It’s a blessing and a curse, if I’m being perfectly honest. When you work a more traditional job for a more traditional employer in a more traditional kind of office, you can usually expect to have set working hours. Monday to Friday, nine to five is the most typical kind of arrangement. When you work for yourself as a dot com mogul, you have the freedom to set your own working hours. And the responsibility.
Not a morning person? No problem. Start later and end later. Work on a Saturday instead of Wednesday, so you can skip the crowds at Costco on the weekends. Regardless of how you choose to define your “morning” as an entrepreneur, though, you do have to start working at some point in the day. Beyond the myriad of productivity apps at your disposal, having a productive morning as a dot com mogul requires having a system.
And these five basic steps will set you off in the right direction.
1. Start the Night Before
The most important step to having a productive morning is to lay the groundwork the night before. As humans, we are creatures of inertia. The hardest part is getting started. As such, you don’t want to start your morning with trying to find your bearings. Instead, you should be able to hit the ground running as soon as you’re ready to buckle down and work.
At the simplest level, this means putting together your to-do list either at the end of your workday the day before, or before you to go to bed the night before. What I’ve learned is that you need to keep this to-do list tight and focused, so try to avoid having more than five items on there. List them in order of priority if you can. This lets you do the “brain dump” the day before, so when you get started in morning, you can reference your to-do list and know exactly what you should do first.
2. Enjoy an Offline Morning Routine
This might sound a little counter-intuitive in terms of being as productive as possible. With our smartphones always so close at hand, there’s a temptation to get an “early start” on the day by rifling through your messages and checking those social media notifications just as your eyes open or while you’re brushing your teeth.
Avoid this temptation. Remember how I said that we are creatures of inertia? It takes some time for your mind and body to adjust from a state of sleep to a state of wakefulness. Let everything get up to speed naturally before you get going. For some people, this might mean hitting the gym, going for a run, meditating, drinking a cup of coffee, or reading a book. Find what works best for you, and don’t even think about looking at your phone until you’re actually ready to work.
3. Limit Your Admin Time
I get it. With the breakneck pace of the web and ever-present ability to connect with almost anybody in the world, we feel compelled to see what’s happening with your friends, colleagues, and the rest of the globe. I know I do. Email, direct messages, and all these other forms of communication are important and necessary.
But it’s far too easy to fall deep down this rabbit hole, replying to messages and getting pulled into conversations, rather than actually doing the work that moves the needle. Decide on how much time you’re willing to dedicate to these tasks in the morning — I’d say no more than an hour, and ideally a lot less than that — and stick to that. You can do one more email sweep later in the day, as well as other administrative tasks like checking stats, metrics and analytics.
By limiting how much time you spend on these sorts of tasks, you maximize the time you can spend on the things that really matter.
4. Focus on the Important Things
There are only 24 hours in the day, and chances are you don’t want to spend all of them working. That’s kind of why you’re interested in the dot com lifestyle in the first place, right? Again, much like the menial and repetitive administrative tasks mentioned above, you’ll also be faced with a lot of “work” that isn’t nearly as important as your other “work.” You try to peg it off, because it feels like low-hanging fruit.
It’s become one of my biggest procrastination pitfalls. Instead, what you should be doing is deciding what is truly the most important thing for you to do (that day) and start working on that first, before you refocus your attention on other things that might need to be done. Utilize one of the many tools to manage your workflow, so tasks don’t fall through the cracks, but spend more of your time on what matters and less time on what doesn’t.
5. Break for Lunch at a Reasonable Hour
Here’s that inertia thing again. Once you manage to get going in the morning, it can sometimes feel like a raging locomotive. Believe me, I know it feels great when you feel like you’ve had a really productive morning. At the same time, you need to give yourself a break, and pushing lunch into much later in the day will be detrimental in the long run.
You might even choose to enjoy an extended lunch break with friends to recharge those batteries, and that’s okay too. As productive as your morning may or may not be, it needs to end eventually. Live your life, enjoy your meal, and return re-energized for an afternoon of awesomeness. Then, you’ll be ready to do it all over again the next day.