Most people wake up, check their phones, have their first coffee, read the news, listen to the radio.
Then they start their workday skimming through x emails, chatting with a couple of colleagues, and jumping on their first meeting before they’ve even gotten the first bit of work done.
And by work for the sake of this post, I mean anything where you create something and need to put a little more thought and focus into it — not writing emails or participating in meetings.
By lunchtime, we’re already exhausted, all over the place, and wonder what we actually got done.
And don’t get me wrong, I know that many jobs mainly consist of communication in the form of meetings, emails & messaging.
But if you need to create output, whether it’s preparing a presentation or solving some complicated issue, I would like to suggest another way to approach your workdays, and especially your mornings.
Introverts & dopamine.
Especially as introverts, we often get drained, tired, and overwhelmed easily.
Introverts not only have shown to have more sensitive nervous systems and brains that respond stronger to external stimuli but we’re also known to have a stronger reaction to dopamine.
Which explains why we get over-stimulated quickly and need our quiet time to recharge.
When we first wake up in the mornings, we have a fresh mind, and my goal is to preserve that for as long as possible.
I try not to check my messages or social media until around noon since that’s honestly the one thing that makes or breaks my productivity for the entire day.
I’m not perfect cause these things (phones) are addictive, and it’s not always feasible. But I’m trying.
But if the first thing we see in the morning is that we need to return our mom’s call, think about whether we do have time or want to meet a friend on the weekend and that we have to provide more papers to the tax office, that does a few things to our brain.
- I think you can imagine that it creates a fair bit of stress.
- It gets us to think about things that we probably won’t have time to deal with until much later that day or that week even. So it unnecessarily clouds our brains.
- As we know, all these notifications trigger a dopamine release. So we do get our first hit, which will lead us to get drained quicker, early in the mornings.
A few things I’d recommend doing instead when you wake up, is to do some reading or journaling or doing some morning exercise.
I usually wake up, have a coffee and watch a motivational video on YouTube, which, aside from the weather app, is the only app I use in the mornings.
I’m still experimenting with morning workouts, and especially during lockdown, they do seem to be the way to go for me.
After my workout and showering, I do some quick journaling and I’m set for the day.
Our workdays are often scattered with meetings, leaving us 15 or 30-minute slots in-between to get actual work done. This is why most people end up working during the evenings or on the weekends. It’s nearly impossible to think, focus and get work done when your days are full of interruptions.
This is why I would love for more companies to adopt something I call quiet hours. Uninterrupted periods where people can actually think and work.
I know that that’s not a reality in most companies, but you can still try to influence your schedule.
Try to set blockers and switch off your email and chat notifications. If necessary, let your colleagues know that you’re trying to get important work done.
You ideally want to aim for doing this in the mornings. Our brains are most alert, starting around one hour after we’ve woken up, and we’re able to produce our best work in the mornings.
As humans, we’re actually only able to produce good work and be productive for around 2-4 hours per day. After that, our brain gets tired, and it’s more than okay to opt for easier tasks, such as replying to emails or participating in meetings.
I think that it’s essential but also underrated to take breaks. Our brains can’t work at full speed 24/7, and simply getting up and doing something entirely different for a few minutes can often make us return to our desks feeling refreshed and be more productive than if we try forcing ourselves to keep working on the task.
I love working with the extended Pomodoro technique. I set my alarm for 50 minutes of focused work before I take a 10-minute break. Or sometimes longer.
Which brings me to lunchtime.
I usually get tired after lunch, and again, instead of pushing through or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, I consciously take a break.
I’ve noticed that my afternoons are most productive if I either meditate or take a quick nap after lunch.
To be fair, I usually meditate and then fall asleep.
Just 20 minutes can provide a great brain reset and make the afternoon feel like a new day vs. just dragging yourself through and desperately waiting for your day to end.
Another great thing to do is going for a walk. However, I find that sitting in silence leaves me feeling more refreshed.
A quick note on caffeine:
Caffeine is not only proven to result in less deep sleep and anxiety for some people but it’s also known to, once again, trigger a dopamine release. Ha!
While I still drink 2 small cups per day and am super addicted to it, I know that anytime I exceed my 2 cups, I am all over the place, can’t concentrate, and feel restless.
Everyone is different, but I’d suggest being very mindful of your consumption if you want to be productive.
What I love to do for a little pick me up in the afternoon, is to make myself a green juice. Through all the leafy greens, it’s a great oxygen boost for your brain and makes you feel calm and energized.
Another great alternative is green tea.
Experiment & focus on what works.
I’d like to end this post by suggesting to experiment and regularly check in on how certain schedules & behaviors work for you.
I think just being mindful of what is and isn’t working can go a long way.
As introverts, we may want to take some extra care of our energy and mental clarity in order to stay productive throughout the day.
Shutting off distractions and taking breaks can often make or break a good and productive day.