I am not a morning person.
I realise that’s a pretty cliché statement — but ask my parents, my sister, or my fiancé, and they will all tell you how moody and miserable I can be when I first wake up.
I usually snap out of it before I get to work, but it’s still not a pleasant way to start the day.
For years I’ve been trying to combat my morning moodiness, so when my boss challenged our team to choose a morning hack to try out for a week, I thought carefully about what I wanted to do.
I considered everything I enjoy doing and asked myself, “What could really elevate my morning mood?” I ultimately landed on reading.
Like most people, my attitude is often affected by the tone of whatever I’m reading. So I knew in order for this exercise to work — for it to actually help me start my day on a happier note — I’d have to choose a funny book.
I picked, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns),” the hilarious 242-page memoir by actress and comedian Mindy Kaling.
I downloaded the eBook on a Sunday night in mid-March, and began the experiment Monday morning.
Here’s how the week went:
I decided I didn’t necessarily want to wake up earlier to do this exercise (that would make me dread it, not enjoy it) so I figured I’d read for about 10 minutes while eating breakfast and another 20 minutes on the subway. (I don’t like reading at the gym — it’s really hard to read while bouncing up and down on the treadmill or elliptical.)
I stuck to the plan on Day 1. I got through about 15% of the book — it’s a quick and easy ready — and had a few good laughs. Coming up the subway stairs at 23rd Street I caught myself smiling, thinking about two funny lines from the introduction.
One was: “You should know I disagree with a lot of traditional advice,” Kaling writes. “For instance, they say the best revenge is living well. I say it’s acid in the face — who will love them now?”
The other line was one I could relate to: “There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it.”
I love my job, but when it’s time to get back to the grind Monday morning, I typically feel less than thrilled walking through the front door of my office building. But this Monday morning was different.
I arrived feeling cheerful. My attitude was more positive than usual, and I’m almost certain it helped me be a better writer and editor that day.
Day 2 wasn’t much different. I read for the full 30 minutes while I ate breakfast and during my commute — but I witnessed a pretty nasty verbal dispute between two passengers as I was getting off the subway, which put a slight damper on my morning mood.
To get back on track, I finished the chapter I was reading while waiting for the elevator in my office lobby. This instantly shifted my mood back.
I noticed I was more productive Tuesday morning than most mornings. I came in, edited two stories in my queue, and read most emails in my inbox — all within the first 45 minutes.
Day 3 didn’t go as well.
I spent my entire commute reading emails and responding to text messages. I didn’t even open my Kindle app that morning. It wasn’t that I forgot about reading — I was just distracted.
And I paid for it.
I noticed I wasn’t as upbeat as I had been the previous two days, and I’m fairly convinced failing to read on Wednesday took a toll on my productivity.
I got back on track Thursday. Just about halfway through the book, I laughed at least a dozen times (sometimes out loud, sometimes in my head) reading about Kaling’s entrance into the world of Hollywood. This put me in a really good mood.
I emailed a friend as soon as I got to work, telling her she had to read “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns),” ASAP. I think I was also friendlier to my colleagues in the office kitchen this morning (I’m not usually unfriendly — I just tend to be quiet and keep to myself in the early hours), and that made for a more pleasant start to the workday.
I was out of the office Friday, but continued the exercise. I woke up, ate breakfast, and read for about 55 minutes, until I finished the book.
It’s hard to stay how it affected my mood on Friday, since I was in sunny Miami and had little to worry about. But I’m fairly certain it didn’t hurt.
Reading a funny book for 30 minutes every morning did exactly what I hoped it would. Of course the good mood it put me in didn’t always last. In fact, some mornings my attitude turned sour by 10, thanks to a rude email or dull interview. But this morning hack is one I will continue to use because it seems to be the only thing that can make me smile at 8 a.m. on a workday. And, as dramatic as it may sound, starting the day off in a great mood seems to be changing all aspects of my life for the better.
Learn more about how productive people set themselves up for success every morning in The Success Series.
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