You've just finished another pointless meeting that could just have easily been addressed in an email. Not that you're even close to getting through your email. Every time you attempt to get one thing done, you're interrupted, distracted — and before you know it, the day is gone, without even a fraction of your to-do list getting done.
You're not alone. In Workfront's 2016-2017 State of Enterprise Report — an annual survey of workplace conditions in the U.S. — respondents said that only 39 percent of their workday was dedicated to their primary job description. The rest was consumed by email, meetings (half of which were labeled as completely unproductive), interruptions and administrative tasks.
But, that same study also revealed a glimmer of hope in recovering productivity: Respondents overwhelmingly found that they felt most productive in the morning — even (and especially) before work hours. And while family, relationships and life make it difficult to take back the night (sorry, Justin Timberlake), you can take back your mornings.
When fellow WOTC contributor Terri Trespicio presented a session on getting re-inspired and re-engaged in your work at Workfront's annual spring conference, she offered this bit of advice:
"Your brain in the morning is like a field of freshly fallen snow. Don't let the morning news trample all over it! Be really mindful of how you use that time, because it won't stay that pristine for long." Instead, she says, decide how to best spend those first few minutes or hours of your day — before it gets away from you.
Here's your guide to making that happen.
Assess your current morning routine
Be it planned or not, ideal or frenzied, you probably do the same thing over and over every day. What are they? The first step is to become aware of them and whether they help or hurt your chances of getting anything done.
For instance: What time do you wake up? Do you always make a pot of coffee? Is scrolling through Facebook or the news your default way to wake up your brain? Do you jump into your running shoes and hit the pavement?
There's no prescriptive, cookie cutter perfect morning. The only wrong morning routine is the one in which you deny yourself an opportunity to use your morning to recharge. Targeting what drains your battery and what gives it a boost is the first step.
Identify your new morning goal
Terri says it's a good idea to ask yourself how you want to feel in the morning. Is it:
- Relaxed? Do some light exercise like yoga or stretching. Or, go for a run or hit the gym! Whatever level of activity puts bounce in your step all day.
- Productive? Prioritize your day and cross something big off your list — preferably something mentally taxing where you can take advantage of your quiet time.
- Introspective? Journal, journal, journal. Brain dump three pages straight, ala Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Or, keep a Bullet Journal to get organized. Give yourself 25 to 60 minutes to unload your thoughts or make progress on a passion project. Get up, get out those pages, and get it out.
- Calm? Start a morning meditation practice. Headspace is a great app for building a practice. YogaGlo streams meditation and yoga classes.
- Positive? Start a gratitude practice, as resilience training program meQuilibrium recommends here.
Protect that time
Guard your morning routine. Guard it from your dog, your kids, your S.O., your clients, your boss. Everybody. Keep that time sacred and yours. And, hey, if having other people in the mix is part of your perfect recipe, more power to you! But make sure at least one part of your routine has some serious "me" time built in.
But most importantly, protect it from yourself: The snooze buttons, bad late night decisions, and "yes's" to other people's demands that make you die a little inside. Your morning routine may be the only time you have for real self-care. Put your oxygen mask on before you help others.
Change your sleep schedule
Yea, I know — this one hurts. But in order to really carpe diem, you're going to have to go to bed earlier. Because sleep deprivation is real — and sometimes even coffee can't make up for those precious hours of rest.
Trust me, giving up your late nights might feel like a sacrifice at first. But your mornings become a sacred time. There's a gathering of energy and clarity in the morning, as opposed to late night, when we disperse our energy and unwind. At the end of your life, the gains you've made from a productive, personalized morning will be far more memorable than the Netflix marathons you fell asleep to every night. (Except for Breaking Bad. That one'll stick with you).