A few weeks ago, I wrote about how quitting coffee changed my life. A few months ago, I wrote about how gratitude changed the way I look at the world. In the past year or so, I've changed my morning routine: I now have green tea instead of coffee and I write three thank-you cards to people in my life. The outcome? I want to work smarter, not necessarily harder, so that I can spend time on what is important in my life. Much of my exploration has centered around boosting my productivity.

I've recently had the opportunity to chat with Aaron Gerry of CogniTea, a startup that is putting the "tea" in "productivitea." (it makes the first cognition-boosting tea for entrepreneurs). We chatted about simple rituals and tips to incorporate into my morning routine that have contributed to a more productive day overall.

The Importance of Establishing Routine

Routines are helpful because they optimize your time and help you conserve precious mental energy for the important decisions. Research suggests that the more choices you have to make throughout the day, the harder each subsequent decision becomes.

Here are some insights on how you can improve your morning routine.

1. Begin by Jump-Starting Your Mind and Body

After being sedentary for eight hours, one of the hardest aspects to starting the day can be simply getting out of bed. Once your alarm goes off, adding additional sensory stimuli, such as turning on a bedroom light or browsing your phone for a few minutes, can help energize the brain. Placing the alarm across the room also forces you to get up and out of bed.

Almost immediately, try drinking ice cold water to give a slight shock to the system and to rehydrate. Even slight dehydration has been shown to induce tension, anxiety, and fatigue, which is no way to start the day.

2. Plan for Productivity

I like to plan my day during the quiet of the morning, before jumping into any tasks. This helps me to maintain an objective view of my priorities.

Start by writing out your top one or two objectives to move things forward (consider the 80/20 Principle). Be realistic with how long you think these tasks will take and set time aside for them in your schedule. I typically put these as the first items to tackle in the day, and I don't move on to lower priority items until they are complete. Even if you accomplish only your one main objective each day, you are still completing a task that has a lot of leverage.

Next, list out other "would-like-to-do's," in descending order of priority, again with an estimate of time required. Writing out your tasks helps you gain a holistic view of your day and allows you to set a manageable schedule. As a bonus, you no longer have to think about what you should be working on throughout the day, because it is all laid out.

Generally I'll do this while drinking a cup of tea to help me focus on the task.

3. Meditate: Take Some Time for Yourself

Meditation has multitudinous benefits, including improved ability to focus, reduced anxiety, and better coping ability for stress.

The basic premise of meditation is to be vigilant of what you think about (though not necessarily to change the thoughts themselves). Similar to the notion that you cannot improve what you do not measure, meditation helps you to understand what may be pulling at your attention and causing distractions. By being more attuned to your thoughts, you can better focus.

By implementing these tips into my morning routine, I've found that I begin the day more focused and mentally prepared. What does your morning routine look like? What tips do you have for boosting productivity? Please let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below.