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1. Get Into A Daily Routine
We are all having to deal with less structure in our lives and being cooped up at home. To look at this situation positively, it’s a good time to develop skills – one being time management. All high achievers have strict daily routines. Routines become habits – meaning that after a while you do them automatically with less effort. Start by going to bed at the same time each night and get out of bed at the same time each morning. Block out chunks of time during which you do certain tasks each day. E.g. limit emails and messages to certain times of the day. Block out time for writing, reading and exercise. Your body and mind will get used to doing the same tasks at the same time each day, and with less thought involved, you’ll be more productive.
2. Make Your Bed
The first thing that you should do as soon as you wake up, is make your bed. This represents far more than the simple act of making your bed. It might seem trivial, but making your bed will make you feel that something has been accomplished immediately and it will create a sense of order and control over the day. A messy bed during the day, often represents a messy life.
3. Drink Water
Before you have your morning coffee, drink a glass of water. The longest time you go without water is when you are asleep, so it’s important to hydrate first thing in the morning. Studies show that drinking water first thing makes you feel more alert and it gives your metabolism a boost.
4. Meditation and gratitude
Learning how to be more present and focus the mind is an important skill to have, especially when you are feeling stressed or under pressure. Starting your day with 10 – 20 minutes of meditation is not only very calming, but it will also help you get better control of your thoughts and focus in the long-term. After meditating, you’ll have a clear head to make better decisions about what you are going to do with the day. Using a guided meditation app such as Calm, is an easy way to get started. After you’ve practiced focusing and calming the mind, spend a few minutes being grateful. Thinking about things you are grateful for (e.g. family, friends, happy memories, etc.) immediately releases “feel-good” chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine into the bloodstream. This can be a good antidote to fear and stress and a great start to the day.
5. Exercise in some way
Not only does exercise have health benefits in the long-term, but on a daily basis it gives your body energy, releases feel-good chemicals (endorphins) and makes you feel more accomplished. Exercising first thing in the morning (going for a walk or run) is also a great time to plan your day.
6. Set goals and have clear objectives for the day
What do you want to achieve today? Your brain is always seeking certainty (and trying to avoid uncertainty), and you can provide that by having clear goals and a plan for your day. By setting clear objectives, you narrow in your focus on specific tasks, which is key to being productive.
Being under stress is proven to help you focus more intensely – provided you can have the right perspective. In fact, the first step of getting into “The Zone” or “Flow State” is to undergo some level of stress or fear. During the “fight or flight” response, the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain which is responsible for decision making and reasoning) slows down, which can actually be an advantage when it comes to getting immersed in your work or any task. The stress response also gives you more energy, which combined with the heightened focus can be a very powerful combination when it comes to productivity. Use fear to your advantage!
Checking off your goals will cause the brain to trigger the release of (the feel good chemical) dopamine and make you want to do more of them. Make today count! Set your goals, achieve them and then relax!
Visualization or “mental imagery” can be helpful in several ways. Firstly, by seeing yourself being successful or behaving in a certain way can help your subconscious mind mirror those behaviors in the future. Add mental imagery to your daily routine – visualize the successes you will have in the day and the person you would like to show up. The research done on the practice of mental imagery, shows that it can be effective when it comes to making changes to motor patterns – so you can essentially practice your golf swing while sitting in a chair. I also use it with my students to help them mentally prepare for challenging situations. By creating scenarios for them, they have to figure out (and visualize) how they would like to behave which will help them in those situations when they happen for real.
8. Educate yourself
The extra time that you have now that you are not commuting or heading outside as much, should be used to your advantage. A common trait among high achievers and world leaders is reading and education. The likes of Oprah, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban all read for several hours a day. Reading is not only a great self-development tool, but it is proven to lower stress. Put a reading list together and give yourself the goal of reading at least one chapter per day as part of your daily routine. If you would like to get a copy of my free mental game ebook: 7 Mental Game Strategies For Lower Scores.
9. Spend less time on your phone
The first thing that most of us do in the morning is reach for our phones to check our messages, emails and social media. This often hits us with news and information that can make us feel overwhelmed and negatively affect our mood and productivity. We are all experiencing information overload right now (especially with the Corona Virus news updates), which take us in and out of tasks throughout the day. Wait until you are fully awake to check your messages. Mobile devices are really affecting how long we are able to focus and get deep into an experience or task. Use this time to improve your focus, not to spend more time on social media. Give yourself the reward of checking your phone after a period of high focus. By doing this you will be more productive and feel better at the end of the day.
Writing in a journal is a proven way to boost productivity. At the end of each day, ask yourself 3 simple questions: What did I accomplish? What did I learn? What will I do tomorrow? By writing down what you accomplished in your day you’ll get a sense of satisfaction, which will encourage you to get more done tomorrow. Reflection will help you make sense of what the learning experiences were. When these experiences are fresh in your mind, it’s a good time to decide what tasks are most important for you to do next, which will make you feel more prepared and ready to start the following morning. You’ll also hold yourself accountable to sticking to those tasks and fulfilling your commitment to yourself – which is key for building confidence.