If you are like so many of us, your mornings as a college student are a mess. You might have stayed up too late the night before and are, in turn, waking up late with barely enough time to brush your teeth, throw on a t-shirt, and stumble to your first class. This does not leave you much time to focus your efforts and plan out how you will make the most of your day. Ultimately, it sets you up to have a lackluster day.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can start your day so serenely that your days are packed with achievement and satisfaction. If this sounds like the kind of start you’d like to have, check out these five steps for the perfect start to busy college student’s life:

1. Wake up early

It’s difficult to recover from a bad start and often your morning will set the pace for the rest of your day. That’s why getting an early start on your day is so crucial. The quiet of early morning (and we don’t mean 8 o’clock) is an ideal time to focus your thoughts and arrange your day. Things are quiet. Distractions are less. Your mind is still and focused from a good night’s rest. Best of all, it gives you time to do steps 2 through 5 before you have to head out the door.

2. Exercise

Who needs a strong cup of coffee when you’ve got a fresh burst of endorphins flowing pleasantly through your bloodstream? Exercise has been proven to relieve stress and promote mental health. Giving your body and mind these benefits at the beginning of the day ensures a full day of energy and productivity. Exercise in the morning also promotes good habits throughout the day, like taking in enough water and eating the right foods. And a healthy mind is a sharp mind.

3. Set goals

Many of the negative effects of stress come from ambiguity of purpose, not knowing what you’re supposed to do with yourself. Conversely, nothing makes your inner achiever happier than knowing exactly what they need to accomplish that day. Take the type to jot down in your planner what you goals you plan to hit that day. Maybe you’re going to stick to a certain number of calories or call your mom or resist the urge to spend money. Whatever your goals, they will give your mind something to work for and something to celebrate once the goal is accomplished. The mind loves accomplishing.

4. Plan out your day

Naturally, it’s not enough to make goals. Your brain will be even happier and less stressed if you take the time to plan out how you will attain those goals. Have a goal to get all your homework in? You’ll have to plan exactly when you’re going to hit the library and knock out those assignments. As with goal-setting, your brain loves this exercise, the act of organizing your thoughts and putting them into neat containers with labels on them. Just thinking about it, I bet your brain is buzzing with pleasure.

5. Remind yourself of all your why’s

Especially on those mornings when you’re lacking motivation, it helps to remind yourself of why you’re doing this crazy stuff. Why are you bothering with classes and assignments and devilishly difficult term papers when you could just be working a nine-to-five and enjoying your off time? Everyone has their own answer to these questions. Maybe it’s to land that job they’ve always dreamed of. Maybe it’s to make their momma proud or to show their kids what they can achieve.

Whatever your motivation put it at the forefront of your mind as you go into each day. Let it be the force that drives you, especially when you have to do the hard things.

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