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"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." -General Dwight D. Eisenhower

You set the tone for your day the moment you wake up. This is where that old saying, "You must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed," originates. The habits you adopt in your morning routine can determine whether or not you will achieve maximum productivity.

Morning Routines That Set the Stage for Success

There is lots of advice around morning routines and rituals, and for every "rule," there are always hundreds of exceptions. Rituals that work for some people are wholly ineffective for others. The important thing is to develop the routine that works for you. Many time-management and leadership experts recommend starting your day off with these activities:

  1. Rise early: When you get up early, you have time to plan for your day, both mentally and physically. You can enjoy the calm before the storm, and if you have a family, early morning can provide you quality time with your children or spouse.
  2. Eat a healthy breakfast: "Hunger" is actually a scientific phenomenon. When you are hungry, your body goes into survival mode, impacting your ability to focus on tasks and makes you irritable.
  3. Exercise: You don't have to run ten miles before the sun comes up, but you can take a walk, do some calisthenics, practice yoga, whatever you enjoy. Exercise helps reduce stress, boost metabolism, and improves sleep.
  4. Plan: Write out your plan for the day so you know what you can expect (more on this in a minute).
  5. Strategize: If you have a problem that has been plaguing you, the early morning can be a very good time to approach a solution with fresh eyes and a relaxed mind.
  6. Work on a passion project: Do something that gets your juices flowing. Take time in the morning to focus on a hobby you enjoy or a passion project that has fallen by the wayside.
  7. Read: Have a lengthy reading list of articles, blogs, or books you can't seem to get to in the evening? Take 20 minutes in the morning and catch up on your reading.

The One Thing You MUST Do for True Productivity

The single most important thing you can incorporate into your morning routine to set yourself up for a productive day is to plan your day before it starts. You want to know what you're going to do, where you're going to be, and what needs doing.
To create your plan, break your day down into three essential areas:

  1. The appointments you have.
  2. The tasks on your to-do list.
  3. The projects you are involved in, which are just large collections of to-dos.

Write down your plan wherever it makes sense. Your day planner, your smartphone, a sheet of notebook paper you keep in your pocket. It doesn't matter. But it must be in writing so that you can revisit it throughout the day and check your progress.

What to Do When You Get Off Track

So you've started your day off right. You got plenty of sleep and engaged in morning rituals that will power you through the day. You've got your written plan, and nothing can stop you.

Until something stops you.

No plan ever survives its collision with reality. No matter how meticulously you plan, something is going knock you off-track at some point during the day. If you find yourself veering off course and getting nothing done, take a moment to pause. Revisit your list and determine where things went awry. It might be a crisis that absolutely must be handled. Or it might be something far less important.

You can only determine when, where and why you got off target by checking yourself against your daily plan. Stop and ask yourself, "is this more important than the items on this list?" If so, focus on it. If not, readjust and get yourself back on track.

Remember, the key to getting back on track is to have a track when you start!  Without a plan, you'll never know where you should be focusing your attention.


Larry Hart

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