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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?

More by this author

Karol Krol

Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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