Most people wake up first thing in the morning and they check their phone. They check email, facebook or text messages. Not only is this toxic, it can have negative consequences on the rest of the day. The hours after you wake up are truly precious because your brain is in one of its most creative states of minds. If the first 3 hours of your day can dictate how your life turns out, the first hour of your day can often dictate how your day turns out.
As you make more decisions and utilize your cognitive bandwidth, your willpower decreases. With each hour you have a diminishing return on productivity. You can turn things off and start it on a high note. Or you can start it in an anxiety-ridden, distractive driven frenzy. When you don’t spend the early part of your day on something meaningful, you’re effectively wasting a priceless asset like a peak state of mind. It was only after I started getting really deliberate about the first hour of my day that my creative career really started to gain momentum.
- Writing 1000 words a day led to a book deal with a publisher
- I found myself able to read over 100 books in a year
- I developed a system for increasing my creative output and figured out how to get shit done with ADD.
I attribute almost all of this to one simple priority: spending the first hour of the day on activities that add value and meaning to my life. If you want to derive more meaning, satisfaction, and value from your life, spend the first hour of your day on activities that actually add value to it.
Some of us have formed neural connections that drive us to carry our phones in our hands at all times, often looking down and hitting refresh a few times, even though nothing has come in. Give me dopamine…. It is said the if you wake up in the morning and the first thing you crave is a drink you might be an alcoholic. If you wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is check your phone to read your email or scan through your social media before you even get out of bed, you might be an addict- Simon Sinek
If you begin your day by turning on a thousand things: television sets, cell phones, microwaves, stoves, dishwashers, and faucets, it should come as no surprise to you that you’re anxiety-ridden and find it difficult to focus. Not only that, there’s no way you can think clearly enough to do creative work with so much noise. As I’ve said before don’t turn your devices on first thing in the morning. There’s not much to say about all of these activities other than that they are low-value days to start your day. And if you start your day with these kinds of activities, you’ll probably spend your entire day on them.
Anything that falls into the category of deep work is, in my opinion, a high-value activity.
- As an author, the two highest value activities that I can spend my time on each day are reading books and writing.
- If you’re a visual artist that could be mean you spend time in a studio drawing, sketching or painting.
- If you’re a computer programmer or web designer, that could mean writing some code for the app or website you’re building.
Sidenote- learning what to say no or yes to is much easier when you know what your main priorities in life are. If that’s something you need help with, sign up for my newsletter, and I’ll send over The Instigator’s Compass- a guide on finding the courage to carve your own path, rather than following someone else’s footsteps. Sign up here.
High-value activities don’t just have to be work-related.
Exercise is an incredibly high-value activity that has an impact on your energy and creativity throughout the day. Some of my best writing days have been the ones on which I’ve spent 4 hours surfing.
Spend time talking with your friends, family, members or loved ones. (minus technology). Chat with your kids. Meet an old friend for breakfast or give a friend a call.
On the TV show One Tree Hill, one of the main characters jokingly said “Can you imagine if texting had been invented before voice? People would be amazed by the fact that you can hear the other person’s voice on the phone.” We’re so in the habit of not picking up the phone and texting back a response, that we’re often missing the subtle connections that can only take place when hearing the sound of another person’s voice.
If you spend the first hour of your day on high-value activities, eventually you’ll find yourself wanting to spend the second, third, and fourth hour of the day on such activities. You’ll get more done in less time. And eventually, you’ll find yourself spending the entire day on such activities.
As my friend AJ Leon said in The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit, “how you start will dictate how you finish.”
Before You Go…
If doing the best work of your life is important to you, you’ll love my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.”
The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.