Improving your productivity is more than just implementing solid processes, it’s building solid habits. One of the most important habits I’ve built to improve my productivity by gaining time is to standardize the hour I wake/rise every morning.
A consistent early start time will improve your productivity. While not everyone is productive at the same times of day, and not everyone’s work conforms to early rising in a traditional sense, moving your wake up time earlier should result in more productivity, regardless of your schedule. I happen to wake at 4:55AM every day; my work day can start at 6AM (many of the folks I work with are also in the office that early, and on days I’m on the road, I’m often headed out the door earlier than that).
So here’s what I do…
I set my Blackberry alarm to go off every morning at 4:55. I don’t have a set routine every morning as I often have to get up and get out the door right away to get somewhere; but on the days I don’t have an early AM meeting, it’s pretty standard.
When the alarm beeps, I turn it off, take a big deep breath, stretch, and get up. Even if I don’t want to get up. Even if I was up until 12:30. Up. Now.
If I don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, I shower, throw on shorts and a hoodie, feed the dog, eat breakfast, brew coffee, and take the dog for a walk. If I’m working on my conditioning, I may go for a longer walk after I bring her back and run some stairs at the park.
I’m typically at my laptop working by 6:30, often earlier. Hours before most people get into the office (again, though, many of the folks with whom I engage regularly are also up and working at this hour). I typically work from 6:30 to 8:00 without interruption. Most days, I’ve cleared out the list of stuff I wanted to get done that day by 11 or so, and I can attack longer term projects, strategic thinking, planning, or do something more fun. A lot of what I do is respond to urgent interruptions, I’m free to handle those in the afternoon (which is when most of them happen). I also get to the gym in the afternoon, beating the evening rush.
To get in the habit yourself, follow these easy steps:
- Set an alarm for your new early wake time
- When it goes off, stretch, take a deep breath, and get up. No snooze buttons!
- Get moving. Take a shower, go for a walk, something.
- Do it every day, even weekends.
Once the habit is formed, you’ll find you need less sleep. The body is remarkable at regulating itself; I’ve found I need less sleep when I get up early every day. I also find my body tells me when it’s time to go to sleep at night, I don’t force it, and I find I can stay up just as late as if I sleep until 7 (I go to bed between 10pm and 11pm, usually, although some nights I crash at 9pm). It is important to go to sleep when you feel you need it. I tend to nap more on the weekends, but since I work from home a lot, I can sneak an early afternoon power nap and no one is the wiser.
It’s really important to not break the habit for several weeks, even after a late Friday night out; get up at 5, get moving, get something done, then maybe nap for a while. Once you have built the routine, an occasional late morning rise won’t mess things up (although I really find that just one weekend can screw up an entire week, so I tend to stick to it.)
Less sleep and early starts lead to more productivity, and more time to have fun.