Thursday's Thoughts on Leadership: Rise with the Sun and Your Productivity Will Shine

A recent study in the American Psychological Association journal, Emotion, showed that early birds are generally happier than night owls.  While the reason behind this may be that our society works around a morning schedule, such as an 8-5 shift, the study points to the conclusion that those who rise early are the most productive.

Being an early riser implies you are more productive in the earlier half of the day, and therefore there is quite a bit you could and should try to finish before noon.  Adapted from an article by Jada A. Graves from the U.S. News and World Report, here are 12 ways to get more done before your lunch:

  1. Make a to-do list the night before. This is not too much different to what the great coach Bill Walsh would do for the 49ers when he made famous the scripting out of the first 15 plays.  Doing so yourself will help you sleep better because you’ll have a set plan instead of having everything that needs to be done the next day whirling around in your head.  And while you sleep your plan will seep into your non-conscious mind.  Further, when you get started in the morning, you will be able to get going immediately, rather than lose time writing out your to-do list first and then starting the day.
  2. Get a full night’s rest. As more experts study sleep, we learn of the ever more important role it plays.  Lack of sleep leads to lack of concentration.  Lack of concentration leads to lack of productivity.  Meet your required amount of sleep every night.
  3. Don’t hit the snooze. Remember Zig Ziglar says your alarm clock is actually an “opportunity clock” to get up and go.  A whole day of possibilities is available to you once you hear your “opportunity clock.”  And if you don’t hear it ring, that means you’ve already gotten up and gone!  Changing may be painful at first, but you will soon find yourself getting to bed earlier, waking up more energized, and accomplishing more.  You will also have time to practice a morning routine, which brings us to our next point…
  4. Practice a morning routine. I discussed the power that lies within having a routine last week.  Keep in mind that a routine is more than just an exercise routine; it is quite time with just yourself that will energize you for the rest of the day.  Meditate on gratitude or read something positive for example––include something easy-going that will start your day right and…
  5. Exercise. Exercise is proven to improve your mood and energy level.  Working out before the workday will give you better time-management skills and an improved mental sharpness for the rest of the day.  Also, when you exercise, you create small wins!  Include it in your morning routine, along with…
  6. Eat a hearty breakfast. Breakfast is perhaps the most important meal of the day to eat since you have just fasted for an entire night and you have the whole day ahead of you.  Try eating something light, healthy, and filling so you stay energized throughout the day.  Quick and easy processed carbs will zap you of energy before you know it, and skipping breakfast entirely can impact your concentration.
  7. Arrive at the office early. This is easy if you don’t hit the snooze!  Showing up on time is a bad habit.  Arrive at work early to get all your social conversations out of the way, your personal email checked, and your coffee poured.  When the workday starts your mind will be relaxed and you will be ready to go… plus, you set an example for your colleagues to do the same.
  8. Check in with your boss & co-workers. Set priorities that align with the goals of those around you.  If a co-worker is slacking, try to motivate him or her to work better through check-ups and friendly, positive conversation about how you will both work toward your common deadlines.  After all, you are a team and anyone who isn’t productive will drag the whole team down, regardless of how productive any single person may be.
  9. Tackle your biggest projects first. When you are making your to-do list, start with the hardest tasks because when you start, you are working at your mental peak.  Work wears us out, so doing meaningless mini-projects at the beginning of the day is a waste of your precious productive energy that could be put to better use on harder jobs.
  10. Schedule afternoon meetings. Tommy Hopkins, legendary sales and success trainer, says to do appointments with yourself in the morning and everyone else in the afternoon.  If you are in sales then that is the best time to prospect.  This allows you to use your prime skills during the day.
  11. Allot time to follow up on messages. Juggling different tasks and duties is chalk-full of distractions.  Instead, focus on one task for extended periods of time.  In other words, reserve the top 10-15 minutes of each hour for email so you get back to people promptly, but it does not take away from important tasks.
  12. Take a mid-morning break. Get up from your seat, stretch your legs, your back, your arms, and get some fresh air!