Help me be more productive in the morning
March 5, 2013 8:15 PM   Subscribe

I have a hard time being productive in the morning. I'm more productive in the afternoon and evening. Unfortunately, I have to be at work in the morning so it would be helpful to be more productive then since I have to be there anyway. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Do you have any suggestions?

I would like to be more of a morning person but it is hard for me to get up and moving. Occasionally I get up early in the morning and go for a run but it's been a while and it's especially difficult when it's so cold. I have a sleep disorder but I'm taking medication for it.

At my best, I might get up early and get a run. Even if not, at my (second) best, I have an outfit for work picked out the night before, I make myself some coffee, get ready for work and go no problem, get to work close on time (8:30-8:45), do a handful of things before noon, have lunch, do some more things, and leave around 5:30. That rarely happens.

More often, I leave the apartment by 8:30, get to work at about 9 a.m., check work email, screw around on the internet, start trying to do something, get distracted, try to remember what I was doing before, work on it some more, get distracted again, look at the clock, think where did the time go, get lunch late in a failed effort to get something done before lunch, feel guilty that I haven't gotten anything done, realize late in the day that I actually need to get stuff done, stay late to do aforementioned stuff.

The worst, in my opinion, is when I get to work at a reasonable time and feel like I can't leave until late because I have stuff to do that I couldn't get done earlier in the day for absolutely no reason.

I'm a night owl by nature. I feel like I never stopped having college hours - sleep late, have a first class at maybe 10 a.m., get some lunch, do some work, take more classes, maybe work out, stay up late studying and doing homework. If I could make my own hours, I would probably choose to work 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. I would still feel guilty about not really being a morning person but I could totally work out before work. Then I could totally leave at 6 p.m. and not feel guilty.

Part of this is probably burn out. This time last month, I was working crazy hours at 110%. I did not have as much of a hard time focusing because I absolutely had to do it. But now that I don't have to be a crazy person, I'm having a hard time adjusting. This is something that happens every year - I work like crazy, then it feels nearly impossible to get anything done. I'm taking two long weekends the next two weekends so that will help me recover a little. But I was trying to hit the ground running and it's not happening.

TL; DR - How do you get going in the morning? What do you do to be productive in the morning?
posted by kat518 to Work & Money (15 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I am exactly in your situation.

Run after work instead of before; take that pressure off yourself to be productive outside of work at a time that doesn't work for you.

Use your night energy to prepare for your day; I always set out my clothes/make lunch/all that because otherwise it doesn't happen. On really good, really slow evenings-- Sundays are best-- I make lunch for the next three days, pick out clothes for the next three days, map out where sleepy RainyJay will need everything set up for her so she doesn't make a mess of the coffee machine.

Don't expect everything of yourself. You can let little things slide, and it's up to you what those little things are.
posted by RainyJay at 8:37 PM on March 5, 2013

This pretty much describes me. Exactly. Exactly! I really get focused at around 3PM, and am most productive at 5PM.

This is bad because I have a family who want to see me at dinnertime. I find that I'm also able to get a lot of work done between 9pm and 1am.

This is not great for my body, and I would prefer to be more productive during regular hours.

Someone noted that one of the reasons why I might be so much more productive later in the afternoon is because by that time I've drunk a few cups of coffee, and caffeine, a stimulant, can help with concentration. I also have a hard time leaving a task once I've started.

This same person also mentioned that I probably have some sort of ADD.

From what I've read, besides drinking caffeine and practicing good sleep hygiene and getting rid of stress (hard to do when you're behind), there are some mental tricks that can help, and they seem to help me:

- make a list of tasks that have to be done
- be accountable -> tell someone you're going to do something, and followup to say you've done it
- before taking a break, get started with the next task so you can slide right back in

I'm very interested in reading this thread. Hopefully the solution is not drugs :(
posted by KokuRyu at 8:41 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Supposedly delayed sleep phase responds well to treatment with a full spectrum light. I have not managed to try it myself, though. You could ask your sleep disorder doc about it.
posted by nat at 8:42 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also often find myself in this situation, and I don't claim to have solved it, but one little trick I sometimes use is to do what some writers do. Stop the day before when you're right in the middle of something. When you pick up the next day, it will be obvious what you were trying to get done, and it will often snowball into finishing the task and getting lots of other stuff done.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 8:43 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you can't beat it and decide to roll with it:
Have a very small breakfast (enough to break the fast and get your metabolism going, but not enough to feed you), then go for lunch an hour or so earlier than usual, thus expanding the time available when you're actually productive.
posted by anonymisc at 8:57 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I come into work, for the first hour I only do work. No checking my personal email, no fun internet at all, no shooting the shit with anyone. Just work. If I want to stop the second the hour is up, I do, even if I'm not really at a logical stopping place. THEN I check my email and look at all the blogs and shopping sites and things.

After the hour is up, I do my more usual work day set-up which sounds almost identical to yours. Except I get so much done in the first hour that I never feel like I have to stay late.

It also helps me start My Most Hated Projects because by the time I check my work email and voice mail and maybe do one or two other niggling things, there's only 20 minutes left in the hour and oh sure I can do this hateful thing for 20 minutes.

Also it makes it easier to leave the house somehow- knowing I only have to work for an hour. And after that I can follow around.

You would be surprised at what you get done in an hour.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:28 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

What has been helping me with this is laying out my clothes for the next day the night before. I also started going to yoga classes in the morning several times a week and come home to change before work, so I lay out a set of yoga clothes and then a set of work clothes at night. I'm still working on the not staying up too late thing to make all this feasible and totally hear you on being slow going in the am. It's mostly just a habit change you have to commit to trying if you really want to do it.

Oh also I've been writing little positive quotes to myself on a little whiteboard I keep near the morning clothes. So when I wake up I see it and the clothes and it's a fun little surprise.
posted by sweetkid at 10:52 PM on March 5, 2013

Last autumn I was doing an experiment where I was avoiding electric lights as much as possible, and I found that I naturally began to go to bed in the evening and wake up refreshed and ready to go in the morning. Bascially, I became a morning person. I quit doing that when the winter came, and now I'm back to the point of being up all night again.

So maybe one thing you could try is turning out all the lights and turning off the computer and television in the evening and just lighting some candles instead. If you're anything like me, then you might find yourself becoming more of a morning person without putting any effort into it.
posted by MrOlenCanter at 12:12 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I find I'm more focused in the morning when I'm not drinking coffee (although the first couple of days after stopping can be rougher).
posted by backwards guitar at 4:52 AM on March 6, 2013

Are you eating breakfast?

I am Not. A. Morning. Person. But if I have something for breakfast, at a reasonable breakfast time (ie before I get into work) my brain kicks into gear noticeably quicker (and I never have caffeine at this time, so it's not that.)
posted by pianissimo at 6:11 AM on March 6, 2013

I also identify with this pattern and my secret (which I'm just about to put into practice) is to work for 'just 15 minutes'. I set an alarm and tell myself that I can slack off again if I just work a piddly 15 minutes. I literally repeat to myself 'it's JUST 15 minutes, that's nothing'. Once I get over that first hump of working, I'm often able to be surprisingly productive before noon. It's basically Snarl's idea but I find facing a quarter hour of work much easier than a whole hour. And if I do slack, I alternate with working.
posted by hydrobatidae at 7:55 AM on March 6, 2013

Hi all, thank you for your help so far! Here are the ideas that I'm definitely going to try:
- redirecting my evening energy to prepare for the next day (pick out clothes, pack bag, plan ahead or take a shower if I have a lot of evening energy)
- leave during the middle of a task at the end of the day - I think it would be helpful if I make a little note to myself to remember what I was doing and how but the thing I like about this idea is that hopefully, it will also give me something I can accomplish the next day without doing a ton of work so I might be able to get a win early in the day, encouraging me to keep going
- get lunch earlier rather than later - this is something I feel like doing but I feel weird about it! I'll get over it because it sounds like a good idea and I can always get a snack later in the day if I'm hungry then. Maybe I can tie this to the tip about working seriously for an hour or two in the beginning of the day without looking at personal email or fun internet stuff.

This is so superficial that I'm hesitant to admit it but when I have something picked out to wear the next day that I'm excited about, it's easier for me to get out of bed. But maybe I can put that sentiment to work by giving myself something to look forward to in the morning, whether it's yoga or a run or knowing that I am totally going to rock that dress with that necklace.

I might also give the "just 15 minutes" thing a try. I'm used to do that for running (just another mile, just another 10 minutes) so that makes sense to me. Ditto the electric lights thing - maybe I'll save that for when my husband and I are both struggling.

I'll keep checking back here if anyone has other ideas but these have all been great. I also appreciate the commiseration - part of my problem is that I feel like a lousy colleague for not being able to be productive on their schedule. But I'll work on trying to make my schedule work for me. Thank you!
posted by kat518 at 9:14 AM on March 6, 2013

Another a life-long night owl, here!

In addition to all the other tricks people have mentioned (e.g. setting out clothes the night before), you might also try F.lux on your work and home computers and avoiding any computer/TV screens 1-2 hours before bed also helps. I also use a light box in the mornings at work and low dose melatonin (0.3 mg) that has helped a bunch.
posted by skye.dancer at 10:58 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I too am a night owl who works an early shift. The most helpful thing for me has been to buy this inexpensive dawn simulator timer and attached it to a lamp in my bedroom. I set it to begin lightening up about half an hour before my alarm goes off. By the time it does, I'm awake enough to get moving. Then, since my first stop is the bathroom for my shower, super bright lights in there, all on. A cup of coffee after that, and I'm surprisingly good to go.

I still have problems falling asleep at night. I'm sure sitting up late and surfing MetaFilter doesn't help.
posted by elizeh at 8:44 PM on March 6, 2013

The set a timer to work helps me too. What also helps is putting a post-it or something over the clock on my computer (yes, I'm sure there is a way to keep it from displaying but the post-it is instantaneous and a physical reminder to stop looking at the clock.) Otherwise, I slip into the habit of "just 5 more minutes of goofing off" and before you know it 30 minutes have passed.
posted by fozzie_bear at 6:41 PM on March 7, 2013

« Older Is it even a tree farm I'm looking for?   |   What is the current status of Django? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.