We’ve all made it to the middle of the day and thought to ourselves, “where did the morning go?” It seemed to happen so fast — you might remember waking up, or the first part of your commute, but now it’s noon and you don’t have nearly as much done as you’d hoped.
For some of us, it’s an occasional annoyance, and for others, it’s a daily reality. You’ve wasted the morning, and now you have to play catch-up the rest of the day, or else make your peace with the fact that not everything’s going to get done.
So what causes these wasted mornings? It’s not like some mornings are inherently shorter than others; it all has to do with your daily habits and controllable variables that interfere with your productivity. These are six of the most common culprits:
1. Improvisation. You wouldn’t jump into a new marketing and advertising campaign without a plan, right? So why would you try to start your day without a plan? Life as an entrepreneur can be hectic, so it’s often less stressful to avoid plans and just try to go with the flow, but without a timetable and/or a list of priorities, it’s too easy to lose track of time. You can mitigate the effects here by creating a plan the night before; make a list of everything you want to accomplish, and when you want to accomplish it by. Hold yourself accountable by setting timers and reminders, and be sure to leave a bit of wiggle room for emergencies.
2. Communication. Regardless of how you feel about conversation and interacting with others throughout the workday, communication can be a distraction. Part of this is due to the ubiquity of communication platforms; you’re open to texts, calls, emails, and instant messages, and every time you’re contacted, you get pulled away from what you’re doing. Before you know it, hours are gone and the only thing you’ve really done is talk to people. Sometimes, communication is necessary, but experiment with setting “off” hours, where you refuse to check your phone, or turn off your instant messenger, and instead prioritize the items on your agenda.
3. The slow start. Unless you’re a natural morning person, you may have sluggish morning tendencies. When you get into the office, you spend time making coffee, checking your email, catching up with coworkers, reading the news, checking social media, and dozens of other micro-rituals. These distractions don’t seem like a big deal because individually, they only take a few minutes, but cumulatively, they eat into your working hours and compromise your overall productivity. Get to the office earlier or allocate a strict time allowance for these warmup distractions.
4. Traffic. The average American spends about 42 hours a year caught in traffic jams — and that’s above and beyond the “usual” traffic on your daily commute. If you’re like most Americans, you spend almost an hour a day traveling, and more if you get caught in traffic. The extra stress here can also sabotage your productivity throughout the day, so make the most of your commute. Start carpooling or taking public transportation; you’ll be on the road for the same amount of time, but you’ll have the ability to get started on work instead of writing it off as “dead time.”
5. Procrastination. Procrastination is a temptation to everyone, no matter how disciplined you are or how much you genuinely like the work you’re doing, and it manifests in subtle ways. You might organize your task list to put your least favorite work on the bottom, or you may opt to check your emails or talk to your coworkers in an effort to delay starting a major project. To get over this, start tackling your hardest projects early in the morning, or commit to only working on a tough project for 10 minutes — it won’t seem as intimidating, encouraging you to start, then once those 10 minutes are up, you’ll likely feel compelled to keep working.
6. Alertness. More than one third of all adults are chronically sleep deprived, and I’d be willing to bet many of them are entrepreneurs. You need to get at least seven hours of sleep every night, and if you don’t, you’re more likely to wake up groggy, unfocused, and unable to do your best work. It’s hard to make time for everything — including all your professional and personal responsibilities — and still get a good night’s sleep, but without it, you’ll work inefficiently and lose even more time, resulting in a vicious cycle of time loss. Break the cycle by committing to a regular sleep schedule.
Once you learn to recognize how these factors sap your morning productivity, you can start taking action to fight back against them. Changing a habit isn’t easy, but if you do it incrementally and with a commitment to consistency, it can be done. Start by identifying what appears to be the most significant mode of interference, and work on that first; it’s much more manageable if you eliminate one thing at a time.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!