Would you like to get a jump start on your day and keep yourself in a high state of productivity all day, every day? Before you start your work routine at your normal earthly time, consider this: many of the world’s most successful founders and CEOs (think Apple’s Tim Cook) have an edge because they’re starting their day at a time when the rest of us are still asleep.
How early are we talking? As I covered here, 4 a.m. may be the most productive time of the day, because there are minimal distractions before the sun rises, no one is emailing or texting you, and there’s less to see on social media.
If that’s not your cup of tea, there is another way to set the stage for a productive day before distractions start to pile up and fires need to be put out. Follow these morning steps as the pathway to mastering the rest of your day.
Spend 15 minutes alone doing deep breathing and some form of meditation. If 15 minutes feels too hard, start with five, but be consistent. Leading-edge brain research shows what monks have long known–that meditation calms the mind and cultivates focus. It can also increase the brain’s gamma waves, which are associated with attention, learning, memory, happiness, and the “a-ha!” moments we experience when we make a complex connection.
2. Get insight and learn something new
Gain insight into the world around you by spending some time every morning reading the news, reading a book, or listening to a podcast. As psychologist Dacher Keltner has found, within organizations, the most powerful people are those who take the time to listen to and learn from others, because these actions engender trust. Starting the day with learning not only expands our knowledge but also primes this listening-learning mindset.
3. Have a productive “opening work ritual”
Once you’re done meditating, taking care of your bodily needs, eating a healthy breakfast, and learning something new, your opening ritual is a time to map out the first 30 to 60 minutes of your workday. Look at your calendar for the coming week, update your to-do list, note your top priorities for the day, clear off your desk, and get organized. Ask yourself, what do I need to do to start the day well, and how much time should I allocate to each task? Then do everything in your power to avoid tasks that steal your productivity.
4. Avoid early morning distractions, like email
The last thing you want to do is access your email. Because once you open your inbox, game over. Chances are you’ll get sucked into a whirlpool of others’ needs and “urgent” requests, and never get to your sacred, opening ritual. So, resist the temptation to open your email until you’ve mapped out your day. Also, get rid of other morning interruptions. Do you need to put your phone on airplane mode? Are notifications off?
5. Drop the morning meeting
So now that you have a handle on managing your mornings in a more holistic way and are ready to get off to a fast start at work, be aware of what sucks your energy and focus the minute you open the laptop. One of the biggest culprits? The morning meeting. Your productive morning state of flow can often be derailed by having to attend unimportant or redundant meetings that could easily be rescheduled for noon or later. This is frustrating and demotivating for people whose turbocharged creative juices and high-octane productivity are being released in the morning. Leaders need to recognize the importance of scheduling meetings for slower work times, and give workers the option to use their mornings according to their work styles and how their brains function at an optimum level.