8 Morning Habits That Lead to More Productive Days

Morning exercise has both physical and emotional benefits.

For professional communicators who are routinely asked to go the extra mile early in the morning or by the light of midnight oil, the clock never really stops. Heading into a hectic work day with a clear mind, positive attitude and a sense of what needs to be achieved is of paramount importance. A full stomach doesn't hurt, either.

Everyone has a different opinion of what works best to get a good start to the day. Some prefer a tall, cold glass of water to a latte. Others insist that meditation, not strenuous exercise, is the most effective way to awaken the body. And there is rampant disagreement about when the best time is to crack open that first email or assignment.

As with almost anything else, the best way to figure out what works for you is trial and error. With that in mind, here are 8 morning habits that, when used in the right combination, can lead to more productive days.

Start your day with a plan. Some people prefer to plan for the next day the prior evening. But planning the night before leads to a tendency to be too optimistic about what can get done the next day. When establishing a plan the morning of, you are more likely to set realistic goals because you know that very soon after you've set your plan in place, you'll need to start executing it.

Eat a protein-rich breakfast. You've most likely heard the old adage about breakfast being the most important meal of the day. Whether you're a breakfast person or not, there's no denying that if you've been asleep through the night, your body has been essentially fasting for multiple hours—something it never does when you're awake. Jumpstart your system with protein, which can come from unlikely sources such as cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and almonds.

Exercise, if only a little bit. Exercise is scientifically proven to make you happier. It's one of the only activities we know of that has the ability to produce new neurons within the part of the brain that controls memory and learning, and it has the ability to alleviate both physical and emotional pain. It also will get your mind off of anything that may be bothering you, if only for a little while. You don't need to run 10 miles to get these benefits, either. Go at your own pace.

Do something creative. Before you muddle your mind with all of the tasks associated with getting your job done, take some time—even if its only a few minutes—to tune into your creative side. Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou and Virginia Woolf all professed the benefits of writing first thing in the morning. Whether your writing, drawing, painting or doing something else, don't worry if it's any good. You don't need to show anyone your creative output, especially in the beginning.

Get to the office at the same time each day. Having a set schedule has many benefits for you and the people you work with. When you know you need to be at the office at a specific time, you can build your morning routine based on that timing. You also set an expectation for your colleagues, who will respect your consistency and know when they can and can't find you.

Hold off on email for as long as you can. If you're involved in crisis communications, this tip will be next to impossible to follow. For professional communicators not engaged in life-and-death emergencies, holding off on email until you're in the office will give you the personal time you need to set your own agenda, not reach to other people's.

Clean up. A clear mind demands a clear space. Whether its your home office or your cubicle, take a moment to clean up before you launch into your busy schedule. Chances are you won't have an opportunity to do so as the day progresses.

Get your most difficult task done first. You know that task that's lingering in the back of your mind, the one you're dreading having to do? Do it first. Don't let it weigh you down and cast a negative shadow over your whole day. By getting it out of the way first, you free yourself up to execute the tasks you actually enjoy doing.

Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene