How to be more productive

About a year ago I wrote an article on how to implement a daily morning routine. I have received a lot of positive and challenging feedback on this. Based on that I have shared more insights and experience on improving productivity and change of behaviour. Time to revisit my own morning routine and share my learnings.

Changing is hard

All in all, changing behaviour is one of the hardest things to accomplish. Why? People like patterns, and doing the same things repeatedly because then you are on auto-pilot. This mode is simple, since we don’t have to think and decide. You have probably encountered it yourself: over-choice []? Over-choice is a process in which people have difficulty in making a decision when they are faced with (too) many options.

Getting back to the morning routine. Feedback I have received was:

“Yeah, but you are a morning person. So, it is easy for you to wake up swim, make an extensive healthy breakfast and brew fresh espresso. I just cannot wake up early since I am not a morning person!”

“Since I am already running late — and have a busy life — I don’t have any time in the morning for anything other than showering and getting dressed.”

“I need my full 7–8 hours of sleep and don’t have time in the morning.”

“My kids and wife all need attention before I am off to work, no time left!”

Glancing over these arguments you could say: these are actually valid reasons. Though, I beg to differ on this. As mentioned, change in behaviour is hard, but what really helps is (self) motivation.

Motivation is key in change of behaviour

Motivation is elementary in changing your behaviour. Believe it or not, I was not a morning person myself. Currently, I wake up at 6.50 am, which is not even really early morning. After I wake up, I follow a well thought through morning routine.

How do you get to change yourself into doing that? For starters, you must really want to do it. That is easier said than done. It starts with that one morning where you say: YES! Today is the day of change! Of course, it feels lousy to wake up early and start getting your routine in place. On the other hand, you probably will feel a little revived and refreshed. The next day, you will feel better and more refreshed and convinced you can do it! Let’s do it again, the day after. Then, you start optimizing your routine, make it (more) efficient so you will save time. You’ll notice that it also feels good when you push yourself to new limits!

Change evolves in your new standard

After a week, you will notice: “it actually feels great to wake up early, get things done and be more energized!” When does a change in behaviour become the new normal? A lot of research has been done and it is commonly agreed upon that after 30 days of keeping a new habit or de-learning, a habit becomes the standard. In a month, you can implement a new standard. This won’t cost you extensive energy anymore.

How I tweaked my morning routine into over-drive

I started out with my routine by adding 30 minutes of swimming directly after I woke up on weekdays. After that I took a shower, made a fresh brewed espresso and a simple breakfast.

Photo by Toby Marshman on Unsplash

Nowadays, I have added more steps to that basic routine. I added a set of 25 push ups before and after swimming. Instead of a simple breakfast I now make a healthy shake with fresh fruits in the blender. In addition to that I also water the balcony plants. This might seem like simple steps, but it takes more time and yet I managed to still leave on time for work. Since you do your morning routine everyday it gives you plentiful opportunities to optimise the flow of things and preparations. It gives me joy to optimise and tweak the routine. Over time, more steps will be added to my routine.

What should be your takeaway?

Start with a simple routine. It can be as little as 3 simple items, routine-steps or to-do’s. Do them every day and keep improving on them. If you start with a routine, record the time. Do the same thing after a month and see if you do it more efficiently. Most likely, you have added a few more things to the routine.

Will this help you focus on goals and tasks? I’d be interested in your thoughts!I am curious to learn about your experience and stories.

Originally published at