You know that feeling of accomplishment that comes after a really productive day? 

By more effectively using the first and last moments of each day, you may be able to experience it much more often. 

Taking time when you wake up (and possibly waking up a bit earlier) to ground yourself and prepare for the day ahead can improve productivity and help focus your mind. And an hour at night to slow down and decompress can improve your sleep and get you ready for the following day. 

To get started, try a few different things to figure out what works best for you. Here are some ideas on how to make the most of those precious first and last hours of each day. 

First hour – energize yourself for the day ahead 

  • Exercise. Do it early so it doesn’t get lost later. It will give you a sense of achievement and energy to carry with you all day long. Hit the gym for a workout, go for a jog, walk the dog or do some light stretching
  • Meditate. Just a few minutes of meditation can help clear your mind, reduce anxiety and regulate your body’s response to the stress you may encounter throughout the day.  
  • Get a jump on work. Take this time to plan the day or respond to emails. When you organize yourself or complete an important task early, it gives you momentum for the rest of the day. 
  • Delay checking email. Or you may prefer to start your day by taking some quiet time for yourself before responding to the needs of others. 
  • Pursue a passion. Start your day with something you love to do, like write or learn a new language. This creative time can clear your mind and prepare you to get more things done. 
  • Fuel yourself. Have an extra cup of coffee, if that’s something that brings you pleasure, or prepare and enjoy a healthy, balanced breakfast that will fuel you through a productive morning. 
  • Tidy up. Making your bed and cleaning up can bring a sense of order which can give you a feeling of accomplishment first thing and keep your mindset open and ready to take on new tasks. 

Last hour – relax and wind down so you can get a better sleep 

  • Journal. Make time for good old-fashioned pen and paper. Writing down your thoughts, or even just what you did during the day, allows you to download your concerns, which can relieve stress and clear your mind before bed. 
  • Read. Reading can help you disconnect from the realities of life, and can activate different areas of your brain, including your imagination. Not only that but you learn new things that can help you at work and in your daily life.  When reading becomes a habit, it can signal your mind that it’s bedtime. 
  • Unplug. The glow of devices interferes with the body’s melatonin production, which is what regulates your sleep – so try putting them away for the last hour of the day. 
  • Connect with loved ones. This could be spending some quiet time with your partner (maybe ask for a massage!) or calling your mom on the phone. 
  • Take a hot bath. This is a soothing nighttime routine that gives you time alone and relaxes your body. Add some essential oils, such as lavender, which help promote better sleep. 
  • Stretch. Simple stretches or yoga can help ease the day’s tension, relax your muscles and help you sleep better. 
  • Practice gratitude. Think of the things that are important in your life, and reflect on what you’re most thankful for. It can lower your stress and improve your mood. 
  • Listen to soft music, an audiobook or nature sounds. Sounds that are soothing can push out negative or anxious thoughts and prepare you for a more restful, restorative sleep.