15 Bad Morning Habits that Ruin a Productive Day
Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Are you feeling tired and grumpy? It could be because you had a less-than-restful night of sleep. But it’s just as likely because of a few bad morning habits that are taking what could be an amazingly productive day and turning it upside down!
How you start your day can have a snowball effect on the rest of the day. (If you’ve ever had a morning fight with a partner or kid, you probably know that all too well.) Yet it often isn’t the big things—like getting rear-ended on the way to work, missing the bus, or getting sucked into a family feud.
Instead, many of us have unknowingly set ourselves up with some bad morning habits. Yep, it’s more often the little stuff that can create a domino effect, causing minor problems throughout the day that zap productivity, energy, and mood.
How many of these harmful habits are you guilty of? Better yet, what can you do instead to start your day with a little more pep in your step?
15 Bad Morning Habits
1. Waking Up to an Alarm
Who wants to wake up to the sound of a loud ringing, buzzing, or annoying song right in the middle of a dream? While studies don’t necessarily indicate that it’s harmful to use an alarm, it makes sense that a loud noise delivered when you’re enjoying some deep shuteye could cause a dramatic rise in stress hormones and blood pressure. Especially if you have an anxiety disorder or suffer from heart issues, this probably isn’t the best way to start the day.
If you can’t just wake up to the sun or your own rhythm, a better option is to use what’s known as a “dawn simulator.” These are lights you can set that start out dark and then gradually increase in brightness over 20 to 30 minutes as you to wake up gently. Many also add soft nature noises like birds singing after the light has already brightened the room to ensure you wake up.
Studies, as well as antidotal reports, indicate that people who wake up to increasing light rather than an annoying alarm are more alert and awake as they begin the day. These devices may be especially helpful during the winter to prevent sleep-pattern disturbances. 1
Other research indicates that the increased light decreases sleep-to-wake heart rate increases and may help protect against cardiac vulnerability. 2
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2. Hitting the Snooze Button
If you find yourself hitting the snooze button, you probably notice that you feel even more groggy when you finally do get out of bed. Every time the alarm goes off and you fall back asleep, you enter a new sleep cycle but never have enough time to complete it. This confuses the brain and leads to feeling foggy and tired, and it can last for hours, if not the full day. 3
Plus, you likely set your alarm to get up early. If you keep pushing back that time, you’re already failing your first mission of the day. That’s definitely not how you want to start your day.
The desire to hit that snooze could be because you’re not getting enough sleep, have an unreliable sleep schedule that’s causing “social jet lag,” or accumulated sleep debt. Any of which could indicate your circadian rhythm is off and needs to be reset.
Instead of hitting the snooze button again, head for the light. Daylight (or at least strong overhead light), that is, which can help you wake up faster and smoother and help you stay energized for the rest of the day. It can also lift mood. 4
3. Waking Up at Different Times
It’s the weekend. You don’t have anywhere to go. Plus, you stayed up pretty late last night. Why not sleep in?
If this happens on occasion, that’s totally normal. But if you habitually wake up at different times—say, later every weekend than on week days—then you could be creating real havoc for your circadian rhythms, which can negatively affect sleep quality.
What’s more, waking up at the same time every day of the week can actually help you wake up at the same time every day. No alarm clock needed.
Having bedtimes and wake times that vary less than 30 minutes on either side have been found to improve diet quality, decrease alcohol consumption, decrease sedentary behavior, improve sleep, and positively affect other lifestyle behaviors. 5
4. Checking Your Phone First Thing
While you may think it’s important to check in with the world as soon as you wake, checking emails, texts, and other notifications all day, every day increases stress levels. 6,7 If you check it as soon as you wake up, you could overstimulate your mind with all you have to do today, not to mention the criticism, judgment, and complaints so common on both social media and news outlets. This can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety that can ooze into the rest of the day. Protect yourself from that type of chaos and negativity.
For a better start to the day, leave your phone in the other room as you sleep and allow yourself to wake up and enjoy some morning me-time to drink some water, get your body moving, take a shower, get dressed, and perhaps eat breakfast. Once you are in that positive state, you can check in on the world with a calm, nourished mind, body, and spirit.
Setting aside your phone can be a hard habit to break, so give yourself some grace as you get better at leaving your phone alone, starting with a few minutes and gradually increasing the time. It’s worth the effort!
5. Keeping the Curtains Closed
While you’re sleeping, keeping the room dark and cool is what you want to do. And you may think that keeping the curtains closed and lights low helps you ease into the day, allowing your eyes and brain to get accustomed to the fact that it’s morning.
Unfortunately, that darkness in the morning can confuse the body, making it think it’s not yet morning, and you’ll still feel like sleeping. That will just leave you feeling sluggish through the morning.
If you want to be more focused, productive, and alert, once morning rolls around, it’s time to flood the room with bright daylight. Morning sunlight not only helps you wake up, some research indicates it can help you make smarter decisions throughout the day.
When possible, head outside for some fresh morning air and sunlight—perhaps enjoy the beauty of the sunrise. Of course, in winter, that’s more difficult. In that case, to get as much light as possible, turn on the overhead lights and throw open the curtains.
6. Making Coffee Your First Beverage
There are many benefits to drinking coffee, so you definitely don’t need to skip it. But starting with coffee isn’t the best way to start the day.
Instead, have a glass of water by your bedside, and have a few long sips to help rehydrate for your first drink of the day. Then drink one to two full glasses of water before filling up your coffee cup.
Water helps jumpstart your metabolism and your gut for the day by helping flush out your system. It can also increase alertness.
Not thirsty? Drink up anyway. Pretty soon, it may become one of your favorite habits.
7. Not Making the Bed
Why bother making the bed? You’re just going to get back in it at the end of the day. You have better things to do with your time, right?
However, making your bed is one of the simplest things you can do—in just minutes. What’s more, it’s an easy success to start your day off with a win. That win can create momentum and motivation that will carry you through the day to create more wins. Now, if I could only talk my dog into getting off the covers…
8. Skipping the Warmup and Stretch
Unfortunately, muscles and joints can feel especially tight and stiff in the morning. So, if you find yourself hobbling in the morning to get your coffee or tea as your knees, ankles, and hips warm up, you aren’t alone. Waking up sore is very common.
That’s why it feels so good to stretch out a bit in the morning. Don’t just dive into stretching, though. Instead, do a few gentle swings, windmills, or sun salutations to warm up the muscles and ease into your stretches as your body warms up.
9. Avoiding Morning Exercises
Hitting the snooze button one too many times can make it easy to skip out on the workout and just hit the day running and frantic. Unfortunately, that’s a great way to start your day on the wrong foot.
If you prefer to work out later in the day, then that’s good too as exercise anytime (or even exercise snacking throughout the day) is better than no exercise. That said, morning exercise can be one of the best ways to start off the day on the right foot.
Research even indicates that people who exercise in the a.m. enjoy lower blood pressure, better sleep, improved mood, and improved brain health. 6 Morning exercise also improves exercise adherence, weight management, and metabolism. 7,8 Finally, it can help people better manage their work-life balance, greatly reducing stress.
So, if possible, add exercise to your morning routine and get it in before you start your day to literally get off and running. It doesn’t have to be too tough or time-consuming and can be customized to your preferences. A short 10-minute walk, morning yoga session, or full-on weights or cardio workout can all get your blood pumping to increase your energy and productivity for the day.
10. Warming Up with a Hot Shower
Long, hot showers might seem like a great way to tear yourself from your cozy, warm bed—especially on a cold winter’s day. Unfortunately, that hot shower may cost more than it’s worth.
For example, the hot water can leave your skin dry, itchy, and irritated. It can also relax your muscles, raise your temperature, and slow your heart rate, essentially telling your body that it should just go back to bed.
To really wake up, go for a cool to lukewarm, rather than hot, shower, and get in and out as quickly as possible. Test the water with an elbow or knee rather than your hand to better determine the water temperature. Not only does colder water wake you up, but it may also help put you in a good mood. Really! Cold showers can release feel-good endorphins.
To finish, make sure you use natural, moisturizing cleaners, and then pat your skin dry, rather than rubbing. Then apply your moisturizer when your skin is still slightly damp, so your skin will stay hydrated and feel soft and smooth. That’s much better than starting off the day with your skin feeling irritated and inflamed.
11. Complaining About Sleep (or Just Complaining)
Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep, you got woken up in the middle of the night by a partner or pet, or you just feel like you didn’t get the best night’s sleep. (Hey, it happens.)
Whatever the reason, if you find yourself complaining that you didn’t get enough quality sleep, you’re actually undermining the sleep that you did get. 9,10 Yep, simply by complaining about your lack of sleep, you’ll be more tired throughout the day as your brain believes you.
Complaining in general, whether it’s how early it is, how the weather is, how difficult work is right now, how horrible traffic is, etc., etc., is draining and only tends to make the issue worse. And it certainly doesn’t make anyone feel better.
If you find yourself complaining—especially if it’s not in an effort to genuinely find solutions—then pause. Take a deep breath, relax, and find something—anything—to feel grateful for.
Accept the situation while actively seeking ways to make it better. If there isn’t a solution or if it’s out of your control, then it’s best to just let it go. (Though, of course, that’s often a lot easier said than done.)
You can’t always change what’s happening, but you can often reframe a situation or change a circumstance to improve how you perceive it. Actively change your perception—for example, just tell yourself you feel rested and rejuvenated when you wake up—and your brain and body will often follow.
This does not, however, mean letting discomfort, frustration, anxiety, or negativity build up in the background without complaint. This, too, can negatively impact thinking and steal motivation.
Get your thoughts and concerns out into the open. Often, this can help you realize things aren’t that bad, or your worries are unrealistic and unlikely to happen. Or, better yet, that you have some tools to resolve them.
Try using a journal to let them go in a safe space, or try other ways to express yourself, such as through painting, singing, dancing, or movement. According to David Berceli, Ph.D. (and Taylor Swift), one simple way to let go of emotions can be to just shake them off. 11
12. Beginning at the Bakery
Sure, muffins, bagels, pancakes, waffles, and cereal are traditional breakfast foods, and they’re easy and convenient to consume. (A little too easy…) Unfortunately, heavy, empty carbs in the morning can leave you feeling weighed down and rob you of energy just as you’re ready to jump into the day. Soon after—long before lunch—you’ll likely feel hungry as your blood sugar drops and your energy levels plummet.
Instead, eat some slow-release, fiber-rich carbohydrates combined with a quality protein for long-lasting energy. The protein and fiber combination will also keep you fuller for longer, so you can stay focused and productive.
If you’re not hungry enough for a meal or are just short on time, consider something small and quick like a protein shake with some frozen fruit, an apple with some walnuts or other nuts, or a hardboiled egg and sliced tomato to energize your morning.
13. Dreading Your Day
Do you wake up in the morning wishing the day was already over? Or that it was already the weekend (on Monday morning)?
We all have bad days, but dreading your day (or week) and starting off feeling beaten and negative is a bad morning habit—especially if it becomes habitual. It can lead to decreased motivation and productivity, a lack of creativity and inspiration, and stifled confidence.
Find at least one reason to look forward to your day—one reason why today is going to be great. Are you looking forward to your workout or exercise class, your avocado toast, your favorite flower blooming, accomplishing one of your goals on your “get-to” list (that’s a simple way to positively reframe your “to-do list,” by the way), or getting started on a new healthy habit?
If you expect your day to be a good one, there’s a much better chance it will be.
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14. Not Creating a Morning Routine
Waking up in the morning and just winging it may seem like the easiest way to start the day. You can just decide what to do as things come up. Should I sleep in? Should I exercise? Should I have breakfast? What should I have for breakfast? What should I wear? Do I like this outfit? Do I feel good in this outfit?
Even before you head off to work for the day, you have to make dozens of decisions.
Unless, that is, you set up routines in advance, which save you from making all those decisions and draining all of that willpower.
Willpower isn’t an unlimited resource. To help protect it and keep making good decisions throughout the day, set up a morning routine that works for you, and then plan your morning the night before.
For even better results, promote a more positive state by including some type of gratitude, meditation, or affirmation habit.
Another good habit is to pick out your outfit the night before, so you avoid having to try on multiple outfits before finding out which one you want to wear—this one habit can help you feel more satisfied with how you look no matter what you’re wearing. This can, in turn, help increase confidence.
15. Just Letting the Day Go By
It may sound relaxing to just let the day happen and go with the flow. After all, there’s only so much you can control. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a roadmap for where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Worse, you may spin in circles, spending countless hours going nowhere.
Instead, take the time to organize your day and schedule to help you accomplish your goals. Of course, you may need to change course from time to time, but planning can save you time, effort, and frustration.
Start with just a simple plan of three small goals that will take you in the direction you want to go. Then, every day, you’ll continue moving forward in the direction you choose.
Breaking Bad Morning Habits
Whether it’s grabbing your phone first thing, hitting the snooze button every morning, or hitting the local bakery for coffee and a pastry, it can be really difficult to break ingrained bad morning habits.
Rather than revamping your entire life, allow yourself to start slowly, give yourself grace and forgiveness, and build momentum with little changes that build on top of each other. Little 1% improvements add up to big changes over time!