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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
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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 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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