We’re going through this series called “Gain A Better Work Day,” where we want to look at some practices and principles that will improve the way you deliver at work with the limited yet valuable time you put into things that matter. Last week, we talked about how to prepare for the unexpected so that you don’t fumble and panic on the spot.
This week, I want to talk about something that is at some level controversial, but one that could be your ticket to being more productive at work- mornings. Now you might be thinking that because you work a night shift or because you’re more “productive in the evenings” that this isn’t the article for you. Well, I encourage you to hang on just a little bit more and you just might learn a thing or two as well.
We all have different preferences, but none of us are wired any differently when it comes to sleeping time. I do not believe that there is such a thing as a “natural” morning person or a night owl by design. These are all a matter of preferences and necessities. And if you want to stick to a late evening routine that’s completely fine, but maybe you’re thinking that you want to make that shift to the mornings but you feel that it’s impossible. I’m here to tell you that it’s not.
Majority of the start of my work life, I was w night owl. I would work until five in the morning and sleep at six. But when time came that I realized that that habit was no longer what I preferred, I made a switch. How I made that switch, I’ll probably talk about some other time. In the meantime, here’s an article by Michael Hyatt on how to do that.
But what I really want to talk about is about how to make the most of your mornings. The only reason why anyone would want to switch or maybe want to improve their mornings is because nothing is happening.
Because I have committed to making my mornings productive, I now have more time to build relationships, recreate and to help other people. Maybe you’re thinking you want a more productive morning as well, and it is possible.
I would have to say that 70-75 percent of the work I do is accomplished right before lunch time, and I do that so that I have afternoons to be flexible so that I can do other things like spend time with my family, take another side project or even just read a book. Because I have committed to making my mornings productive, I now have more time to build relationships, recreate and to help other people. Maybe you’re thinking you want a more productive morning as well, and it is possible.
So what’s the secret to creating a more productive morning? The secret is really not a secret at all, but it’s really much easier said than done. Here it is: Create a morning ritual.
Rituals, systems and processes are most helpful in many ways. They give you a way of bringing such a familiarity that you can do things with more speed, accuracy and efficiency. When we automate our bodies by doing the same thing over and over again, we actually get more done with the same amount of time. This explains why common habits like driving, brushing your teeth, eating and browsing Facebook can be done with minimal mindfulness- because they are rituals that have their place in our day.
Building a ritual takes time, effort and even sometimes money to set into place, but it always turns out worth it in the end. Here are five practical tips to building a firm and effective morning ritual today.
- Set an alarm. There’s no point setting a time for exercise and devotionals at 8:30AM when you wake up 15 minutes before 9AM. If you want a ritual to work, you want to remove as much controllable elements that might get in the way of your morning ritual- one of the most prevalent being waking up late. Of course, you do want to set enough time for sleep though. There’s very little point in setting an alarm for 6AM if you sleep at midnight, so be fair to yourself.
- Put it in writing. Or if you’re the techy type, get it on your calendar. I find Google Calendar and Apple’s Calendar program to be great ways to automate my ritual by putting in everything I do in the mornings into detailed writing and also placing reminders and alarms for each.
- Be religious about it. There’s no point in creating a system if you don’t commit to it. Sure there is passion and desire for better mornings, but there comes a point where you just won’t feel like sticking to the schedule. Those times are the most crucial because disciplines are built with grit, not with enjoyment. I’m not saying that you won’t enjoy your rituals. I enjoy every bit of my mornings, and you should too, but even if it means doing things when you don’t feel like it, then so be it but it has to get done.
- Learn to say “no.” A system will always have invaders. They can be anything from miscellaneous meetings, extended time on Facebook or a morning sale at the mall. While emergency cases like hospitalizations, family affairs and so on we cannot say no to, there are other less important things that we will just have to say no to if we want to protect our morning rituals.
- Create margin. If you set time for breakfast at 8:30AM to 9AM and expect to be at the office by 9AM, then you must work from home. If you don’t however, good luck. Margin is again important for little things that we might not always foresee like traffic, getting coffee on your shirt, having problems with your phone and so on. Margin makes sure that you’re being realistic with your time because you won’t always have control over it.
I’ll say it again, setting a morning ritual is not easy. You will probably stumble a few times, and that’s okay, but the moment you screw up today’s ritual is the moment you should start thinking about adjustments that you can make to your ritual or to yourself to make your schedule and your implementation meet. With enough time, patience and dedication, it will just be a matter of time until that ritual is set in place and you will get more done in your mornings than you ever did.