The 5 secrets to a productive day: How to use your mornings as a springboard for success
For the longest time I whiled away my mornings being busy but not effective. I started off on the wrong foot.
I’d get mesmerised by intrusive email notifications that created a false sense of urgency. I’d check my facebook account only to wake up from the ‘facebook trance’ hours later.
Sometimes my mind would meander and revel in pointless pontification with very little output to show for it.
Don’t get me wrong … I’m all for reflection … but meaningless pondering without any specific purpose is just that. Meaningless pondering.
If I’m going to spend time in contemplation then I’m better off asking myself a specific question and allocating a set amount of time to reflect on it. Sort of direct my subconscious.
I found that my most productive days have one thing in common. Mindful mornings.
Mornings filled with mindfulness and sensible choices that set the tone for the rest of the day. Making the right choices early in the day gives me a feeling of accomplishment which is the ultimate motivator as far as I’m concerned.
It’s the perfect springboard that enables me to dive into a day filled with accomplishments aligned to my long term goals.
Here’s a list of the top 5 things I can do within the first 3-4 hours of my day get into ‘the zone’. This sets the tone. And from there it’s onwards and upwards …
1. Meditate For About 5 Minutes Each Morning (longer if possible)
There are many forms of meditation. To me meditation is simply the act of focusing your attention and being in the moment. I find the best way to do this is to focus on the breath.
Just ‘watch’ the breath as it goes in and out of the body. That’s it. It’s as simple as that.
The cumulative effect of doing that each morning over a few weeks is deep and profound. It sort of creates this sense spaciousness within that seems to follow me around for the rest of the day.
A little ‘oasis’ that I can retreat to when the going gets tough.
After having meditated regularly for about 3 months now I find that when I’m stressed my attention automatically goes back to my breath. This is immediately followed by a feeling of being centred and relaxed. Pretty magical.
Consistency is key here.
The benefit is cumulative and only comes with consistent regular practice. I’d start with one minute each morning if 5 minutes is too daunting.
Once you’ve started the practice just don’t break the chain. Check out my earlier post on how Jerry Seinfeld used the don’t break the chain technique to come up with excellent material.
2. Get To The Gym
A good run on the treadmill blows the cobwebs out.
Nothing like the feeling of pumping your lungs full of air a few hundred times.
I think running on treadmills tend to absorb impact quite well and are easier on the knees and ankles. I prefer them to pounding the pavement.
Plus there are a few benefits that treadmills offer including as watching educational videos, or TV shows or even planning a healthy meal. Check out the 5th strategy in my post about 7 strategies to a creating a regular exercise routine for more on how I get the most out of my time on the treadmill.
If running is not an option then walking is a good substitute. I have a target of getting to 10,000 steps each day and haven’t broken it since. Best way to make sure you do this is get a pedometer.
I went all out and invested in a fitbit but any pedometer will do. A fit bit charts your progress beautifully but a pedometer and a notebook would work just as well.
The trick here is to gamify your exercise routine. Reward yourself when you hit the target and create some sort of penalty for missing it. The act of recording is very important. That in itself makes a massive difference to your exercise patterns.
3. Read Inspiring Material
This is very easy to do in today’s smartphone age. You have various options to read what you want … such as pulse, zite etc. But be choosy about what you read.
I find that creating lists on twitter to follow people that inspire me is a great way to get motivated.
Creating a list on twitter is easy and allows you to follow only those people who you add to the list. It cuts out the noise quite nicely.
Reading these selected tweets is a very good way of setting the bar high and keeps you punching above your weight for the rest of the day.
4. Create targeted to do list and decide on the one most important thing that you need to get done today.
Ideally this one thing will eliminate other tasks on your list. Focus on what’s strategically important and not just what’s urgent.
Check out my post on creating targeted to do lists in 3 steps using a combination of David Allen’s Getting things done approach and Stephen Covey’s four quadrants to prioritise tasks as discussed in his book First Things First
5. Drink plenty of water
Sounds too simple to be true. I know.
But here’s the rub. Your body has been dehydrated for about 8 hours overnight.
Drinking plenty of water has several benefits. It rehydrates the body, improves concentration levels and allays false hunger to name a few.
Studies have shown that drinking water can reduce headaches and increase energy levels throughout the day. It can also serve to regulate appetite.
So there you have it. My list of top 5 things you can do each morning to kick off a productive, meaningful and fulfilling day.
What are yours?