A Productive Day Starts with a Simple 3 Step Morning Routine

Own The Day

Is your goal to tackle each day with purpose and ultimately take control? Then getting the first 20 minutes right is going to give you the best chance of success for a productive day.

Just as you should warm your engine before hitting the road, your body needs to be primed for action first thing to set it up properly.

I’ve been following the routine for about 18 months after reading Aubrey Marcus’s book, ‘Own The Day, Own Your Life’. Now I really notice the difference if I skip these key steps each day.

  1. Hydrate (but not with coffee)
  2. Seek Light
  3. Get Moving

Why Hydrate?

In the book he reports that 78% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. This dehydration is at its peak when we wake up.

Maybe you live in a dry climate.

Maybe you had a heavy workout the night before.

Maybe you were partying.  

Add to this the fact that we can lose up to a pound of water during the night through sweat and respiration vapour. Clearly we’re not exactly in the perfect condition to tackle the day.

Even mild dehydration causes tiredness, bad moods, headaches and anxiety.

Reaching for that morning cup of coffee will combat tiredness short term. However it won’t effectively rehydrate you because the caffeine dehydrates, so cancelling out the water benefits.  Also, if it’s on an empty stomach the caffeine enters the bloodstream very quickly. This triggers the fight or flight hormones in your body.

Is it therefore any surprise that we see so much ‘road rage’ on the daily commute?!    

However, it’s not just the lack of water that’s the problem here. We also lack essential electrolytes and minerals when we’re dehydrated. When you consider that they modulate and support your muscles, organs and the brain then it’s a pretty big deal to be chronically dehydrated.

How to Make your Hydration Cocktail

Hydration Cocktail to Drink Each Morning - an essential element for a Productive Day
Drink a Hydration Cocktail Each Morning
Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash

Ingredients;

  • 3g Sea Salt ( 60+ trace minerals, preferably Pink Himalayan Salt from ancient oceanic deposits for purity and added iron content)
  • 350ml filtered water (room temperature)
  • ¼ Lemon squeezed  

Simply mix the contents in a shaker so that the salt doesn’t lie on the bottom.

If your shaker is plastic, make its BPA free to avoid absorbing harmful chemicals.

If it’s good enough to hydrate pro fighters then I reckon it should do a pretty good job on us mere mortals too!

Note: The above ingredients are straight from the book and they are what my son sticks to.

Personally I use ½ lemon squeezed.

I also add 1 scoop of PH Alkaline Salts for some additional alkaline mineral intake (Sodium Bicarbonate, Magnesium Bicarbonate, Potassium Bicarbonate, And Calcium Bicarbonate).

As most disease thrives in an acidic environment, it’s important to maintain an alkaline balance within your cells.

Note: These salts can cause some initial effervescence in the shaker so don’t shake too hard. Always remember to release the pressure like you would with a soda bottle!

Why Get Lit for a Productive Day?

Humans are biologically developed to wake with the sun and go to sleep at sunset. This pattern synchronises your body clock (your ‘circadian rhythm’) which plays a crucial role in balancing all aspects of your life.

Unfortunately, modern life often gets in the way of this synchronisation. People work night shifts and social activities and the best TV shows are often after dark.

Take the example of NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks assistant captain, Duncan Keith. He was working and travelling at all times and in environments where there was little or no sunlight.

As a result his body clock was way out of synch and his energy and focus during the 2014-15 season suffered as a consequence.

Following advice from Aubrey Marcus he tweaked his routine so that he’d get into the light every time he woke, whether after a sleep or a nap.

In combination with some other supplement and nutritional improvements, the results were impressive. Stanley Cup winners, Duncan named Finals MVP plus various other accolades and rave reviews for the second half of the season. Quite a turnaround I think you’ll agree!

Unfortunately, getting natural sunlight is clearly not always practical. However a possible hack could be to try some light-emitting earbuds called ‘Human Charger’ by a Finnish company called Valkee.

Where there’s a will there’s always a way! You just have to look.

Why Movement increases your likelihood of a Productive Day?

Yoga In the Sun to Kickstart a Productive Day
Light Yoga Exercise in the Sunlight – exercise is essential for a productive day

In this context we’re not talking about a full on exercise session straight out of bed. This is about getting some light exercise to raise the heart rate and get the blood moving.

Consider light yoga, playing with your dog or maybe a fun wrestle with your kids.

A favourite of Aubrey’s is a mini trampoline called a ‘Rebounder’.

The exercise releases Endorphins (feel good chemicals) in the brain. They signal to the body that it’s time to get going, resetting your internal biological clock and setting you up for a productive day.

It’s All In Your Hands!

So now you know the importance of quality hydration first thing in the morning and that light and movement are key to synchronising your body clock and giving you the foundations to have a productive day.

Following these 3 simple steps outlined in this blog will give you that important momentum to take you forward and set you up for the rest of the day.

You’re all set for better performance through the day and a better sleep at night.

Once you’re up for it you’re more likely to get after it……!

Here’s to your success…!

PS. For more tips on productivity check out ‘How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed’ and ‘How to Work Smarter Not Harder’

How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

Stress

Whether it’s in your work or personal life, everyone experiences being overwhelmed at some stage in their lives.

Unfortunately these periods can become the norm, fuelling chronic stress with all it’s damaging mental and physical health side effects.

The rise of technology means you’re often at work and available for duty, at least mentally, 24/7 even if you’re still being paid for a standard 40 hour week.

Managers and business leaders are increasingly pushed to deliver more with less resources.

The result? A drop in the quality of work output, pressure on family life, precious personal time and potential health issues.  

The primary objective for most humans is to look after their loved ones. However this becomes an impossible task if we’re drowning in overwhelm and struggling to look after ourselves.

Fortunately you’re in the right place to discover what you can do to stop feeling overwhelmed and regain control of your life…….!! 

Identify, Capture and Categorise

An article in Best Health Magazine suggests that you start by writing down the issues that you have in your head and are creating that feeling of overwhelm.

The process of capturing the issues on paper helps cleanse your mind and create a perception of distance where you can be more objective.

Next categorise the list of issues to gain clarity. 

Suggested groupings could be; 

  • Family
  • Kids
  • Partner 
  • Work
  • Health

If these are ‘to-do’ tasks, something I find extremely useful is to reframe the ‘to-do’ tag to ‘get-to-do’. This creates a change in mindset and the tasks move from seeming to be a burden to an opportunity. 

The list is still the same size but psychologically less daunting!

Once the tasks are grouped and reframed, identify which ones will strengthen you and which do you actually enjoy. These are your priorities.

Delegate

In the introduction I mentioned the pressure within businesses to operate with fewer resources.

However, sometimes lack of resources aren’t the problem. You may have a tendency to hang onto tasks. Maybe you do them better than others or they’re more interesting.

Spending unnecessary time is clearly adding to your feelings of overwhelm so ask yourself ‘Am I the only one capable of doing this?’ 

If not, delegate. If so, consider training another resource to take it over.

Make Meetings Effective 

Stop Wasting Time
Make Meetings More Effective and Stop Wasting Time

In a Forbes article by Erika Andersen it’s claimed that, based on a London School of Economics study, most CEO’s (Chief Executive Officers) spend a third of their time in meetings.

Certainly some level of meetings are important but, from my own experience there are way too many and often inefficient and over attended. 

I’ve never fully understood the ‘Optional’ selection when inviting attendees, they should either attend or not, surely?

We all owe a duty of care to ourselves and our colleagues not to waste precious time. Therefore first ask yourself who really needs to be there.

Then Erika Andersen has a simple method to make key points crystal clear in advance of any meeting.

‘TTOG’ 

  • Topic – What is the subject?
  • Time – What time is allocated?
  • Owner – Who will move the agreed actions forward?
  • Goal – Why are you discussing the subject?

Question the Past

Ask yourself;

  • Are you doing things because you assume ‘we have to’ or that ‘they’ve always been done that way’?
  • Do you really need to do it this way or even at all?
  • What would happen if you didn’t do it? 
  • Would there seriously be any issue?

Approach each task with these questions and answer honestly and realistically. I’ll guarantee you’ll gain back a significant number of hours each week !!

Book ‘Thinking Time’ into Your Calendar

Although this seems counterintuitive for an overwhelmed time pressured individual, the process is priceless.

This gives you the chance to step back, gain perspective and see the big picture which is usually blurred when you’re in the thick of the action.  

You’ll feel more relaxed which leads to clearer thinking, better choices and more effective problem solving.

Seek Help

Don’t let your ego get in the way of asking for support or ideas to cope with the workload.

However, make sure you’re not just complaining. Make it clear you want constructive input to find a workable solution.

And Finally…..Be Brave and Say ‘No’ (but in a diplomatic way!)

Say No to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed
You don’t always have to say ‘Yes’ – Say ‘No’ to avoid overcommitting

We all want to please others but if you don’t learn this skill you’ll continue to overcommit.

This not only impacts you but your company, clients, colleagues and family as well.

If you can’t deliver on your promises, everyone loses.

A diplomatic ‘no’ could be along the lines of ‘I’d love to help with that but with my current commitments it’s just not possible. Let’s try to find another solution……’

So now you’ve got the tools to stop feeling overwhelmed, go take those first steps!!

You’re on the road to taking back control of your life. 

Take a breath, pat yourself on the back and smile!

Here’s to your success…..!

For more tips on managing your time, check out my post on ‘How to work Smarter not Harder’

How to Work Smarter Not Harder

Focus for Success

Do you want to learn how to work smarter rather than harder? It’s a common misconception that the successful people of the world are more talented than you and me. I can assure you that’s not necessarily the case.

This is often an excuse we tell ourselves to lower our personal expectation of success and protect our egos from disappointment and failure.

The logical follow on to that way of thinking is to tell ourselves the only way we can be more successful is to work harder.

We’ve got 2 problems with this idea.

Firstly, most of us are working hard and flat out and increased hours doesn’t equal greater performance (think quality not quantity).

Secondly, there are a limited number of hours in each day so that means sacrificing more leisure and family time.

I don’t know about you but in my opinion that’s the road to unhappiness and not the route to success!

Elimination Planning  

Successful people are masters of eliminating the unnecessary. They focus on the important tasks.

French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery is credited with saying ‘Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away’.

The secret to success would therefore seem to be in what we DON’T spend our time doing.

This idea was built on by Kevin Williams in an article written for Intelligent Change.

He says we should be asking ‘What is causing me to be unproductive?’ rather than ‘How can I increase productivity?’

To eliminate the obstacles to your productivity and ultimate success you need a plan to eliminate them, following a 5 step plan;

  1. What are you trying to improve?
  2. What’s your current process for what you’re trying to improve?
  3. Where are the biggest bottlenecks in your process?
  4. What could you do to eliminate of improve those bottlenecks?
  5. Choose 1 bottleneck to focus on each week and aim to reclaim 1 hour back per week

That adds up to 52 recovered hours per year for you to devote to more productive activities!

To become more productive we need to have a baseline measurement of where we’re currently at to compare against.

3 specific examples could be;

  1. I spent 10 hours this week checking emails
  2. In 10 hours, I turned out 1 article
  3. I spent 5 hours in meetings.

Let’s take example 1 and build on it with the 5 step plan.

  1. What are you trying to improve? I’m trying to spend less than 10 hours per week checking emails
  2. What’s your current process for what you’re trying to improve? Emails are currently checked randomly each time a screen notification is received
  3. Where are the biggest bottlenecks in your process? A belief that emails need to be checked and responded to immediately
  4. What could you do to eliminate of improve those bottlenecks? Batch emails so they’re only checked at 3 set times of the day (confirm with your boss this is acceptable)
  5. Choose 1 bottleneck to focus on each week and aim to reclaim 1 hour back per week. Put the plan into action then rinse and repeat with the next issue the following week.

Energy Blocks

The 24 hours that we’re given each day can be broken down into 96 energy blocks of 15 minutes each according to getpocket.com.

We’re not robots so all of those blocks can’t be productive. We need time to sleep and also time with friends, family and for general ‘living’. As soon as you lose balance between these blocks you set yourself up for trouble, maybe not immediately but there’s always a payback.

We can split our 24 hour day into 96 Energy Blocks of 15 mins each but we need an even balance between Sleep / Work / Family & Friends time
We can split our day into 96 Energy Blocks of 15 minutes each

Based on a healthy balanced split as we have in the chart, there are 32 Energy Blocks (8 hours) available for productive time so you have to be focussed.

Time and Energy spread over 10 tasks will not achieve the progress you want
Time and Energy spread over 10 tasks will not achieve the progress you want

Spending our 32 blocks across 10 tasks may look like this but isn’t how successful people would approach the work.

They realise the critical importance of ‘FOCUS’

To follow a more focussed approach, start by writing down all of your tasks.

Then rank them by choosing 1 task as most important and 2 others as secondary.

All others can stay on the list but are classed as additional tasks only to be tackled when the first 3 are complete.

It’s tough but you must be ruthless. Both energy and time are scarce resources.

Focussed Energy on 3 Tasks is the Key to Success
Focussed Energy on 3 Tasks is the Key to Success

The result is that actions you believed to be most important to move your life forward have been advanced. It follows that your life will then advance in the right direction and at a better pace.

Experiment with Parkinson’s Law

In 1955 Cyril Northcote Parkinson, the famous British historian and author, made the statement that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

If you’re given a week to complete a task, guess how long it will take? A week (at least)!

He had first hand experience of the bureaucracy of the British Civil Service!

There is a cultural element in the limiting belief that working harder is somehow better than working smarter and faster.

People are also prone to overcomplicate things or to build in a comfort buffer to avoid failure to hit a deadline.

To apply Parkinson’s Law to your task list, decide on the time to allocate to complete each one.

Then half that time and that’s your deadline!

Let’s say you estimate something will take 4 hours to complete.

Give yourself a strict deadline of 2 hours and go for it!

I find it best to work in bursts of 25 minute sessions, stopping for 5 mins to walk away from my desk, stretch or maybe get a drink. Then go again for another 25 mins and so on……

Even if you complete the task in 3 hours in our example you’ve gained an extra hour……precious time!

Remember FOCUS = SUCCESS  

Here’s to your success……..!

For more tips on managing your time and increasing your productivity, check out my post entitled ‘How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed’