Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of it – the alarm clock goes off and after hitting the snooze button, we grab our phone and start to flick through our emails or facebook. That’s if you’re anything like me anyway..

I’ve realized recently that if I want to see our big vision come to life (educating 1 million girls by 2020), then I’m going to have to start taking responsibility for myself and how I spend my time.

To give you an example of how NOT to be productive, this was my routine towards the end of last year.

The second I woke up, I’d grab my iPhone to check my emails and facebook. I told myself that this was more important than anything else. Serious FOMO (Fear of Missed Opportunity) and a really bad habit. It’s not like that email couldn’t wait 2 hours till I got into the office.

To increase the insanity – I’d only read the emails and never respond to them. As soon as I read them, I’d have to mark them all as unread then re-read them when I got into the office.

I like my mornings, so I’d take my time getting up. I’d do a bit of yoga, eat brekky, and finally get into the office by 10 – 10:30am.

By the time I got to the office, I’d already be freaking because I felt behind.

I’d jump on my computer and start checking and responding to my emails (again) – some I didn’t respond too. I just ignored them and figured I’d come back to them. This results in a lot of missed emails. Bad idea and bad relationship management.

Various things would interrupt me whilst responding to emails. Questions from my colleagues, phone calls etc. Eventually I’d get through them –and if I couldn’t, I’d just give up and figure out what I needed to work on for the day. Finally I’d be ready to work, but then I’d be hungry. Lunch would’ve arrived, and I couldn’t concentrate until I ate something.

After eating, I was tired. It felt like a long day already, my concentration started to wane after lunch. I’d sit there and attempt to put energy into the things I ‘needed’ to do – but I’d seem to have misplaced by brain over lunch. Not only that, but our open plan office makes concentration tricky. I couldn’t help but overhear conversations and get distracted.

On top of that, I was constantly flicking between facebook and twitter – Attention Deficit Disorder to the max. I’d spend 5 minutes doing something, then check facebook and twitter. It made it damn near impossible to get into ‘the zone’.
I’d work later and later – sometimes working at home as well with the hope of actually getting something done. I’d stay up late, watch TV, eat crappy food to deal with my feelings of inadequacy and be annoyed at myself that I’d achieved nothing. Then head to bed and repeat the same thing the next day.

Ultimately, I achieved these things :

  • I killed my passion. My passion for One Girl started to wane because I felt like I wasn’t achieving anything
  • I increased my feelings of inadequacy. I doubted my leadership ability more and more, and often wondered if I was meant to give it all up and just get a 9-5 job instead.
  • My frustration increased – and the more frustrated I got, the more I procrastinated.

It was a vicious cycle, and I knew something had to be drastically different this year. There is one thing I know for certain, and it’s that the vision and goal of 1 million girls isn’t just going to fall into my lap. It’s going to take hard work and commitment to get there.

When you’re responsible for running your own business or project, there isn’t any ‘boss’ telling you what to do. It means that you’re relying on your own self-discipline to get shit done.

Self discipline for entrepreneurs

But self-discipline? Eeek! I have to admit, even the word makes me cringe a little. I’ve always thought of self-discipline as some kind of punishment. You know, if I’m disciplined with my diet, I can’t eat chocolate. And routine? BORING! Who wants a ROUTINE? Life is about adventure and spontaneity and FREEDOM.

I knew I needed some help – so I read two great books over the holidays.

Wise Heart, 10 Strategies for Success in your Life and Business by Annah Stretton and Manage your Day to Day: Build your routine, find your focus by the team at Behance. You can get them both for a few dollars from Amazon.

I highly recommend both books – but here’s what I’ve learnt (and put into practice) since reading them.

  1. Do your most challenging work when you’re at your creative peak.
    And do nothing else! For me, that’s first thing in the morning. If I start work at 8am, and work in solid 90 minute blocks until 12, I would’ve kicked some serious butt by 12pm. My brain is alert, alive and I’m excited. I book all my meetings in the afternoon now. My morning creative time is the best chance I have to get stuff done – so that time is MINE– meetings can wait. Discover the time when you do your best work, and protect it.
  2. The more you achieve, the less you procrastinate.
    Now that I’ve started my 8am work routine, I’m achieving so much more. And the more I achieve, the more addicted I get to achieving. It’s a new cycle, and it’s a good one.
  3. Save the easy stuff (like emails) for when you’re brain dead.
    I’m checking and responding to my emails in the afternoon instead of the morning. I use self-discipline to keep myself from reading emails in the morning (so I don’t take up brain space thinking about them).
  4. Use an app like SelfControl to block access to Facebook and other distractions.
    Studies have shown that even battling the temptation of looking at Facebook or other distractions takes up brain space. So I’ve eliminated that option. I recently installed SelfControl – and it blocks access to all social media sites (and any site I add to the blacklist) for large chunks of time. And man, I am so productive without the option of distractions.
  5. Ensure your environment supports creativity AND productivity.
    Our One Girl office is a productivity black hole. Open plan offices are notoriously bad for distractions. If you’re in a room with 5 people, and one person starts a conversation with another – everyone else will get distracted too.

    Studies have shown that it can take up to 25 minutes to concentrate again after a distraction.

    We’re going to be changing up or office. Each of us will be getting a nice little wall (above eye level) around our desks, so we can have a sense of privacy AND focus. Do not disturb signs may also be involved.

  6. Figure out your own routine and stick to it.
    I have to admit, I don’t enjoy getting up before 7am to ensure I’m at work by 8am. When the alarm goes off at 6:45am, I’m always tempted to snooze until 8am. But I don’t. Why? Because I know I’ll destroy my day by doing that. I might not enjoy getting up at 6:45, but I LOVE finishing work by 4pm. It means I have so much time in the evening to exercise, hang with my partner, cook dinner. So that 6:45am wake up means a better quality of life for me, and the people around me.

I’m only a few days into my new routine, but I AM loving it. I’m feeling more focused and like I’m really kicking goals. I’m doing great work that I’m passionate about AND I’m living my life at the same time.

Studies have shown that people with high levels of self control, have a high level of happiness too. Self discipline and happiness is inexplicably linked.

So here’s to routine and self-discipline! And now it’s your turn. When do you do your best work? What can you change about your daily routine?

8 thoughts on “Why checking your email and Facebook first thing in the morning is NEVER a good idea. Try this instead..

  1. A fabulous post, CB. Seriously, though, have you been spying in my bedroom window in the morning, bc your waking routine sounds exactly like mine?!?!
    And scarily, I had a similar conversation with myself (yes, I talk to myself regularly) about getting up and being at my desk by 8am just the other day. For me, I think it is such a psychological advantage to have done a few hours of work by 10am.
    Best of luck with your new morning routines and growing love of self-discipline. :-)

  2. This is so great Chantelle. I’ve got a very similar morning routine (although I sneak my exercise in every morning so I can’t skip it) and a very similar post sitting drafted. I feel like we’re on very similar trajectories my dear. Love your work.

  3. Oooh yes, you know that creepy person standing outside your window. It’s totally me ;) Okay that’s a bit weird. Thanks for the message Bee!

  4. I’m starting to do that too Lara! I do a quick bit of yoga in the morning to get my body moving. Otherwise I feel very uncomfortable. Looking forward to catching up soon!

  5. This is fantastic Chantelle, how great is it that you’ve found what works for you. I remember being in the 9-5 world and feeling very similarly to what you describe, I also started my day bogged down in e-mails and wandering through the online traps with FOMO. Now I’m creating my own lifestyle & my coaching biz requires my wholehearted whol-brained attention I write when I am in the best space to do so and do the less thrilling mindless stuff when I’m not feeling so creative and energised.

  6. I agree…my boyfriend now is a pilot and he doesnt have facebook and he check his emails late night after flights….now i learn from him that i never open any social sites in the morning :)

  7. That’s so cool Sarah :) (Sorry for my delayed response), I must have missed this one).. It’s so easy to get caught up in Facebook and email – and when you’re running your own gig, any distraction can seem welcoming.. I can totally relate! Thanks for the comment!

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