Why the First Hour is the Most Important Hour of Your Day

Having got up so early...


Have you ever woken up to the sounds of birds singing outside? You get up, walk to the kitchen, cook yourself an omelet and drink your favorite cup of coffee while you catch up on your RSS feed. Breakfast is perfect and the blogs are right on. — just what you needed to read. You go to work and accomplish everything on your to-do list. You have the exact perfect conversations and to top it off, your colleagues surprise you with freshly-baked cookies just because they love what you’re doing. Lucky day, right?

Maybe that isn’t you at all. Maybe you don’t have a ritual. Maybe you started off waking to find your clock blinking 12:00 AM. The power must have gone off in the night, and when you look at your phone or your watch, you realize you have just enough time to throw on clothes and head off to work. You throw on that outfit, hit the kitchen to pour a quick bowl of Fruit Loops, but the milk doesn’t even land enough for the bottom of the bowl to get wet. You throw the bowl in the sink and get in your car. 10 minutes to go before you’re late for your job that’s a half-hour away. But, as you ignite the car, you realize your car is on empty. You stop at the Flexi-Fuel and pour gasoline in before realizing you spent your last five dollars on curly fries the night before. When you get to work, your boss calls you in on account of your lateness, and there’s a client waiting at your desk ready to eat you alive because of a mistake the mail room guy made two weeks ago. A basket of fresh baked cookies would be nice, so you order a basket of chocolate chips, but when they get there, they’re pecan sandies and you’re deathly allergic to pecans. Bad luck, right?

Chances are, you have more run-ins with one of these types of days than the other. Did you know those work smiles or frowns had little to do with your car, your eggs, or your job, and they had nothing to do with luck.

Here’s why:

Your Waking Attitude Sets the Tone of the Day

I have to admit, this is a tough lesson for me, and it’s likely a tough lesson for you, too. But that first hour of the day is so vital to your experience and so vital to your productivity because it establishes your attitude for the day. If you think that’s nonsense, ask yourself why it seems that if you “wake up on the wrong side of the bed,” your whole day seems to spiral out of control. Or why is it that when you wake up with the songbirds, you are far more productive throughout the day?

Your Attitude Affects the Autopilot of Your Thoughts

When you awake in the morning, your thoughts are naturally more uncompressed, more free-flowing, and more experimental. In stand-up comedy, successful comedians are encouraged to keep a notepad next to their bed and write down the first thoughts that pop into their heads because these are the most creative thoughts of their day. The funniness can build on these thoughts later. This is why when you have a problem, you’re advised to “sleep on it.” You wake with more clarity and focus.

If you do it right.

Most people don’t. They get up and don’t really want to (and again, this has been a struggle for me as I have never considered myself a morning person).

Here’s the thing: when you awake, your conscious mind (thoughts you control) and your subconscious mind (thoughts you don’t control) are more in sync with each other than any other part of the day. If you wake up and get out of bed and step on a dog toy that sends pain to your brain and you curse the dog, you’ve just sent a message to your subconscious mind that your dog is pathetic, and you’ve sent it at the strongest part of the day. This, in turn, sets the stage for the rest of your subconscious thoughts. According to your very nature, your subconscious thoughts must be consistent with each other. This makes or breaks the flow of autopilot thoughts you have.

Give Yourself Time to Think in the Morning

The good news is that you can change the flow of your subconscious and therefore, change your perception on your day. It can be done anytime throughout the day by changing your attitude, but it is never as easy to do this as it is in the early morning.

Try this: Want to increase your chances of having a good, productive day? Don’t just jump out of bed and step on that dog toy. Instead, give yourself a few minutes to map out the day in your mind. Before you ever get out of bed, open your eyes and organize your thoughts for the day. Think about what you need to do to get things done. Even better, make a list of these things the night before, then contemplate them again in the morning. If you have young kids (like me) who wake you up in ungodly hours, set your alarm to go off ten minutes earlier than they usually wake up. Getting those thoughts together before you ever begin your day will help you to think with clarity and more focus.

(Image courtesy of Vince Alongi under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution generic license.)


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Bryan Thompson is a life development coach and co-founder of ElevationLife, a blog dedicated to helping people to dream big and to take massive action toward their goals. As a pastor for ten years, Bryan has helped many people pursue their passion. He lives with his wife and co-blogger Kristin and their three daughters in Springfield, MO.
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Discussion

  1. Bogdan Pop on the 23rd December

    Great post! I think I’ve been doing this, subconsciously, for some time, because I’ve been feeling better and better lately. With everything!

    The thing is I didn’t try to do it on purpose before. I’ll check it out tomorrow as it will be a busy day and see how it turns out.

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

      That’s awesome, Bogdan! Oftentimes, people who develop habits of great attitudes do it purely on accident, and they experience the wonders of life. The thing is, I think other people experience the same wonders, but their attitude blocks them from experiencing it the way they should. Thank you for the comment!

  2. angelee on the 23rd December

    I know some people are really night owls but nothing beats an early morning ritual with a mug of coffee. My working days are usually monotonous, but I still used to visualize myself of what my day should be especially every Monday mornings. I can also relate when you mentioned ‘kids’, at least I only got one though.

    Nice article Bryan, perhaps others might take this as their NY’s resolution. Happy holidays!

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

      Thanks Angelee! My youngest was up at 4:30 today so that mug of coffee was especially helpful. :)

  3. Rudy Hiebert on the 23rd December

    Well done Bryan. Some of your ideas triggered opinions I have about working shifts and how that aspect impacts things like attitudes that set the tone for the “day” ahead. Thankfully I’m done doing shifts but do wake up too early occasionally, like this morning. I would like to add, from experience, what you consume during your first hour also has a lot to do with your attitude for the day. In other words, less coffee would a good start. I would love to mention how to have a good attitude about your car but I’ll leave that for another place and time.

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

      Rudy, I agree about morning food and beverage consumption. As I said to Angelee, often I do have some help from coffee (especially at 4:30 this morning), but fruit also is an awesome source of energy. Have a great holiday!

  4. mkjones on the 23rd December

    This is all great in principle but in the morning my mind is generally a sludge of confusion and I find it hard miss walking into the door on my way into the bathroom never mind trying to find a notepad and do some ‘thinking’.

    Do you have any advice for snapping out of this condition? Other than the obvious advice of a 12 hour sleep?

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

      Michael, as I said in the post, I’m generally not a morning person either, and I can’t remember the last time I had more than 5 hours of sleep at night. What I find is that most ‘results-oriented’ decisions we make, we make instantaneously. Many successful people are faced with problems, and are forced to make instant decisions to solve them. Agreed, this isn’t always the right decision.

      But, I think our change comes when we make a sudden and instant decision to change our thoughts. We do this quite a lot through the day when we’re faced with certain situations, actually, we’re just not always aware we’re doing it. At any rate, I often preach to the choir so I have to remember to do this, too.

      Hope that helps. And thank you for the comment.

  5. Jennifer Brown Banks on the 23rd December

    Bryan,

    I love this post and your helpful, actionable tips! Good job!

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

      Thanks Jennifer! I really appreciate it!

  6. Bryce Christiansen on the 23rd December

    I really appreciate the great story telling in the beginning. I can see how this subject can relate to all of us!

    I agree that hour is such a mood setter for the day, but it’s also the hardest hour to encourage yourself to get started on right away when a warm bed is so inviting. Those mornings where I get a great breakfast, have time to read the news, and do some fun free time work, are some of my best days.

    It’s funny that after the fact, I never notice being any more tired than the days I take a little more time to sleep that morning.

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

      Thanks Bryce. I think you’re right on with the fact that you don’t notice being any more tired than the days you take more time to sleep. Our minds are funny that way. Have a great holiday!

  7. TrafficColeman on the 23rd December

    That first our is gets your mind in the mood to get work done..get an cup of coffee and relax..check some email and get the ball rolling.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

      Antonio, I think you’re right on. I have a friend who is a lawyer in Oklahoma, who also writes books on the side. I asked him when he has time to write, and he said he arrives at his office before the sun ever comes up and begins writing. Peaceful and plenty of time to think. Mornings are powerful.

      Thanks for the comment. I’m a big fan!

  8. Brandon on the 23rd December

    It is funny, my wife and I were just talking about this last night. This morning I over slept because by 2-year-old woke up at two and stayed up for two hours. Then I over sleep get to work 20 minutes late and eat my muffin at my desk and checkup on reader while I should be working only to find this article. Amazing how sometimes you find exactly what you need exactly when you need it. Great article Bryan, but I think you may under-estimate how luck can play a part.

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

      BTW, Brandon, my kid had a night like that a couple of nights ago. I feel your pain, bro.

  9. Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

    Brandon, I don’t know if I call it luck or not, but I believe in an abundance of good that is open to anyone who is open to see it. Bad things do happen to people – loved ones die, people are sick/injured, and sometimes we do just have bad days. But, I think there is always good that we can find when we open our eyes to it. Far greater minds than me have called it luck, so I’m okay with that. :) Thanks for the comment.

  10. David L on the 23rd December

    Bryan,

    You are on point with this one. I was trying to explain to my wife yesterday why the morning time is so important to me. This article will help give some language to have a better discussion. Thanks for sharing bro!

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

      David, anytime, bro! I’m here to help. :) Thanks for the shout-outs on Twitter!

  11. Darcy Voutt on the 23rd December

    Very good post, this made some clear and poignant arguments. Years a go I changed my outlook on life from one that is a tad bit depressing to a very driven and inspiring one. This post made me realize a couple of things:

    1. How I feel when I wake up and when the good days are good how I have setup my day in my head (I’m very self aware and an internal processor).

    2. Currently I do not control my environment, but when I have been able to, this has always been true. I have controlled my day from the moment I wake to sleep (at least the at home part).

    Thanks for the great post. I will pass this on.

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

      Darcy, glad I could help. So many times, we get stuck on our “autopilot” thoughts and forget that we can change it at once!

      Thanks for the kind words and for passing it on! I appreciate it! Have a great holiday season!

  12. Mokhtar on the 23rd December

    OMG, I felt that you’re talking to me, you’re right it’s a blessed time” THE MORNING”, when I get up early, I fell like I’ve 24 hours to do anything, but when I get up late I think that I missed the day, so great topic.

    Regards.

  13. Bryan Thompson on the 23rd December

    Mokhtar, Thanks so much for the comment. I hope we’ll all remember to live our days on purpose. Here’s to no regrets!

  14. Dia on the 24th December

    Hi Bryan,

    For sure the first hour is crucial. I personally like to take the first few minutes before I get up thanking God and think of my goals. Then I go on with my list of gratitude and I exercise. By doing these, I’ll be full of energy throughout the day. :) Thanks for sharing

    • Bryan Thompson on the 24th December

      Thanks Dia! I think gratitude is perhaps the best and most powerful way to set your attitude for the day. Good stuff. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  15. Dag Nybo on the 26th December

    Wonderful piece… and I couldn’t agree more…. The only hard part is making the commitment to get up, the rest follows naturally…

    • Bryan Thompson on the 27th December

      Dag, thanks for your comment. I think most people who aren’t “morning people” probably like more about the morning than they think. But I think when you make the commitment to the day, you’ll find awesome things happen for you in your day. Thanks again!

  16. Manon on the 26th December

    Hi Bryan, Great post thank you…I must admit I am one of these that stays in bed too long procrastinating about my day which sends me into a whirlwind of unproductive events. Your post has given me the idea to start small, by just implementing the mapping out of 3 things I have on my to-do list. Feeling good about knowing that it is realistic that I can get those 3 things done…if more time permits I can always add more.

    But mostly your post has helped me see how I have been creating a reoccurring pattern with this unproductive habit. So thank you and looking forward to the New Year and new habits!

    Wishing you and your family all the bets for 2011!

    • Bryan Thompson on the 27th December

      Manon, Thanks so much for your New Year wishes and your kind words. I think you are right on with mapping out 3 things. I think that kind of planning – even if it’s small, will help you to stay focused on what matters. Thanks for your thoughts and your comment! Have a wonderful 2011!

  17. Jon Wade on the 27th December

    Great advice, mostly as I can use it as an excuse not to get out of bed immediately.

    I admit, these days I wake, stagger to computer (work from home), check stuff, then have breakfast. No time for thinking. But many times while walking I have come up with great ideas. We all certainly could do with more time not working to improve the flow of creative juices. Or just to get organised.

    • Bryan Thompson on the 27th December

      Jon, your quote, “But many times while walking I have come up with great ideas,” is brilliant. And I wish I had thought of it when writing this post. Often, my most creative ideas come when exercising or going for a walk or run. This gets creative juices flowing like crazy. Thanks for the thoughts! Have a great New Year!

  18. David on the 29th December

    Good on you, Bryan!
    Love your post. It’s amazing what a difference relaxed mornings can bring to your life. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. All the best for the new year for you and your family.

    • Bryan Thompson on the 29th December

      Thanks David! I appreciate the comment and hope you have a great New Year as well!

  19. Ellen on the 31st December

    Great post! I work from home, and I find that I do my best thinking during my morning shower, after I’ve had coffee and breakfast to get me going. It’s quiet and there are no distractions. Going for a walk – especially in the afternoon, when my energy level is lowest – is also helpful in getting ideas flowing. Sometimes I have to remind myself that just sitting and staring at the computer screen is not enough to get my brain moving…

    • Bryan Thompson on the 3rd January

      Ellen, thanks so much for your comment! I think finding a ritual for yourself is incredibly vital, and especially if you work from home. Distractions can often be overwhelming, so it’s great that you’ve created some great rituals here. Happy New Year!

  20. Mandy Meredith on the 7th January

    I’m one of those who only up until recently never had a morning ritual! I’m that one that use to just have enough time to throw on some clothes after having ‘snoozed’ for an hour ha ha!

    After over a year working from home, I’m back in the City. Waking up on the RIGHT side of the bed both figuratively and physically speaking, makes the world of difference. Not a morning person myself but found I was singing while I made a cuppa this morning LOL! Actually felt quite good and it’s taken the edge off my daily morning commute :)

    So, great post – made me smile! Thanks for sharing and happy new year!

    • Bryan Thompson on the 10th January

      Mandy, thank you so much for your response! I appreciate it and I am glad you have developed some amazing rituals to get your morning started. It all began with becoming decisive about making changes. And it worked!

      Thanks for making ME smile today. And I wish you the best!

  21. jamesmoore80 on the 9th January

    Good post Bryan. It reminded me of these websites called 750words.com and Penzu.com. They’re online journal websites. I recall reading on 750 that it was recommended to do your writing first thing in the morning in order to get your mind working creatively and such. It’s something I’ve wanted to do, but haven’t gotten around to it due to working early in the mornings and bicycling to work. Just wanted to thank you for your post and let you know about these websites and their ideas.

  22. Bryan Thompson on the 10th January

    James,

    I haven’t heard of those sites but I will for sure check them out! Thanks for sharing them! And thanks for reading! I really appreciate it!

  23. barbara on the 18th January

    I dunno, I am going to have to disagree a little. OK, a lot.

    People who say they aren’t morning people but then somehow adjust their lives to find happy mornings were pretty much always morning people to begin with. Since I was a young child, morning to me has been like drowning in a mudslide. Getting out of bed before 10a, at the earliest– no matter how much I “align my consciousnesses”–is tantamount to a stroke. Really. I fall over things. I drop everything I touch. I can’t pull words out of my head even with an IV of caffeine until I’ve been awake for at least an hour. It would be comical if it weren’t so painful from all the stubbed toes. Well, my boyfriend thinks it’s pretty comical, but at 8AM he hasn’t even gone to bed yet, so there you go.

    Now 9PM-12AM at night, that’s when my brain finally clues in, my ideas flow, I get stuff done.

    And yes, I’ve tried all the remedies in the world to not despise the very word dawn, but it just isn’t happening. I’ve managed to convince my non-profit job to let me wander in when I feel like it since I work so much OT from 9p-mid, but when I need to get up early they all come forewarned to keep the hot liquids and pointy objects far away.

    So, I’ll just have to have my positive affirmations before I crash at 2a and leave the AM to the rest of you.

    :)

    • Mike Vardy on the 19th January

      Barbara,

      I, too, am a far better night owl than early riser. I’ve started to make a shift out of necessity as opposed to desire for one reason: my kids.

      Now you may be in a different place, but since i’m going to be the stay-at-home parent in a few months – my wife goes off parental leave in July – I’m going to have to make the shift in order for the family to function better. So I recently started going to bed earlier (11 pm) and getting up earlier (6 am) to accommodate my creative side and my family side of life.

      That first hour is more important to me now than ever because it is the only hour I get to myself. It’s been tough to shift, but because I’m doing it for the right reasons I know it will be worth it in the long run.

      Thanks for the comment. Believe me, I know where you’re coming from.

    • Bryan Thompson on the 21st January

      Barbara, thanks so much for your comment. And even your disagreement. I appreciate it. Here’s my secret: I am far more of a night owl than a morning person, too. The mornings make me force myself into a decision to change it. But when I listen, I’m so glad I did.

      This doesn’t mean you have to be the most productive early in the morning. It doesn’t mean you have to create entire galaxies in your imagination and put them together. I certainly don’t. Most of my best work comes out in odd hours of the night. But giving yourself time to reflect may help you to face those dreaded early mornings better.

      And I really can’t say it better than Mike did. Thanks again for your comment!

    • Bryan Thompson on the 21st January

      Mike, funny how going to bed earlier means 11 pm, isn’t it? I do the same thing. Now that I have 3 kids under the age of 3, I’m finally the old person crashing under the covers by 9. :)

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