Every day, we’re inundated with information about how to become our best selves…and too often there’s a price tag attached. Take this seminar! Buy this energy drink! Wear this power outfit! There’s seemingly no end to the number of things we can buy and use to make ourselves wealthier or more successful. Now, I don’t want to say those products are all bunk (and for the low, low price of $299.95, you can take my seminar on why all other success-promising products are terrible), but…they’re kinda bunk. You actually already have a lot of the tools you need to become more successful and productive. Or at least you can pick them up and develop them, with no additional cost to you and yours. The changes to make your day more effective and productive start with you, like any good changes.
Basically, some of the habits that can make you more successful are already within your grasp…you just need to figure out how to work them in throughout your day.
Becoming a morning person can have great benefits for your health and motivation overall. If you’re already a morning person, you probably just have to make a couple of tweaks to your routine here and there to maximize the benefits. If you’re not a morning person, well, now’s as good a time as any to start becoming one!
1. Get up earlier.
I hear that groan from some of you, and I sympathize—I too am a snooze button enthusiast. But adjusting your wake-up routine by just 30 minutes (or ideally, an hour) will make it feel like there really are more hours in the day. It has the benefit of easing you into the day without feeling rushed, and allows for more time to do things like #2 and #3 (spoiler alert). “I’m gonna wake up earlier every day” is easier said than done, so here are some ways you can actually get to the “doing” phase:
- Stop hitting the “snooze” button. The snooze button almost always leads to overestimating how much time you have before you really need to get up and go.
- Find an alarm clock you can’t ignore. Like one that runs away from you. Or an app that nudges you awake at the optimal time in your sleep phase. It can be as simple as a phone or radio alarm set to music you dislike, so that you have an incentive to get up and shut it off…and while you’re up, you might as well start moving, no?
2. Eat a good breakfast.
Your parents and Saturday morning cartoons were right on this one…a healthy, balanced breakfast primes your brain and your body for a busy day.
3. Work out in the morning.
If you don’t have time for a trip to the gym, you can do other things, like lengthening Fido’s morning walk, or taking a few extra minutes to do yoga. Think of it as an extra jolt to get your body in motion so it stays in motion for the day.
These are especially crucial at work, but you may find yourself applying them to other daily habits and routines as well.
4. Stop procrastinating.
You can do this later, but will you? Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, and in this case that means acknowledging that this task will be put off until tomorrow, and then probably Friday, and then after that who knows. Even if no one’s watching or especially cares about this task getting done, you do. It’s important to set and keep your own deadlines.
5. Don’t get caught in a downtime vortex.
We all need breaks sometimes—that’s non-negotiable for anyone who wants to maintain sanity, or give their eyes a break from staring at screens incessantly. Managing those breaks more efficiently will help tune up your day.
For example, if that personal email check slides into a peek at your fantasy baseball team, then a Twitter conversation with your college roommate, and then maybe a bathroom break, it can be tough to get back on task. Charley Mendoza at Keepinspiring.me recommends a 15-minute trick to keep a two-minute break from sliding into a 30-minute break in productivity: “Next time you don’t feel like working, keep calm and use the Force. And by that, I mean, force yourself to work for just 15 minutes then see what happens. Usually, those 15 minutes will be enough to give you some momentum.”
It can help to have mini agendas for your breaks…for example, have two or three specific social media breaks during the day where you peek at Facebook doings quickly, then go back to your main task at hand. The next break can be the check of your baseball team, to see if you really should play that center fielder, then go back to the task at hand. Free-form breaks can get dangerous to all things productive, so it’s good to have a quick in-and-out plan so that you can get back to work before inertia sets in.
6. Stay informed.
This goes for the world in general (maybe work in some news breaks alongside the social media ones), but especially on matters that directly affect you, your company, or your industry. It can be as simple as following a few influential people in your field on social media, and doing a quick daily check to see what they’re discussing.
Also, read more in general. Current events, magazines, novels about teenage werewolves in love, biographies of famous First Ladies…the subject matter and format don’t matter as much as cultivating a habit of daily reading. Superman entrepreneur Elon Musk is rumored to have read four hours a day when he was younger, but that seems a bit excessive for most people with busy lives. If you have a train or bus commute, that’s a way to work in a few minutes of reading. It can also be a nightly ritual, just 15 minutes before you go to bed. It’s all about finding a few minutes to decompress and read about something outside of your own perspective.
7. Find a way to decompress when stress is high.
If you start from a place where you feel frazzled and stressed out, your day is not likely to improve from there. However, stress will almost always come into play in your work life at some point, no matter what you do. So how can you reconcile those?
Work on compartmentalizing, and developing small ways to alleviate that stress at work. Meditation is a good way to stop everything from swirling around your head or your desk for a moment. And in fact, it turns out that the workplace may be one of the best places to meditate, because it has the potential for immediate benefits. Here are three basic meditations to get you started, and help you get back to a less stressed spot where you feel more ready to tackle the rest of the day.
Even when you’re not technically working, keep working on yourself. The benefits will seep into all parts of your life: personal and professional.
8. Keep moving.
A sedentary day can be one of the biggest energy sucks around, especially if you go from desk chair to couch. Throughout your day, try to get up and take a short walk in between tasks, or try some office yoga to get your body in the game. At home, get up and do something small (a chore, a trip upstairs, playing with your pet iguana) in between episodes during a Netflix binge. Again, as with the morning exercise, it’s not what you do so much as that you’re moving and keeping your mind and body alert.
9. Prioritize your health.
Making conscious choices about what you eat, and how/when you exercise is a great start, but this also means doing a lot of basic maintenance: like regular check ups, using stress relief methods when you need them, and actually taking sick days when you really just need a day to heal up and watch some daytime TV while you sniffle. Trying to plow through discomfort, pain, or illness is going to knock you off your game, and taking the time and effort to make sure you’re present and healthy is a big contributor to everyday success.
10. Say yes more often.
Maybe not to everything that comes along, but when you find yourself about to say “no” to doing something (taking on a new task, trying something different), ask yourself why that is. If saying yes wouldn’t hurt you or cause hardship, and could very well lead to you experiencing and enjoying something different, then be bold and change your answer.
These are all pretty manageable, no? And there’s no need to be a hero and introduce all of them at once. Find the ones that work well with your routines, and start there. Small steps, small wins = big results as you get more comfortable making changes to your routine.
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