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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 October 23, 2018

      Easily Distracted? Here’s Your Solution

      Easily Distracted? Here’s Your Solution

      Are you reading this article because you’re currently searching for a solution or method to help improve your focus? Trying to find a way to concentrate better so that you can get more done in your day? Or, do you feel like you spend a lot of time easily distracted on things other than what you’re meant to really be focusing on?

      Don’t worry, you’re not alone! As our society becomes more and more advanced, there is much more information for us to digest and more opportunities to experience. This can definitely be overwhelming and distracting! Whether it’s a work proposal that you’re trying to focus on writing, or a goal in life that you’re striving for, distractions do get in the way of your focus towards those important things in your life. And, the distractions come in a wide variety!

      For example, many of us are easily distracted by our mobile phones. Whether it’s the constant notifications popping up, or the need to scroll through your social media news feeds, these are all distractions that cost us time. There are also bigger distractions like wanting to go to a game on a beautiful day, or taking a weekend holiday even though you have a deadline due on Monday.

      What are Distractions?

      Let’s go deeper to break down and understand how distractions happen in the first place. Distractions are things that divert away your attention from the action that you’re trying to do. They make you lose focus and put you off track. The problem with distractions is that they not only cost time, they dilute your energy, too. Repeated interruptions of this sort can lead to demotivation, because you’ll feel like you’re overwhelmed… yet not getting anything done!

      Contrary to popular belief, our brains perform best when we’re focused on one objective at a time. We’re generally not good at constantly switching our attention between different tasks. Multiple studies have shown that when we do this, the performance of each task suffers compared to if we focused on them one by one. So multitasking isn’t the best option when it comes to wanting to get more done quickly.

      How Much Do Distractions Cost?

      As I mentioned previously, in today’s society, we’re faced with so much information that it’s easy to be bombarded by distractions.

      If you’re a typical working American, you’ll be distracted every 11 minutes; and, it will take you 25 minutes to settle down again to your task. Additionally, the more complicated your project, the longer it will take to regain your focus. This happens because your brain has to put in considerable effort when switching between complex objectives.

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      Distractions have a huge cost on our focus and productivity. If you want to improve or increase your focus, you need to learn to deal with the distractions in your life.

      What are Internal Distractions?

      When it comes to distractions, we tend to think of them as external occurrences: your phone starts ringing, someone talks to you and interrupts your train of thought when you were immersed in something important, or the sudden onset of construction noise when you’re in an important meeting.

      It’s very easy to blame external distractions as the cause when you can’t focus. But, there’s actually a hidden type of distraction beneath the surface that is just as, if not more, responsible for taking away your focus. These are Internal Distractions.

      The problem with internal distractions is, if you’re not acutely aware of them, you can be wasting both time and energy without even knowing it. So, before tackling external distractions effectively, you first have to take care of your internal distractions.

      Priority Chaos

      There are a few types of internal distractions, but let’s start with probably the most common one: the concept of Priority Chaos.

      One of the most common distractions we encounter is that we have too many options on hand. This can cause priority chaos.

      For example, some people may find it hard to focus at home because there are too many options to choose from. You can choose to feed your dog, read a book, watch TV, have a snack or take a nap.

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      Besides the costs of distraction mentioned before, priority chaos is a big demotivator. When there are too many potentially attractive options, it’s hard to focus your energy and choose one of them – ideally the one you should be doing.

      Priority chaos is also a demotivator because it makes you feel guilty. When you let your internal distractions overtake your focus, you’re the one who chooses to divert your own attention and energy away from your task. So when the task you wanted to complete doesn’t get done, you can’t blame an external factor. Whether you do it consciously or not, you’ll end up blaming yourself!

      Why Does Priority Chaos Happen?

      Your brain subconsciously prioritizes tasks based on three factors.

      1. To fulfil an existing need. For example, you need to go to the bathroom urgently, so your brain is guaranteed to prioritize it.
      2. To achieve a certain feeling of satisfaction, such as the satisfaction of eating a delicious chocolate fudge cake.
      3. The perceived cost of achieving the benefit. What is the effort, energy or time required to complete this action?

      The brain automatically take these 3 factors into account even when you’re not thinking about it.  

      Unfortunately, unless you’re consciously making an effort, your brain is not always the best at making accurate judgement calls. It tends to have a bias towards short term benefits and short term costs.

      As there are often many more options our brains link to short term benefits, when you’re trying to focus on a task that gives you a long term benefit, that task usually becomes low priority. This is the essence of Priority Chaos.

      How to Overcome Priority Chaos?

      The good news is that it’s not so difficult to overcome this common internal distraction.

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      The first step that you can take is to identify what task needs the most focus to get accomplished. Once you have that figured out, simply break down the that task into smaller, bite-sized tasks. Each bite-sized task should have a very clear short term benefit (something that you can easily describe in one sentence), and a very clear short term cost (something that you can quantify, such as time spent).

      For example, let’s say you have a grant proposal to write for an upcoming project at work. The first bite-sized task that you can accomplish is to outline the grant proposal and split it into 4 different categories. This will ensure that you cover everything that is needed, and allows you to focus on each section one at a time.

      Also, set a time limit or duration for each bite sized task. The time limit should be short enough so that it’s a no-brainer to want to check it off. Remember, the brain has a bias towards short term benefits, so it’s likely you’ll find it hard to resist checking off a bite-sized task!

      The next step would be to evaluate your other options. Besides focusing on your grant proposal, what are all the possible things that you could be doing that would divert your attention away? Be realistic about what they are! Write them all down, and list out the benefits and the costs associated. You don’t have to write them down in detail, just a general description will do.

      For instance, instead of writing your proposal, you could spend 20 minutes watching a comedy series on Netflix. The benefit is that you get entertained and have a good laugh. The cost is that you’ve just lost 20 minutes of your time, and that comedy series did nothing to help you with the grant proposal.

      Once you have your list completed, start prioritizing them. You have a time limit, so you need to order your tasks by priority, starting with the focus task as your top priority. Then fit the others around it.

      For any remaining tasks on the list that won’t fit within your allocated time, don’t worry. You don’t have to give them up. Just schedule them for another time.

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      Long and Short Term Benefits

      As explained earlier, our brains are not good at evaluating and comparing short term and long term benefits.

      Short term benefits usually have a relatively low cost and are concrete, allowing our brains to easily grasp them. We usually associate long term benefits with high cost, and these perceived costs are usually not as clear cut. The longer term it is, the more effort it takes to imagine the benefits. This automatically creates a mental barrier and resistance in our brains. As a result, we tend to trade long term gain for short term gains.

      This is the reason why you might know that something is good for you in the long term, such as losing weight and exercising, but for some reason, you can’t force yourself to feel excited about it. On the other hand, you might know that something is bad for you, such as binge eating junk food. But, the anticipation of short term satisfaction overwhelms your conscious ability to resist it.

      This is the next type of internal distraction that we face, and it is called Short & Long Term Mismatch. Thankfully, this can be tackled, too.

      If you’d like to learn more about this internal distraction and how to overcome it, subscribe to our newsletter today, where you will automatically receive more of this knowledge that will allow you to be in greater control of your situation and actions.

      There is More Than Focus alone!

      Whether it’s wanting to increase your focus to be more productive, or wanting to manage your time better, here at Lifehack, we’re committed to helping you find and become a better you. If you’d like to truly transform your life around, you shouldn’t be focusing only on one area of your life–such as changing a career or learning to manage your time better, and expect life-changing results. Instead, you must focus on changing yourself in several areas at once–which are what I call the 7 Cornerstone Skills.

      These 7 Cornerstone Skills will help you to build a long term foundation. It’s not teaching a set of independent skills — it’s one system with different aspects. Here at Lifehack, we’ve created the perfect course that will enable you to learn all 7 skills, and as you go through the course, we’ll connect the dots into a single cohesive whole. You’ll progress on a journey of personal growth and transformation with each module that you complete. So if you’re feeling stuck in any area of your life today, why not start this journey with us?

      Featured photo credit: Erik Lucatero via unsplash.com

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