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zen habits: Top 10 Productivity Hacks - #9

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Top 10 Productivity Hacks - #9

Quick intro: This is one in a series of Top Productivity Hacks - little tips and tricks that are designed to make you more productive. At the end of the series I'll post them all together in an overview.

Productivity Hack #9: Wake up early.

I might get flamed for this hack by night owls, so let me qualify this tip by saying that if you stay up late at night and get a lot done, then do what works for you. Late night hours are really not much different from the early morning hours, as both times are much quieter with fewer distractions. However, as a former night owl, I recommend the morning hours simply because many times I would stay up well past midnight, but be very tired and not get anything done for the last 6-7 hours. Mornings are much more productive for me.

I started becoming an early riser last year, gradually waking earlier over the course of more than a month (see How I Became an Early Riser). This month, I've been trying to develop the habit of a Morning Routine, and the great thing about a morning routine is that you can develop whatever routine works best for you, and tweak it as you go. Decide what you'd like to accomplish each morning, and build your routine around that. Like to exercise? Put that in there. Healthy breakfast? Go for it. Check email? Fine.

The morning is your time.

The mornings are a fresh start, peaceful and free of ringing phones and constant email notifications. If you get your Most Important Things done in the morning, the rest of the day is just gravy.

Top 10 Productivity Hacks

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Anonymous said...


Thank you for your tip series, which along with blogs like Steve Pavlina's finally inspired me to try getting up earlier and start changing my routines.

An important thing that I've realised whilst reading your posts is that the reason I haven't changed my routines before now is because I thought of all the changes as *big changes*. (like getting up early, using GTD) This put me off changing.
However, if I think of these things as 'habits' that I need to get into (as you suggest) and that this will take time - probably several months - then it doesn't seem so daunting.

For example, I've been 'meaning to' get up earlier for the past couple of years but liked my routine of staying up late/getting up late too much. A couple of weeks ago however, I decided to do just do it and get up earlier.

So I now get up at 6am - which as a perennial night owl and 8-hours-sleep-a-night man is very early for me! I'm planning to move to 5.30am next week, then maybe 5am in a few weeks time.

It's going well so far, and I enjoy having more time in the mornings.

I have an alarm by my bed, which works OK, but I think I'll do as you suggest and move it away from the bed - sometimes the temptation to sneak back under the covers is too much!

I have a couple of problems however:

1. I'm a serial procrastinator, so some days I don't feel like I've accomplished anything from getting up early apart from reading email and blogs! I'm off to read some more of your posts however, so hopefully they will help me on this one.

2. I would like to get into an excerise routine in the morning, but haven't been able to yet - any tips?

I really appreciate this post and your blog because they've inspired me to change - to stop being a lazy-ass and start Getting Things Done. :)

Seriously, waking up early has been a major change for me, and one that I'm proud of. Next I need to get the GTD ethic firmly embedded and stop the procrastination! I'm getting there, albeit slowly.

I want to change so I can work more effectively and become more successful - for me, and my family.

Roll on summer when I can sit outside and enjoy a cup of coffee with the sun coming up!

Keep on blogging, and thank you.

Leo said...

Hi Andrew ... thanks for your amazing comment! I love reading other people's success stories ... it's an inspiration to me.

There's a lot of ground to cover in your comment, and I won't be able to go into much depth here, but quickly:

1) You're exactly right ... a series of small changes can be much less daunting and much more achievable. Just take baby steps. Congrats on waking up earlier! Take that feeling of success, and apply it to your next goal. Take it one step at a time.

2) As for reading email and blogs in the morning ... i'm guilty of that too. What helps for me is having a goal for the morning ... do I want to start running? Let that be my goal. And have powerful reasons for wanting to achieve the goal (see my Top 20 Motivation Hacks at the right hand column for more ideas).

3) Regarding starting an exercise program ... it's hard to make recommendations without knowing your goals, but in general: again, start out small -- choose a small goal, such as just doing pushups and crunches, or perhaps jogging half a mile (if that's too hard, alternate jogging and walking for a mile). After a week, you'll start to notice some improvements. Increase your exercise slowly. A mistake most people make is being too ambitious and trying to take on too much too quickly. Improvements come over the long haul, not in a week or two. Be patient, and you will reap the results. Stay focused and use those Top 20 Motivation Hacks to help you stay on track over the long haul. (See "Get Fit and Healthy" on the right hand column for more.)

Feel free to email me at zenhabits (at) gmail.com if you have any more questions. I'd love to help. But it sounds like you're off to an amazing start.

Thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad you're enjoying the site.