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8 Morning Habits To Enhance Your Productivity

8 Morning Habits To Enhance Your Productivity

Here are some of my favorite ways to have a productive day by starting your day with the right habits. Try to adjust your morning habits to set yourself up for a successful, extremely productive day. Hopefully these methods will help you as much as they have helped me.

1. Fuel your body with an amazing breakfast

Have you ever noticed how some mornings you feel great and ready to tackle the world, and other days you have a mid-day slump? Having a healthy breakfast can help keep you feeling energized. Avoiding excessive sugar in the morning can help prevent a mid-day crash. If your mornings are usually pretty rushed, do everything you can in advance. Fueling your body with a healthy breakfast can help set you up for success all day long.

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2. Kickstart your day with a plan

After your healthy breakfast, launch into your day with a plan. I believe it’s very important to plan out your day. It doesn’t have to be a totally rigid schedule, but a tentative schedule with time blocks to accomplish certain tasks seems to work great. It works best for me to take a few minutes at the end of every day to write out my plan for the next day. When I have a plan for my day, it helps me get started on my goals and priorities immediately the next morning, rather than lounging around and saying “I don’t feel like it today.”

3. Eat the frog

One of my favorite productivity quotes is by Mark Twain, who said, “Eat a live frog first thing every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” If you’re like me, there are certain tasks you tend to procrastinate because they are scary or overwhelming. The task you dread on your schedule is your frog. When you complete your dreaded task (aka eat the frog) right away in the morning, you’ll start your day feeling accomplished and have the momentum and confidence you need to get other tasks done. Plus, they’ll all be much more enjoyable to you than the frog you just ate.

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4. Try the Pomodoro technique

The what? Pomodoro means ‘tomato’ in Italian. The man who invented this technique used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato to do the technique. It’s a simple concept but incredibly helpful and I love using this technique in my morning routine. To do it, choose a task you want to accomplish, then set your kitchen timer for 25 minutes. Then, focus intently on the task until the timer beeps. To learn more, check out this article about the Pomodoro technique.

5. Use Parkinson’s Law

One of my favorite productivity hacks that I use all the time is Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, you greatly increase your effort to complete a task when you have less time to get it done. Chances are, you’ve used Parkinson’s Law in your life without even realizing it. Think about how hard you work to finish a paper when it’s due in a few hours, or how you can make your house spotless very quickly when an unexpected visitor says they’re coming over soon.

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To be more productve in your daily life, use Parkinsons’ Law. Set deadlines for yourself to get things done efficiently. Realizing you have limited time delegated to each specific task will help improve your focus on the task and skyrocket your productivity as you work on that task.

6. Turn off distractions

Do you roll out of bed and immediately start scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, listen to your voicemails, or check your email? I used to do that, but this year have made some big changes in my morning routine and now I turn off distractions and start my day focused on my goals. When you immediately check your social media accounts when you wake up, you’re starting your day off reactively. You are then focused on reacting and responding, rather than being proactive and focused on taking action steps toward your goals. Personally, I’ve found I am much more productive in the mornings when I turn off distractions, focus on my goals, and then have a specific time set aside to check and respond to emails and social media messages.

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7. Choose an accountability partner

Choose someone to help keep you accountable to have a more productive morning routine. It doesn’t have to be someone with the same goals as you. Even if your accountability partner has different interests and aspirations, you can both help encourage each other to stay on task, and set up times to check in with each other to report that you’ve accomplished your daily or weekly goals.

8. Spend time each day working on a big goal

Set aside time each morning to work toward a big long-term goal you have. Even if it’s just a few minutes to start, it will gradually add up to major progress over time. Also, when you take little steps every day toward your long-term goal, your confidence will grow with each small accomplishment you experience.

Now I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite productivity hacks for your morning routine?

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life Don’t like your job? Here are some solutions. How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them How to Have a Successful Career and a Fulfilling Personal Life

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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