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6 Simple Habits at Work That Will Instantly Boost Your Productivity

6 Simple Habits at Work That Will Instantly Boost Your Productivity

The smell of coffee hits your olfactory senses, the steam rising from your cup to add a nice touch.

Ah, the start of every weekday morning. Your freshly ground beans soaked in boiling water firmly in hand, you trot to your desk ready to attack the day with some vigor. After all, your mind is clear of all drama and distraction. At least temporarily.

But as soon as you nestle in your chair and get ready to hit the ground running, the distractions come flying at you full force. Your focus, to say the least, begins its rapidly declining state. That fresh cup of coffee tries its hardest to keep you in check, and it might for maybe an hour. But it’s a losing battle; a battle we seem to forfeit on an almost daily basis.

There are ways to help combat such terrible odds though, and the good news is you’re in complete control of them. The better news is they don’t require extra cups of coffee. What you need is to build some simple habits at work.

The following 6 suggestions are easy ways to modify your work habits to instantly boost your productivity.

1. Get to Work Earlier

By this point, you’re probably yelling at me. Hey, I didn’t say this stuff would be easy, just that it’ll be worth it.

It’s been scientifically proven that a lot of people get their best work done in the early morning. Your mind is clear of most distractions, and you’re able to apply yourself to the task at hand.

Getting to work early serves two purposes:

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One, it allows you to take advantage of the fact we’re capable of focusing on the hardest things up front in the mornings. And two, it allows you to beat the rush of your colleagues coming in and contributing to your lack of focus.

Think about it like this:

At 7 AM, no one’s really in the office yet. This means no one is going to stop by your desk to chat about how your weekend was or how your kids are doing, since your colleagues aren’t there yet. It also means no one is going to bug you via email or whatever internal chat client you use for the same reason — they aren’t there yet.

Fewer people around and fewer emails, which are two of the biggest time drainers taken care of.

In comparison, if you get to work at 9 AM, most people are probably there by then, or right behind you. You really don’t have a chance to be “alone”, so to speak.

2. Put Your Phone Face down or in Airplane Mode

If you sit at your desk and your phone lights up, your eyes dart right to it. Once they do that, forget trying to check it later — you need to check it now. Because, after all, we love that small dopamine hit we get when a new notification comes through.[1]

At the office, you don’t have the luxury of throwing your phone across the room or leaving it somewhere else. So your options become two-fold. Either put it face down and stop the habit of constantly checking. Or, put it in airplane mode. Ideally, keep it face down as well.

If this were your house or if you’d have important clients calling you, I’d tell you to put your phone in another room while you focus on working.

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I know this sounds incredibly simple, but you’d be surprised how easy and effective this trick can be when trying to focus.

3. Don’t Check Emails Immediately

When you first sit down, you’ve probably collected quite a few emails overnight. But try to hold off on firing away with your responses.

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

Remember, you do your best work in the early mornings most of the time. Don’t waste it checking emails and crafting responses that don’t require much brainpower.

When you feel the lull of the afternoon or need a little break, use the time to deal with emails.

Getting better at focus is like a game of trying to understand when you’re the most efficient and then “trapping” that state and using it to your advantage. It’s a skill which takes time to master. We can be incredibly inefficient due to the simple fact we don’t utilize our time properly.

4. Bring Headphones

Having a pair of headphones serves you two-fold.

One, you’re able to use the time to listen to audiobooks or listen to some music if your surroundings become too distracting. Music has proven itself to get us into the right mood on the right occasion, depending on what we listen to. We can also get ahead with our reading and feed ourselves knowledge by listening to audiobooks.

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The second way could be even better — coworkers will leave you alone. We all know those people in the office who love to walk around and just waste a lot of your time with small talk. Look, we get it — your kids and wife are doing great and you’re also miserable since you can’t seem to sit down and focus on your own work, so you come to me in the hopes I’ll get sucked into the depths of your small-talk black hole.

Your only chance of survival? Don those headphones. You’ll deal with less small talk since you look like you’re in the zone. And no one wants to interrupt someone in the zone.

5. Schedule Meetings for the Afternoon

For the exact same reason not to check your emails in the morning, try to schedule most meetings for the afternoon.

Corporate environments are known for their plethora of meetings anyway, so instead of spacing them out throughout the day, put them off until you absolutely need them.

If the meeting involves strategy and creativity (in other words requires some actual serious brainpower), it’s not a bad idea to have it in the mornings. And some meetings are inevitable to have in the morning, namely because it isn’t your choice.

But for a general rule of thumbs, put them off until later in the day when you don’t need to worry about your focus as much.

And in case you want your meetings to be effective, here’s how:

12 Secrets To a Super Productive Meeting You Should Know

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6. Get Sufficient Sleep

Last but not least, sleep! This sounds cliche but really is the biggest one and also the one which will give you the best return on your investment.

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend on social media. One which says in order to be successful, you must give up sleep. Because apparently, without my knowledge, you can only become the best version of yourself and obtain the riches you so desire if you sacrifice serious shut eye.

As if the secret key to success we’ve all been missing has been to stay up later than our colleagues and fellow compatriots. Ah, if only it was that easy. Mainly because we already sacrifice a lot of sleep.

If you can manage to get a bit more shut-eye on a fairly consistent basis, the payoff is worth it. I’ve seen it first hand myself. Your need for caffeine decreases, your alertness and focus increases, and your desire to be productive jumps ten-fold.

In fact, research suggests that in a typical 8-hour workday, we’re only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes of that time.[2] A large part of that is our consistently tired state of affairs. Want to instantly boost your productivity? Make it a habit to get to bed earlier.

I understand it’s not easy. It requires putting your phone away earlier the night before, drinking less caffeine leading up to the evening, and potentially getting more exercise in so you can feel tired earlier. But getting the right amount of sleep is your single biggest weapon against a lack of focus.

As they say, the best things in life aren’t free. While monetarily this may be free, figuratively it’s far from it.

The Bottom Line

With a few good habits, you can improve your productivity at work without having to rely on eight cups of coffee a day. Some may require a bit more willpower and discipline to implement, but they’re all great ways to get more work done.

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Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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Adam Bergen

Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a movement dedicated to showing that with focus and self-discipline, your potential is limitless.

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Last Updated on September 22, 2020

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

You have probably heard the success stories about people who wake up early. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle all talk about the positive impact of waking up early on their lives.

Even though many assign a portion of their success to waking up early, many find it difficult to make the switch. While most people know what needs to happen to change their life, they find then difficult to implement consistently. To understand how to wake up early, you need to tap into the wisdom of those already doing it.

Here are the 6 things early risers do:

1. Stop Procrastinating

The first thing you need to do when you want to learn how to wake up early is to go to sleep earlier. Stop procrastinating. You will find it much easier to wake up when you are getting the proper amount of sleep. Set a bedtime that allows you to get 8-hours of sleep and hold yourself accountable.

The problem most of you will have at first is how tired you will feel. If you are someone who goes to sleep after midnight, waking up by 6 a.m. will not be easy. The reason you need to push through that initial difficulty is that you are going to be very tired at the end of the day. Realistically, you probably would fall asleep at your desk or doze off on your lunch break. Either way, waking up early no matter how you feel will motivate you to go sleep at the proper time that night.

Think of it as someone who procrastinated until the night before their project was due. Having done this myself, you do what you need to do to complete the project, whether that means working all night or cutting some corners because you don’t have time to triple-check your work.

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After you turn in your project, you feel both exhaustion and jubilation. After you make it through the workday and crash at home, you promise yourself you’ll never wait until the last minute again. This same feeling will happen when you force yourself to wake up early no matter what time you went to sleep. You are going to promise yourself you will go to bed at the right time.

Most people don’t go to bed when they should because they know they will ultimately make it up in the morning.

2. Pace Yourself

If you want to start waking up a couple of hours earlier each day, you may not be able to make that change all at once. It stands to reason the more drastic the shift, the more difficult it will be.

So, instead of trying to adjust your sleep pattern by several hours, start in 15-minute or 30-minute intervals.[1] If you wake up 30 minutes earlier each week, you will be a morning person by the end of the month. This may feel like you are drawing out your goal but in reality, you are accomplishing it much quicker than most. Most people who are naturally night owls find it difficult to completely change their sleep habits overnight.

Think of it as someone who is trying to quit drinking coffee. Outside of the fact you may enjoy the taste of coffee, your body is used to operating with a certain amount of caffeine and sugar. Some will be able to quit overnight and their body will adjust accordingly. And if you are one of those people, then do what works for you.

However, if you were to take an incremental approach, then you may first start drinking your coffee black. Then, you could switch to decaf before slowly lowering the amount of coffee you drink each day. As you can see, this approach will help minimize the feeling of withdrawal while getting the results you want.

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3. Watch Your Lighting

Light reduces your body’s production of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone. In practical terms, your body naturally wants to be awake when the sun is up and go to sleep when the sun is down. This is called your circadian rhythm.

In the technology-driven world we currently live in, you likely look at a screen or two before bed. Studies show television and phone screens trick your body into thinking the sun is up. As a result, your body starts producing less melatonin. To help you fall asleep, you should stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed.

This can also mean that if you want to wake up before the sun, looking at your screen when you wake up can help you to stay awake.

Peter Balyta, the President of Education Technology for Texas Instruments says he wakes up at 5:20 a.m. and scans his emails before starting his day. This is also true for M.I.T. president L. Rafael Rief. He wakes up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and checks his phone for anything urgent.[2]

4. Make It Worth Your Time

Have you ever woken up early but went back to sleep because you didn’t have a reason to stay up? To put it another way, have you ever fallen asleep because you didn’t have anything better to do?

If you want to be excited about going to sleep and waking up early, then you need to give yourself a reason to be excited. You can accomplish this by listing the three things you want to accomplish the next morning. Notice I said “want” and not “need” to accomplish. You don’t want to be dragging yourself into the next morning kicking and screaming.

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Your list should not only include what you want to accomplish but also why you want to accomplish it. If you want to take it a step further, list the consequences of not waking up early.

People who have figured out how to wake up early are shown to be more successful, persistent, and proactive in their life. They tend to be happier and handle stress better. It is also shown that people who wake up early procrastinate less.[3] If you find any of these benefits something you want to add in your life, then waking up early is shown to help.

5. Avoid Binging

There is a difference between sleeping and getting a good night’s sleep. Sure, you can drink alcohol and fall asleep, but you will not be getting quality rest. You will wake up feeling as though you slept for only a couple hours.

It is best to stop drinking at least 4 hours before bedtime. Binge drinking is known to impact your sleep-inducing melatonin hormone levels for up to a week. The same holds true with eating a large meal right before bed. It is not that your body can’t process food and sleep at the same time. The main concern has more to do with the possibility of indigestion or heartburn than anything else.

If you find yourself dealing with either of these symptoms, then you may want to stop eating at least two hours before bed.

6. Get the Blood Flowing

Those who have mastered the technique of how to wake up early tend to start each morning with movement.

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Your first movement is to get out of bed. To help you get out of bed, have your alarm far enough away that you need to get up and turn it off. Before you allow yourself to contemplate going back to sleep, take a moment, and do 10 push-ups or 10 jumping jacks. Think of each exercise as you taking one step further from being able to go back to sleep.

Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning. She starts each day by exercising. Her exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and cycling.

You decide for yourself how you want to get your blood flowing. Whether you want to go on a walk, workout at the gym, or do something at home, make sure you are scheduling time to exercise.

Final Thoughts

The key to understanding how to wake up early is to recognize that it is heavily driven by the actions you take the night before. You will wake up early if you go to bed at a good time and get the proper amount of sleep.

By taking the time to prepare yourself both mentally and physically each night, you can ensure you are positioned for success the next morning. Once you have taken the proper actions the night before, make sure you use that momentum to start your day, on time.

The goal is to make the actions you want to take as easy as possible. The key to changing your life is to discover a way to have the wind at your back, going in the direction you want.

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Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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