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4 Hacks to Create a Productive Morning Routine, Even if You’re Not a Morning Person

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Waking up

You’re smart. You know how early rising can boost your chances of success and a powerful morning routine will supercharge your day and fast-track your progress towards your goals.

You’ve tried a lot of things to get up early and with a lot of energy. But somehow your morning routine is not working as well as it should. You don’t always wake up looking forward to the day. You spend a lot of time trying to motivate yourself to start working. Your mind is slow and easy to distract, and you waste valuable time and energy trying to keep it on track.

The result, your morning routine is unproductive. Forgotten tasks, unfinished projects, and deadlines are piling up, adding to the stress and sense of failure. It’s hard to establish a good morning routine if you’re not a morning person, not sleeping well or feeling sick/tired. But it doesn’t mean this is impossible. On the contrary, you can still supercharge your morning routine, even if you’re not a morning person.

I am a morning person, but I’ve been through a period of sleep problems, which resulted in me waking up with a sore back, muddled head and a hard-to-shift tiredness. But with a full-time job to go to, a side business to attend to, and a new book to write, I had to find ways to make the most of my mornings.

Here are a few hacks that can help you stay productive:

1. Start your tomorrow tonight

This strategy works particularly well if you’re more of an owl than a lark. Before you go to bed, plan your day for tomorrow. Make a list of tasks you want to work on first thing in the morning.

But don’t stop there – make it even easier for yourself. Start working on the first step of your first task before you head for bed. It may be something as simple as getting all the necessary tools ready on your desk. Or, if you’re writing a new post – opening a new document and typing the title.

The first step is the hardest, and getting over that initial hurdle the night before will make it easier for you to get on with the task in the morning.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” – Alexander Graham Bell

2. Get up to something you genuinely enjoy doing (guilt free)

There are many great strategies to start the day a winner, but sometimes, no matter how much you try to exercise, meditate, or visualise, you just can’t get going. On days like that, I rely on simple pleasures of life, e.g. my favourite brand of coffee or something special for breakfast to get me out of bed.

Whatever it is that can make you feel energised, take your time to enjoy it and do it guilt-free. Be careful not to overindulge and set yourself a time limit, so you still have time to complete at least one task.

3. Make your morning routine the default option

Do you know that decision-making drains our energy and causes us to procrastinate? The more choices you have to make, the bigger the impact on your mental energy, and hence the more likely you are to procrastinate. This phenomenon is called decision fatigue.

Many successful people understand how it works and limits their decision-making by automating some of their daily choices, e.g. always dressing the same way, or having set menus for breakfasts. This principle extends to your morning routine, too. To limit procrastination and make the most of your morning, minimise decision fatigue by limiting your choices.

Get up always at the same time, every day of the week. Have a set routine, identical for every day. Maybe you want to start your day with a meditation session, a prayer, a few jumps, or a cup of coffee while reading a book – do it every day at the same time, in the same order. No hesitation, no bargaining. Save your time and mental energy for more important decisions.

“Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.” – Prince

4. Take it easy by aligning your tasks with your natural rhythms

One of the biggest mistakes people make when planning change in their behaviour is to assume they’ll be able to deal with difficulties without much problem every day. When you’re motivated, you feel you can move mountains, and you jump out of bed in the morning. But if, for whatever reason, you wake up not feeling energised and excited – it’s much harder to get up and start your day.

You can overcome it by creating a routine that fits in with your natural rhythms. If you’re not a morning person, yet want to create a morning routine, try optimising your time by tracking your energy levels (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) during the day and week and then adjust your schedule to match your best time with the type of tasks you’re working on. The same goes for days when you’re not feeling 100% yet still want to work on your goals.

If your tasks require creativity, look for peaks in your spiritual or emotional energy. If you need to prepare a tax return, or proofread your article, you’d need a good level of mental energy. Preparing for a difficult conversation with an unhappy customer or your boss requires emotional energy. Identify which type of energy you’re able to access and work on tasks that require it.

If you’ve tried to implement a morning routine and failed before, if you’re not at your best in the morning, you can still create a winning morning routine. Choose your strategies and test them. Don’t ignore simple tweaks, no matter how small. You’ll be surprised how much you can achieve by taking those little steps. Your morning productivity will soar.

What do you do to create a productive morning routine? Please leave your thoughts below!

Joanna Jast helps career changers, entrepreneurs and freelancers accelerate their learning and personal change so they can adapt faster to the new environment. If you want to learn more about her approach to creating new habits, check her website http://www.shapeshiftersclub.com and grab a copy of her new book Hack Your Habits and start improving your habits today.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Thea

    Dec 14, 2016 at 1:42 am

    Great post. It is very optimistic. I don’t consider myself as morning person but usually wake up very early. Will try this tips 🙂

  2. Sonia Voldseth

    Dec 13, 2016 at 1:10 am

    Great post Joanna, thank you. I’m far too optimistic with my time as well! It’s nice to know how much you are balancing too and that you still find (make) time to write.

  3. Mark Tong

    Dec 8, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    HI Joanna- useful tips. I especially want to do more of #2!

  4. Quinn Eurich

    Dec 8, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    All good advice and I already do some of it.

    Now if I could only get to bed at a time that will support the getting up early piece! LOL!

    Great post Joanna!

  5. Rosemary

    Dec 8, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Great tips, Joanna. I use simpleology which I find helps get my thoughts in order, especially if I do it the night before.

  6. Stephen Roe

    Dec 7, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks for the advice, Joanna! Great to see you here. 🙂

    I’ve just recently (in the past week or so) started to wake up early–consistently. It’s incredible how much more I accomplish when I start the day off correctly. Tip #2 (enjoy the first thing you do), is something I need to be more mindful of. Gotta figure out how to include that in my morning routine. 😛

    • Joanna Jast

      Dec 7, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      Hello Stephen – great to see you here 🙂

      Having been waking up early consistently for about 20 years, I can vouch for the ‘wake up to something you enjoy’ strategy. So definitely, find something – a cup of coffee (or a healthier drink), a little bit of peace and quiet, sunrise.

      All the best

  7. Joanna Jast

    Dec 7, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Hello Natalia

    Thanks for your kind words.

    It’s great to hear you’ve also found the-night-before planning helpful.

    And I can relate to that ‘being too optimistic with your time’ – I always think I’ll have more time in the future and commit to many things and then find myself always superbusy – and again thinking: I’m too busy right now, but I’m sure I’ll have more time next week…

    🙂

  8. KeriVandongen

    Dec 7, 2016 at 1:13 am

    Interesting thoughts Joanna.
    You suggest reinforcing yourself for getting up early, and tacking tough motivation tasks later on. This differs from most success habits.
    I like it.
    Perhaps we should alter habits to suit our personalities and daily energy.
    ~Keri

    • Joanna Jast

      Dec 7, 2016 at 5:45 am

      Thanks Keri 🙂

      I agree with you – I think if people are struggling to adapt their lives to fit with good habits, they should try to alter their habits to suit their personalities and daily energy.

      Being someone lazy by nature and with rather poor willpower and drive to achieve success, I’ve come up with my own little system to establish habits – just as you say.

  9. Charlene

    Dec 7, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Hi Joanna,
    Such a good article. I use to be a morning person and as I aged I no longer hop out of bed. I loved your term decision fatigue, I find that works well for me when it comes to meal planning, the easier the more likely I am to eat well. I will try to implement the start your tomorrow tonight as that will have me half way there. Thanks for the tips!

    • Joanna Jast

      Dec 7, 2016 at 6:01 am

      Hello Charlene

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Decision fatigue does affect our ability to live the life we want to live, so I agree with you – the easier, the better, because we’re more likely to actually do it. It may not be perfect, but hey, it gets us to do what we want to do: eat healthier, exercise, get up in the morning.

      All the best and I hope my little tips will help you

  10. Natàlia

    Dec 6, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Great tips, Joanna. I’m a morning person although too optimistic with my time, so I always struggle with trying to fit everything I want to do in my schedule. Planning ahead the night before is what has worked the best for me so far.

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Life

How Stress Can Actually Improve the Quality of Your Life

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Naturally, those of us who experience less stress in our lives are more likely to succeed. So, it’s important that you learn how to reduce your daily level of stress, right? Maybe not. Recent research has shown the common wisdom about stress might be dangerously inaccurate. Psychologists tracked the health of 30,000 adults in the United States over an 8-year period. Participants were asked two important questions:

1.    “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?”
2.    “Do you believe stress is harmful to your health?” (more…)

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Life

The Truth About the Law of Attraction

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When we want something, we generally imagine the form it will take when it manifests. If we’re not careful, however, we can find ourselves attached more to the imagined form than the actual desired outcome. This is like placing an online order and expecting it to come in a blue box shipped by UPS. If we then receive a red box delivered by FedEx, we might not realize that it’s what we ordered, and never even open it!

For example, most of us say that we want money, but when money comes in the form of a free coffee or a gift or a discount, we don’t see it for what it is. We overlook it, and maybe we even say “No, thanks” and decline the gift which is, in one way or another, still money. In doing so, we fail to appreciate the value of the discount, the gift, or the freebie. If it isn’t cash being handed to us, we don’t see it as a manifestation of our desire.

The law of attraction is a funny thing.

It is much more complex and much more intricate than what it seems to be and yet, at the same time, it’s so very simple: We always get what we want. We always receive more of the energy at which we vibrate. Always.

However, if we’re acting from the energy of “I don’t deserve it” or “I don’t think I’m worthy,” then whatever it is that we receive will be negated and essentially unseen. On the other hand, if we are open, observant, and maintaining an abundance mindset, we will receive our request on numerous levels and from plentiful sources!

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill

This is because we “place our order” not only through our words, but through our actions, our beliefs, and our thoughts.

Last month, I was open to receiving a new client. I didn’t know how it would happen, but I’d set my intention: I was going to get a new client. That night, out of nowhere, I got a message from an old student of mine. She was looking to hire me again as her coach for the upcoming college entrance exams in the U.S. But wait! I didn’t want an entrance exam client.

What I actually wanted was to get life and business coaching clients. This student was my “red box from Fed Ex.” I wanted to decline at first, but as I was about to reply, something made me stop. I asked myself, “Why am I rejecting this?”

This student is an amazing client. She pays on time. She’s not needy. She does her part. Best of all? She doesn’t short-change me. So I said yes, because I realized that the Universe was simply responding to the essence of my desire.

You see, my “Big Why” in everything I do has always been to facilitate an accelerated personal and business growth for my clients, and this student fit the bill in every way. She wanted the personal growth, she was ready to go all in and she reached out to me.

It didn’t look like the package I was expecting so I didn’t recognize it at first—and I nearly turned it away—but she was the perfect answer to my request.

Serving people like her has always been a driving force in my life.

The Universe knows that. It also knew that I wanted a client asap so that I could re-invest the money into my business, so it responded in the most ideal way… but in an unexpected form. And I came so close to missing it!

How many times have I missed other opportunities like this? How many times have I dismissed a “red box” because it wasn’t “blue?” I’ll never know. But I do know that, had I not stopped myself from sending a “No, thanks,” I would have felt as though the Universe wasn’t listening.

That’s the thing: the Universe is always listening.

The more open we are in receiving, the more we thrive. The more open our energy is, the greater the possibilities. Don’t just return that red box to the post office and keep waiting on a blue one. Ask yourself, first and foremost, if what you’re receiving at the moment matches up with your underlying desire.

See yourself living in abundance and you will attract it.” – Rhonda Byrne

The key is to be willing to receive anything and everything. How? Keep on reading1

1. Get clear on your “underlying desire.”

Identify exactly what it is that you really want—in my case, it was an ideal client (underlying) as opposed to a coaching client (surface)—and focus on that. Clear out all the mental noise and static that clouds your awareness.

2. Be flexible

Keep your eyes and mind open for anything that fits the description. When you ask for money, recognize that free coffee for what it is: $3 you were going to spend anyway, that can now remain in your pocket. Every penny on the ground, every coupon, it’s all money.

3. Keep an attitude of gratitude.

The more you appreciate what you have, the more that comes your way. Your grateful mindset opens the energetic door for more to flow your way, because “where attention goes, energy flows.” The more you focus on the things you want, the more you will draw them into your experience.

Remember, that the Universe responds to our requests in whatever way fits best within the big picture.

It’s a picture so big that we couldn’t possibly begin to see how it comes together. Trust it. Know that when you ask, you will receive. It may not come in the form you anticipate, but always in a form that responds to your underlying desire. You just have to be ready to see it.

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7 Simple Ways to Master Your Emotions When Making Decisions

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A lot of people have big regrets when lying on their deathbed. These regrets are often related to bad decisions or decisions not taken. Thus, as it turns out, decision-making is dependent on great self-confidence. A person who has confidence in their decisions has an easier time making them.

Emotions also play a big role in all of this. This is a debate that has confronted two great thinkers. According to Descartes, “decisions are the product of the rational mind.” In other words, decision-making is essentially based on facts and mathematics.

But this thesis was refuted and proven to be wrong by Antonio Damasio in one of his works called “The Error of Descartes”. This was partly based on the story of Elliott, a kid that was very smart, who had above average rational capabilities, but incapable of making a decision, after a surgery to remove a brain tumor on the surface of his frontal lobes. After all his work in that matter, he concludes that a person who is incapable of emotion is incapable of making the most rational decisions.

The management of emotions is therefore completely inherent to good decision making, especially when making the most important decisions. To this end, here are 7 tips to put into practice to really master your emotions thus making the best decisions possible and never regreting them.

1. Take a step back

You must learn to take the time to identify and understand your emotions. Since physical reactions are emotionally related, also take the time to detect the reactions you have to some of your emotions. To be able to take the distance necessary to make decisions, it’s important to refer to your prefrontal cortex. This is the area of ​​the brain responsible for reasoning. To do so you need to put yourself in a stress-free environment for a few minutes.

“Your life changes the moment you make a new, congruent and committed decision.” – Tony Robbins

2. Breathe

The best way to do this is to learn to breathe deeply. This will allow activating your prefrontal cortex again, therefore, to have better control of your emotions so you do not react to them, let alone to the event that causes these emotions. Do this exercise for at least 15 minutes. It’s amazing how you can train yourself never to react, no matter what the situation. Ideally, let at least 24 hours go by before responding to a situation that would normally cause tension.

3. Pay attention

Once you are in the prefrontal cortex, put one hand on your abdomen, at the level of your intestines, and the other hand on your heart, and take the time to listen. These two parts of the body are the two major centers of vibrations and emotions. This is why it’s important to listen and pay attention to them.

The purpose of this exercise is to become aware of your gut and heart. What you need to remember is that the only person you need to trust is yourself. By practicing this exercise, one thing will become very clear: what the emotion you feel seeks to convey to you about the decision you have to make.

Since everything is energy, first make sure that the vibration of the decision you are about to make and that of your heart and gut are in sync. You will then know whether to go ahead with your decision or reject it based on whether you feel serenity or heaviness.

4. Discern untruths

It is important to know whether your nervousness is the result of an untruth you’ve told yourself. These can corrupt the vibrations that should help you make the right decision. You have to throw out all of these untruths and come to the decision-making without any filter. Stop thinking that you’re unlucky, that you’re in a bad situation, that your life is a failure, or that you are a victim.

5. Become aware of your emotions instead of avoiding them

To become aware of your emotions, you must learn to coach yourself. Ask yourself questions: How did you feel the last time you had to ask these types of questions? What did you get in return? Rename what you felt and the result you obtained from what you decided to do. You will thus be much better at assimilating, understanding, and welcoming your emotions.

6. Be as present as possible

There is no point in focusing on the big events surrounding the decision you want to make. Concentrate instead on the present moment, without analyzing the events. Judge based on emotions rather than the event. By being more present, you will be better able to listen to your emotions and feel them.

Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” – John C. Maxwell

7. Make your emotions your allies

Each of your emotions speaks to you through the physical and physiological reactions that they generate in you. Look to the weight of their impact on you as an indicator. Only by listening to them, using them, and managing them can you manage your emotions.

Habit comes with practice. With time, these 7 points will become much more natural and will become automatic. You will make better decisions for yourself.  This is one of the best ways to not end up with one of the big regrets.

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Life

How to Keep Your Mind Away From Distractions in This Tech-Loaded World

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Social media notifications, push notifications, email notifications, and messages from chatting apps, keep peeping from the notification area of our smartphones and invite us into a world of a never-ending loop. Perhaps, even if it is ending, it is not until we have wasted 15-20 minutes of our productive time in just checking different apps and emails that we realize the need to get back to what’s important. No wonder many organizations insist employees on keeping their mobile phones in lockers prior to proceeding to their desk!

Technology is so enslaving that we don’t realize what an endless loop we are stuck in when we are constantly replying to our friends and relatives on social media or checking that limitless newsfeed on our timelines. If all the time of the day is put together, we can observe that we spend almost 4-5 hours on social media with the total output zero and sometimes negative.

Of course, keeping smart phone on airplane mode or switching it to Do Not Disturb mode, or somewhere away from us is the first line of defense against distractions, there are other steps preceding it to really spend your day productively.

Adopt a Proactive Approach

This implies that prior to beginning the day, you must take-charge of it. Instead of letting the day rule you, it should be vice-versa. You must adopt a zealous approach by planning your day and if possible, hours. You should have the determination to pay no heed to distractions in place of just letting them ruin your day by reacting to your impulses.

Instead of acceding to the fact that distractions are surely going to come your way and take up the major portion of your productive time, think about the ways in which you can tackle them.

You need to ponder on the need to focus and be determined to remain so during the day. You need to take the following steps for it:

  1. Plan how you are going to spend the hours of your day and deadline for completing tasks.
  2. Consider your to-do list as a choice rather than a chore to be completed.
  3. Remind yourself of the consequences of surrendering to distractions instead of completing your work. For instance, getting a reprimand from the manager for consistently low productivity and quality or having to rush to complete the work at the end of the day.
  4. Visualize the benefits of the time you gained by winking at notifications. Perhaps, you can spend more quality time with your kids or researching your new business idea.
  5. Note down hourly productivity – How many tasks did you accomplish in the last one hour?

“An addiction to distraction is the end of your creative production.” – Robin Sharma

Enhance Your Concentration Power

What keeps your mind stick to a task until it is sufficiently completed, is your ability to concentrate. If your concentration power is stronger, distractions will not bother you. You have to sharpen your power to focus by consistent practice. Meditation is a great way to improve your ability to work on a single task for a long time. If possible make meditation a part of your daily routine. It will keep your mind silent and give it the power to resist distractions.

If you cannot find time to meditate at the start of the day, it is advisable to do a one minute meditation every hour or every time you get that urge to check social media or chat with a friend. This will bring back your attention to what you have to do instead of what you want to do.

Here is the best way to improve concentration power: Take Regular, Refreshing Breaks.

One of the major keys to staying charged up for work is to take regular breaks. Continuously working for hours is only going to make you feel more tired. Instead, take planned breaks and do what you like the most during those breaks.

Of course, you should check your phone to be aware of any urgent messages or calls; remember to take refreshing breaks rather than just keep scrolling through that never-ending newsfeed. Rejuvenate your senses by reading some motivational stuff, watching an inspiring video, taking a walk in the lobby or having a non-work related chat with a colleague, to recharge your batteries and get back to work with even more focus and passion.

One technique utilized and propagated by productivity gurus is the Pomodoro Technique. It is the practice of working in chunks of 25 minutes and then taking a break of 5 minutes. After 4 such sessions, you can elongate the break time to 15-20 minutes.

Have an Organized Mindset

Adopt an organized mindset towards all aspects of your life. Keep clearing irrelevant mails, adding e-mail addresses to spam, organizing all your photos and videos on one drive, keeping all your documents accessible from one place, etc. Keeping your life clutter free and organized right from your shoe-rack to your locker, empowers your ability to spend your time in a disciplined way.

Even when it comes to online browsing, keep it limited to certain topics rather than just browsing and then jumping from that topic to all the related topics. Note down the ideas you would like to research on a specific day instead of randomly browsing through a plethora of topics.

Also, jot down the points which you found useful. Set aside an hour or 30 minutes of time for this. If you feel the need to read that lengthy but useful article, then save it under bookmarks, instead of swaying and spending more than the planned  time on it.

These seemingly little, yet practical things, help you adopt the same approach towards your day and work.

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” – Christopher Columbus

It is a fact that technology has taken up major share of our life, however, it would be a misjudgment to regard it as bad. If maneuvered the right way, it can help us live a more disciplined life. It is a boon but if we let it rule us instead of us ruling on it then it may eat up most of our focus and productive time of our day.

What distractions do you feel take most of your time? What steps you have taken up to put the brakes on them, apart from just whining about them? Ponder over it, take a proactive approach, and share your action plan with us by commenting in the section below.

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