictitious examples by the way 😉 }

5. Do something for just you.

One of my favorite things about waking up early is taking a few minutes (and it can literally be 5-10 minutes) to do something 100% for me. It doesn’t need to be anything productive, but rather, just something you WANT to do.

Maybe it’s reading a chapter of a book, listening to music, scrolling through Facebook, watching the morning news, doing devotions, doing yoga or another form of exercise, meditating, working on a craft project, cooking or baking, going for a walk, etc.

Obviously, some of these would take significantly longer than 5-10 minutes, but one of the best ways for me to motivate myself to wake up early is knowing that I have a few minutes of “me time”.

For the record, there is little to no “me time” while Dave is gone at school — so this is yet another tip I’m not following right now.

6. Complete a few quick tasks for an instant productivity boost.

Along with dutifully making my to-do list EVERY night before I go to bed, #6 is the other tip I follow almost every single day.

Even if our mornings are crazy, even if I have no time for myself, even if I’m still in my PJ’s with crazy morning hair at noon… I almost always try to do a few quick tasks right away in the morning, and I almost always feel an instant productivity boost as a result.

Maybe it’s switching out a load of laundry, defrosting something for dinner, cleaning out the dishwasher, and loading it back up again while kids are eating breakfast. Maybe it’s checking and responding to a handful of pressing emails and then folding the laundry while they watch Curious George.

Either way, these quick tasks give me a sense of accomplishment (which my personality craves) and makes the rest of my crazy, unproductive morning (and day) seem less crazy and less unproductive!

7. Dive in to the most pressing task(s) on your list.

Once you’re dressed, ready, you’ve done something just for you, and you’ve completed a few quick tasks for that instant productivity boost, NOW it’s time to dive into the most important and most pressing tasks on your to-do list — you know, the list you made last night 😉

These tasks might be on your “Top 5 List” and will most likely require some concentration and focus — which is why it’s helpful if you can get up before everyone else. Maybe it’s a work-related project, maybe it’s some massive freezer cooking session prep work, maybe it’s your cleaning/laundry day and you have baskets of laundry calling your name, maybe it’s preparing for a meeting or making a few important phone calls.

Whatever it is, I encourage you to get started on at least one of those pressing projects as soon as possible. This removes a huge weight from your shoulders and propels your productivity — which will make you more apt to continue being productive.


As I mentioned above, I know from YEARS of personal experience that these seven tips (tweaked to fit your lifestyle) will indeed help you to create a much more productive morning…

However, I’m not following most of them!

In my current stage of life, I get anywhere from 4 to 7 hours of VERY BROKEN sleep each night due to children whose sleep schedules do not match up with Dave and my sleep schedules.

An example of a normal night in our house would be Simon going to bed around 6:30 and sleeping like a rock until 3 or 4:00am. Then he gets restless, needs to eat, needs a diaper / clothes change, needs his pipe, makes all kinds of noise playing in his crib, and is usually up for the day by 6:00am.

On the contrary, Nora is usually in bed by 8pm but is SUPER restless until about 2-3:00am — often crying for us multiple times during those hours until she is finally tired enough to sleep soundly from about 3am- 6:30am (and by then, Dave is usually just sleeping in her bed because he’s so tired of getting up).

As you can see, this basically means that Dave and I are awakened by one or both children every hour or two ALL. NIGHT. LONG! And yes, this is our “normal” EVERY night…

By the time Dave’s alarm goes off at 5:30am, he’s often in Nora’s bed and rarely feels fully rested. I’m usually half-sleeping from 4:30ish – 6:00 (because of Simon being restless), so when the first kid is up for the day, I feel like my eyes need to be clamped open. Definitely not the ideal “morning productivity” circumstances 🙂

Please know that I am NOT making excuses or complaining — I am just stating the facts.

I am fully aware that if I really wanted to be productive in the mornings, I could go to bed at 7:00pm and wake up at 3:00am. I COULD do that — but I don’t.

Aside from the fact that I would almost never see Dave or have any grown-up conversations in my life, I’m also not thrilled about going to bed an hour after I eat dinner or training my body to wake up at 3:00am.

Instead, I have chosen to learn how to be productive at night — when Dave is around, the kids are sleeping, the house is quiet, and I can get anywhere from 3-6 solid hours of work done in one chunk of time.

Because I now have super productive evenings, I give myself A LOT of grace on those early mornings when all I want to do is lay on the couch while the kids watch Curious George or Daniel Tiger (yup, I’ve definitely done that more than once).

I still dutifully make my to-do list every single night, I try to get out of my PJs by 9:00, and I’m pretty good about doing quick projects off my list all throughout the day. However, the rest of my productivity tips are put on hold until about 4:00 when Dave is home and can “take over”.


So what’s the point of this post?

If you’ve been hanging around the blog world for a while, you know that “wake up early to be productive” is a very common blog topic. I totally understand, and I 100% agree that if you can make early mornings work for you and your family, you will be more productive.

HOWEVER, if morning productivity doesn’t work for you right now, that’s OK too. Take 2 minutes right now and accept the fact that you are choosing not to be productive during those early morning hours… and then stop beating yourself up or feeling badly because you don’t have everything on your to-do list crossed off before dinner.

But at the same time, you also need to stop complaining about the fact that you “never get anything done during the day” because it is your choice.

As I’ve mentioned before, our time is our choice. We are making choices with every minute of our day, and morning productivity is a choice we make (or don’t make).

For me, morning productivity is still my personal preference, but the trade-offs to make it work are just too high right now. I’m not willing to go to bed at 7pm and get up at 3am, I’m not willing to sacrifice the entire evening with Dave, I’m not willing to be tired by lunch and grumpy with my kids, and I’m not willing to drive myself crazy trying to multi-task motherhood and my to-do list all morning long.

A productive morning is great, but I personally won’t drive myself to the point of insanity to achieve it!

What are your thoughts on morning productivity?

photo source; photo source


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  3. Tamara


    Thank you


  4. Kate


    Have you ever tried putting essential oils on Nora’s feet or diffusing them in her room? I would HIGHLY suggest trying lavender or a calming blend. I love essential oils, and have heard amazing things about how they help calm restless kids.


    Andrea Reply:

    yes, and yes 🙂


  5. momstheword


    I am not a morning person. In fact, one time my husband asked me, “You’re not a morning person. You’re not a night person. When ARE you a person?” 😉

    When the kids were little and then later because we were homeschooling, I got up early out of necessity and was exercising by 6 a.m. But again, not a morning person.

    But I’m not really ‘productive” in the morning, unless I have to be. I usually save the afternoons for productivity as I seem to have some high energy then. I can get real energetic around 7-9 p.m and yet other times I feel like I am just waiting to go to bed.

    And occasionally, I will become a “night” person for a brief shining moment or two. Once I found myself cleaning the bathroom at midnight. I was just in the mood. Who on earth is in the mood to clean their bathroom at MIDNIGHT? That would be me.


    Andrea Reply:

    haha!! Well, there are quite a few people who would probably relate to your “not a morning person and not a night person”. I know lots of people who get their “good energy” in the afternoon — which isn’t so great when you have kids at home all day… but it sounds like you’re making it work for you 🙂


  6. Krista


    My 5-10 minutes of me time in the morning is reading your posts. 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    awwww… thanks Krista! I hope I make your “me time” worth it!


  7. Chris


    I’ve never heard the term of a baby’s pipe. What does that mean?


    Andrea Reply:

    haha — it’s a pacifier 🙂


    Chris Reply:

    Ah! lol Thank you.


  8. Elizabeth


    Thank you!! As a mom of a 4 year old who has taken to sleeping in my bed more often than not and 16 month twins who take turns fussing and crying throughout the night, I almost didn’t read to the end. I followed a link from a friend’s facebook and thought this was going to be another one of those smug bloggers who do everything perfectly :/ Thank you for being honest!


    Andrea Reply:

    you’re welcome Elizabeth — glad I did not disappoint you 🙂


  9. Siobhan


    I love these type of posts! I am a morning person but I have a similar circumstance as my kiddos are 5, 3, and 9 months…and they are usually not on the same sleep schedule. Anyway, I’m up by 5:30 am with them and have followed your advice on doing a few quick chores for a productivity boost 🙂 That has really helped start my day off in the right direction.

    I find though that I struggle with being productive at night…I’m such a crank by 8pm when I get them into bed and still have dishes from dinner and random messes to pick up. I have to re-read your post on how you changed your productive time to night for motivation as I would love to get some of these lingering tasks off my to do list once and for all. I’ve actually stayed up at 3am a few times after feeding the baby but that’s not something I can do too often…that’s a little too extreme for me.

    Anyway, thanks again for another helpful post 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    ah yes… sounds like we’re in the same boat when it comes to sleeping!

    It was VERY hard for me to learn to be productive at night — I basically did it out of desperation. Go back and read that post — it might have some ideas that would also work for you.

    Good luck!


  10. Lydia @ five4five


    I loved this post so much. I related to it because, while I am not a morning person, I have always forced myself to be one so I can work. Since having my youngest son this has become more difficult.

    Reading this gave me a sense of peace. You and I are vastly different and I don’t always agree with you, but this is my favorite thing you have written.


  11. Norma


    Great post!
    I am working towards being a morning person because I just like it better! Of course, I also enjoy a lazy Saturday morning 🙂 But since I know I feel better when I cross off items of my to-do list early, I make an effort to wake up earlier. Having time to read for a few minutes while having a cup of coffee in absolute silence is my motivation!


  12. rachel


    Thanks Andrea. This is a great post; love that you share the tips despite actually being in the stage to follow them yourself right now. Life is rough sometimes, and it’s good to know the info and be OK with giving ourselves the grace we so often need.
    I can’t say I’ve ever been as productive as you but I love hearing that your nights are like mine right now. I’ve been playing “musical beds” lately… So focusing on getting dressed and getting a few tasks done are my daily goals.


    Andrea Reply:

    haha — “musical beds” Dave and I say those exact words ALL the time. You never know what bed(s) people will wake up in or how many different beds I’ll need to make in the morning.

    cheers to getting dressed and accomplishing something each day 🙂


  13. Rachel Sauder


    I have been reading your blog for a LONG time … and I LOVE it! I have never commented before … but I just had to comment this morning when I read about how Nora is so restless & doesn’t sleep soundly.
    I was wondering if you have ever heard of weighted blankets?? My son (who has anxiety & sensory issues) uses a weighted blanket every night … and it really helps! My sister-in-law just bought a weighted blanket for my nephew (who has sensory issues) & she says he has had deeper sleep ever since they started using it.
    “The deep pressure … proprioceptive input … generated from the weighted blanket signals the brain to release serotonin, which in turn naturally calms and relaxes the body, promoting sleep and stress relief.”
    You have to choose the weight of the weighted blanket depending on how much your child weighs. You obviously don’t want it to be too heavy .. but it also needs to be heavy enough! There are all sorts of websites … but one in particular to help you get started is … http://www.themagicblanket.net which gives more details. I actually bought the one for my son off of ebay from a lady who actually sews & makes them out of her home … which was cheaper. Anyway … it’s worth checking into!!!! Hope this helps!!!! Let me know!!!! Thanks for your WONDERFUL blog. It’s my FAVORITE ONE!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Rachel — and yes, we’ve tried the weighted blankets (among many other things!) no luck 🙂


    Rachel Reply:

    That’s too bad 🙁


  14. Margo


    I have always been a morning person, my husband however is NOT. I often joke that we live in different time zones. It wasn’t a big problem when he was working, I could deal with him sleeping until 10:00 AM one or two days a week but since he retired it hasn’t been easy for me. I wake up at 5:00 AM (without an alarm) no matter what time I go to bed and used to be able to get all my work done or errands run by 10:00 AM. This is not the case any more. I am less productive than I have ever been. I may have to resort to drugging his food so he will go to bed earlier – just kidding.


    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow! So do you feel like you need to be quiet from 5-10am? and that’s why you can’t get anything accomplished?

    I wonder if there could be any compromising? Like you go to be one hour later to stay up for a while with him — and then he wakes up by 8:00 every day. 10am does seem a bit crazy (speaking as a fellow morning person!) but I also wouldn’t expect him to wake up at 5:00 either.

    Oh, and one other thing that worked for me when I literally couldn’t sleep past 5:30am (now, I obviously have no issue with this) I would just force myself to lay in bed until 6:00 or 6:30. Even if I just laid there with my eyes wide open, I was still “relaxing”. Often, I tried to keep my eyes closed and eventually I started falling back to sleep.

    You could even read or do another quiet activity in bed while you try to relax — just a few ideas in case you’re interested 🙂


    Margo Reply:

    Yes, he’s a light sleeper so I try to be quiet. I don’t have kids to deal with but I do have a dog who needs to be fed and taken out for a morning walk.

    I often stay up until midnight with him but he goes to bed anywhere between 11:00-3:00. I am wired to wake up at 5:00 partially due to being a natural morning person and 35 years at a job with an early start time. Even though I’ve been retired for 6 years I can’t seem to break the early wake up.

    I do read at times and have tried just laying there, which I force myself to do if I wake up super early,

    I don’t expect (or want) him to get up at 5:00 with me. I like the time to myself. The good thing is he doesn’t need a lot of time to get going if we have things to do together.


    Andrea Reply:

    sounds like you guys are just wired differently when it comes to sleeping — especially if he could be going to bed 2 hours before you wake up 🙂

    At least you’re retired and can have a little more freedom as to how you use your days! And I laughed when you said “he doesn’t need a lot of time to get going” — that’s good. Nothing worse than a man who takes longer to get dressed and ready than a woman!


  15. Deni


    This is why I visit your blog every morning, for motivation and encouragement for the things that will simplify my life. Thanks for the reminders, they really help!!!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Deni — I appreciate it!