Writing a list of objectives with the thought of the impending work needing to be done immediately is not impossible, but difficult. The temptations are to leave items off the list, aim for only 500 words rather than the 1000 needed to maintain progress to deadline or overlook important but less urgent tasks such as household chores and exercise.
Therefore the most optimal method I have found is to plan your day the evening before. You will be more honest with yourself about what you need/want to get done if there is no immediate accountability. This also allows time for your subconscious mind to begin problem solving and processing information in the background before you begin.
Be optimistically unreasonable with the workload total that you want to achieve for the day, but keep the length of each individual task <2 hours of concentrated effort. That may mean tasks need splitting up into sub-tasks. This process allows you to maximise what you get done in the day, provides regular check points and any left over jobs at the end of the day simply roll over onto the next list created that evening.
Write down the previous days unfinished jobs first, then anything and everything you want to achieve next. You can do this on the computer to save resources and make the ordering process easier later but I find paper works better for me due to reasons outlined in this post. Be thorough. Think health, fitness, well-being, personal development, obligations, research, house chores, relationships, social, hobbies, skills and of course work. Do this in no particular order to ensure there is no bottleneck to the flow of ideas, just make sure you get it all down.
Ordering the above shouldn’t take very long. Item 1 needs to be something on the list that takes up to 15 minutes, requires little thought and creates a very visible result. This is important and will be explained later. Remaining items should be priority ordered from top to bottom depending on how important+urgent they are. Two techniques I then use disrupt this priority order slightly but are very effective at reducing the onset of fatigue or monotony. Fast+simple jobs are placed as dividers in-between the important+urgent jobs to give your mind a rest. Also split up physical jobs with mental based ones and visa versa. Your list is complete.
2. Prime the CNS
On waking, you need to wake up. Enlightening, I know. However the importance of getting your body and mind kick started into the day it is often overlooked. Personally if I don’t do this and simply start my day at 7 am it take until 10 am to feel productive but it can be much worse than this. On a ‘lazy Sunday’ for example it’s possible to go through your entire day without ever feeling fully awake, this is fine if you just want to relax but this plan is for productivity.
Your Central Nervous System needs priming. I am not a neurologist but I know when I feel on form and can see the difference in results. If you want to research exactly what nervous systems are being activated during these processes and their effect on bodily function then by all means go ahead. But I’m not going to fill this post with links to the plethora of information out there which is all accessible through google.
First things first, break the inertia. Getting out of bed can feel hard mentally but for most healthy people it is an easy physical challenge, so treat it as one. Just move, act, begin. The faster you do it on waking up the easier it is, don’t give your brain a chance to convince you otherwise.
Get some light. Open the curtains wide, switch on your main room light if it’s still dark outside.
Put your body into a minor state of stress. My favourite way to do this is with a cold shower. You will not want to do this, it will feel momentarily uncomfortable, but that is what we’re aiming for. To start you might want to have a normal temp shower then flick the dial all the way to cold for thirty seconds. Each day increase the duration of the cold shock to maintain results.
Another method is explosive training such as max rep burpees for ten minutes (one minute work – one minute rest for five sets), adjust to suit your fitness level. It needs to be difficult! Maximum effort.
This stress creating period only needs to be 10 minutes of your day and should be seen as an investment into your 16 hours of productivity. A cold shower is subjectively the best practise I’ve tried to date.
3. Fuel the Body
Fueling the body is something that should be a lifestyle habit rather than just an occasional healthy choice in an attempt to temporarily optimise performance (it’s not just about food). More information can be found here. Although there is still such a thing as an optimum breakfast in my opinion with what I wouldn’t say gives ‘immediate benefits’, but rather prevents ‘immediate hindrances’ to your productivity.
Eating breakfast is a preference, some people feel better with an early meal, some feel lethargic. Often it is more to do with the content and quantity of the food.
Generally I stick to an intermittent fasting style diet whereby I only eat from 1 am to 9 pm and so breakfast is neither a chore nor a concern. However, if I feel like having a breakfast for whatever reason or I’m trying to gain weight, I will.
Breakfast comes in many variations but the type I feel best with is as follows.
Content – High Protein and Fat, low Carbohydrates.
Qualities – (satiety, nutritious, stable blood sugar and insulin levels)
Quantity – Would fit in a large mug.
Plus a Pint of Water. (further satiety and hydration)
Eg. – Three egg omelette with butter, salt, pepper and diced veg.
To explain the unscientific measurement of a large mug rather than grams: I went through a stage of weighing food and tracking macros and it turned into a rather unhealthy habit. So unless I ever took up bodybuilding or found myself massively out of shape I wouldn’t do it again.
4. Control Your State
Consider your work environment: this is completely preferential but just consider and test it against your productivity.
Quiet background music is something that helps some people. Listening to songs you know however is distracting as the brain recognises and engages with it too much.
Personally I use this Youtube Lofi Beats Radio.
Your state is your reality. At any moment this can be manipulated in many fascinating ways with a basic understanding of psychology. I am not going to delve too deeply into this with this post but the point remains, if you work out how to alter your state then you can alter your perceived reality, it works.
One hack to be used in this plan is based on a principle used by Army Sergeants. On waking, one of the first tasks soldiers face is to make their bed. It must be done perfectly to prevent punishment. This is done for many reasons based on teaching formality, discipline and desirable habits. The other benefit that we can use is the feeling of accomplishment that comes from completing a task. It is a positive emotion and sets you into a state that desires the completion of further work, to in turn increase that feeling of accomplishment.
This brings us back to the first task written on the plan, as described earlier in section 1. ‘Your task takes up to 15 minutes, requires little thought and creates a very visible result.’ Making your bed is just an example. Complete your first task with efficiency, haste and care. Look at what you have achieved and be proud, the result created is a great improvement. Go back to your list and draw a line through the first job or mark it on the computer document. You are ready for task 2.
5. Act with Prioritised Intent
At this point your CNS is firing on all cylinders.
You have curbed hunger and thirst.
You have the first job ticked off: your first victory of the day is in the bank and you are keen to continue.
The ‘adjusted priority’ based order of the plan is pre-optimised and you must now simply work your way down the list from top to bottom. Concern yourself only with completing the job at hand with calm, considered efficiency.
Rewarding yourself with food or luxuries is an unhealthy habit to get into, you should choose to indulge only when you see fit, rather than based on cues. Reward yourself instead with five or ten minutes of fresh air after ticking off each job while you think about the next one. This wont add up to much in terms of total time away from the task at hand and will help to further reduce fatigue/monotony onset.
Once you’ve worked your way down the list, achieved what you set out to and have decided you are done for the day, reflect on what you have accomplished. Be proud!
Before you go to bed, write-up the ‘to do list’ for the next day following this productivity plan.
This is simply what works for me, tweak the framework to your preference as and when necessary to maximise your results. That is the objective after all…
“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.” – John Wayne.