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To Be More Productive, Never Do This To Start Your Morning

To Be More Productive, Never Do This To Start Your Morning
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In this age of social media and technology it’s common to get up in the morning feeling like we’re running against the clock. Increased connectivity is a great thing, but it can also create pressure in our lives where there didn’t used to be any. How many of us stress about work email in the morning? Even if it doesn’t cause us undue stress, many of us make checking our email our morning routine.

Checking emails first in the morning isn’t good for you. Here’s why.

Reading email first thing in the morning wastes the opportunity to engage your brain in more proactive tasks while it is at its most focused, creative, and highly capable. Mornings are a great time to do productive work that requires focus, creativity, and strategy. “But reading emails is my way of being productive,” you say? This may be the case, but think hard. Are you really focusing on your own objectives or are you dealing with other people’s problems whilst your own goals fade into the background?

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If you want to be a proactive, rather than a reactive, leader, it’s important to focus on your own daily objectives first thing in the morning. Reading your email takes you down the path of reactive leadership; you’ll be more focused on putting out fires and dealing with other people’s problems instead of focusing on your own goals. Having your main goals and objectives take a back seat first thing in the morning when your brain is at its most focused is a waste of your valuable time.

How can we make the most of the morning?

It may sound counterintuitive to say this, but a great way to set yourself up for a productive day is to avoid reading your email and to simply sit back for as little as ten minutes and take stock. Research has shown that a routine practice of mindfulness meditation will actually alter the way our brains work. There are some great apps available that can help you through a guided meditation session. Apps such as Headspace are great for beginners, whilst the Mindfulness App is perfect for more advanced meditators, allowing you to decide the length of the session and whether you want a silent or guided session.

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Continuous mindfulness practice redirects brain activity from parts of the brain associated with reactive thinking, such as the limbic system. Increased activity can be seen in parts such as the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with rational thinking.  As little as ten minutes a day can help give us some extra thinking space; we are less likely to make reactionary, emotional decisions and more likely to balance our feelings with the bigger picture, allowing us to make rational decisions.

Again it may seem oxymoronic, but we can actually use our phones to help us switch off and disconnect, leading to a more productive day’s work. Be sure to turn off those notifications, as you don’t want any distractions in the morning.

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Another problem that can make us reactive in our modern high-pressure environments is the fact that we are constantly multitasking. Again, this ties in with reading our emails and being presented with a barrage of problems to solve with no fixed time limit. However, it may apply to many other aspects of our lives. Again, mindfulness can help reduce the “noise” and aid in focusing on one task at hand. Mindfulness meditation may not be a magical solution to your problems, but it will certainly allow you to focus on the most important goals you have set for the days, weeks, and years ahead.

Featured photo credit: Wasabi.com.co via wasabi.com.co

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Christopher Young

Freelance Blogger, Writer and Journalist

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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