Do Life: Why You Should Get the Hard Tasks Done In the Morning

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You turn on that faucet, and those warm water streams flow gracefully forth.  You put out your hand, and feel the soothing torrent, dancing on your skin –a bit of steam begins to fill the bathroom, and the mirror frosts over with fog.

And then, you step inside.  To me, I think this has to be one of the most wonderful feelings in the world, especially after a good 8 hours of slumber.

Though, I probably could cut my water bill in half if I didn’t – I still just stand there for 20 minutes straight.  How the time passes so quickly, I really never know… but it’s probably because I was in the process of solving the greatest questions in the universe.

Sure, the rest of my shower is spent thinking, “Oh man, I need to get out the door!”  Soap. Lather. Rinse. Shampoo. Lather. Rinse.  Bam.  Record time: 4 minutes, 30 seconds.

I’m sure you’ve heard people say unabashedly, “I get my best thinking done in the shower.”  We’ll you just heard another.

But, what is it about showers that often bring such wisdom, creativity, and just darn good ideas?  Well, according to the experts –this might be because we are at our most creative point when we’re a bit groggy.  And to me, under the blessed flow of warm water goodness seems to be the ticket.

So, why exactly do experts believe such things?  Well, the answer is simple, yet quite ingenious.

 

Can’t Focus?  Perfect: You’re About To Get Your Best Work Done.

In an interesting piece from Wired.com, Jonah Lehrer discusses the fact that we tend to be the best at problem solving and innovation when we just can’t focus.

One of the studies that he discusses had to do with rather difficult word problems and puzzles.  In fact, most people are unable to solve such mind-teasing riddles –but for patients, who had major brain damage, devastating their ability to focus… the success rate was 90-percent.

He also talked about a few similar studies –but with groggy and inebriated college students.  The findings were quite interesting:

  • In some cases, ‘night-owl’ students that took morning classes saw a 50-percent increase in their ability to solve difficult problems in class.
  • In another study, they fired word puzzles at intoxicated college students –and unbelievably, “The alcohol made subjects nearly 30 percent more likely to find the unexpected solution.”

The key was in the subject’s inability to focus.  When working on a project that requires creativity and the ability to think outside the box –researchers found that it is best to do so during your ‘least optimal’ time of day or when you are the groggiest.  Focus essentially narrow’s the mind’s field of view, blinding you from other possible solutions.

So, if you’ve got a major project, a paper to write, a deal to close, or a design to complete –then do so when your mind is free to wander.

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Of course, I wouldn’t recommend stumbling into work on your third glass of scotch.  But, there is another reason why you should setup your mornings for success…

 

Early To Rise, Less To Stress

Truth be told, stress can certainly take its toll on quality of life –and even health and wellbeing.  But did you know that stress will absolutely gut your ability to think creatively?

Unfortunately, too many bosses are under the false assumption that they can spur productivity if they apply their signature strategy of ‘if all else fails, get angry and threaten employees’.  Quite frankly, this has the opposite effect, according to studies in an article by Teresa Amabile of Marketplace.org.

In fact, what she found was a resounding indictment of belligerent bosses and unreasonable workplace expectations:

“We found that on days of the most extreme time pressure, the professionals in our study were 45 percent less likely to come up with a new idea or solve a complex problem.”

So, what does this have to do with taking care of the most difficult tasks in the morning?

The morning is usually when people are under the least amount of stress.  After a full night’s sleep, the mind and body are well rested, recharged, and prepared for another full day of work.  Stressful situations usually begin to pop up, as the day winds down –and people are getting tired again.

Your hardest tasks usually require your unique innovation, and they tend to be associated with your specific skill set.  If you can get that finished early on –then you’ve set yourself up for success.

But what about those mundane, everyday tasks, you ask?

 

High Noon: Prime Time To Focus

What do answering emails, filling out paperwork, checking voicemails, and refilling ye olde business card holder all have in common?

Answer: for the most part, they require ZERO creativity.

However, these tasks usually require you to focus –especially if you need to multitask.  One of the worst times to attempt this is when you’re groggy, because you’ll be at your least productive point for this type of work.

If anything, saving these mundane tasks for the end of the day is going to help you in 2 ways:

  • First, you’re awake, you’re zoned in, and your mind is trained on accomplishing 18 different things –all of which you’re doing at your most awake time period.
  • Second, finishing these kinds of tasks is like playing ‘whack-a-mole’: when you hit one, then three more pop up.  As these smaller tasks continue to mount in numbers –it produces a creativity-destroying environment.

In effect, it’s usually the smaller tasks that cause the most headaches –and not the ones that are centered on your particular expertise.  To be the most productive, do the tasks that correspond with your peaks and dips in focus.

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What’s Your Creativity Miracle Hour?

One thing I should add is that if you’re an early riser –you could also try saving the creative kinds of tasks for later in the day, when your mind is winding down.  However, the reason why I still might suggest taking on the hard stuff in the mornings is because of the other factors I mentioned.  Mornings are generally less stressful, and a stress-free environment is where you’ll get your best work done.

Yet, even researchers admit that they are often baffled by these studies –so what do you think?  Do you get your best work done in the AM or PM?

Please comment on your thoughts below, and tell us how your morning routines affect your creativity and focus.

Anyhow, it’s getting late.  I think I’ll go take care of a mundane task and pay my water bill.

Kerry Gaynor

Kerry’s purpose and overarching objective in developing his Method since he began thirty years ago has always been the same: to help save lives. Addictions or ailments, whether it is smoking cigarettes or over eating, can feel a lot like being a prisoner or a slave to your addiction. Kerry has experienced so much fulfillment from helping people unchain themselves from their addictions that it is the only thing he has ever cared to do since his very first client.

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