In the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot to try to increase my focus and productivity. This is no easy task, and it’s definitely an ongoing process. I’m writing this during the second big “winter weather” storm in the Atlanta area in the past two weeks. Since everyone was well prepared for it this time, today is a snow day, with my wife and I both home from work. That makes productivity even more elusive, since all anyone wants to do on a snow day is drink hot chocolate, watch movies or play in the snow. None of those are especially productive.
After allowing ourselves some time to lay in bed and watch the storm coverage this morning, we discussed if we should work out then, or later. We chose to work out first thing, and had a brief conversation about how exercising can help clear the mind, and help one focus again. Starting a day with a workout can set the tone for the rest of day and alleviate some of the mental “noise” of worrying about making the time for exercise, in between the other things that happen during an average day.
It’s been counterintuitive in many ways, but it works, and I’ve been actively using this strategy, lately. When I feel like my day is getting away from me, or my focus is waning and I cannot rein it in, I set aside time for a workout, ASAP. Yesterday, I was so preoccupied with being productive in two separate arenas, that I couldn’t stick with one, and the result was stalemate. Since my office is in a gym, I wrote down a quick list of things I wanted to accomplish later, changed my clothes, left my office, and got on the rowing machine. I tried to forget about my to-do list, and an hour and a half later, I walked back in my office, feeling accomplished and more capable of focusing. From then on, I think I was able to accomplish more with the rest of my day than if I hadn’t stopped to exercise. Getting my workout in allowed me to have a sense of accomplishment, and an endorphin rush. It also allowed me to blow off some of the stress I’d been building up about not being as productive as I’d have liked.
The more I can move my workouts to the beginning of my day, the more hours of my day can benefit from that effectiveness. So, I’m continuing to work on making myself more of a morning person. Earlier this year, I saved an article from Lifehacker, A Night Owl’s Guide to More Productive Mornings, about becoming a morning person, and I’m already doing a couple things in mentions, and I can attest to their efficacy:
Get enough sleep.
Get some exercise.
Building a morning ritual you look forward to (I LOVE my coffee-making ritual almost as much as the coffee drinking ritual).
Making some “me time” before work (I especially like this one when I have to be at work at 6:30am).
And my favorite, from the list of things I intend to add, beginning tomorrow:
Connect with friends, first thing in the morning.
So take a look at that article, as well Regular Exercise Might Be the Key to Work-Life Balance, and pick some of those strategies to help you make excuses to drop your work and go exercise, and also to help you hack yourself into being more productive with less stress. I’ve got a long way to go, myself, but it’s working, so far!