I’m sure most people would assume that productivity is about getting things done – for example – creating a short list of daily priorities, setting allocated time to each task, turning off distractions and then getting on with it. However, it turns out that increased productivity starts not with blocking out social media apps, or replying to emails at allocated times, but instead it starts at the moment you wake up, or even before then, when you are in the middle of a deep sleep cycle.
Observe anyone who manages to go to the gym, go running or fits in a few lengths in the swimming pool before work. Are they some of the more switched on and productive people you work with every day? Do they power through their tasks and achieve more? Chances are that they probably do.
We can do so much to sabotage ourselves and ruin our productivity before we even sit down at our desks. Do any of these sound familiar?
1. Hit the snooze button. A lot.
If anyone has suffered from ‘sleep inertia’ you’ll know what it feels like to be in a state of grogginess for hours after waking up. This is when the body is suddenly woken up in the middle of a deep sleep and unfortunately, if you use a regular alarm clock, your chances of sleep inertia can be as high as 89%. This short, clever, video explains the science behind it. The best way to beat the snooze button addiction/sleep inertia cycle is to develop a regular bedtime routine so that you can wake up naturally at the same time each morning. Sounds easier said than done, but it is possible.
2. Use your phone at night time
The best way to get a bad night’s sleep is to interfere with the body’s production of melatonin (the hormone that helps us sleep). The bright light from your phone is the perfect way to postpone the production of melatonin. If you’re spending what feels like hours trying to get to sleep, it’s best to avoid using your phone right up to the second you close your eyes. For a change some night try turning your phone off an hour before you go to bed and have some digital-free down time as part of your bedtime ritual.
3. Don’t drink water in the morning
Does this sound familiar? This morning you’ve probably hit the snooze button 3 times and interrupted a cycle of deep sleep each time causing the sleep inertia to kick in. Next, you dragged yourself out of the bed, as you know you had to leave the house in 30 minutes to get into work on time and you probably grabbed a coffee on the way to wake up. Why on earth would you want to drink water in the morning? Or possibly, even have some warm water with lemon? You’ve gone without water for possibly 7-8 hours and the body needs to be hydrated first thing. Try and get into the habit of having a pint of water or a bottle of water beside your bed and taking a few big gulps when you wake up.
4. Skip breakfast
Why would you want to refuel the body for the day ahead? Add to this being dehydrated and groggy and it allows you to approach the day with the least amount of enthusiasm possible, and it’s probably not even 9am yet. You reach the office, check a few emails, and then all of a sudden that lengthy morning meeting starts and all you can do is think about food. The solution is easy – there are a plethora of breakfast recipe blogs out there, have a look for an easy to prepare breakfast dish that you can make the night before (overnight oats anyone?). If you start turning off your phone an hour before you hit the bed, this time could be used for preparing your breakfast dish. You’re already two steps towards increased productivity.
5. Don’t exercise
Hitting the snooze button repeatedly will certainly kill any desire to get up and exercise. However, exercising before work wakes you up quickly, gets you going and reminds you that your day doesn’t have to start with rolling out of bed and then going straight to the desk. By exercising before work you have already achieved something, and most importantly – it’s a personal achievement. Not only this but you’ll sleep well and have more energy. Of course, you’ll need gritty determination to get out of the bed that bit earlier (an ex-colleague of mine puts her gym clothes beside her bed so that she doesn’t have to even think about getting ready, it’s just all there waiting for her). Set the alarm for that little bit earlier, get out and about, and you’ll sleep well.   
6. Do your easy tasks in the morning
If you have something difficult to do, the worst thing that you can do is to leave it until the afternoon. Willpower is a finite resource, and worse still, it depletes as the day progresses. In fact, people are more likely to lie, cheat or lash out as the day goes on and most violent crimes are committed after 10pm. If there is something you are dreading, do it first thing when your willpower is strong. As Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”.
There is no myth behind increased productivity. It all starts with forming good morning habits. Try out some of the tips above, and who knows, you might beat the snooze button, sleep better and achieve more.
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