For my entire life, I’ve managed my priorities in the same manner: whatever fire is burning hottest or whoever is screaming loudest gets the appropriate attention. With the use of a lot of lists and, more recently, Monday.com, it’s worked well but I still knew I could be more productive.
One of the authors I’ve discovered over the pandemic has been Mel Robbins. Mel is freaking incredible. In her flagship book The 5-Second Rule, Mel issues a “30-before-7:30” challenge that I found to be a productivity gamechanger.
The minute you wake up, the timer is on. Until I started practicing 30-before-7:30 last winter, my alarm would go off at 6:05 a.m. and I would intentionally lay in bed for 20 or 25 minutes, let the house heat up and jump into email, news and social media. Then I’d get ready, slam a large glass of Metamucil and attack whatever was most pressing in my day by around 7:00 a.m. Turns out, I’m not the only one that does this. Mel says a majority of adults check email before they get out of bed. Apparently, a third of adults wake up to check their phones during the night.
Do you think Richard Branson lays in bed and checks his email in the morning? Not a chance. He knows what he needs to be working on and doesn’t let his email tell him. Not lolling in bed is an obvious timesaver but I really didn’t realize was how distracting checking email and social media first thing is and how much it can throw you off track until I started this challenge. Checking email right away always just felt like a productive best-practice when I woke up. According to Mel, it’s actually more of an addiction similar what gamblers experience from pulling the arm of a slot machine. Every X times I check email, I receive good news or a “reward” that has conditioned me to compulsively check email. Obsess much? Yes, we do.
By spending 30 minutes before 7:30 a.m. devoted specifically to planning first, I’m giving my priorities a fighting chance. Robbins also says your brain is operating at peak performance for the first two to three hours of your day, giving you the optimum focus to plan tasks or goals without yet being bombarded by other people’s crap. She is absolutely right. Change my mind.
If you are waking up and spending the most productive time of your day on Wordle, you might want to think about pushing the games back until after work. As Robbins says, “Save the cat videos for later.” It’s not just using your brain’s freshest time of the day efficiently, it’s the political, health, celebrity and world news that you are inundated with as soon as you look at your phone. So instead of planning your priorities when you are at the sharpest you’re going to be all day, your time-sensitive mindshare is focusing on things it shouldn’t be.
Wrapping my head around the fact that wasting 20 or 30 minutes of my brain’s best performance has been a real wake-up call; literally.
What follows is my adaptation of Mel’s 30-before-7:30 challenge, that I am hereby passing to you:
- Set the alarm for 30 minutes before you normally wake up. For me, it’s 5:35 a.m., which isn’t easy but my internal clock adapted quickly. Now I can’t turn it off.
- The most critical part of the challenge is to get up immediately when your alarm goes off. This is non-negotiable. “Do not hit snooze. Do not look at your phone.” According to Robbins, when you hit the snooze button, it can cause sleep inertia seriously disrupting your whole day.
- Get ready. Exercise or stretch if possible. Still no phone.
- Tackle 30 minutes of planning before 7:30 a.m. without checking email or social.
a. What two things that matter most can you do to move forward today?
b. Organize the remainder of the daily/weekly priorities.
c. Run a short quarterly/yearly goal review if time allows.
- Pick a quitting time for the day and stick to it.
- Start working on the two things that matter most.
- Read The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins.
Rich Porayko is a professional writer and founding partner of Construction Creative, a marketing and communications company. richp@constructioncreativecom
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