“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
We’re at our best when we move between expending energy and intermittently renewing our four core energy needs; physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. When on supplying fuel in each dimension of energy, creating an engaged workforce of people will affect an organisation’s success according to Tony Shwartz of the Energy Project.
Basic – Rest Activity Cycle (aka BRAC)
In the 1950s, the researchers William Dement and Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back out again. They named this pattern the Basic-Rest Activity Cycle or BRAC. A decade later, Professor Kleitman discovered that this cycle recapitulates itself during our waking lives.
The difference is that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.
90-Minute Intervals Prescription …
Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximising productivity. Professor K. Anderson Erickson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning & take a break between sessions.
Willpower is highest in the morning, so start strong. You’ve maybe heard the advice that your first work of the day should be something meaningful and significant, a task that might take a lot of focus – will, and determination to accomplish.
We’re limited with our self-control.
That’s the idea purported by the strength model. Self-control draws from a common resource that gets depleted over time. You can think of self-control as a muscle—fatigue sets in after exertion.
The longer the day goes on, the more fatigue your self-control experiences, the more important it is to make those early morning hours count.
The easiest way to hack your morning:
From research and meta-analyses to Mark Twain, the advice is the same: Get big work done early. Twain’s advice stems from this famous quote of his: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. In other words; “Do your biggest tasks first.” When you start with a big item (a project/frog), the rest of your day looks pretty great by comparison.
Productivity secret. To get SH*T done.
We’re really into this idea of theming. In the leadership program we’re introducing a concept Jack Dorsey, CEO Square & Founder of Twitter spoke to Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick (in this interview) how he juggles working full-time for two companies. As they saying goes; we’re all given 24 hours a day to get things done. We all have the same amount of time each and every single day. What we do with that time is entirely up to us.
We usually find ourselves saying, “I do not have enough time for ____ because ____.”
It usually comes down to this: our problems aren’t caused by limited time, but by our # priorities.
To get everything done, Jack puts in an 8-hour day at each company, every day. Of course, in a recent interview Jack said that he only did this routine for a limited time and today he is more fully focused on Square. The secret to being productive while working eight hours a day at each company is this…
The only way to do this is to be very disciplined and very practiced.
Jack’s trick in staying productive while putting in such long hours is to theme his days. Each weekday is dedicated to a particular area of the business at both companies. Here’s what his themed week looks like:
Monday: Management and running the company
Wednesday: Marketing and communications, growth
Thursday: Developers and partnerships
Friday: Company culture and recruiting
Now, 16-hour workdays, Monday-Friday is obviously not the kind of workday most of us are aiming for. You’d have to admit it’s impressive that he can fit it in.
Jack says this method of theming his days helps him to stay focused even when he’s often interrupted:
There is interruption all the time but I can quickly deal with an interruption and then know that it’s Tuesday, I have product meetings and I need to focus on product stuff.
This idea of daily themes is powerful for two reasons. First, it establishes a cadence—a rhythm—of focus and attention. Members of the product divisions at both Twitter and Square know that they have only seven days before Dorsey follows up on the questions he asked the previous week, and only seven days before they will have to show forward progress.
Second, daily themes are powerful because of efficiencies associated with grouping like tasks together. Many doctors who work in busy group practices will have one day a week that they schedule all their patients who have diabetes. That day, the nurses and physician assistants consistently tell each patient to take his socks off (in order to check for sores and other complications), to check certain blood levels, ask certain questions.
Steve Jobs was legendary for his consistent schedule. Mondays were for executive team meetings, Wednesdays were for advertising and marketing. Most afternoons were “themed” with design visits to Jony Ive.
How can you apply this “Secret Productivity” concept: Daily Themes” to increase yourproductivity, even if you don’t have complete control of your own calendar? Kevin Kruse suggests the following:
- Pick one day a week to be Administration Day. This is the day to fill out expense reports, complete performance reviews, read committee reports, catch up on old emails, and to schedule any random meetings that aren’t directly related to your key objectives.
- Pick one day a week to focus on your customers (whether internal or external). Common advice from successful CEOs is to get out of the office. Make some phone calls, take your top customers to lunch, and listen to the feedback they’re giving you.
- Pick one day of the week to hold all of your recurring internal meetings. At Chill; for the past few months, every Monday & Wednesday’s it’s all about the People with managing IDP’s held on Wednesday’s and direct reports on Mondays. Sometimes they only last 15 minutes, other times up to an hour. Planning Model and Projects Tuesday’s and Thursdays. Internal check-in theme actually should save time as it reduces miscommunication and mistakes, holds people to weekly accountability, and eliminates all those “got a minute” meetings.
Ron Friedman, founder and author
An inspiring morning reminder is one shared by founder and author Ron Friedman. It goes like this:
Ask yourself this question the moment you sit at your desk:
The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved? So simple, yet so effective.
Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, we all start our day at some point. And we all seem to start it differently.
Some of us hop online to check social media, others dive in to email, still others eat breakfast, exercise, or pack lunches for the kids.
There’re a million different ways a morning could go. Which morning routine might be best? Which frog you’re going to eat first breakfast.
While there’s probably not an ideal morning routine that fits everyone, we can learn a lot from the morning routines of successful people as well as from the research and inspiration behind starting a morning on the right foot.
We’ll leave you with a top 10 hit list of morning rituals of successful entrepreneurs for you apply some of these tips into your working life. We love the theming idea. And have had huge success using this method.