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

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

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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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