I feel like a zombie in the morning
August 25, 2010 9:17 PM   Subscribe

I've started a new, earlier work schedule now that I'm carpooling with my fianceé. I don't have issues waking up, but I do tend to feel "slower" when I'm trying to work at earlier hours in the morning. Any suggestions for how to feel clearer and more focused earlier in the day?

Before I moved to this new schedule, my prime work period tended to be around 4-6PM. Now I'm leaving for home at 5PM, so I need to make sure I make up those productive hours earlier in the day. Any suggestions for getting in the "zone" early in the day? I get into the office around 7:45AM, and as a software engineer, I'm basically the only one there for at least an hour. I don't drink coffee, and even if I did, I've read that habitual caffeine use stops being effective after a couple weeks.

I can potentially stop carpooling if that seems like the best thing, but we both enjoy it and it saves us money and time commuting. I'd prefer to keep carpooling, yet be just as productive as when I went in later.
posted by Allenthar to Work & Money (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought is are you getting up early enough to eat breakfast and wake up, or are you rolling out of bed, hopping in the shower and then hopping in the car?
posted by TheBones at 9:26 PM on August 25, 2010

The earlier I have to be at work, the more time I need in the morning before I leave the house. I'd say get up significantly earlier and make sure you eat something with protein (to keep you going), but not too heavy (which can be sedating). Also, try tea for the caffeine - both black and green tea have less than coffee and might be less addictive for that reason. In my years of experience I have never had habitual caffeine in the morning stop being effective, so I'd say take that info with a grain of salt.
posted by smartypantz at 9:53 PM on August 25, 2010

I was in almost exactly this situation, earlier this year (but I was getting to work at 6:45 AM). The important parts that made it work for me were 1) a reasonable breakfast and 2) a small (6 oz) cup of coffee or tea a little while after arriving at work. If you don't like coffee, try black tea steeped gently, with a little milk added, or try gen-mai cha (green tea with roasted rice grains). I didn't feel the need to consume any more caffeine than that. A little seems to go a long way.

By reasonable breakfast I mean a small but full meal, something like oatmeal with fruit and a glass of milk, or a plate of eggs with toast. Something like that. Maybe eat it when you get to work, if you're pressed for time in the morning. It seemed to be the key factor in making me feel almost normal, rather than being on a zombie march through the day.

If it's caffeine itself that you're opposed to, you could probably just not have any, but I found the little lift from coffee or tea would help me get excited about the day's tasks. Never found any lessening of effect with time (but I don't drink caffeine every day, either). I have heard the opposite though, that when a non-caffeine-drinker begins drinking caffeinated beverages, he or she can experience some insomnia for a few days, which goes away with continued use. Has to do with receptor up (or down?) regulation.
posted by Maximian at 10:07 PM on August 25, 2010

Before I moved to this new schedule, my prime work period tended to be around 4-6PM. Now I'm leaving for home at 5PM,

I totally understand what you're going through - I generally start being productive later in the day, starting at 3pm, and like to work until 630pm. Unfortunately, my family needs me at this time to make dinner or whatever, so I often work from 9pm to 12am to catch up.

One thing that has worked for me is a) getting plenty of sleep and b) making sure that before I turn off my computer at 5pm, I have actually started on tasks for the next day. That means figuring out what needs to be done and have the document or whatever ready to go for when I start work - kind of like pushing a car or whatever just to the edge of a slope, and all it takes is a gentle push to get it rolling in the morning.

This makes it much easier to get started immediately. But I wish I could just work from 3pm to 630pm.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:12 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've also found that cutting out carbs has helped immensely.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:14 PM on August 25, 2010

I've read that most people have more energy late morning and late afternoon/early evening, and drag early in the morning and especially around 2-3:00 in the afternoon. You may be able to make yourself more functional early in the morning, but it's possible you won't be able to make it into a natural sweet spot of productivity. Maybe you can grab onto that late morning upswing.

Do you have time for a bit of exercise in the morning? Are you eating a good breakfast? Are you getting to bed early enough?
posted by moira at 10:27 PM on August 25, 2010

I drink one cup of coffee every weekday morning (and that's it for coffee consumption), have for years, and have never experienced diminished returns. It always picks me up at the beginning of each workday. Like you, I may be awake at 7am, but I'm not naturally a morning person, and this little boost helps kick-start my day, without fail.
posted by parkerama at 10:32 PM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Add lemon juice (not lime) to a large glass of warm/hot water and drink it first thing in the morning. This wakes up the insides and stimulates the liver for processing the incoming fuel of the day ahead. A sluggish digestive system can bog down a whole morning.
posted by Kerasia at 10:38 PM on August 25, 2010

Exercising in the morning before work helped me immensely with this problem.

It was really tough in the beginning, but I forced myself to get up extra early every day to fit in just 20 minutes of cardio or something similar. Once I got into the exercise and really "woke up," I would be so much more focused and alert and not-sleepy throughout the rest of the day. It was great!

Not everyone's body works the same, but if you can try squeezing in some exercise sometime in the morning before work, it might help.
posted by Squee at 12:05 AM on August 26, 2010

I tend to be more motivated later in the day too. What helps me get going in the morning is to make a to-do list for the next day before I leave work. I put it in the center of my desk so it's the first thing I see when I walk in. I try to have one easy and quick item on the list so I can get one thing scratched off before even checking email in the morning.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:31 AM on August 26, 2010

Coffee. Learn to love it.

And, no, habitual morning caffeine does NOT become worthless after a few weeks. After years of the morning coffee ritual, I've only recently graduated to a second cup. And that's mainly because I got a new job that involves getting to work at 6am and working a 12 hour shift.

All of that said, the morning ritual of making the coffee and/or stopping into a coffee shop and obtaining it on the way to work helps to clear my head, as well. Making breakfast, or tea, or some other simple AM activity might be almost as good.
posted by Sara C. at 5:43 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Exercise helps me sail through lunch.
posted by Pax at 6:44 AM on August 26, 2010

Drink a huge glass of water as soon as you can after getting up. I also find that taking a B6 and a B12 vitamin in the morning helps me. It may be a placebo effect, but it's still effective whether its just psychological or not for me.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:03 AM on August 26, 2010

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