Want to get a fast start to your day? Before you jet out the door and into the frantic pace of your work routine, getting that productive edge may have to start while most people are still asleep.

A recent report published in The Wall Street Journal, which I covered here, says that 4 a.m. may be the most productive time of the day. No joke. The reasons behind the increased productivity at such an ungodly hour include:

  • Minimal distractions (like kids or work) before the sun rises
  • No one is emailing or texting you
  • There's less to see on social media

Who does this?

If you think 4 a.m. is crazy, you may as well say it to certain insanely successful people's faces. They all start their workday somewhere between 3:45 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his morning routine at 3:45 a.m.
  • Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck says, "I'm never more productive than at 4 a.m."
  • Michelle Gass, chief merchandising and customer officer at Kohl's department stores, sets her alarm for 4:30 a.m. to go running.
  • Virgin America CEO David Cush wakes up at 4:15 a.m to call business associates on the East Coast.

But like most of us, you want and need your sleep. Perhaps your personal life doesn't allow you the luxury of an early bedtime and the crack-of-dawn morning ritual of famous entrepreneurs.

I'm with you.

The morning ritual that really counts starts at the office

You arrive at the office and, as if on cue, distractions start to pile up, fires need to be put out, customer complaints come in, and needy co-workers buzz around your desk asking for (demanding?) things, like, pronto. It's not even 9 a.m., and you're ready for a lunch break.

If that sounds familiar, psychologist Melissa Gratias, an expert in all things productivity, recently wrote about a morning ritual she recommends you follow the moment you sit down at your desk. According to her blog, this is the way to master your morning:

1. Follow a predictable routine.

Map out the first 30 to 60 minutes of your day. What do you need to do to start the day well and how much time should you allocate to each task?

2. Avoid jumping into email.

Once you open your inbox, you may be sucked into a whirlpool of others' needs. Do this last.

3. Minimize interruptions.

Mute your phone and make sure your email notifications are off. Schedule morning huddles rather than interrupting others.

4. Include productive tasks.

Your "opening ritual" is a time to look at your calendar for the next few days, update your to-do list, note your top priorities for the day, clear off your desk, do some stretches, etc. Avoid tasks that steal your productivity or that of others.

5. Use self-imposed rewards.

If it is hard for you to stay on track with your morning ritual, choose some self-administered rewards for performing the less pleasant tasks. Maybe you use your favorite coffee creamer only when you've finished your opening ritual.

Got your own morning ritual that works like a charm? Share in the comments below.