They leave their cell phones out of the bedroom
When you’re asleep, your brain is working hard to organize your memories and thoughts, but your body feels totally relaxed. As you’re waking up, that combination makes it among your most creative points in the day—perfect for coming up with new solutions or having entertaining thoughts. But adding a cell phone into that equation gets in the way of that creative flow. “There is nothing on the internet that cannot wait for 20 minutes while you do some mindful breathing and think grateful thoughts,” writes Bennett in Start Right Where You Are. Use an alarm clock (yes, an actual clock!) to wake you up in the morning, and if you’re worried about emergency calls, leave it near the door, in earshot but out of arm’s reach.
They start the day with their most important work
As soon as you settle into your desk in the morning, get started on your most important work—the creative, strategic tasks that only you can do. If you start by checking your email or social media, you’ll end up wasting half your morning. “The next thing you know, two hours have gone by, you haven’t gotten to any of the important stuff, and the rest of your day is crowded with meetings and calls,” writes Bennett. Set a timer for two minutes to skim your inbox for emergencies, but if there’s nothing that requires your immediate attention, shift straight into your important work for a more productive morning that sets you up for a successful day. Learn more ways to be more productive in your first hour of work.
They make replies prompt but not immediate
You should still be a reliable communicator, but dropping everything to answer people’s requests immediately not only forces you to adjust to their schedules and puts you off course, but it also doesn’t give you time to fully think out your reply. Bennett says she likes to wait 24 hours before responding to emails, calls, and other messages. “I find that this gives me time to prioritize, to consider people’s requests, and give them a solid answer,” she writes. If you’re saying no to someone, no need to give a long-winded explanation—just be vague and thank the person for thinking of you as you kindly decline.
They put everything on the calendar
Your calendar shouldn’t be limited to big meetings and deadlines. Use it to schedule every little thing, from clearing off your desk to taking an afternoon walk. “I hear from people all the time, ‘I wish I had time to write a book,’” writes Bennett. “You do. You are just spending that time on other things.” If you don’t write down nonessential activities, there’s a good chance you’ll let other tasks get in the way. But by committing to those blocks of time, you’ll increase the chances that you’ll actually accomplish everything you’d hoped. Don't miss these other productive tricks to stop procrastinating.
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They are intentional with their news consumption
Set aside dedicated time to consume news, rather than getting drawn in to the 24-hour news cycle. Read the newspaper in the morning rather than scrolling through Twitter all day to find out what’s going on. And keep in mind that at its core, the news business is part of the entertainment industry, designed to tug your emotions and keep you engaged. “When you let other people—particularly people in the entertainment industry—form your opinions for you, or tell you what’s important, you give away your power,” writes Bennett. Watch and read mindfully, asking yourself whether your opinions on current events are yours or theirs.
They seek out new media
“Get out of your rut,” writes Bennett. “Doing, watching, or listening to the same things every day makes time feel like it’s slipping right through your fingers.” Instead of falling back on the same media, search the Internet for new ways to learn and stay entertained. Whether you’re into podcasts, games, meditations, craft projects, or artwork, you don’t have to restrict yourself to mass-market media. Spending time making new memories and finding new media will expose you to new culture and enrich your life.
Take more baby steps to achieving your goals
Creativity and productivity expert Sam Bennett is the founder of The Organized Entrepreneur Company and The Organized Artist Company, which help creative people bust out of their ruts and achieve goals. For more of her tips on how to jump-start your own success, pick up a copy of Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers, and Recovering Perfectionists. Next, read about these productivity tips that incredibly busy people always use.