5 Ways to Make Your Mornings More Pleasant Without Waking Up Any Earlier

Reclaim your a.m.—no sleep sacrifices required.
Published March 25, 2019 | Updated November 30, 2022

Want to be more productive early in the day? The standard recommendations include setting the alarm hours earlier and meditating for 20 minutes. For us humans, these aren’t realistic options. Here are some that may help more.

Save 9 minutes: Stop snoozing

Do you wake up groggy? Contrary to popular belief, the average American actually gets a commendable 8 hours and 47 minutes of sleep per day, according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. But even if you get your full allotment, it’s hard to resist slamming the snooze button at least once. Called “sleep inertia,” research shows that morning fog is ironically even worse after a solid night of shut-eye than it is following 24 hours of sleep deprivation.

Take back your time! Nix your snoozing habit by getting at least eight hours and wake up naturally before your alarm. How? Start the night before: Go to bed at the same time each evening, and set your thermostat to dip to around 19oC (67oF) 30 minutes before bedtime, says Matthew Walker, PhD, director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science and author of Why We Sleep. “Your body temperature needs to drop at night for sleep, and a lower room temperature helps signal your brain that it’s time.” Similarly, program the thermostat to rise again to your preferred daytime temperature 30 minutes before you want to get up to tell your body it’s wake-up time.

Save 10 minutes: Make your closet work for you

Women spend an average 22.5 minutes getting ready in the morning, according to survey research—an estimate that seems laughably lowball as soon as a bout of I’ve-got-nothing-to-wear strikes.

Take back your time! Make those drawn-out moments a thing of the past by building a weekday “uniform.” Create a section front-and-center in your closet grouped by category (pants, tops, jackets), suggests organizing expert Rachel Rosenthal. All the pieces should work with one another, and all should look great on you. Then, every morning you can simply pick one item from column A, one from column B, one from column C—and you’re dressed.

Save 15 minutes: Put everything in its place

That frantic last-minute search for car keys, gloves, ID, you name it, can steal away valuable moments just when you need them the most—on your way out the door.

Take back your time! Give frequently lost items a permanent home. “So much time is wasted in the morning hunting for things like sunglasses or children’s shoes. Designate a spot near the door where all such things go. Then never put them anywhere else,” says Laura Vanderkam, author of Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.

Save 30 minutes: Switch up your schedule

Exercising before breakfast can burn up to 20 percent more fat, according to a small study of 12 men. But it’s still not worth trading in that half hour of sleep!

Take back your time! Instead, cobble together smaller chunks of time that you’ll never miss. Two nights a week, go to bed just 15 minutes earlier and sleep for 15 fewer minutes; you’ve just created time for two 30-minute morning workouts without completely throwing off your body clock. “Don’t think 24 hours in a day—think 168 hours in a week. Things don’t have to happen daily in order to count in our lives,” says Vanderkam.

Save 50 minutes: Ignore your social media

More people reach for their smartphones first thing in the morning than anything else (35 percent). And it’s not just to turn off the alarm: 66 percent check social media in the a.m., ultimately spending 50 minutes per day on Facebook-owned platforms alone.

Take back your time! In streamlining your morning routine, cutting out Instagram before work is the low-hanging fruit; but you can double the impact by giving your phone a nighttime curfew, too. Hit the sack instead of scrolling. If you just can’t abide an earlier bedtime, use those reclaimed evening minutes to pack your work bag and kids’ schoolbags for the next day. Bonus: Either way, reducing your screen light exposure at night will help facilitate a better night’s sleep for a smoother morning.