Yeah, we all know that starting your morning off the wrong way can have a detrimental effect on the rest of your day, and negatively impact your productivity, efficiency and mental wellbeing. It’s something we’re all aware of but few of us seem to be tackling as a priority, myself included. But I’m on a mission to get sh*t done, so why don’t you join me?
Putting measures in place to ensure you kick things off with the right mindset WILL help set you up for a great day by starting as you mean to go on, with purpose and intention. I love these buzzwords, and it’d do you well to keep coming back to them regularly – what is your purpose? What are your intentions?
With that in mind, here are five ‘don’ts’ to help you avoid setting yourself up for failure by starting your day in a way that is at odds with your goals. And I speak from personal experience…
Don’t snooze your alarm
As overwhelmingly tempting as it may be to hit snooze for a few more minutes of precious sleep, it will ultimately make you feel worse. As well as the inevitable killer disappointment you’ll feel about not sticking to your schedule, every time you go back to sleep your body enters a new sleep cycle, so you’ll end up feeling groggy and disoriented when you eventually haul yourself out of your cosy cocoon. Unless you’re the kind of person who leaps out of bed every morning and thrives on being awake early, being woken up isn’t fun, so why put yourself through it again and again? Get the worst part out of the way; get up as soon as your alarm goes off, and resist the temptation to snooze.
Don’t immediately pick up your phone or laptop
Most people (people I know, at least) immediately roll over and pick up a device after they wake up. It’s natural to want to know what you’ve missed while you were asleep, but is it really that pressing and urgent that you tune into the world immediately? How about trying to be a bit more mindful about how you spend your first few waking minutes. Think about the first thing you’d like to achieve or experience, rather than getting sucked into endless scrolling through social media or replying to messages. Those things can wait, and avoiding them first thing will stop you from feeling immediately overwhelmed, stressed, or lethargic. Make yourself a cup of coffee, write a to-do list, get up and do some yoga, go for a run, write that blog post you’ve been putting off, or simply just sit and ‘be’ for a few minutes; prioritise yourself. This will help you start your day with a calm and clear mind.
Don’t start work before you look after yourself
It might seem counter-intuitive from a productivity-maximising point of view, but don’t immerse yourself in work before you’ve attended to YOUR OWN needs. It’s not procrastination to want to have breakfast, exercise, or have a shower before you get started. Doing these things for yourself will mean that although you might get started a little later, you’ll feel fresh and purposeful when you do. Emerging from a deep state of concentration at 3pm and realising you haven’t brushed your teeth or even eaten will only make you feel skanky and worn out, and it’s all too easy to do when you’re working from home. Practise self-care and prioritise the things you need to do to feel energised and ready to take on the day.
It’s SO important to set clear boundaries between work and free time; set yourself a work schedule and try to stick to it. You won’t be your most productive, creative self if your work/life balance is out of whack.
Don’t abandon routine and ritual (creating habits)
A well-thought-out routine, rather than being restrictive, will actually be freeing. It liberates your mind from having to make decisions about what to do next, and potential procrastination in order to avoid this. Instead, you can simply follow a routine that you know works for you without having to think about it. Pay attention to what works for you and build your routine around that. What does a successful day look like to you, and what does it contain, in what order? Write your routine down and refer to it when you start to feel yourself getting bogged down with indecision.
Creating habits is also far easier to achieve within a routine, because a new habit is more likely to stick when attached to an existing habit and becomes a ritual. As a basic example, if you struggle to remember to take your vitamins every day, attach that new habit to the existing habit of brushing your teeth, and keep the bottle next to your toothbrush. It’s that simple. Creating a routine that you love will help you flourish every day.
Don’t forget to work with your own rhythm
There isn’t a ‘right’ way to be productive; the best way is simply whatever works for you. Everyone operates at different speeds and hits their productive ‘peak’ at different times during the day. If you tend to start off slow in the morning but build momentum throughout the day, design your to-do list so that you get the mundane or repetitive tasks out of the way first and save the more challenging tasks for later. And vice versa; if you are a morning person whose creative energy gradually depletes as the day wears on, work on the more complex things first. Managing your time effectively is about being attentive to your patterns and energy levels and adapting the way you work accordingly. You’ll be surprised what you can achieve if you can master this.
AND don’t forget to schedule in blank space, for either rest or to allow for unforeseen tasks that come your way.
Ultimately, by adopting a mindset of self-reflection and intentional time management, you’ll find you start your day more refreshed and engaged, and finish it feeling productive and satisfied. The trick to improving any system is to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, and implement changes that make success more achievable. This starts from the moment you wake up.
Now go forth, and get sh*t done.
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