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Give Me 45 Minutes in the Morning and I’ll Give You a More Productive Day

Give Me 45 Minutes in the Morning and I’ll Give You a More Productive Day

Let me guess: you don’t have time to get a decent cup of coffee in the morning, so how the hell are you going to find 45 minutes to (presumably) waste on being productive?

It’s okay; I know the pain. I sometimes have trouble getting my wheels rolling in the morning too. But, as it turns out, it’s nothing we can’t fix with a good morning routine.

Here’s how we’re going to do this. First, let’s divide our morning into two segments:

  • First 45 minutes: things we’ll be doing at home, prior to getting to work,
  • Then, we’ll start our workday with some easy-win tasks and overall good starting tasks that will keep our productivity at high levels throughout the day.

1. Start your day early in the morning.

For the life of me, I can’t remember who said it, but there was an excellent quote about how you should do your work early in the morning because fear is still asleep at 5 a.m.

This is an extreme take on the matter, I agree, but what I am trying to say is that you should just try getting your day started a bit earlier every day. The sooner you get up, the more you can do before your fear wakes up and starts putting you down with those “I can’t do this” thoughts.

Note that this is not about depriving yourself of sleep. What you have to do is go to sleep earlier the previous day, so you can still get 7-9 hours of rest.

2. Exercise after breakfast (15 min.)

There’s an extremely interesting paper on the benefits of exercise at Bryn Mawr College’s website. It states that exercising is one of the few activities that generates new neurons. On top of that, it also alleviates both physical and mental pain.

To put this in plain English: exercising makes you a happier human being.

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You really don’t need a lot of it on a daily basis. A mere 15 minutes after breakfast will do the job. Check these simple workouts that are easy to fit into your busy day..

3. Meditation for busy people (10 min.)

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day–unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” Click to Tweet

While I’m not going to get as brutal on you as the Zen proverb suggests, I do encourage you to spend 10 minutes every morning meditating. Do this right after exercising as a cool down.

Meditation has huge benefits on both our bodies and minds. I was skeptical at first, but it took me about two weeks to notice some positive benefits.

To give you more fact-based reasons, Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School conducted a study where the participants were asked to practice some relaxation methods on a regular basis. The effects he found were:

“After two months, their bodies began to change: the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells…all began to switch on…The more people practiced relaxation methods such as meditation or deep breathing, the greater their chances of remaining free of arthritis and joint pain with stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure.”

If you’ve never meditated, here’s a quick start guide:

  1. Fire up background music that doesn’t draw much attention.
  2. Sit quietly, close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
  3. Try thinking about nothing other than breathing in and out.

That’s all. It sounds easy, but during your first 5-10 attempts you may find it difficult. Your mind will race and keep feeding you hundreds of different thoughts. That’s okay though. Over time, you will get better at this.

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4. Write a journal entry (10 min.)

Having a personal journal has been one of the biggest productivity tricks for me. It’s so simple, yet so effective.

Grab a notepad– either an actual piece of paper or open a piece of software on your laptop–and write whatever thoughts are on your mind at that moment.

Anything goes: your reflections on the previous day, your plans for dinner, your thoughts on meeting an old friend the previous weekend. There’s no bad direction here.

The idea is that writing a journal frees your mind from the things you’re thinking in the moment. The minute you get it out of your head and into a note, you no longer have to use your mind power remembering that stuff.

As a result, this means that you can focus on the new day and the tasks you’ll have to take care of in just a short while.

Once you’re done with all of the above, use the last 10 minutes to interact with your loved ones or do something else that gives you a positive vibe. Then, you can get to work.

5. Start your workday by planning.

Some people prefer to plan in the evening. I don’t, because in the evening I tend to get overly optimistic about all the things I’m going to do the next day.

When the morning comes, however, the feeling is different. I already know that what I’m planning I’ll have to start executing right away, so I’m careful only to place the essential tasks on my list.

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That’s what works for me personally. I encourage you to test both approaches and see which one works best for you–planning in the morning or planning in the evening.

6. Go for the easy wins.

Try building your to-do list in a way that it has two types of tasks:

  • Crucial: the thing(s) that need(s) to be done no matter what during that day,
  • Easy wins: the things that can be done quickly, so you can feel that you’re being productive, which will eventually get your wheels going faster and faster.

Start your day by focusing on one or two tasks from the easy win department. Be careful though. These are not filler tasks! Your easy wins should still be things that are important and need to be done. They just happen to be relatively easy to take care of.

For example, social media is not a good easy win task. It can consume two hours of your time easily. “It’s a trap” (to quote Admiral Ackbar) that will drag you into your Twitter feed and keep you there for a good long while.

A better idea is to do things based on templates or one activity that then gets multiplied for maximum results. If you’re a freelancer or a solo-preneur then there surely are loads of tasks that fit the description for you.

Reaching out to new clients and sending proposals is a prime example. You do want to treat each client individually, obviously, but at the same time, you can use a template for the core of your communication. This is just to make sure that you don’t miss any important pieces of the puzzle and that you say everything that needs to be said.

Check these proposal templates for freelancers and consultants by the guys at Bidsketch. You can take one of them, adjust it to your needs (one-time task), and then send it to, say, four clients in a matter of minutes.

Quick win? Check.

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If your solo business uses some form of content marketing, then you can promote your content with BuzzStream. You can use it to find relevant blogs and websites and send your outreach messages on a large scale.

Quick win? Check again.

Feel free to do some brainstorming on this and find the tasks that are both important to you and fit the quick win definition. Then you can alternate between them in the morning.

7. Final step: Go right into the crucial.

We’ve been quietly building up our whole morning just to be able to tackle the crucial task for the day with high energy and positive morale.

Once you have your morning ritual and early wins taken care of (which basically means that you’ve had a good start of the day), you can confidently move on to your main task for the day, whatever it might be.

Believe me, trying to get an important task done when you have the energy to finish it, versus trying to do so when you’re deprived of it makes all the difference.

What’s your take on this sort of morning ritual? Are you willing to give it a go?

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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