Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The dawn of a morning person

I love my mother.  She’s a morning person – fully awake as soon as her eyes open.  Even though half of my DNA originates from her, my circadian rhythms move to the beat of a different drum.  My mom has nearly completed her to-do list by the time my brain has figured out how to construct complete sentences instead of grunts. Frequently, I pray that those recessive genes would turn on magically and I could become super-productive before 9 AM.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  Hopefully.  Maybe.

Here’s my chance to become more efficient with my time.  Put words into action.  Generally speaking, I’ve made do, but I believe there is definitely room for improvement.

First step:  Set my goal. 
For my typical morning, it is 10 AM before I think about what I would like to get done for the day.  For some of you, that’s awful because I wasted precious time just waking up and going through the motions.  I know, sorry.

My goal is to be actively attacking my daily agenda by 9 AM, eliminating 60 minutes of unproductivity.  (Please, be patient with me.  Baby steps, here.)  The words actively attacking may seem a bit much, especially since I have more energy in the afternoon.  But here, active means that I am intentionally getting things done that contribute to my larger goals, no matter how small or mindless the task.  

Second step:  Identify the bottlenecks.

The first one is obvious:  I wake up like Frankenstein no matter how much sleep I’ve gotten that night.  Sometimes, I set my alarm 30 minutes before I need to get up to perform the ritual that is getting out of bed.  While there are possible external influences that contribute to my morning condition, such as a bad diet or poor sleep patterns, I am choosing not to focus on how I wake up.  Maybe in round 2.

Another, more approachable bottleneck is my lack of direction in the morning (when I can sometimes be seen walking like Frankenstein).  While I do have to-do lists, I don’t always have a game plan.  No plan of attack often results in working hard, but not smart.  It takes longer for me to do things because I am working in fits, moving between multiple tasks without finishing one before the next.  Furthermore, I tend use the excuse of ‘not being awake’ to not do anything of significance and dawdle at the computer.  Not so organized, right?

Third step:  Get an action plan and work it.

The plan begins the night before, where I group things on my to-do list into mindless and mindful categories.  The mindless items require little thought to complete and are a great starting point for me.  Examples are:  filing paperwork, flagging and deleting email, updating budgets, searching for new healthy recipes, defrosting items for dinner, planning afternoon workouts.  The idea is to have about 45-60 minutes worth of stuff to get done.

(If you’re curious, some of my personal goals are to try new and healthy meals, increase my aerobic threshold, and save up for our big vacation.  So, all of these mundane tasks are important in the long run!)

Next, since my brain wants to take its sweet time waking up, I decided to create a warm-up routine to get it going.  It’s super simple:  pour glass of water and drink it.  Repeat.  Empty dish drain and/or dishwasher.   Make breakfast and eat it.  Make the bed. 

Then I’m off to start attacking the mindless items on my to-do list first, followed by increasingly mindful ones. 

I’m giving myself 3 weeks to try this plan out, to see if it works.  Stay tuned!

Any other ideas I should incorporate into my plan?  What has worked for you?

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