7 Ways To Improve Your Productivity, Before You Get Out Of Bed.

By  •  Updated: 08/09/18 •  8 min read

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”

Too many people start their day by checking their emails or social media feeds, sometimes before they’ve even got out of bed.

The result is that they’re starting their day in re-active mode instead of active mode. Their entire day is taken up by responding to the requests of others rather than the things that they really want from their own day.

“I’ll get onto my tasks later” they tell themselves, but the afternoon rolls round, the requests don’t stop and by evening they’re exhausted and no closer to reaching the mythical state of an empty inbox. Unable to focus on your own project, you slide onto the sofa and decompress with a couple of hours of Netflix, scrolling through your Facebook feed, and eventually to bed, wondering what all the energetic entrepreneurs you’ve been watching on social media know that you don’t.

Where do they find the time?
Where do they find the energy?
When do they ever SLEEP!

You watch as younger, less experienced, and less talented upstarts succeed in hitting goals that you’ve been clawing away at for years, never really making the mark you know you’re capable of.

Books get written, apps get launched, huge social followings crowd around these people and you wonder why you can’t start, let alone finish anything under the pressure of constant requests from bosses, colleagues and friends.

But there’s a simple enough way through this.

Just by swapping your attention from your phone to a simple piece of paper for the first part of the day, you can set your own agenda for the day, prioritize the things you want, and, bit-by-bit reach the goal you’ve only dreamed about so far.

By starting your day focussed on your goals before you give them up to other people, you’ll eventually open up more and more time for your own life to shine through the suffocating wants of others.

It won’t happen all at once. Your boss isn’t going anywhere. Your clients aren’t going anywhere. Your family aren’t going anywhere. But they’ll wait half an hour, especially if you knock off that last Netfliix episode, go to bed half an hour early and get up half an hour early, starting the day with your goals, not theirs.

Here are 9 steps, spread throughout the day that made the biggest difference to me getting this very project launched, and many others besides.

1) Start the day by re-stating your goals.

Write them down, every day. Just the power of reminding yourself of that dream will build you a mental suit of armour against others taking your time, and therefore your goal, away from you.

Write down the same goals, day in, day out until you get there.

Ideally in blocks of around 90 days, which will keep the end in sight, with no more than 3 big projects to work on.

If your goal is winning the Olympics, work out a milestone for the next quarter and focus on that, or the big goal can be too big, and too overwhelming. If your goal is a $10 million business, work on the first $50,000 of income first, then when you reach that horizon, you’ll see the next one more clearly.

2) Prioritize the tasks that meet those goals

Do the things you’re doing each day take you a step closer to your goals?

If you’re starting your day focusing on tasks, rather than goals, the two may well not match up. Start your day with the goals, then immediately write down one task that will take you a step closer to that goal. Writing a single page of your book, contacting one client, walking one extra mile. You’ll be amazed how these little actions add up over time.

3) Be grateful

Hang on Steve, that sounds a bit “woo-woo” doesn’t it? You’ll be telling us that the universe is going to drop our biggest desires into our laps next.

Well, not quite. That’s what I thought when I came across this idea, but bear with me.

If you take a moment to think about what’s good in your life, it awakens hope, and floods the brain with positive chemicals that allow you to take positive actions. Most of us spend our days being stressed out by the pressures that are crushing our dreams. That breeds resentment and sends us into defensive mode where we can’t imagine ever having a better life. Survival, not growth becomes our priority.

Take a moment to think of 3 things that are good in your life right now. It might be your wife or kids, it might be a friend, it might be the weather, or the wildlife where you live. It might be opportunities available in your life.

You’ll be surprised at how your mindset shifts from “how the hell am I going to do this” to “I can do this”.

4) Break up your day into smaller chunks.

Try not to attack each task until you’re exhausted. Recovery takes longer than you think, but it’s also easier to prevent than you think as well.

I break my day into a 3x3x30 pattern:

25 minutes, then a 5 minute break, repeated 3 times.
Then a longer break where I do something completely different. Lunch, go to the gym, go for a walk. Something physical or that needs movement is usually best, letting your creative brain rest and recuperate.

I do this pattern 3 times over.

3 short blocks of work with short pauses, then a long break.

3 short blocks of work with short pauses, then a long break.

3 short blocks of work with short pauses, then a long break.


Doesn’t sound like much does it? But compared to the usual patter of work for 2 hours until exhaustion, then half-arsing the rest of the day, it gets way more done. That’s 4 hours of solid concentrated work if you can pull it off.

Consider that in a 9 hour day, the average American spends less than 3 hours in productive work, you can get a third more done, knock off by early afternoon, and still have more energy when you get home.

5) Take breaks before you tire

Key to the pattern above is taking break before you’re exhausted.

Feel like you haven’t done enough and your brain will keep working on the problem in the background, helping you hit the ground running when you start again.

The writer Ernest Hemingway said this was one of the greatest tips he could give a writer – a notoriously difficult profession in terms of self-motivation:

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

6) Make time for you.

I used to spend around 12 hours each week in rowing training, on top of a $100k job and a fairly busy social life. My colleagues would ask how I found the time for it all.

Simple, I put it in my diary as if were a meeting with my boss. It’s that important.

If you’re not reaping at least some reward from your efforts early on, you’ll soon tire of them, so give yourself a reward, particularly if your goal requires some sacrifice like losing weight or stopping drinking. Take some of the money you’ve saved and reward yourself with an experience. A dinner, a film a weekend away. Experiences last longer in the mind than objects.

20 years ago I won a trip to stay in the George V Hotel in Paris with my girlfriend of the time. That reward has stuck in my mind longer than the MG sports car I bought myself the same year, even though it cast a fraction of the price.

Excercise, socialising, taking a moment for a haircut or a massage – these are all essential maintenance jobs on the engine of our brain. Schedule in time for them like you would for your car.

7) Celebrate your wins, every day, and the next day

Don’t you love ticking things off your list? I know I do.

But once it’s done you’ll tend to focus on what’s to be done next rather than the work you’ve completed.

Take a moment at the end of each day to recap and look at the things you’ve achieved. Take a sense of pride in them. You’ll start to see a “streak” of achievements that you won’t want to break and build motivation for the future.

Jerry Seinfeld, possibly the most successful comedian alive today, attributed much of his success to this method. In his early career he set a goal of writing one joke a day, and would then mark a big red X on a wall chart. As the string of red grew, just not wanting to break the streak was enough to get him to write another one the next day.

Need some help building a winning habit?

These patterns are easy to forget. That’s why I created my Productive Day Planner. A simple one-sided sheet with prompts for each of the habits above, a timeline for your day, and even space to note new tasks that crop up during the day.

Download it for free by filling in the form below, and let’s see you win your day back.

Stephen Pratley

I build email lists, that grow into one-man businesses.