7 simple morning habits to add to your routine in 2021

Working through a pandemic in 2020 meant more virtual meetings, parenting from home challenges, and less time off. According to a Monster survey last May, 69% of employees said they experienced burnout symptoms.

We spoke with Yai Vargas, a career and diversity consultant, about how a healthy morning routine can lead to personal and professional success. Therapists also offered tips they often share with their own patients.

“My clients face a lack of focus, clarity, direction, and productivity,” said Vargas. “Having to do all your professional development and networking on your own — from home — is not something that works for everyone.” She recommends employees start their day by preparing ahead of time and knowing when to decline a task you’re not ready for.

Say no to a colleague

This takes practice. “Evaluate the meetings you have scheduled, and honestly ask yourself if you’re ready to be present in the conversation. Do you have everything you need to add value to the meeting,” said Vargas. “If you don’t feel confident you can fully show up and be able to act on the meeting’s next steps, decline until you’re ready. It’s better to be well prepared, and to dedicate the time it takes to be conducive to a successful meeting than to overwhelm yourself with more work.”

2. Kick-off your morning routine the night before

Deb Valentin, an acupuncture therapist and herbalist from Sage Wellness in New York City, said how you end your day can affect your morning. “It’s important that I speak to patients about structuring their personal life just as they structure their work life,” said Valentin. “People get stressed with what they need to do instead of celebrating their accomplishments. Closing out the workday with what went well is very important. After that, write down three things you need to do the next day.”

3. Meditate before checking email

Quiet time is essential and can help reduce stress. “First thing in the morning, I like to meditate,” said Valentin. “The brain’s wavelengths in the morning are alpha waves. This is when you are awake but relaxing. Meditation also creates alpha waves. So meditating for even 10 minutes enables one to be more grounded and focused as the brain becomes more clear.”

4. Write down affirmations with your to-do list

Write down the top three tasks that will make the most difference in your day. “This helps to laser focus your energy on what will have the most impact instead of getting bogged down by just another to-do list,” said Valentin.

5. Check-in with a loved one

Khemenec Pantin, a licensed master social worker who works with BIPOC men and women who are just beginning to enter the workplace, said his clients had a multitude of obstacles last year. “Some of the challenges have run the gamut from managing a household through COVID-19, functioning as a person of color through ongoing racial trauma, or finally dealing with personal issues that people feel they have time to confront and heal from.”

In addition to setting a morning quiet time routine, Pantin encourages his clients to check in with others. “The most meaningful conversations in 2020 were with people I haven’t spoken to in a long time,” he said. “Social media can give us the impression that we really know what’s happening in someone’s life. A quick text or call can do wonders for you and the people you care about.”

6. Accomplish one small task

For parents, working from home comes with additional challenges. Cynthia Guzman, a licensed psychologist from New Mexico, said getting at least one task done before sitting by the computer makes a difference.

“Accomplish one small thing each morning,” said Guzman. “This can be making your bed, making coffee if you seldom get the chance to, or even turn on the dishwasher. This will allow you to feel a sense of mastery and get you started on a path of productivity. Even if you feel like you have not accomplished much at the end of the day, you can at least say, ‘I did the dishes.’”

7. Set your day with intention

This may be too simple of a task, but Guzman believes it to be effective.

“I love to tell my clients to start their day with intention. Set purpose in their day and decide what attitude, energy, or goal they want to carry forward,” said Guzman. “This may be ‘I will be kind to myself today,’ or ‘I am a good person,’ or even, ‘I have overcome hard things before.’ This helps to remind ourselves of the new day and the new opportunity ahead of us. It also reminds us that we are in control of our day.”