Sabrina Romanoff, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, professor and researcher, is a strong believer in the idea that your morning routine sets the tone for your emotional functioning and productivity for the rest of the day. Small steps—like making your bed and eating a healthy breakfast—create a sense of accomplishment and generate momentum to make additional achievements throughout the day, she explains.
“Several days a week, I take an early morning workout class, which helps to increase focus, energy and productivity,” says Dr. Romanoff. “Committing to an early morning class eliminates the temptation to skip or cancel if it were scheduled in the evening after a long day. Also, exercising with a group encourages you to push yourself past the threshold you normally would if exercising alone.”
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She also makes her first waking hour “phone-free.” “This [time] is important because checking emails displaces you into ‘work mode’ and creates an externally imposed to-do list,” she says. “Often, when people receive a request by email, there is an automatic urgency to meet it regardless of the importance of the task. People [also] tend to grab their phone to provide distraction or to create a false sense of productivity. The irony is that the habit of checking your phone in the morning can become a reactionary method to procrastinate instead of actively engaging in higher-priority tasks.”
Additionally, when plagued by anxious thoughts, she practices the grounding exercises Spann also swears by. Specifically, she lists five things she can see, four things she can touch and three things she can hear.
“The theory is that your senses help you reconnect with the environment, pull you out of the chaos that has been created in your mind and provide tangible evidence that the smoke detector in your mind pulled a false alarm,” says Dr. Romanoff. “Basically, it’s an exercise proving that the lack of threat in the environment is disproportional to your high-anxiety reaction.”