• Eve Arnold

This Morning Routine Is 8 Hours of Productivity

A morning routine will change your game. We all want to do more with less.

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Getting up early and creating a morning routine is a challenge. Well, it’s a challenge to start with at least. Once you get into the routine of waking up early, you’ll find yourself thinking why didn’t you ever do this sooner.

The 9–5 isn’t particularly great for productivity. Mostly because 9–5 in the office is full of distraction, caffeination and general boredom. Quite simply, 9–5 doesn’t suit most people’s energy levels. On top of that, 8 hours of solid work every day isn’t feasible for most people. 8 hours is a long time. What ends up happening is that time gets filled with meetings, emailing back and forth and a distinct lack of a lot of stuff that moves the needle.

What is a Productive Day?

A lot of the time we don’t really think about what makes a productive day. We simply turn up and know we’ve got to stay in the chair for 8 hours straight. With the morning routine, that’s not the case. The time is completely yours to make as productive as possible.

With the morning, you don’t need to worry about appeasing someone else and make sure you turn up on time. With the morning you can make it whatever you want. So, you need to ask yourself an important question.

What will make this morning productive?

By simply asking yourself that question, you’ll find you’ll be more focused. It’s easy to forget to ask yourself what a productive morning is and get to the end of the day and feel deflated. If you don’t set out what exactly a productive day is, you won’t feel satisfied that you’ve achieved it. So everyday you’ll feel deflated and that you’re not going in the right direction.

The reality is, a productive day isn’t that much. I mean that in a good way. It’s not super complicated. A productive day, reasonably, is probably, roughly getting through 3 things. If it’s a realistic day, you’ll struggle to get much more than that done. What we tend to do is overestimate what we can achieve in a day. The reality is, the more sustainable way to do things is to aim to get three things ticked off the list, every day, most days.

So once we’ve asked ourselves what a productive day is and made sure we stick to a maximum of three things, we can get on the front foot of making the day as productive as possible.

Busy vs. Productive

Now those three things. They need to be things that will move the dial on your goals. Not things that are just, really, a waste of time. There are two ways we spend our time. One of those ways is on productive tasks, tasks that make a change. The jobs that chip away at what you are trying to achieve. The second though, are the tasks that really, aren’t adding much value.

The Pareto principle shows how productive vs. busy works. Joseph M. Juran that dictated 80% of the value comes from 20% of the tasks. This principle relates to all fields, in sales 80% of the sales come from 20% of the clients. In the economy, 20% of the population earn 80% of the money. However, the most interesting thing for productivity, is that 80% of the value is from 20% of the tasks.

Your job is to figure out what tasks are in the 20%.

The maximum of three rule will mean you will cut some of the waste naturally. Having only three gaps on your to-do list for your morning routine means that you should be a little bit more ruthless about what goes in it. However, there is more work to be done.

So how do we distinguish between busy and productive? Well, you need to look at your goals. The easiest goal to look at is writing because that’s a goal I’m working on at the moment. My goal this year has been to write 200 articles. So realistically, I need to be publishing an article every other day. That makes one of my three things very simple for my morning:

To Do – Your Morning Routine List

  1. Write an article. 2. ________. 3. ________.

It totally depends on what your goals are as to what you fill your three gaps with. If you can work backwards from where you want to be in 3 years time, you can reverse engineer your mornings to reflect your goals.

Don’t fill any of your gaps with busy work.

Busy work is something that doesn’t add much value. Examples are common to come across. Things like:

  1. Emailing back and forth when a phone call would do the job.

  2. A 4 hour Meeting that could be a phone call.

In the morning though, that won’t be the case. In the morning, busy work is things like:

  1. Organising your emails / folders — a low energy task to be done when you’ve got low energy.

  2. Surfing the web for inspiration — again, this doesn’t take much energy and it’s quite a nice task, something to be done when you’re feeling low of energy.

In the morning you need to be careful that you don’t fill your most productive hours with non-productive tasks. If that’s the case you’ll end up being productively unproductive. I.e. you’ll be ticking all the things off your to-do list but those things you tick off, won’t be adding much value. So in reality, you may have well stayed in bed. It’s pretty ludicrous to wake up at 5am to sit and surf the web. That task requires such low energy that it can be done immediately after work or before bed.

The 3-Hour Window — The Morning Routine

The first things first in your morning routine. You need to wake yourself up. When the alarm goes off, avoid pressing the snooze button. It’s difficult and some mornings you undoubtedly will but try and avoid where possible. When you wake up, it understandably takes a while for you to come round from your 8 hour slumber. That’s why your immediate action just after waking should concentrate on getting you as alert as possible. You can speed up the feeling awake process by doing a couple of things:

  1. Get outside

  2. Drink some water

  3. Grab a coffee

Instead of a zombie-like stumble to the office or your laptop, get outside. It’ll wake you up which will mean ultimately, you’ll be more productive. Sleeping through writing an article or editing a website or whatever is on your to-do list will mean that you end up doing the task twice over. You want to be as awake as possible to tackle your hardest tasks of the day.

Some water will help with the zombie like feeling too and if that all fails, grab a nice warm coffee. The combination of all three should have you feeling about 60% more awake at the very least. Which is better, much better, than where you were at.

Wake up

Now we’ve sorted out being awake. The next thing on the morning routine list is figuring out what’s on the list. As we’d discussed earlier, the maximum amount on the list should be 3. And they must be productive things.

Ideally the productive things should have been written up the night before. Planning your day the night first of all makes you feel like you are organised and in control — which is a good way to start the day. But secondly, there is a theory that it gives you time to really think through what you want to achieve the next day. For example, if you know you’ve got an article to write tomorrow and you write it on your to-do list the night before, it means you might spend the evening subconsciously pondering what to write about.

“Beginning of a great day begins a night before” Sukant Ratnakar

Once you have your three things. It’s time to crack on. The best way to crack on, in my opinion, is work through the Pomodoro method. 25 minutes deep work, 5 minutes break. Try and get through 2 Pomodoros and then get out your chair. In the morning there are a couple of things that make you feel like you are nailing life and we want to use productivity as well as some key activities to give you momentum. Things like exercise, yoga, reading and journaling. Those things will make you feel like you’re taking care of yourself.

A good morning routine could look something like this:

  1. 5am:- wake up (water, coffee, get outside)

  2. 5:10am:- 2 Pomodoros then journal

  3. 6:10am:- 2 Pomodoros then yoga

  4. 7:30am:- 2 Pomodoros then read

Total: 6 Pomodoros

Hours: 3 hours

By 8am, you should have accomplished as much as you would in an entire day in the office. You will have had a total of 6 pomodoros deep work — which is roughly 3 hours total.

Other Tips to a Successful Morning Routine

1. Don’t get distracted

Your morning is going to be, I would guess, your quietest time in the day. No interruptions, no conversations, no texting. Nothing. Just peace and quiet. It’s your opportunity to use that to your complete advantage. It’s easy to get distracted in the morning. Things like washing the pots or spending time surfing the web but it’s wasteful to use this time doing low energy activities. It’s like Roger Federa fuelling up with a carb heavy meal ready for a big tennis match, to then sit on the sofa and play 10 hours later. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s the perfect time to do your high energy tasks, so do them.

2. Stick to the Pomodoros

Pomodoros are manageable time blocks that aren’t overwhelming to stick to. Train your mind to focus for 25 minutes and get your brain used to getting into deep work. You just need to concentrate for 25 minutes and then you can have a break. If you split your tasks up, bit by bit, you will achieve much more. You won’t feel daunted by the task, you will feel up for the challenge.

3. Stay to why you are doing this

Waking up early, especially when you are just starting on the whole early morning situation is hard. You won’t feel like getting out of your warm cosy bed to go and sit in your office chair. Your bed is much more cosy, comfy and probably a lot warmer than where you are going. Three brilliant reasons to stay.

When you are having that mental battle of whether to get out of bed or not you need to remind yourself why you are doing this. If it’s some flimsy reason then you are likely to stay tucked up and warm in your fluffy covers. However, if it’s something that’s quite innately important to you. If it’s something that you’ve always dreamed of and you’ve made a promise to yourself that you would give it a go, you’re more likely to stick to it. Having a why is perhaps one of the most important things to get clear on before you embark on changing your morning routine. Trust me, you’ll need it.

A 9–5 isn’t necessarily always that productive. The office environment gives room for chatting, cups of tea and numerous meetings that can all be just ‘busy’ work. 3 hours of solid work in the morning could mean that you’ve done all your work for the day by 9am. That gives you the rest of the day to do other bits and bobs with the confidence that you’ve got everything you need to do before most people even start work.

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