WORKPLACE SUCCESS / 18 March 20195 Ultra-Effective Ways to Work Smarter, not Harder
"Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day." – Glen Cook (Sweet Silver Blues)
Let's face it. Waking up in the morning can be a real chore. Unless you're a lark through-and-through, it's not likely you'll get up, feel instantly refreshed and say, "I'm so ready for work today!"
Still, morning routines are worth a try. Starting the day right isn't a hundred-percent guarantee that the rest of your day will go right, but waking up on the wrong side of the bed is a surefire way to zap any good vibes before setting out to work. To keep those good vibes going throughout the day, here's what you need to do:
1. Get Ready Ahead of Time
Pack as many of your essentials as you can the night before. If there's anything you can't let sit in your bag overnight, such as your lunch box, jot down reminders using Post-It notes and stick these notes on a place where you can easily see them. This way, your morning won't be derailed by forgetting something after you've already hit the road.
2. Be an Early Bird
If you're a night owl, you probably thumb your nose at this. After all, being nocturnal worked just fine before, so why change now?
One word: Science. Studies have consistently shown that human willpower is strongest in the morning, and it has a tendency to diminish as the day goes on. Plus, morning larks have a handful of advantages over night owls, one of which is a higher chance of success in life. If that's not a reason to shift your bedtime by 180 degrees, what else is?
3. Avoid Checking Your Email First Thing in the Morning
It's really, really tempting to do this, and who can blame you? Your boss communicates primarily via email, so you're itching to know what tasks you have in store for today. But, as Julie Morgenstern argues in her book Never Check Email In The Morning, this can hamper your productivity in the long run.
See, email is endless. As soon as you finish checking and replying to one email, another shows up in your inbox. This can turn into a never-ending cycle, unless you set limits on how often and how much time you spend in your inbox.
Try checking your email three times max everyday, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia. It can be stressful to resist the temptation at first, but, as the researchers point out, you'll feel more relaxed over time.
4. Give Your Mirror Self a Pep Talk
Yes, it sounds hokey and even crazy, but think of it this way: Why does negative self-talk work so well? Because telling yourself things like "I'm going to fail" paralyzes you to the point of inaction, making your self-talk a self-fulfilling prophecy. Luckily, it works the other way around, too.
All you have to do is:
Stand in front of a full-length mirror.
Look yourself straight in the eye.
Take a deep breath.
Say "I'm smart/attractive/awesome/insert-other-positive-adjectives-here."
Don't mind your bedhead, eye bags, etc.
You might not feel the effects of this technique at first. However, keep in mind that habits take at least 66 days to form, so it might take a while before you get used to affirming yourself on a daily basis. Once you do, though, the spike in your confidence levels will surprise you.
5. Prep Your Car for a Hassle-Free Commute
Like 78 percent of Americans, you probably drive alone to work, which kicks up your stress levels since you're stuck in traffic for a while. If you want a stress-free commute, it's a good idea to bring something that'll keep your mind off your stressor without distracting you from the road.
For example, you can listen to an audiobook. Sites like Audible.com and Amazon (Prime members get access to a limited number of free Audible books) have a wide collection of audiobooks. You can also download podcasts, turn up the radio or create white noise by humming your favorite song.
6. Have a Hearty, Healthy Breakfast
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. If that’s the case, fill up your breakfast plate with dishes that'll energize you for the rest of the day, such as cereal, oatmeal, Greek yogurt, bananas and other fruits. In case you're unable to finish your breakfast on time, you can always eat it for lunch later.
7. Squeeze in Some Exercise
"Exercise regularly" is classic advice in the health world, and for good reason. When you're physically active, your productivity improves because you’re getting more blood flow and oxygen to your brain. It probably helps that exercise also stimulates the release of endorphins, which keeps your mood nice and peppy.
If you don't know how build an exercise routine, check out this great workout step-to-step guide to help you get started.
8. Keep Your To-Do List Short
Have you ever tried to juggle 10 "Urgent" To-Dos in one day, only to finish just half of them? That's what happens when you let your To-Do list go out of control.
Instead, advises Amy Dalton of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, limit your list to one big To-Do. Not only will a single, major To-Do keep you on track, but it'll also give you leeway in case things don't go as planned.
If limiting your To-Do list isn't realistic, though, you can always look to others who have a more jam-packed day than you. This'll make you feel better about your list, according to Dalton, for no simpler reason than, "Human nature is what it is." You can feel bad about your circumstances, but when you see someone worse off than you, you feel a little better by comparison.
Switch up Your Morning Today
By incorporating these simple yet effective changes into your morning routine, your workday can be better than ever. Try at least one of these tips, tweak it according to your preferences and have an absolute blast today!
Sarah Landrum is a career expert and the founder of Punched Clocks. For more tips to accelerate your career, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on social media. You can find her tweeting tips and articles @SarahLandrum