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3 Simple Keys to Your New and Improved Morning Routine

3 Simple Keys to Your New and Improved Morning Routine

Let’s face it, whether you like it or not, how you start your day can have a huge impact on how the rest of your day unfolds.

Say your day starts off like this: you wake up late; there’s no hot water, so you have to take a cold shower; the shirt you wanted to wear is dirty; you pour sour milk over your cereal; and to top it all off, your car breaks down on the way to work. UGH. Now, do you think you’re cut out to be the best team player at work today? Probably not!

On the other hand, let’s say your day starts off like this: you wake up naturally to a bright, sunny morning, five minutes before your alarm; you already have the perfect outfit laid out; you make yourself bacon and eggs, and eat them while reading the newspaper; it’s so beautiful out that you’re able to bike to work. MUCH better, if you ask me!

And while some things are out of your hands, there are plenty of things in your morning routine that you have complete control over.

These are a few killer ways to jump start your morning and boost your overall productivity for the entire day.

Add something positive

It’s so easy to fall into the following morning pattern: wake up to an alarm clock (after not having gotten enough sleep); curse at, and turn off, the alarm clock and get out of bed; make coffee (if you woke up in time); shower; get dressed and leave for work.

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But there are many things you can alter in terms of your morning ritual to make it more positive and beneficial. One of the best is to add something positive, and as new research from the University of Warwick recently confirmed, happiness makes people about 12 percent more productive.

Think of something that: 1) you enjoy doing in the morning; and 2) doesn’t require a large effort. Some great examples would be to:

– meditate
– make yourself breakfast (maybe eggs and toast)
– read the newspaper or a few pages of a novel

All of the above: 1) require very little effort; 2) have a positive impact on your general state of mind and well-being. You might have to wake up 20 minutes earlier, but it will be well worth it.

One thing to note: don’t multitask it. Don’t say “I’ll read the newspaper while I’m brushing my teeth.” That will only lead to frustration and you certainly will not get the full, intended enjoyment out of your new, (supposed to be) pleasurable activity. Give the new item its own time within your schedule so you can fully enjoy it without feeling the need to rush through it and just “get it done”.

Imagine if you were to add one of those simple items to your daily morning routine how much happier you may be when you walk out the door each morning?

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Put in just 10 minutes on an important task

The beginning of the day is a very special time. You’ve just woken up (hopefully refreshed after a good night’s sleep), and you have a chance to start with a clean slate, free of distractions.

You have your full mental real estate to work with—you haven’t already had to use a bunch of brainpower to attack new tasks, deal with crises, and just live your life. And because of that, you’re very frequently at your most productive first thing in the morning.

The following is one of the best productivity tips I’ve ever employed, and you can put it into action whether you have a full-time job to run off to, or if you’re a freelancer or consultant that works from home. It’s simple: take a small, set amount of time, right away in the morning—say 10-20 minutes—to work on one of, if not the, most important thing you plan to do that day. That’s it.

David Kadavy, author of Design for Hackers, uses what he calls the 10-minute hack every single morning, where, first thing, he takes just 10 minutes and starts working on an important task he was planning to tackle for the day. No contemplation. Just sit down and go.

And here’s the trick. The reason this works so well is that the hardest part can be just getting started.

But by setting the bar low—committing only 10-20 minutes—and just going, you allow your brain to fully engage almost immediately. And at that point, you’ve already broken down the biggest barrier. As Kadavy mentions—and as I’ve experienced time and time again—that 10 minutes frequently turns into 20, which turns into an hour, which turns into two hours, and you’ll have just accomplished more in those first two hours than you may have originally in the the full work day.

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Do not start your day by checking your email

Avoiding context-switching—particularly to start off your day—is crucial. If you start the day by checking your email, you’re bound to be unproductive.

Think about it… You look through your inbox and see requests from 5 different people for 5 completely different things. …And there goes your focus!

Whether you like it or not, your brain will be at least partially consumed with those potential requests, and it will start using precious resources to begin planning for them. You’ll inevitably begin stressing about all of the things you need to get done before actually getting anything done. And every time you check your email, you’re removing your focus from the previous task you were working on.

In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association on the mental tax of multitasking and context-switching, they found that “even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.”

In today’s day and age it’s very easy to feel obligated start your day by checking your email. For better or worse, it’s how things get done. It’s how requests are made and filled, and how progress is tracked. It’s how the majority of business-related communication occurs.

But with that said, you still have control over how you manage your own email access. And not checking your email to start off your day can be a great place to begin.

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Instead, set a few specific times a day to check it—say 11 am and 4 pm. By checking it at those two times—right before midday and before the day’s end—you should catch, and be able to respond to, any necessary requests.

And don’t forget to communicate your newly-adopted changes to others you work with. Let your clients/coworkers know that, in an effort to improve your own productivity (who can argue with that?), you’ll be checking your email less frequently. If they have more urgent matters, they can always call you or approach you in person.

Limiting your email access may be the most impactful, productivity-related improvement you make all year. It will help keep you sane and more focused on the most important tasks at hand.

These three simple changes will help you start your morning off on the right foot and roll right into the most productive days you’ve ever had.

Featured photo credit: Girl stretching in bed via istockphoto.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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