Six Habits That Will Make Your Mornings More Productive
Today, I’m going to share with you some of the strategies that have helped me have one of my most productive years ever. I’ve been able to launch two new startups, write a book, maintain a six-figure marketing consultancy, get married and travel.
And I owe it all to how I manage my mornings.
Or at least, some of it…
In this blog post, I’m going to talk about six different habits that I’ve adopted over the last few years and have tried to stick to as much as possible. Some I’ve stuck with and others are more dependant on the circumstance and what’s going on. I’m not going to lie and suggest that I’ve been perfect but I will admit that these habits have changed the game for me. Some days I forget one or two things on this list but for the most part, this is my go-to approach for starting my day with optimal productivity and effectiveness.
Some days I forget one or two things on this list but for the most part, these are some habits that I’ve learned from some of the best. So let’s get to it – Here are six habits that I want you to steal and apply to your own life. Even if it’s just for a couple weeks, give them a try and let me know how things turn out:
Start The Day With Lemon & Water
When life gives you a lemon… squeeze it, mix it with six ounces of distilled water and drink twice daily.
The human body is more than 60% water but most of us often forget to drink a single glass before noon. And no – that cup of coffee doesn’t count.
Over the last three months, I’ve been making it a habit to include a half of lemon in my morning glass of water. I picked up this habit after hearing from my wife that she was told from her yoga instructor that it was good for the body. So I decided to do a little digging…
What I found is that a simple slice of lemon can make a big difference.
According to Life Hacker the benefits of drinking lemon water in the morning are real.
- A glass of lemon water flushes out the toxins in your body by enhancing enzyme function and stimulating your liver.
- The most important part for me, is that lemon water provides your body with energy when it enters your digestive tract. Some people have made claims that they’ve been able to get off caffeine entirely because of the switch – I’m not ready for that.
- The more lemon water you drink, the more likely it will decrease the acidity in your body, which is connected to the likelihood of disease. It removes uric acid in your joints as well which is one of the main causes of inflammation.
Before you run off and start chugging back Lemons, you need to take a few precautions.
First, I always pluck the seeds out of my lemons before squeezing the juice into my bottle. Some people have a lemon press – I’d recommend it if you’re not one for getting messy.
Second, studies have shown that while lemon water can aid digestion, provide nutrients, boost your immune system and more – the acid in lemon juice can erode your teeth enamel. A couple ways to avoid that is to: (1) Drink with a straw so the acidic liquid goes down immediately, (2) make sure your portions have more water than juice and (3) don’t brush your teeth for at least an hour after having your drink.
End Your Day By Creating A To-Do List
How many times have you sat at your desk and frantically had to figure out what to do?
It happens far too often.
Five years ago, I can across the idea of writing my to-do list for the following day before I left the office so I could get right to execution upon my arrival. While some people would look around for direction and scramble to their emails – I knew exactly what needed to be done.
Personally, I feel lost when I don’t have my to-do list next to me. I can quickly find myself stumbling through tasks and making the mistake of accepting the idea of multitasking instead of getting the right tasks done.
One of the biggest lessons I learned about my to-do list was the importance of keeping things simple. A few years back I bought a notebook that had the ultimate to-do list. It required me to write out how much time was being put into each task, the category in which it should fall (family, work, health, etc) and a priority scale in terms of importance.
It was fun…for a week. But this approach was way too specific for me.
Today my to-do list looks like this:
That’s the todo list of the great Johnny Cash.
But the simplicity of this todo list is very similar to mine.
Even the comedian Drew Carey understands the importance of productivity. Drew outsourced the development of a productivity strategy to David Allen, the Author of the classic book; Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity who taught him the value of to-do lists.
Studies believed that creating a to-do list wasn’t the answer for trying to be productive. Research found that the Zeigarnik effect, an internal nagging caused people to be over stressed as tasks were always left incomplete. But recent research has shed a different perspective between the conscious and unconscious and our to-do lists.
The unconscious is asking the conscious mind to make a plan. The unconscious mind apparently can’t do this on its own, so it nags the conscious mind to make a plan with specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious can stop nagging the conscious mind with reminders.
This means, create a to-do list but include a timeline for when certain tasks will be done. If you have to write a blog post today – write ‘today’ next to that empty box. If you have to clean your desktop this week – write ‘by Friday’ next to that empty box. From there, execute within your timeframes and you won’t suffer from the internal mental kung fu that can occur.
Tools For Managing Your To-Do List:
Wunderlist is self-described as the easiest way to get stuff done. Whether you’re planning a holiday, sharing a shopping list with a partner or managing multiple work projects, Wunderlist is here to help you tick off all your personal and professional to-dos.
Whether you’re planning a holiday, sharing a shopping list with a partner or managing multiple work projects, Wunderlist is a great tool for ticking off both your personal and professional to-dos.
Tick Tick is a lightweight app for organizing work projects, grocery lists, and more. The interface is very simple making it easy to manage and execute your tasks. The app even allows you to create geolocation reminders that send you a notification upon arriving or leaving a specific location.
Working seamlessly across multiple platforms, Tick Tick is a great to-do list and task management app.
One of the most popular task management apps, Any.do helps you get things done by syncing everything from personal and work projects directly to your device. Similar to other apps, this tool makes it easy to check things off but what I like most is the slick design and categorization of tasks.
Don’t Answer Any Emails Until After 10 AM
Stop checking your email first thing in the morning.
David Karp, the mastermind behind Tumblr understands the value of avoiding email first thing in the morning.
I try hard not to check e-mails until I get to the office, which is usually between 9:30 and 10AM. Reading e-mails at home never feels good or productive. If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me.
Don’t get me wrong, David Karp has the luxury of being able to jump on a Vespa and pull into the office whenever he wants. The idea of not checking your email first thing in the morning has been encouraged by Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins and more. But it’s still typically met with one of these responses:
1) That’s a brilliant idea
2) There’s no way I would be able to do that
A study conducted at King’s College London University found that constantly checking your email leads to a functional drop of 10 IQ points. We already spend more than 13 hours of our week on email so why start your day with something so draining?
Make it a habit to wait. And if someone really needs you, it’s likely they’ll swing by your desk or give you a call. Own your schedule. Own your inbox.
Arrive At The Office Before Everyone Else
Early to bed early to rise, keeps a man healthy wealthy and wise. – Benjamin Franklin
When you’re the first person to turn on the lights in the office there’s a bit of satisfaction that comes along with it. You can be the first to get a cup of coffee and the first to turn on their laptop before tackling the day.
What’s even more important is that when you’re the first one in the office, there is no opportunities for distraction. You won’t have anyone to ask you to resend that email or quickly come for a walk to discuss their latest project. The ability to focus is at an all-time high and an opportunity you should capitalize on while you can.
Instead, you can focus on the tasks you laid out for yourself the night before. The act of getting to work before everyone else also forces you to wake up early. One of the most common traits amongst successful people is how early they wake up. Here are a few examples:
- Jack Dorsey: 5:30AM
- Richard Branson: 5:45AM
- Indra Nooyi: 4:00AM
- Dan Akerson: 4:30AM
- David Cush: 4:15AM
- Tim Cook 4:30AM
Each of these early risers operate billion dollar empires. It’s not easy getting up early but making it a habit and getting to the office before others can lead to many benefits. From the influence it will have on how people perceive you to your own ability to execute without distraction – this is a simple habit that could play a huge role in the acceleration of your career.
Not an early bird?
This visual from Anna Vital of Funders & Founders is a great look at how you can get up earlier. Steal some of these ideas and implement them in your own day to day:
Establish A Morning Routine That You Enjoy
It’s always easier to wake up when you have something to look forward to.
It could be a special breakfast.
It could be a special beverage.
It could be a book that you only read in the morning.
When you do this, it gives you something to invigorate your mind. If your work doesn’t inspire you to hop out of bed in the morning, find something else that can. It could be as simple as setting your alarm to your favorite pump up track to get your blood flowing and adrenaline pumping.
Optimize Your Sleeping Circumstances
Studies show that the quality of your sleep is just as important as the act of getting some sleep.
Have you ever had a restless night where you toss and turn but don’t know why?
The variables that go into making a potential great sleep are plentiful. Understanding some of these variables and optimizing your circumstances to give you the best chances for a great sleep is key. A lot of people have false assumptions around what goes into a great sleep and what they can do before bed that can help ensure of one.
One of the most common late night mistakes made by people is the idea of having a nightcap before bed. The assumption that a little booze before bed is a good thing has been recently proven false by multiple studies. In fact a recent study found that just two or more drinks can negatively impact your REM sleep which can have a huge impact on your output the next day. Other studies found that regardless of how much you drink, alcohol increases the speed in which you fall to sleep in which you fall into deep sleep but increase the amount of disruption in the second half.
“Alcohol on the whole is not useful for improving a whole night’s sleep. Sleep may be deeper to start with, but then becomes disrupted. Additionally, that deeper sleep will probably promote snoring and poorer breathing. So, one shouldn’t expect better sleep with alcohol.” Source
Ok, so booze won’t help – Where can you turn to optimize your sleep?
There are a few things you can do.
1) Use Sleep Tracking Applications
I’ve been using SleepCycle for the past four years and it’s one of my favorites. The application allows you to track your sleeping patterns and analyze the data to gain insight about how well you’re sleeping or how much sleep you’re getting. You just place your phone on your mattress and set the alarm. The app will then track both sound and movement to determine when is the optimal time for waking you up.
One of the more recent and clinically validated sleep trackers is called Beddit. I’ve never tried it but it’s a slick evolution to SleepCycle and is a tracking service I could definitely see myself using. Check out this video of the Beddit in action:
2) Eat Foods That Accelerate Rather Than Hinder Sleep
Most people don’t realize but the amino acid, tryptophan is a building block for the sleep-related chemical serotonin. Turkey is a well-known tryptophan source (unofficially the reason for your post-Christmass dinner nap), but turkey is not the only source. Eggs, chicken, fish, and nuts all carry about equal amounts of tryptophan making them a great alternative for a late night snack,
The obvious sleep buffer is anything with caffeine. I know you’re thirsting for that cup of coffee but don’t drink it too close to bed. The same goes for that delicious chocolate bar or bag of skittles you forgot you left in your coat pocket after the movies. Sugar and caffeine are two ingredients that will keep you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
3) Create The Optimal Environment
Between our laptops, IPads, smartphones and Apple watches – our bedrooms are filled with flashing lights. Who needs a night light this day and age when there’s a flashlight stuck to our phone? The issue is, all of these lights are not good for someone looking to have a quality night sleep. In fact, all of this light can result in health problems long term.
Take this excerpt from a discussion on light and its impact on sleep from io9:
The part of your brain that controls your biological clock is a group of cells in the hypothalamus. These cells respond to light and dark signals. The optic nerves in our eyes senses light and transmits a signal to the SCN telling the brain that it’s time to wake up. It also kickstarts other processes, like raising body temperature and producing hormones like cortisol. Our cortisol levels are relatively low at night, allowing us to sleep, and higher during the day, allowing for the stabilization of energy levels and the modulation of immune function. But LAN unnaturally elevates cortisol levels at night, which disrupts sleep and introduces a host of problems relating to body-fat levels, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation.
In a nutshell: Sleep + Light = Tossing & Turning.
The best environment for a great sleep is a pitch black room. Shut your blinds, turn off devices, don’t sleep with the TV on and cover up your clock as well. Whatever you can do to make your room as dark as it can be will increase the likelihood of a solid sleep.
Wrapping Things Up
You now know some of the habits I’ve tried to adapt into my own life.
Now it’s time for you to put these habits into practice.
The First Step?
Studies show that when you commit to something in public, you’re more likely to follow through. So let me know which habit you’re going to try to adopt. Comment, tweet me, send me an email or tell a friend.
This blog post was written by Ross Simmonds, co-founder of Crate – a content curation tool that helps save you time from hunting for great content to share online. Sign up for Crate today and start sharing content that your audience wants.