"Just as noise is meaningless without quiet," Fabrica CEO Dan Hill once observed, "connectivity becomes meaningless when pervasive, when it is without a few 'sanctuary spaces' as contrast."
For many, that contrast is most available in the early hours: management thinker Kevin Meyer does yoga after he gets up, Kayak cofounder Paul English makes sure to meditate, novelist Somerset Maugham thought on the first two sentences he would write while soaking in the bath tub.
The lesson? Before you join the world with your iPad at breakfast, you need to give yourself some unplugged space. Here's how.
Superlative executives tend to get up super early: AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and Newton Investment CEO Helena Morissey both rise by 5 a.m. (or perhaps earlier!). Why? The early-rising affords Amstrong time to work out and read, while Morissey's affords more time with the family later in the day. To learn how to get up early, consult Zen Habits.
Try sitting still. Why? People who meditate a lot are better at introspecting—at understanding what the hell it is that's going inside of them—than people who don't. So if we want alignment between our personal and working lives—which is why the happiest people often have the hardest jobs—we'd do well to get mindful.
Few things are better for getting yourself (and your body) more primed to handle stress than exercise. To get enough of it, set up the habit. And if you're looking for stillness, mindfulness, and a bit of flexibility, doing yoga on your own or in a class is a way to start. Just 20 minutes gives your brain a boost.
Technology tends to erode structure—ever forward an email before you're out of bed?—while rituals give structure. And since we're all lazy, set up your morning to be easily energizing, whether by putting your running shoes by the door or investing in an alarm clock that runs away from you. That's how you can readily get productive before you get to breakfast.
We can clutter our early hours with menial decisions: which cereal, which socks, which exercise to do. Cut those out by making a few decisions about how you make decisions—that will lend your mornings some much-needed spaciousness.
[Image: Flickr user Jacob Gube]