Productivity is a hot topic right now. We're all looking for productivity hacks to help us become more efficient with the limited time and energy we have available to us. But is there anything we can do first thing in the morning--before the workday even officially starts--to become more energetic, more focused, and more productive? This article will walk you through nine strategies that will get your day off to the best start possible.

1. Become a morning person.

Research published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology suggests that morning people are actually more proactive than night owls in terms of their overall willingness to take action. The study also found that people who had only a small difference in wake-up time between weekdays and weekends were more proactive; meaning those who got up at roughly the same time every day tended to be more proactive.

Not a morning person by nature? While natural circadian rhythms certainly impact how energetic you feel in the morning, getting to bed earlier and instituting an enjoyable morning routine may make mornings a little more palatable.

2. Prepare the night before.

Mornings can be chaotic at the best of times, but a bit of extra planning the night before can go a long way to minimizing morning stress. Some ways to do this might be setting the timer on the coffee maker, preparing breakfasts or lunches ahead of time, and having your laptop and briefcase ready and waiting by the door.

3. Eat a protein-rich breakfast.

Whether you're a "breakfast person" or not, that first meal of the day is one of the keys to setting yourself up for a productive morning. Remember that your body has been fasting for the past seven or eight hours, and jump-starting your system with a protein-rich breakfast can get you going. Some quick and easy protein-packed options that even non-breakfast people can stomach include cottage cheese, almonds, eggs, protein shakes, and Greek yogurt.

4. Start the day with a proactive mindset.

Do you generally believe that you're in control of your own success? People who have a strong internal locus of control believe and expect that they have control over their own destiny. Starting the day with an expectation that what you do matters will give you the best chance of getting off to a productive start.

5. Resist the urge to let your email own you.

Most of us are guilty of checking email before our feet have even hit the floor in the morning. The problem is that this often gets us off to a bad start--responding and reacting to other people's agendas rather than setting our own course for the day. Resist the urge to let others dictate your schedule, and wait until you're in the office to check your email and social media accounts.

6. Exercise near the beginning of the day.

Researchers at the University of Bristol have found that people who exercise during the workday report improved moods and an increased ability to deal with the demands of work. Joe Coulson, one of the researchers behind the study, writes, "It's generally well-known now that there are many physical and mental health benefits that can be gained from regular exercise. If people try to fit an active break into their working day, they might also experience the added bonus of their whole day feeling much more productive."

If you already have a regular exercise routine, try moving it to the beginning of the day. Exercising before work can improve your mood, and increase your productivity levels throughout the rest of the day.

7. Spend some time in quiet.

Meditation, prayer, yoga, quiet time--these are all great practices that can get your day off to the right start. Spending 15 to 30 minutes in quiet--whether that's doing structured meditation, or simply sitting silently with a cup of coffee contemplating the day--can broaden your perspective and give you a calmer, more proactive outlook on the day.

8. Write out a to-do list (but keep it short).

Starting your day with a prioritized list of tasks, actions, and goals can help you make more productive decisions throughout the day. In a recent interview, Amy Dalton, researcher behind a goal-setting study titled "Too Much of a Good Thing: The Benefits of Implementation Intentions Depend on the Number of Goals," stresses the importance of keeping your list of goals on the short side: "If you have six things to do today, all high priority, and you sit down and start planning everything out in detail, you quickly realize how difficult it will be to do it all. ... You feel overwhelmed and, because you don't think you can pull it all off, you're less committed. By contrast, people who don't form specific plans are more likely to believe they can achieve it all."

9. Arrive at the office at a set time each day.

As a business owner, it can be easy to play fast and loose with your office hours. This is particularly true if you work from home without the accountability of office mates. Set a time for when the workday will start, and then hold yourself to it. In his book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Roy Baumeister suggests that willpower erodes over the course of the day, meaning you're more likely to have solid resolve in the morning. Don't waste this valuable time by putting off the workday any longer than you have to.

Don't discount the importance of a productive morning routine. Getting off to a good start can mean the difference between an energetic, proactive start and dragging your feet into the day.

What are your secrets to a productive morning? Share below!

Published on: Feb 19, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.