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Multi-Tasking Your Morning – 15 Steps to Boost Productivity Before You Start Your Day

Multi-Tasking Your Morning – 15 Steps to Boost Productivity Before You Start Your Day


    It’s amazing how a morning can suck minutes or even hours away from your day before you even open your eyes completely.

    Fortunately, it’s easy to get time back in the morning – all you need to do is get organized and utilize some new efficiencies. Of course, before you can establish new patterns, you need to figure out what patterns you’ve already established – and that is the first step to a properly multi-tasked morning.

    Step 1: Establish Current Routine

    Before you can make any changes to your current routine, you need to know what it is. Start by taking notice of how you spend your time. Do you reset the alarm a few times? Do you sit in the kitchen and wait for the coffee to brew? Jot down the steps you take and the times that you actually do these things.

    Step 2: Decide What’s Most Important

    What’s the point of being efficient if you’re not able to enjoy the time you’re saving. If there is something in your morning routine that you feel you simply can’t live without, it needs to be identified and considered sacred. For example, if you really need to snooze at least once in the morning, that ten minute sleep snack can be preserved. Likewise the cup of coffee and headline grazing.

    Step 3: Make a List

    Now that you know what you’re doing, make a list of the things that must be done in the morning. It may be as simple as: wake up, bathroom, coffee, shower, dressed, check emails, and leave for work. Some lists are much more complicated with exercise, dog walking and meditation thrown in.

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    Step 4: Consider Overlap

    If you wash your hair in the morning and you have to let it sit in curlers for a few minutes, why not use that few minutes for something else in your routine? For example, rather than brushing your teeth and flossing before your shower, switch and shower first. Then, with your hair set, brush and floss. You just saved five minutes!

    Step 5: Eliminate Snooze

    If your morning routine includes setting snooze at least once, you’re adding ten minutes onto your day. It’s likely you’ve already added the extra time to the beginning of day – setting the alarm at 5:50 instead of 6, for example, to accommodate the extra time. If not, either stop the snooze habit or adjust your morning wake-up time to allow it. Thinking about waking up earlier just to hit snooze takes most of the fun out of it anyhow.

    Step 6: Automate Your Coffee

    If you’re a coffee drinker, splurge in a programmable coffeemaker. (Usually this isn’t a big splurge – less than $30.) Then, set up the grounds, set the timer and make it a new routine before bed. With a programmable coffee pot, your coffee will be ready and waiting when you wake up or when you get out of the shower – whichever pleases you most.

    Step 7: Find Simple Breakfast Items

    While it’s fun to cook yourself breakfast in the morning and even more fun to grab food on the way to work, you’re actually not saving yourself any time by stopping in a drive through. It usually takes at least five minutes to get a drive-through order and then you have to find time to eat it while commuting. Simple breakfast items that can be cooked in the toaster or microwave take only a few minutes and can be munched before you walk out the door or while you drive.

    Step 8: Buy Travel Cups

    Rather than sipping and savoring your coffee in the morning, take it with you. Making coffee at home (in your new programmable coffee pot!) and then taking it with you will not only save you plenty of money compared to the local coffee shop, but it will also save you serious amounts of time as well.

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    That’s another five to ten minutes added back to your morning commute. There are disposable travel cups available in the grocery store complete with lids, much like the coffee shop’s version, or you can go green with a few insulated cups that you bring home and wash.

    Step 9: Shave in the Shower

    The shower is a great place to save time if you’re willing to break lifetime routines. For example, shaving in the shower can cut out a few extra minutes over shaving after the shower. Buy a special shaving mirror for the shower and keep your soap handy. Lather up and shave toward the end of your shower, rinse and you’re ready! Ladies can do the same, only they might save some extra time by shaving their legs while they wait a few minutes for the conditioner to set after a shampoo.

    Step 10: Stop Shampooing

    If you have medium to long hair, you don’t need to wash your hair every day. In fact, washing your hair every day can actually make it overly dry and lead to split ends. You can save yourself some time every other morning by simply shampooing every other day. On the days you don’t shampoo, you can pin your hair up and keep it dry or rinse it with warm water.

    Step 11: Stop Showering

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    For most of us a shower in the morning is a staple. But does it have to be? You would save a substantial amount of time in the morning if you stopped showering before you leave for work. Of course that means you’ll need to shower at another point in your day – perhaps after your lunch workout or in the evenings before bed.

    Step 12: Stop Your Paper Subscription

    Normally you might linger ten minutes or so over the paper while you eat your breakfast or drink your coffee. It would be far better, however, to stop your paper subscription and simply read the news on your device or listen to the news of the world on the radio on your way to work. This is true multitasking – sipping coffee, driving to work and getting all of your news at the same time.

    Step 13: Eliminate Driving

    This is a tossup for many individuals, but if you’re able to carpool to work or ride in on a train, you gain back a huge amount of time that you’d normally have to spend focused on the road. If you’re riding on the train, for example, you can read the headlines, check your emails, get your horoscope, eat your breakfast and sip the coffee you brought from home all before you arrive at work.

    Step 14: Go Mobile

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    If you’re still using an alarm clock to wake up and your desktop to check emails, you’re not using the latest timesaving technology. Use your phone as your alarm clock. Then, when it goes off, snatch it up to turn off the alarm and go ahead and skim through your emails before you actually even get out of bed. You’ll save the time booting your computer if you normally check emails in the morning, and you’ll use those first few minutes of wake up time more productively.

    Step 15: Mesh Schedules

    If you’re sharing a bathroom, all of your efficiencies are completely wasted if your roommate or partner isn’t on something of a schedule, too. Be very clear about the times that you need the bathroom and if the times overlap between the two of you, rearrange your schedule, adjust your wake-up time or simply flip a coin to make it all work. Otherwise it’s all for naught!

    (Photo credit: Girl Opens Curtains via Shutterstock)

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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)

      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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