You Make or Break Your Life in the First 3 Hours of the Day

Carl Heyerdahl via Unsplash - Productivity

Be More Productive and Get Back Your Life

“Wake up with determination. Go to bed with satisfaction.”

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How are you using your time? 

How productive are you during that time?

The traditional 9-5, eight-hour work day is not the most efficient model for the most productivity. 

Many people are going through their routine on a daily basis because, “that’s how it’s done.” But over the past seven months many people have been forced to change their pattern and way of doing things whether they like it or not. 

And guess what?… Many of them have realized that they are just as, or even more productive in their new environment, working from home, or some other new environment. 

The pandemic of the past seven months has creating chaos and a lot of opportunities. For many, this is an opportunity to hit reset and figure out how things are going to be moving forward. If that is you, doesn’t it make sense to design it how you want it, rather than how you are told it should be?

I am going to share some ideas that will help you to be more productive and efficient with your time while being able to enjoy the most important things in life, like family and your time.

If You Win The Morning You Win The Day

“Set goals that make you want to jump out of bed in the morning”

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Psychologist, Ron Friedman, says that the first three hours of your day are the most precious for maximizing your productivity.  My intent in this article is to share some ideas and strategies that you will be able to immediately implement that will change your life. These habits will make you more efficient and productive, while giving you back many hours of your time every week, and most importantly will allow you to get back your life.

Protect Your Mornings

If the first three hours of your day are the most precious for maximizing your productivity, you have to make sure that you are intentional with that time. This is the time in which your mind is most clear and readily active to do thoughtful work. This is when your willpower and self control are the strongest

Start the morning with a win - Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash
Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Never Hit Snooze!

“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”

Paul Valery

Start the day with a win, on your terms. When the alarm wakes you up, Never Hit Snooze! Take charge of your actions and get up immediately, excited and anxious to take on the day. You’ve started your day with a win.

In Extreme Ownership, How US Navy Seals Lead and Win, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin put it this way: 

Discipline starts every day when the alarm clock goes off in the morning. The moment the alarm clock goes off is the first test and it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is simple. When the alarm clock goes off do you get up out of bed or do you lie there in comfort and fall back asleep. 

They go on the explain that if you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win, you pass the test. If you are mentally weak at that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, whichever decision you make will translate into more significant and substantial elements of your life.

My favorite quote in this book is, “Discipline is the difference between being good and being exceptional.”

Mindset Journal

“Your life is as good as your mindset.”

My day begins at 4:30AM with my Mindset Journal

There are six areas I focus on first thing in the morning with my Mindset Journal:

  1. Calendar – The night before, I added all my meetings and events to my calendar in my Mindset Journal. So unless something else has to be added, I’m just doing a quick review of the day.
  2. Tasks – The night before I also entered all of the tasks that I need to remember into my task list. In the Mindset Journal the task list area is an area to keep a full list of your tasks so that you can have them recorded and not worry about keeping them in your mind as a distraction. Once they are on your list, forget about them until they are moved to your priority list and need to be dealt with. 
  3. Priorities – The next area I look at is my Priority List. This is not just a place to move your top tasks to. The most important thing at this point is to identify the outcome you desire for the day. Once you know the outcome that you need to achieve that day, take your top 3 or 4 tasks and move them to this list in order of their priority.
  4. Morning Mindset Questions – This is a key point in setting up your day for success. This is a list of six questions in my Mindset Journal that you need to answer every morning. Each question has its own significance, but to me the most important one is, “What can I do today that will take me outside of my comfort zone?” Read more about Mindset Questions at https://jeffheggie.com/mindset/
  5. Goals & Definite Chief Aim – The next step is to write out your top goals and Definite Chief Aim. In the front of the mindset journal I have you go through a number of exercise to gain clarity on your top goals. I also have you go through the practice of defining your Definite Chief Aim as outlined in the second chapter of Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich. I strongly believe it is very important to review your goals and Definite Chief Aim on a continual basis. I also believe it’s important to complete this part of the Mindset Journal by hand rather than typing because it takes longer, has you thinking about each goal and your Definite Chief Aim for an extended time.
  6. Morning Journal – This is the final step of my morning routine in my Mindset Journal, but one of the most important. There doesn’t have to be structure here, you just need to let your creativity flow. This is an area to let go and create your life. If you’re stuck, I suggest using these questions from Benjamin Hardy to stimulate your thoughts:
    • What are you trying to accomplish right now?
    • Where do you want to be in 90 days?
    • What is your purpose?
    • What are you grateful for?
    • Who is your future self?
    • What Power Moves are you going to make today?

That may seem like a lot to get through first thing in the morning, but it’s not. This is all quick and typically takes me less than 30 minutes.

I’m not going to spend the time in this article to talk about other topics such as: Evening Mindset Questions, Evening Journal, Visualization, etc. But these are topics I often talk about on my podcast, Jeff Heggie’s Daily Success Strategies that you can find HERE.

Exercise

As soon as I finish my Mindset Journal I head to the gym for a workout. Some people argue that this is not the best time of the day to exercise. There are good arguments both ways. But for me, this is my ideal time to exercise. 

I’m not going to go into great detail here, but many studies have shown the benefits of exercise for everything from your health, to your focus, productivity, energy, and happiness. What I’ll suggest, is that it is a smart decision to ensure you add an exercise routine to your day. 

Now would be a good time to also remind you how important proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep are to your overall wellbeing and success.

My time at the gym is not only a time to exercise, it’s time that allows me to listen to my favorite audio books and podcasts as well. 

Clear Priorities

When I return from the gym my focus shifts for a bit. The next stage of my morning is getting the kids ready and taking them to school. But once that is done, my focus goes back to my productivity. 

There are a number of things that I focus on that help me to set up this next portion of my day:

  • Set up your week for success – If you listen to my Daily Success Strategies podcast you know that every Monday morning I encourage my listeners to set up their week so that on Friday they’ll be able to look back and say that it has been a successful week, and they are closer to achieving their big goals. I believe it is important to begin the week with the end in mind. I encourage my listeners to leave a comment wherever they are listening to my podcast as to what they want to complete throughout the week to increase their level of accountability. Throughout the week it is important to reflect and gauge where you are at and make adjustments if needed. During my Friday episode I ask my listeners to reflect on the week. Did they make it a successful week, and are they closer to achieving their bigger goals because of it? 
  • Block Time – Block Time will be some of your most precious and productive time. As you are setting your week up for success and reviewing your calendar in your Mindset Journal, you need to block off time to allow you to work on your most important projects without any distractions. This means no email, no phone calls, no social media, no staff, no family, etc. You need to train yourself and everyone around you that during Block Time, you are not to be interrupted.

*This photo shares a conversation from my Daily Success Strategies Facebook group that gives some valuable insight on Blocking Time from a leadership perspective.

  • Not-to-Do List – One of the biggest struggles I’ve faced myself and watched other entrepreneurs deal with is the need to do everything yourself if you want it to be done right. To allow yourself to be more productive and work on your business more than you are working in your business, the Not-to-Do List will be one of your most useful tools (read more HERE). In essence, the Not-to-Do List has you go through all of the tasks that you deal with and either (1) Delegate, (2) Automate, or (3) Eliminate everything that you can. Once you have done this, your time and focus can be on the most important and productive tasks at hand.
  • Personal Development – It’s easy to get busy, working on important things and at the end of the day you have an excuse that you just didn’t have time to read or work on your personal development that day. I believe that you need to make your personal development a priority. Whatever that means for you, whether it’s reading, listening to audios or podcasts, taking a course, or something else, plan it and make it happen. If you plan it, schedule it, and make it a priority you will find the time and it is guaranteed to pay off in both the long and short term.

Balance, The Myth

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

Dolly Parton

Everyone is searching for the secret of creating a great work-life balance. Here’s the secret, it doesn’t exist, at least how many imagine it to be. 

Brendon Burchard says, “the great mistake most people make is to think of balance in terms of evenly distributed hours… Most people have a lot more time off and more time with their families than they think. It’s just that they’re not intentional about that time and, hence, don’t enjoy that time “enough”… Instead of trying to balance hours, try to balance happiness or progress in your major life areas.”

An ancient prophet said, “…men are, that they might have joy.” Yes, we are here on this earth to have joy in our lives. Make the effort to “balance happiness or progress in your major life areas.” The best advice I’ve heard on this is, “When you are working, be at work. When you’re done work, stop working.” (I’m not sure who to credit that quote to, but it has stuck in my mind since I heard it)

Conclusion

“Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.”

Michael J. Fox

Times have changed and will continue to change. It’s up to you the path you take going forward. Within all the chaos and tragedy, there are opportunities to shape your future.

Whatever direction you take, the more productive you are, the more value you add.

My hope is that the ideas, tools, and strategies in this article will help you to set your life up for more happiness, success, and joy.

Get my “Mindset Questions” Checklist HERE >>


Published by D. Jeff Heggie

Father, Husband, Coach & Entrepreneur

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