5 things to do every morning to make sure your day is productive

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Brain scientists have been saying this for years: Your thinking and productivity are most agile in the morning after you’re well-rested. It’s the prime time to start a new writing project, develop a marketing plan, or look for a job because your brain is firing on all cylinders.

One example of this for me is a process I started many years ago — writing in a journal. My thoughts are so clear, my insights are so profound. It’s like a gold mine of brain activity, a sparkling and shimmering of neurons that lead to brilliant new ideas. Those who sleep too late, spend too much time in traffic, or pound down too many pancakes and feel lethargic, or who tend to avoid meetings or strategy sessions in favor of mindless web browsing, are not taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity to generate new insights in the morning.

It’s all about productivity. In the morning, you can generate new ideas for the day and then spend the rest of your time in the office hammering out those plans. Productivity is a result of a clear plan, and in the morning, you can make sure you set that plan in motion properly.

Here are a few tips to make sure your day is even more productive.

1. List out the roadblocks

I mentioned writing in a journal. It is incredibly helpful. The first step before you jot down any fresh ideas or make any plans is to document any roadblocks for the day coming up. Right away in the morning, think about any impediments like meetings you don’t really need to attend or confrontations that might occur that you can deal with them in a creative way. Your brain needs to be able to focus, so listing roadblocks helps to compartmentalize them.

2. Set measurable goals

As I mentioned, productivity is a result of having a clear plan for the day. Whether you are documenting this in a journal, thinking it through over coffee, or even emailing your plan to a boss or to coworkers, the next important step in the morning is to set measurable and attainable goals. If you can’t formulate goals, then you likely won’t attain them. Or even if you do obtain them, it will be by random chance and not a concerted effort.

3. Give yourself time to ponder

Here’s an interesting tip, and one that some of us don’t take seriously. In the morning, you need time to ponder the day and think about roadblocks and goals, but also to give yourself permission to be idle. It’s almost like revving the engine to a car. You are not going anywhere yet, but you are preparing for more productivity. It might be over breakfast, it might be at your desk — but set aside intentional time to think about the day and what is ahead.

4. Decide to be realistic

One of the reasons people don’t achieve their goals for the day is that they aim way too high. They set unrealistic goals, they imagine obstacles that don’t exist. It’s better to spend time in the morning carving out the plans you have for the day that will lead to success, not a failure. What will you actually accomplish? What is possible within an eight-hour period? After you list out roadblocks and set goals, make tough decisions about what is actually extra fluff.

5. Make it a group effort

One last step in the morning is to think about who you are depending on to achieve your goals. Sometimes it helps to reach out to coworkers, business partners, or the boss to communicate about your day, and to ask for help where you need it. You will be much more productive when you make all of your projects a group effort. Groups succeed where individuals fail.