I wake up at 5:00 am. I sit on the edge of the bed, stretch, smile, and thank God for another day. As I bounce energetically into the shower, my mind is flooded with thoughts and ideas…blog topics dance through my head, things I need to add to my “to-do” list crowd my mind, and I can’t wait to get done with my shower so I can sit down and start my productive day.
Hopping out of the shower, I hurriedly dry off, tiptoe quietly back into the bedroom-being quiet so I don’t wake my wife, and I get dressed. Walking into the living room, I sit down in my favorite chair, pull my laptop in front of me, and move the mouse to wake my sleeping computer…
And all my focus melts away.
It’s my own fault. Last night, I failed to close out the programs on my computer. So as soon as my computer wakes up, it tells me about the e-mails I got during the night. The web browser tells me who won the presidential debate. And my sports feed makes sure to let me know that the St. Louis Cardinals are in the playoffs AGAIN.
I get distracted by information overload…and the ideas that have been dancing through my mind in the shower moments before fade away. And now, 9 hours later, I look back at my day and wonder…
“Where did all the time go?”
“What did I accomplish today?”
“Why do I feel unproductive and vaguely depressed?”
The answer is simple. I allowed myself to get distracted from my morning routine. I have allowed a new morning routine to creep in, one that is dictated by external forces, and it is killing my productivity.
In a recent podcast, NYT best-selling author Michael Hyatt discussed his morning “ritual.” For some people, this word has a negative connotation. But Hyatt defines a ritual as “a prescribed procedure for achieving a specific result.” What a terrific definition!
Hyatt contends that we all have a morning ritual, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Whether our ritual is helping to accomplish our goals is a different story. And he’s right! When I take control of my morning and stick to my “proactive ritual,” I get so much done, and I feel GREAT for the rest of the day. But when I fall into my “reactive ritual,” my focus wanders, and, just like a ship that drifts a few degrees off-course, I look back at my day and wonder how I got so far from my intended destination.
Hyatt offers seven steps to designing a morning ritual. I encourage you to read his blog article and listen to the podcast. I want to highlight the first two steps, because they are so critical to finding your path to productivity:
Acknowledge that you already have a ritual.
- Again, this is not a BAD thing. We all have rituals, whether it’s how we dry ourselves off when we get out of the shower, or the route we take when we drive to work. Acknowledge that you have rituals for the way that you do things and move on quickly to step number two.
Document your existing ritual.
- This is where the rubber meets the road. If you want to become more productive, you must first identify your current practices so you can see where you may be losing
My proactive morning ritual looks like this:
- Sit up as soon as the alarm goes off, stretch, say a brief prayer of thanks, and hit the shower.
- Get dressed, make a protein shake or a cup of tea, and sit in my chair.
- Write in my private journal.
- Read my Bible and pray.
- Open my computer and begin to write.
My reactive morning ritual looks like this:
- Hit the snooze alarm
- Hit the snooze alarm again.
- Drag myself grumpily out of bed.
- Stumble into the shower.
- Stand under the hot water for at least 10 minutes, hoping it will wake me up.
- Get dressed, sit in my chair, and open my computer.
- Surf the web for an hour.
I think you get the point.
THERE IS GOOD NEWS
I have identified my keys to a productive (rather than reactive) morning ritual. And they actually begin the night before! I need to do two things in order to prepare myself to be in the best possible position for starting my day well:
- I need to go to bed at a reasonable time. I have found that going to bed by 9:30 is essential if I plan to be productive the next day.
- I need to close down all of my desktop applications, leaving open only MS Word, with a fresh new page to write on.
Seems simple enough. And it is…Now I just have to remember to do it tonight…
And every night.
Because our attitudes are so much more positive when we are productive. And we can’t accomplish all that we are meant to be in this life if we mope around all the time with a bad attitude.
So identify your morning ritual…look for ways to tweak it…and add to your productivity.