It never fails to amaze me: People get all hung up on very fine-tuned productivity techniques like GTD, but tend to completely forget about the basics. However, in terms of importance, the basics are where it’s at – they will provide you with much more bang for your buck than the most recent tips on lifehacker.com.
What do I mean by basics? E.g. getting the best possible night of sleep, every night. Eating a healthy diet to support that and to avoid that dreaded afternoon lethargy. Understanding and applying the principles of managing your personal energy, i.e. prioritizing important tasks over urgent ones, utilizing the momentum of habits, strategically switching between tasks, etc.
Another one of these basics that I only recently started to truly understand is the power of starting your day off right. I simply noticed that on days where I would allow myself to get sidetracked first thing or early on in the morning, even just minimally, my overall output would significantly suffer. To give an example: If I, first thing in the morning check my e-mails or Facebook wall, instead of working on my most important project right away, my day almost always goes awry – even if I just checked my Facebook for 2 minutes!
On the contrary, if I make a point to be a good boy first thing in the morning, the momentum always carries over to the rest of the day, and I tend to have an overall very productive day.
It is a very strange phenomenon, but one that holds true. I suspect our tendency to let the whole day slide after one tiny transgression early on in the day is kinda like the equivalent to the dieter’s paradox. People on a diet tend to be very strict initially, but as soon as the slightest transgression occurs, e.g. them eating a small cookie, they suddenly say “Well, I already cheated anyway, I might as well go full out now – tomorrow is another day.”
This is a very dangerous kind of dynamic, one that can massively harm both your diet and your productivity – as soon as there is a precedent, all discipline goes out the window. In the case of productivity, this seems especially related to the time of the day for some reason. If you start out well, the day goes well. If you allow yourself just the slightest bit of slack early on, the day just spirals down from there, and its very hard to reverse this.
But as so often, knowing and understanding yourself better will get you to eventually act better. Give this a try tomorrow morning, and start your day off right!