Dale, I love your book (People Over Profit) and your blog (thedailypositive.com). Your angle on life and business is right on. But while your post had some good ideas, I frankly wanted to crawl back into bed in the fetal position just thinking about implementing your regimented steps!
I began crafting this post for those of us who aren’t cut from the same cloth as you. We, too, desire to wake up and face the day with a plan that will start and end with productivity — and yet not lose track of that balance we work so hard to keep.
While I applaud productivity, thinking about what I must do in the morning just before dropping off to sleep is counter-productive for the over-active, often anxious brain I live with every day. Being unable to turn off the switch after making my list, I would toil over it to the point of finally just getting up at 1am and getting the damn thing done.
My nighttime involves detaching from the brain that runs in high gear all day. For me, detaching usually means TV or a round of mindless Instagram scrolling. A glass of wine, a bath, or 10 minutes of reading before I drift off usually ensures I get the full 7 hours of sleep I need.
So for those of us who crave balance or need to tame an anxious mind, here’s my 5 steps to a more balanced, highly productive morning:
- There are no rules or routines for the evening. Absolutely none. The rest of the day is full of lists, must do’s, obligations, and responsibility. And – every day is different. Sometimes I am best working. Other times yoga. Sometimes I need a solid tequila happy hour. TV, reading, walking, napping. Friends or alone time. Whatever it is my mind and body are wanting to do, I listen. This makes me happy – and I look forward to the respite from constant thinking and doing I get only in the evenings.
- Get up early and exercise first. I am more productive if I’m healthy. Without any thinking, just doing, as soon as I wake up, I get up, put on the running shoes and head out the door for 50 minutes of walking and running. This is the only way I know I’ll get exercise done and there are more benefits – I listen to music that inspires, calms or energizes me (again, I’m paying attention to what I need on this day). All my senses are engaged – the warmth of the sun, seeing trees, mountains, the neighborhood chickens, people bustling to work – and my anxious morning brain is calmed, focused and ready. I often meditate and pray while I walk. Some mornings I stop by to see our garden’s progress (or weeds) or hit the local coffee shop for a latte. Some of my best ideas come in this hour and problems are solved with freedom to think and breathe, fully unplugged.
- Enjoy the breakfast process. The brain needs food, so I return from the run or walk and start the coffee while my husband and I start slicing up fresh fruit. We eat 2 or 3 pieces – stone fruits, berries, apples, whatever is in season. There’s good conversation here with the sweat and energy still fresh from the exercise and well, we really, really like eating fruit, so we take our time and enjoy.
- Enjoy and empty the inbox. I don’t work from my inbox during the day – so now I sit down at the kitchen counter with my coffee and have fresh, clear thinking. Enjoying the inbox means I’m reading the newsletters and boards I follow; sharing pertinent ones on social media and our company’s Sharepoint site, and forwarding what the marketing team may want to include in our news this week. Often included here is Twitter, where I get more industry and world news. I love this part of my day. I move on to replying, filing and deleting – which takes me only about 15 minutes on most days – kudos to my team who has worked hard to reduce the in-office email.
- Hit the day’s task list. It’s still not even 8am and now I can hit my day’s list. This is ongoing through the week – and I’ve often had inspiration in the morning walk for what is immediate today. I may review financials, have a focused call with a staff member, or do pre-call or pre-meeting planning for the day.
When this all works, I am in my office around 10 with my key tasks for the day either done or lined up, prepped for calls, and with an inbox I won’t need to revisit for several hours.
You can see, Dale, that my path to an insanely productive morning is almost backwards from yours—or maybe most people’s. But it works, and it gets me through +12-hour days with energy and focus that have some people asking, “How do you do it?”.
To which I reply: It’s all in the mornings. And the evenings. And everything in between. Because sometimes it’s those hours between the “power hours” that are beautifully productive.