Five steps to make that first hour set up a great day.

The more thought leaders and change agents I meet and interview, the more I see there are several constants through their lives. One is gratitude, another is their ability to focus and the big one is how they manage their mornings.

I know for me there is a huge difference in the level of my happiness and productivity between the days I mindfully get out of bed and the days I wake up with my mind already full.

When we strategize and plan our morning hours, specifically the very first hour of the day, we are setting ourselves up for success. Of course, unexpected and inconvenient challenges will cross our path. How we begin the morning will more than likely dictate how we meet, manage and move through those events.

Here are five tips you can use to master your morning hours and set yourself up for a day of purpose, passion and productivity.

1. Toss the technology.

Don’t freak out. For 30 minutes in the morning, can you stay off technology? This may not be not as easy as it seems since you, like many others, may use your smartphone as your alarm clock. The trouble is that once you turn off the alarm, you have the phone in your hands, and that means within 30 seconds of waking, you have your first decision to make: Do I check my email or social media? And that, in turn, means you have already dipped into your willpower well. Before your feet hit the floor, you are already sapping the juice out of your day.

I invite you to consider buying an alarm clock and to charge your phone outside the bedroom. This one step will allow you to reap huge rewards in how you set up the start of your day.

Now go a step further and forego email, social media and television for 30 minutes after rising. Your body will thank you, your brain will thank you and your family will thank you.

2. Drop into stillness.

Using five of those technology-free minutes, sit in stillness. No planning, no data mining, just sit and be still. If you need something to do, follow your breath in and out of your body. The greatest leaders incorporate a mindfulness practice into their day. Five minutes to let your mind breathe and calibrate. This simple practice will have a profound and positive effect on the rest of your day.

3. Appreciate the adventure.

After your five minutes of stillness, think about three things you are looking forward to today. Write them down and savor them. Each morning, seek new things you are looking forward to. It can be as simple as your morning cup of coffee or as exciting as a new first date. This reflection sets your brain up for success. It primes your brain to seek the good things, and in turn, it will continue to look for more good things throughout your day.

“Appreciate the good and the good will appreciate” —Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar

4. Cultivate presence.

Being present and in the moment is becoming a lost art and a skill set we need to relearn. Pick one thing to do mindfully in the morning. Maybe it is taking a shower. Notice the water on your skin, pay attention to the sound of the water as it falls against your tub, and take in the scents of your soap, shampoo, etc.

My morning practice is making my coffee. I used to simply make coffee. It was something I did without thinking. I now use it as a practice to move into the present. Slowly I place a new coffee filter into the coffee maker. I smell the coffee before carefully placing three level scoops into the filter. I take time to appreciate the gift of the water that fills my coffee maker. And when I turn my coffee maker on, I say, “Thank you.”

Whether it is making the bed, brushing your teeth or putting on your running shoes, pick one task and turn it into a practice of moving into the present.

5. Choose your word.

Each New Year, my friends and I pick a word for the year. This word symbolizes what we would like more of during the upcoming months. Try picking a morning mantra. Each morning, choose a word or a phrase that you wish to bring with you into your day. Some mornings you may need focus. Other days it may be patience. Take the time to notice how your body and brain are feeling each morning. What do you need more of to bring the best version of yourself into the world?

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