This article was originally published on Lifehack.org. It is a great read and good reminders on getting the day started.
PRODUCTIVITY BY KAROL KROL
Let me guess: you don’t have time to get a decent cup of coffee in the morning, so how the hell are you going to find 45 minutes to (presumably) waste on being productive?
It’s okay; I know the pain. I sometimes have trouble getting my wheels rolling in the morning too. But, as it turns out, it’s nothing we can’t fix with a good morning routine.
Here’s how we’re going to do this. First, let’s divide our morning into two segments:
First 45 minutes: things we’ll be doing at home, prior to getting to work,
Then, we’ll start our workday with some easy-win tasks and overall good starting tasks that will keep our productivity at high levels throughout the day.
1. Start your day early in the morning.
For the life of me, I can’t remember who said it, but there was an excellent quote about how you should do your work early in the morning because fear is still asleep at 5 a.m.
This is an extreme take on the matter, I agree, but what I am trying to say is that you should just try getting your day started a bit earlier every day. The sooner you get up, the more you can do before your fear wakes up and starts putting you down with those “I can’t do this” thoughts.
Note that this is not about depriving yourself of sleep. What you have to do is go to sleep earlier the previous day, so you can still get 7-9 hours of rest.
2. Exercise after breakfast (15 min.)
There’s an extremely interesting paper on the benefits of exercise at Bryn Mawr College’s website. It states that exercising is one of the few activities that generates new neurons. On top of that, it also alleviates both physical and mental pain.
To put this in plain English: exercising makes you a happier human being.
You really don’t need a lot of it on a daily basis. A mere 15 minutes after breakfast will do the job. Check these simple workouts that are easy to fit into your busy day..
3. Meditation for busy people (10 min.)
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day–unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” Click to Tweet
While I’m not going to get as brutal on you as the Zen proverb suggests, I do encourage you to spend 10 minutes every morning meditating. Do this right after exercising as a cool down.
Meditation has huge benefits on both our bodies and minds. I was skeptical at first, but it took me about two weeks to notice some positive benefits.
To give you more fact-based reasons, Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School conducted a study where the participants were asked to practice some relaxation methods on a regular basis. The effects he found were:
“After two months, their bodies began to change: the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells…all began to switch on…The more people practiced relaxation methods such as meditation or deep breathing, the greater their chances of remaining free of arthritis and joint pain with stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure.”
If you’ve never meditated, here’s a quick start guide:
Fire up background music that doesn’t draw much attention.
Sit quietly, close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
Try thinking about nothing other than breathing in and out.
That’s all. It sounds easy, but during your first 5-10 attempts you may find it difficult. Your mind will race and keep feeding you hundreds of different thoughts. That’s okay though. Over time, you will get better at this.
4. Write a journal entry (10 min.)
Having a personal journal has been one of the biggest productivity tricks for me. It’s so simple, yet so effective.
Grab a notepad– either an actual piece of paper or open a piece of software on your laptop–and write whatever thoughts are on your mind at that moment.
Anything goes: your reflections on the previous day, your plans for dinner, your thoughts on meeting an old friend the previous weekend. There’s no bad direction here.
The idea is that writing a journal frees your mind from the things you’re thinking in the moment. The minute you get it out of your head and into a note, you no longer have to use your mind power remembering that stuff.
As a result, this means that you can focus on the new day and the tasks you’ll have to take care of in just a short while.
Once you’re done with all of the above, use the last 10 minutes to interact with your loved ones or do something else that gives you a positive vibe. Then, you can get to work.
5. Start your workday by planning.
Some people prefer to plan in the evening. I don’t, because in the evening I tend to get overly optimistic about all the things I’m going to do the next day.
When the morning comes, however, the feeling is different. I already know that what I’m planning I’ll have to start executing right away, so I’m careful only to place the essential tasks on my list.
That’s what works for me personally. I encourage you to test both approaches and see which one works best for you–planning in the morning or planning in the evening.
6. Go for the easy wins.
Try building your to-do list in a way that it has two types of tasks:
Crucial: the thing(s) that need(s) to be done no matter what during that day,
Easy wins: the things that can be done quickly, so you can feel that you’re being productive, which will eventually get your wheels going faster and faster.
Start your day by focusing on one or two tasks from the easy win department. Be careful though. These are not filler tasks! Your easy wins should still be things that are important and need to be done. They just happen to be relatively easy to take care of.
For example, social media is not a good easy win task. It can consume two hours of your time easily. “It’s a trap” (to quote Admiral Ackbar) that will drag you into your Twitter feed and keep you there for a good long while.
A better idea is to do things based on templates or one activity that then gets multiplied for maximum results. If you’re a freelancer or a solo-preneur then there surely are loads of tasks that fit the description for you.
Reaching out to new clients and sending proposals is a prime example. You do want to treat each client individually, obviously, but at the same time, you can use a template for the core of your communication. This is just to make sure that you don’t miss any important pieces of the puzzle and that you say everything that needs to be said.
Check these proposal templates for freelancers and consultants by the guys at Bidsketch. You can take one of them, adjust it to your needs (one-time task), and then send it to, say, four clients in a matter of minutes.
Quick win? Check.
If your solo business uses some form of content marketing, then you can promote your content with BuzzStream. You can use it to find relevant blogs and websites and send your outreach messages on a large scale.
Quick win? Check again.
Feel free to do some brainstorming on this and find the tasks that are both important to you and fit the quick win definition. Then you can alternate between them in the morning.
7. Final step: Go right into the crucial.
We’ve been quietly building up our whole morning just to be able to tackle the crucial task for the day with high energy and positive morale.
Once you have your morning ritual and early wins taken care of (which basically means that you’ve had a good start of the day), you can confidently move on to your main task for the day, whatever it might be.
Believe me, trying to get an important task done when you have the energy to finish it, versus trying to do so when you’re deprived of it makes all the difference.
What’s your take on this sort of morning ritual? Are you willing to give it a go?