How to build a resilient morning routine

By realizing that the habit is more important than the task

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Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

An expired badge. That single thing wrecked my morning routine for nearly two weeks.

Between leaving for work early, signing in with the security guard, and waiting for a temporary pass, my mornings were completely unpredictable.

But I was still able to maintain not only my work productivity but also my growth time in the morning. How?

Because I categorized my hardest tasks the night before.

To begin with, I’m of the mindset that you should be tackling the same hard task first thing in the morning, and I’m not alone.

Experts recommend that approach for many reasons: your willpower is at its’ highest, as is your energy, and you are not fatigued to make some real progress.

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning” - Mark Twain.

But have you stopped to think about why exactly a task is hard? After all, something easy for most people could be hard for you, and vice versa.

So what is a hard task for me?

The simple answer: Anything I want to procrastinate doing.

This can come from many different sources, but here are a few I’ll list as categories:

  • Abstract goals
  • Fear/Anxiety
  • Lack of Skill
  • Lack of Confidence
  • Taking a long time
  • Delayed rewards
  • etc.

But when we think of hard tasks that we need to do, we treat the tasks the same regardless of the source.

We say, tackle the hard task first thing in the morning, but aren’t a lot of these tasks different?

A cold shower, for example, may spark fear or anxiety as a hard task, but that’s different from filling out your taxes (which takes a long time).

It’s important to categorize why something is a hard task because that can help plan your to-do list for the next day.

Creating a to-do list before you go to bed has several advantages.

It not only allows you to switch off “work mode” for the rest of the night, but it also allows you to find closure for tasks you either didn’t do or only partially did.

But when it comes to thinking about the hard tasks for the coming day, think about why they might be hard. It doesn’t have to be a detailed psychological analysis, but just some basic causes of why it’s hard for you.

Are they lengthy ones that require a lot of time?

Are they hard ones, like making a decision that affects someone?

Are they difficult ones, because it’s something that you haven’t learned before?

From there, you will be able to examine the tasks and which one might align best with your disrupted schedule.

For me, what killed my writing routine was the fact that disruptions were never constant. It took me a decent chunk of time to form together with the words and ideas in my mind, but it was time I couldn’t always expect.

Sometimes, even if I arrived early, the guard was on patrol, which means I got to my desk right when a meeting was about to start.

Other days, I could squeeze in 15 minutes here or there. But I could never plan on having dedicated writing time.

So instead, I looked at my task list and found another hard task, which was hard not because it took a lot of time, but because I was unskilled at it.

By starting my day with that, I was able to maintain a morning habit of productivity even if it wasn’t the task I usually did.

So why spend the time even trying to do something else during that time?

I could have easily had a week of easy mornings, sipping coffee and relaxing. It does sound appealing.

But the purpose of trying to do hard tasks in the morning is partially for getting things done, and partially to establish the habit of being productive in the morning

Why? Because willpower is a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened through practice.

Tackling hard tasks in the morning, in addition to getting the hardest thing off of your to-do list, is both a productivity boost and a way to exercise your willpower.

And honestly, it may not matter which thing you choose to do. As long as you dedicate your mornings to being productive.

I write about productivity, UX Design, Healthcare regularly. You can check out my course on Design Communication here.

Written by

Healthcare-focused UX designer and researcher. Creator of two online courses on design communication and UX research planning: https://tinyurl.com/y5m2j42v

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