Something we hear a lot of in our Time Management Workshops is people’s dread of their morning routine. People are daunted and dismayed by all the things they have to do; what with the emails, the daily commute, getting themselves, and often others, organized, it can regularly be a hectic and stressful start to the day. At Think Productive North America we like to practice what we preach and try to make the most of each morning. Because it sets us up for the rest of the day, getting the right start is essential.
Some people believe they can sleep their way to happiness. However, what a good Productivity Ninja is focusing on is sleeping enough to still be happy, but sleeping in a way that means they remain efficient and productive. People tend to focus to the number of hours they sleep, but what is more important is the quality of those hours. Many successful people have stated they sleep 6 or 7 hours a night. Although, this might seem less than you need, you can put money on the fact that they make it a practice to have these hours uninterrupted and habitual. So, they wake up feeling fresh and ready to tackle the day, regardless of the hour they rise. Which leads us on to the next tip.
Wake Up Early
We believe that time is an extremely valuable asset, and we focus on how to use it best in our Time Management Training. It’s often the case that people complain about ‘not having enough time’ in the day, but very often they aren’t making an active effort to make better use of it. We are all given the same number of hours each day and it’s up to us how we decide to utilize them. By waking up earlier, you will not only have more control over your morning routine, but more opportunities to do the things that matter to you, or perhaps the things you don’t get a chance to at other times throughout the day. Start gradually to try and wake up earlier, perhaps 15 minutes a week. By the end of the month, your body will have adapted to waking an hour earlier giving you time for the things that are important to you. You may need to adapt your bedtime routine to fit this new habit, but everyone is different. Go on, try being a morning person!
Prepare things the Night Before
When it comes to being more productive in the morning, a clever tip is to reduce the amount of decision making. By preparing things the night before, you can get up and get on move without overlooking some essentials. This might be simple things like laying out your outfit, scheduling reminders, or booking train tickets in advance to save time at the station. Taking 15-20 minutes before you go to bed, could save you an hour of hassle in the morning. This can be especially important if you are typically someone who should not be operating heavy machinery early in the morning!
Eating is not only something that we enjoy, but something that enables us to function properly. It’s often true that when rushed in the morning it is breakfast that is sacrificed. It’s often said that its the most important meal of the day, and with good reason. It sets your body up for the busy working day by keeping you energized. Set aside time to eat a healthy meal each morning. It will help to counter the fatigue you may feel from making the shift to waking up earlier.
This is a simple one. Jeff Sanders, author of the 5 AM Miracle, has a morning habit of drinking a liter of water within 45 minutes of waking up. Water is universally known to improve cognitive function, yet so many of us don’t drink enough and suffer from dehydration. Drink that water, eat that healthy breakfast, and get on with your tasks whilst feeling fantastic.
Now that you have freed up some time in the morning, how are you going to use it? Surprisingly it might best be used to have “You” time. A lot of research has gone into the positive effects of having some ‘quiet time’ each morning. Whether that’s reading, meditating or yoga. Meditation has shown to increase productivity as well as reduce anxiety levels. Studies have shown that meditation can, after only a 20-minute session, help increase focus and calm the mind.
Moving in the morning can be a great source of energy, and helps to set you up for the day ahead. It has been demonstrated to improve focus and mental abilities. Working out will also release endorphins, proven to make you feel better. Some form of exercise for half an hour each morning, even brisk walking, will not only help you focus on the day ahead, it can make you feel better about tackling the difficult tasks you may have. So perhaps you might consider whether your commute to work could benefit from a brisk walk by getting off one stop earlier than usual?
An integral part of being productive and getting things done, is to be very clear about what you’re going to be doing. The use of to-do lists has been, and will probably always be, incredibly important. There is a plethora of productivity apps, which can help you keep track of what you need to do. One simple habit that I would strongly recommend, however, is to utilise the MIT theory. MIT stands for ‘Most Important Thing(s)’. When you wake up in the morning, spend a few minutes deciding what is that you must achieve that day to consider it productive. The premise is that this list should not include more than three things, with an emphasis on just one of those things. This has synergy with the theory proposed by Gary Keller, the author of “The One Thing”. He believes that the best way to prioritize our never-ending to-do lists is to pick the task with “the Domino Effect”. The Domino Effect supposes that there is a task or action that you can complete that will make everything else on your list either easier to complete, or even unnecessary. So, start with the most difficult task, and the other tasks will become simpler to finish or easier in contrast.
We all suffer from distractions, some of us more so than others. However, there are three principal distractions in the modern office world that can inhibit you from being productive each morning. Your phone, your emails, and social media. Be proactive and simply remove these things from your routine. Don’t check your emails for the first few hours of each day and set aside fixed times to process them. Turn your phone to silent, or even keep it in another room completely. And resist the temptation of social media – a huge drain on time, attention and energy. Overcome the temptation by scheduling times of the day when you permit yourself this activity – perhaps when you know your concentration levels will be low. These steps will eliminate the inclination to procrastinate and force you to make the most of your newfound time. Start your day right, start it without distractions. If you’re interested in managing your emails better, why not take a look at our email training?
Once you’ve made it into the office, there are still plenty of bear traps you and your productivity could fall into. The team over at Resume.io have put together a great Infographic outlining 9 things to avoid in the office in the morning.
By Miles Singleton and Richard Green
Miles is Think Productive UK’s Editorial Content Producer and Richard is CFO of Think Productive North America.