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The secret of super productive people

By Dianna Lloyd | 29 January 2018

We all know those amazing people. They seem to be busy at work when you drag yourself in (and you were 5 minutes early!). And they certainly aren’t joining you in the 5pm “where did the day go” freak-out. Do they perform some secret Illuminati ritual, or possess super-human genes? The answer is kind of. But don’t worry, you can join the super productive people league with some adjustments to your daily routine. 

Rise early and shine

woman waking up from sleep in the morning

There’s no question that early risers tend to be more productive than those who prefer to hit the snooze button. In a study published by the American Psychological Association Journal, early risers are found to be more proactive than late risers. When we wake up (and what state we’re in when we do) tends to form a small but basic component of our self-image. Early risers self-reported as being happier and healthier overall. Is this because they are more productive in the morning hours at their study or jobs? The answer is likely ‘yes’. The bigger question is, can you alter deeply ingrained habits around what time you choose to raise yourself from the night of the sleeping dead? 

High productivity starts early in life

The truth is that late risers are probably already behind in the productivity game since childhood. However, it’s a great idea to study earlier risers and learn from their life-long habits. Christopher Randler from the University of Education in Heidelberg found that early risers tend to get better results in school resulting in better business opportunities later. According to Randler, morning people “anticipate problems and try to minimize them. They’re proactive.” Randler does give credit to the gifts of night owls, which includes being highly intelligent and creative, however he says late risers are “out of sync with the typical corporate schedule. When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards.” 

What if you’re not a natural early riser?

First of all, it’s not your fault.  A person’s likelihood to be a morning person is largely determined by individual chronotype, a fancy name for our individual disposition in relation to our cycles of activity and rest. Biological and genetic forces determine every chronotype’s love (or anti-love) of the morning, and about 15% of the population can expect to be worm-getting types as a matter of natural preference. That doesn’t mean the other 85% of us are doomed to an existence as grumpy, ferry-missing, Red Bull-swilling late-comers. It just means we need to make some adjustments to reap the early riser benefits. 

Sensible bedtimes create productive persons

man reaching out to press snooze button on phone

Bingeing Game of Thrones until 11pm might sound like a great idea, however the next morning may have you may be feeling a bit like poor Ned Stark at the end of season 1. For most people this is a huge obstacle, particularly given the constant stimulation that attends our leisure time in an age of smartphones, tablets, and flat screen TVs built into the doors of fridges. Plus we have all been hearing about the effects of blue light on our body's natural clock  (aka circadian rhythm), so put those phones away and go to bed early, or you will be reminded that a Lannister always pays his (sleep) debts. 

Arriving early is awesome

Being the first to the office is more than just a great way to earn brownie points with your boss, it’s a chance to attend to the important tasks before the distractions of the working day impose themselves onto your world. Before the meetings to attend and the emails to answer, early risers are instead doing what they find important, as well as doing what they love to do. 

Vampires don’t make productive workers

Sunlight (and its close friend and associate, vitamin D) is a key factor in modifying your body’s natural rhythms. Make the transition easier by leaving your blinds open and going for a brisk walk right as soon as you get vertical. (It’s a good idea to have your runners and track pants ready to go). A sunrise is a superb way to start your day with beauty and positivity. 

The morning espresso ritual

Doing something pleasant later in the morning will give you another reason to wake up and get out. Maybe it’s flirting with the attractive barista at your favourite cafe? And while we’re on the subject of caffeine, according to Neuroscience PhD student Steven Miller, the most effective time to have your latte is between 9.30am and 11.30am, when your natural cortisol levels (alertness levels) are dipping down from their highest point of the day. However, it’s best to cut yourself off soon after, as the perky stuff will stay in your system throughout the afternoon. You don’t want to wreak havoc with this new sleep cycle thing you’re trialling. 

Exercise later for better rest

man lifting weights in gym

While the brisk early morning walking routine is a must-have in your playbook of clever daily practices, all-out gym assaults are best left for quitting time. The subsequent fall in body temperature (3-4 hours after your workout finishes) is a metabolic signal to your brain that it’s time to shut down for the night. Right back to those circadian rhythms again. 

Habit forming routines

The old saying goes that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Given the multitude of factors that conspire to bend our daily schedule out of shape, it’s a conservative estimate for those wishing to listen to the original self-help guru Aristotle: “it is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” The main thing is to introduce positive routines gradually – and not beat yourself up when you hit that evil snooze button from time to time.

Also, if would like to find out how highly productive people like corporate leaders and star athletes utilise daily meditation rituals to achieve their full potential, check out our article on How to Meditate to Regain Focus & Learn New Skills 

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