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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

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 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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