Nobody said daily motivation was going to be easy. Truly internalizing these practices will take a change in your routine, your environment, and your thinking. But if your laziness or anxiety or emotions have had control over your days, making adjustments little by little, step by step can help you take your days back. The first adjustments necessary will come at the start of any good day: the morning.
The ideas I set forth in this article and the following parts (afternoon, evening, and the weekend) will work more easily if you have a strong goal in mind. Waking up and changing your life in the name of productivity and daily motivation will be much clearer if you know what you're striving for. Before pushing through this article, choose your desired end result. Pick a goal that challenges you, scares you, and would really change your life if you completed it. It's OK and possibly even better if you don't know how you're going to get to that end result, just select one and keep it in mind.
The times I am listing for Early Morning, etc. are approximate. People work and sleep and live at all sorts of different times of the day. When I say early morning, just assume that I mean early morning for you, even if I give a time frame that is not your typical early morning.
Early Morning: 6 AM to 8 PM
The sun is about to rise and the world is hard at work. Newspapers are being delivered in bundles, produce is being washed and sorted, and you are rolling out of bed. Why are you getting up so damn early? The morning is a perfect time to get some work finished. There are fewer distractions, you probably don't have anywhere to be, and your brain is rested and ready to turn on. Most people getting up this early would fall asleep in their oatmeal, and you might start that way too. You will learn to make it work for you, however, and here are some ideas that will help you to use the morning to your advantage.
Most of us are trained to hit the snooze button several times before we look up at the clock, say "aw &*%#," throw on our clothes haphazardly and then head to work a semi-disheveled mess. You have chosen this pattern for yourself and you can change it. It will be hard at first but you can make it work.
Start by setting more than one alarm. Use a second clock, a third clock, your cell phone, your computer, a wake-up call service, etc. Put the alarms farm enough away from your bed that you have to get up. Make sure they are annoying enough to shock you into life. The first few times you employ this method it will be quite jolting, but the body and mind are quite resilient and they will adjust to the routine.
Make additions to the plan as necessary. If you live with your partner, employ him or her to motivate you. Tell him or her that you are trying to be more productive. Chances are your partner will be on your side and can give you the occasional last shove to get out of bed. Leave yourself a positive note by your second alarm reminding you of what you're trying to do. If you are unable to get up one morning, just keep trying new things until it works, and at some point it will. I've also heard of people visualizing themselves wide awake to aid in the cause.
How early you get up is totally up to you. I like leaving myself one to two hours of productivity before work. Once up, use your normal bathroom routine and know, just know, that what you're doing is good. And now, if you don't hate me too much for disturbing your beauty sleep let's start activating that brain of yours :).
Do not, I repeat, do not turn on that coffee pot. You're on my time, and that does not include coffee, Red Bull, soda or anything else laced with chemicals that alter the brain :). In order to tap into your natural creativity, you've got to keep it real. Here are some options for you.
A breakfast of fruit, nuts, and juice; a workout of either cardiovascular endurance, strength training or both; a guided or self-meditation; rocking out to your favorite energized music; a small trip to your nearest body of water or other inspiring location.
You can use one of these ideas, mix and match, or throw your own into the hat. Personally, I do the mostly raw meal of fruits, nuts and juice and the workout. All of these methods can wake your brain up sans chemicals. You may not be as crazy focused as you are on the smack, I mean caffeine, but you will still be awake enough to be productive.
What if you do one of these methods and you're still mostly asleep? Then you should do another method. Still tired? Another...and another. And what if you spend the whole early morning period completing these natural energy tasks and then you have to go to work without getting anything productive done? That is a perfectly good use of your time.
In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the value of doing Quadrant II activities. These are tasks that are important but not urgent that will help your production capability, which is essentially the efficiency of how you get your work done. If you spent every morning building your energy in such a natural way using so many different methods that would be one hell of a routine. Soon enough you'd be in better shape, more positive, and more inspired. Sounds like a great situation to be in.
Incorporate more natural energy into your life/morning and less chemical energy and your brain will thank you for it.
There's no better way to utilize your now awake mind then to sit down and think. You may use this thinking time in several ways. You can plan out the rest of your morning and your day. You can brainstorm about the project you are working on. You can start thinking about a particular part of your life that needs work, like your finances or your relationships. Or you can just take out a sheet of paper and write whatever comes to you. A huge reason that thinking should be a part of your morning is that it will stimulate your brain to think all the day long.
Work and life can be filled with so many tasks that you can accomplish on autopilot. Taking the train, sending an e-mail, filling out a tedious form. By actually thinking early on in your day, you give yourself the option of actively using your brain instead of letting it use you.
You can also save time on the task you are about to accomplish if you have a better idea of how to attack it. Another Steven Covey-ism, it doesn't matter how much progress you are making chopping through the brush in the jungle if you aren't even in the right jungle. Thinking beforehand can help you make sure that what you plan on doing is worth your time.
You have thought about what to do and now you have to "get 'er done" (sorry, couldn't contain myself :) ). You know the best method for you. Whether it be creating an outline, brainstorm a character, or just plain diving into the thing, push forward and don't look back. By this time, the sun may be poking up and the time is getting closer and closer to when you need to leave for work. Do not let this distract you. You have time and you need to use it.
If you only have a limited time at this point, say ten minutes or so, just get something down on paper. Do not overthink it, the thinking has been done already. Get yourself into the habit of at least getting something done. This way, little by little, you can accomplish your goal.
If you have the day off or you don't work until later in the day, this "Act" stage can go on indefinitely. Keep energized with natural forms of energy and take short breaks if you need to. Consult this list of distractions and make sure you aren't falling prey to them. I will discuss longer periods of free time in my article about daily motivation on the weekend.
When you have sufficiently acted or it is time to get going, start getting ready for work. You may feel accomplished and you may not, but if you keep working towards your goal, you will eventually look for bigger and scarier challenges to get up early for :).
I don't want to overwhelm you with length here, so I will discuss 8 AM to 12 PM in my next article. Until then, happy and productive writing!