Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tips for Starting a Productive Day

photo by Valerie Lynn Jones

Some days are just “blah” no matter what you do. But when I start to have too many of those days, I know that something is off and I need to refocus.

My best days are ones that I’m able to make progress in a little bit of everything: my faith walk, my marriage, my job, household chores, friendships, exercise, hobbies… Although there is the occasional “project day” for when I’m able to focus in on one thing and do it up big.

Either way, I’ve learned how to get a productive day rolling… it starts the moment I wake up:

1. Wake Up Thankful
I noticed that often when I wake up, I automatically feel grumpy, groggy or something like, “Don't talk to, or look at me...I just want to sleep!” If I went to bed super late or I’m not feeling well (and it's not a workday), I give myself some grace and go back to sleep.

Otherwise, I immediately cut off that “UGH” feeling with a quick Thank You Prayer.
Thank You for another day to serve You, Lord…
Thank You for the beautiful sunshine peeking in my window…
Thank You for my husband…
Thank You for all you have in store for me today…

This is almost an instant mood-changer. Then, to not give my sluggishness a chance to come back, I get up.

2. Activate the Senses
As I stumble to the bathroom, I pull back the curtains to let the sun shine in. Nothing wakes me up faster than the sun's happy rays through my window.

I will also get a fresh glass of water and drink as much as I can. This refreshes the body, hydrating and flushing out toxins to help make way for the day’s nourishment.

If I am still a little sleepy, I try to find a quick (5-10 minute) task to do: wash dishes, put away some laundry, check email (but keep it brief), or practice Bible verse memory on Scripture Typer.

I want to get to my morning prayer and Bible study time as soon as possible – but sleepy prayer times usually lack in the quality I desire. So a brief activity will help wake-me up without taking over quiet time with God.

3. Avoid Long Morning Internet Sessions
The internet is a time sucker. I don’t know where the minutes go when the internet is in front of me. And nothing makes me feel less productive than staring at a screen (although I use it often for many things I do). The key is to not start my day enthralled by Facebook, Pinterest, and other time suckers…

4. Seek God's Presence Early
This is the most important part of my day. And I would ideally love to do it as soon as I roll out of bed, but I know me. I need to be alert so I can read, listen, understand and respond to what God is saying. The days I actually do all those things – those are the best days.

God knows what my day will be like and exactly what I will need to navigate through it. I need to be in line with Him so I can be effective and fruitful throughout my day. I find that I am not only spiritually energized but also physically energized after spending quality time with God.

Most importantly, God deserves to be first, not an after thought. He is everything to me…I should give my first and best to Him. When I know I’ve done that, I can easily rest in His presence throughout the entire day.

5. Get Moving
Depending on how long my quiet time takes, I may or may not have time for #5 and #6. But when I do, I try to grab the opportunity to get in a workout. It doesn’t matter how long (this morning was only 15 minutes). Anything is better than nothing, and I know it is more likely to get done at the start of my day when my energy is fresh. With a new endorphin release and oxygen soaring through my body, I feel refreshed and ready for the rest of the day!

6. Organize Some Space
This is one of my new favorite things to try to squeeze in before work. (Sometimes it is part of #2 if I need more time to wake up.)

During especially busy seasons, I find it hard to mentally juggle household stuff and work stuff. So I’ve found that if I pick one task to do before leaving for work, I feel like I have not ignored the needs on the home front…and when I come home, I can relax a little more.

Often I’ll do the dishes and clean up the kitchen. Sometimes I make the bed, fold blankets, or put away laundry. If I need to go shopping, I make a list and check for coupons. Anything that will de-clutter my home space and mental space, so I can focus more at work. It may sound weird, but it helps!

7. Get Ready for the Day
Time to shower and pack up for work. At this point I already feel pretty accomplished and I have great momentum for the rest of the day!

I'm certainly not this put together every day, but the above steps have become my go-to list for getting back in the groove. If you need a morning jump start, try it out!