When given the right influence, at the right time, you can create positive habits that can quickly turn your work day into a highly productive day. The night before and the morning of your day strongly influence what will happen and how your productivity plays out. I am no superman, nor a type A personality, but I strive to be better daily. Here are the steps I have taken to get my days in order and tasks accomplished on time.
1. Start early, before the rest of your household.
I’m not saying you have to get up at dawn, but getting up first in your household can give you peace before the chaos of the morning rush. When you give yourself even 15 to 30 minutes head start, your chaos can become routine – which ultimately is not chaos at all. Don’t use this time to check messages. Get some water, sit down and listen to an audio book or read to mentally prepare for the tasks you need to complete for the day.
Set an alarm, by clock or by device, to help you wake each day. If waking is difficult for you, you may attempt setting multiple alarms. If all else fails, make your alarm loud and put the device away from your bed (so you have to get up to turn it off).
2. Wait to check your email and messages.
This might sound crazy, especially when you have devices all around you beeping and flashing notifications at you. That is why it is best to turn them off and check email and messages at specific times of the day. If you allow your life to be controlled by devices, they will never give you time to do what really needs to be done. Having a schedule for communication, even email and phone calls, puts the control back in your hands, to do tasks on your own time with your own priorities.
I have disabled my smart phone from making any notification sound and disabled notifications outright for email. My phone is constantly silient, it is not a distraction at all, and there is no anticipation of receiving one. When I do check my phone, if there are any messages, it is often a pleasant surprise that I can follow up on when the time comes to do so.
3. Start with a warm up.
Just like a workout or an athletic event – Do get your heartbeat up, with pushups, situps, and some jumping jacks. Not much, only 10min max. This will not only get you healthy and keep you healthy in time, but it will also invigorate you. This is a great way to get a rush of energy, a real boost, to accomplish tasks. Note – It is also a great way to wake up when you haven’t had much sleep (which should NOT happen often).
Since I have been doing this for awhile, I am able to hammer out my routine hard and fast. However, I suggest taking it slow, and only doing what you are capable of. In time, you can increase your warm up, but it should always remain short and quick.
4. Water, water, WATER!
Drink lots of water. I can’t emphasize this enough. There are so many benefits to drinking plenty of water – especially your mental health. Grab water before coffee. Drink at least a cup of refreshing cold water before choosing the coffee. Keep cold water with you all day. Skip the soda and sugary drinks until you no longer crave them.
One thing that I would like to add to this point – since I am a hardcore coffee drinker – is that I go by the 1/2 rule during my morning. That means for each cup of coffee I drink, I drink 2 cups of water. I recommend doing the same as this helps flush the caffeine out and helps me settle faster later into the evening. The rest of my beverages after lunch are always water.
5. When the energy stops…
At times during your day, you may hit a wall and crash. This can be physical, mental, or emotional. To avoid the physical exhaustion – Drink your water! However, the emotional and mental exhaustion can be a bit more complex. Sometimes, you just need to change your environment for a bit. Take a walk, visit a friend, or go for a short drive. Listen or read something educational and/or inspirational while you are away. Not only can this settle you down, but it can help you get through the fog of thoughts and ideas and refresh you with clarity. Give yourself motivation to curb the energy drain.
I hit my wall around 2 to 3 in the afternoon. This usually only happens if I had a “not so healthy” lunch. My mind wonders and feel like napping, even drifting off occasionally. I am ready for this by relaxing and listening to some audio at my desk for a few minutes. I will then do some push-ups to get my blood pumping again. This brings my energy back without fail!
6. Have a plan.
Having a plan doesn’t mean you are fixed to it, but knowing what you are doing in the hours to come gives you focus and direction. It is best to have a plan for at least the next day. Once you successfully made a habit of planning out your days, upgrade to planning your weeks. This not only applies to work, but also to the clothes you wear, the food you eat, and the places you go. This will prevent distraction and keep you focused on being productive.
I stick to accomplishing 3 major tasks a day. This might include anything from errands, phone calls, emails, writing, production, etc. I stick to 3 because it is a low number and not overwhelming. If I get these 3 items done, I can then shift my focus to additional tasks.
7. Now you can check your email.
If you have been able to get all of your day’s tasks complete before checking your email, you are already a pro at this. If not, keep attempting to get as much done as possible before you open the inbox. It is great to have a routine for checking messages and responding at specific times of the day. Keep this under 3 scheduled times, if at all possible and make it your goal to do it only once a day.
This same concept applies to socializing on the web. Do not give yourself a long period of time to complete. Get it done and move on. Don’t open your social apps again until the end of the day.
I do not recommend doing all of these steps at once. Just like the steps of the stairs, take 1 at a time. Trying to create positive habits do take time, and trying to take short cuts will often result in failure. Pick the step that is easiest for you to begin with, and start the next step after a week or two. Give yourself time to adjust and really make it a habit, so you no longer consciously think about it and it’s just part of the routine.
What do you do to start your day off right?
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