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Productivity and the Morning Routine

posted in: Productivity | 7

This may be a slight diversion from my typical style of post… but here it is! I’m going to talk about Productivity and the ability or inability to finish a project, learn a new skill and so on. Everyday life is so chock full of distractions, staying the course and effectively finishing a project or learning that new skill can often be quite a challenge.

While on my commute late last year I was listening to a few podcasts and several of them mentioned a link between getting things done effectively and having a morning routine…

Productivity – A Morning Routine

Many motivational figures both online and offline have re-iterated the need to have a consistent morning routine to stay focused and achieve steady progress on projects and goals. For the start of 2015, I set my sights on more progress toward mobile app development, web development and building out this blog. People like Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, have consistently re-iterated the importance of a morning routine to stay focused and achieve results.

OKAY !! … I thought to myself, if many well known successful entrepreneurs and tech gurus proclaim the importance of a morning routine, maybe I should give it a try?!

 

Graphic of alarm clock and hitting keyboard

 

A Morning Routine – Failure to Launch!

Typically, I work on my side-projects and mobile app development later on in the evening, once the household quiets down a bit (kids in bed). In 2014, it would last typically between 1-3 hours in the evening, for 3-5 days a week. There would be large gaps at times where I’d go off on a tangent or feel I was too busy with life and work to put in any additional effort. The gaps could be days to weeks at times… which unless you are the type that can put your brain on “hibernate mode” and launch back into the groove at the flick of a switch, it is a terribly inefficient way to progress forward.

I pledged an oath to implement a ‘morning routine’ at the beginning of 2015!

I had it all worked out, instead of staying up late after the kids were sound asleep, I’d put in maybe an hour in the evening (since I’m usually a bit tired from a full day at a corporate job), sleep until say 4:30 or 5am, then try to squeeze in 2 hours in the morning before heading of to my corporate job around 7:30am.

Morning Routine – Day 1: Scenario – A critical part of this story is that fact that I’ve got an 8 month old. He naturally wakes up a few times during the night at this stage of development (the joys of teething). So I wake up at 4:30am, and quietly (or so I thought) walk into the kitchen and fire up my Macbook Air. I turn on the baby monitor to see how things are going and I see my 8 month old doing barrel rolls around his cot.

Morning Routing – Day 1: Results = Epic fail !  Unfortunately, in my first attempt, I actually made my productivity cycle for that day less than normal. Rather than working on mobile app development for 2 hours before heading off to work, I ended up with an infant that thought it was time to get up earlier than normal. Essentially I got nothing done 2 hours before work, got home more tired than normal, and my typical 1-3 hours in the evening was nil.

 

So do I actually need a Morning Routine? Well…. at this stage in my life, circumstances require a little bit of what I like to call adaptive progress. I have made some progress on several mornings, but I would not consider myself to have a religious morning routine. Sometimes night works better (like writing this post), other times early morning works better.

Whether you get up early or burn the midnight oil, an integral part of moving forward and achieving results is – Consistency.

 

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Consistency

I have come to recognize that the main thing for me is to be consistent in actually doing something on my project each and every day. Focusing on 1 or 2 projects at a time seems to work well. These thoughts were recently reinforced by an email I received from John Sonmez at SimpleProgrammer.com while taking his free email course for software developers creating a blog. The opening paragraph of Lesson 4 put it right out there with –

 

Do you know what the single, most important thing that makes or breaks a blog is? If you read yesterday’s email, you probably guessed right: consistency 

 

I think the same can be said for many things in life. Consistency is important. People like people that are consistent and reliable. We have all heard the phrase practice makes perfect. If you chip away at your project on a consistent interval (day, afternoon or night) or consistently learn that new skill (day, afternoon or night), you will get good at it, you will finish that project. If you are interested in starting a technical blog or want great tips to help your existing blog, I recommend you check out John’s free course Dev Career Boost.

 

But when I say “get good at it“, what does that actually mean? Does it not take years to get really good at something? Well, according to Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast!it takes around 20 hours to get good at something. Check out this Tedx talk where he states his case –

 

 

Time for Action

Consistency is huge! So go ahead, stop reading this post (yes, I actually said that?!), take a moment to think when you will carve out some time your self to dedicate to your project or learn that new skill within the next 24 hours. Remember, don’t stress if you haven’t perfected that morning routine, the key is to –

  • Be consistent
  • Keep your chin up, don’t get discouraged (we all give in to procrastination at times… just don’t make it the norm)
  • Focus
  • Act

 

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If you are looking to have a crack at a morning routine to increase your productivity, check out Hal Elrod’s – The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM).

 

If you want some fantastic productivity tips from a well known software developer and entrepreneur, I recommend you check out John Sonmez’s – Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual (Section 4: Productivity, has great tips from a developer’s perspective).

 

Do you have any tips for staying focused and optimizing your productivity?
Feel free to drop us a comment below

 

 

7 Responses

  1. Kostadin Golev

    I am also building a morning routine – looks like after work just does not work anymore when you have children 🙂
    I had huge gaps, and after each missed day it is so easy to miss another… So I set up a rule: never miss twice. If I fail to get up one morning, I’ll not repeat on the next day. So no big gaps. Works very good so far!

    • Randal

      You are very right Kostadin! with children things like homework, bedtime etc can make getting much traction after work quite a challenge.
      I like your 2 strikes rule, keeps you on track but also allows a bit of flexibility… thanks for sharing mate! Cheers

  2. Kevin O'Shaughnessy

    Hi Randall,

    Great post! I love your honest account of how it is going – many people online pretend that these difficulties don’t exist but actually they exist for everybody. The hardest thing about a new routine is getting started with it. It’s more difficult when you have to balance your time with your family, but there are very many examples of successful people who don’t let that stop them. Recently I read “The Power of Habit” which opened up my eyes to a lot of things. Think of a cue, such as alarm clock going off – your natural reaction is “its too early, I’m too tired, hit snooze button”. The hard part is overriding that at first to work instead, but once its done a few times its much easier. Also, think of the benefits of your good routine. When you finish its very important to feel good about yourself, and maybe treat yourself to something you enjoy. You’ll get yourself into a cue-action-reward cycle every day, and after a while you won’t even need to think about it.

    The other challenge is avoiding cravings for distraction – email, Twitter, Facebook, etc can all start creeping into your routine if your not careful and destroy your productivity. Its important to be aware of those temptations otherwise they can become your routine instead of the productive routine.

    • Randal

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks very much for your feedback! The balancing act of real life and staying productive on personal projects is definitely a struggle sometimes.. but I try to keep consistency by working on “the project” (no matter how small) each day. I’ll check out that book you mentioned “The Power of Habit”, hopefully it is on Audible.

      Great points about Twitter, email, etc !.. they can be big impediments to getting things done. I implemented a “No email, No Twitter” rule in the mornings or I have found myself looking at the clock and its time to get ready for my day job… accomplishing jack squat that morning!

      WWDC tomorrow… will be up bright and early at 3am AEST for the keynote! [ I guarantee a little sleep will be in order before work after that 😉 ]

  3. James Murphy

    Hey Randal,

    Great post! I’m so glad someone else pointed out consistency as the key to success. It absolutely is. I’ve had a look through all of the blogging course graduates (on the hunt for a potential mastermind group if people are interested?) to see which ones are consistent and follows via RSS those who are (creating a small ecosystem!).

    It’s funny that you mentioned early morning routine (and Hal Elrod / TIm Ferriss). I’ve recently upped my game as far as the morning routine is concerned. Check out my post on it: http://devangst.com/conquering-stress-with-early-morning-routine/

    Don’t be discouraged about starting an early routine – I have a 3 year old daughter who wakes at 6 and I can vouch that it absolutely gives you more energy and focus during the day. Like you I have a full-time job, family, blog and business on the side to run…

    Anyway great to get in touch with a fellow blogger – look forward to reading more posts!

    • Randal

      Thanks for getting in touch James! Staying consistent is definitely the key to productivity for me, essentially so “the project” does not leak out of my mind (which has occurred if I don’t stay consistent+focused). I definitely have not perfected my morning routine yet.. still playing the night owl in recent months.

      I’ll check out your post!
      Cheers mate

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