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By Rachel Grumman Bender of LearnVest
Even if you pop out of bed with every intention of having a productive day, it’s easy to get derailed.
Let’s be honest—who hasn’t gotten sidetracked first thing in the morning checking social media or reading up on what everyone thought of last night’s Walking Dead episode?
Here’s the thing: How you kick off your morning can set the tone—and momentum—for getting things done throughout the day.
So we’ve rounded up six quick (because we know how important getting enough shut-eye is, too) and easy ways to jump-start your morning with power and purpose to set yourself up for a killer productive day.
Power Morning Move #1: Fit In a Seven-Minute Workout
While we know it’s easier said than done to roll out of bed as the sun is coming up, budgeting some extra time to exercise in the AM can help give you lasting energy for the entire day.
Research shows that fitting in a workout helps improve mental functioning and memory—helping to make you more productive.
And did we mention it can also help keep you trim? A 2013 study found that working out before breakfast helps burn 20% more body fat than if you schedule a workout later in the day.
The Morning Move
Check out The New York Times’ “The Scientific 7–Minute Workout,” an at-home routine that features 12 high-intensity interval-training moves that use just your body weight, a chair, and a wall.
There’s even an app for it so you can exercise anywhere, anytime—even in your pj’s.
Power Morning Move #2: Bliss Out With a Two-Minute Meditation
Convinced you don’t have the time or the discipline to meditate every day? Well, if you can spare 120 seconds, you do.
While that may not sound like much time, multiple studies have shown that even brief doses of meditation come with a slew of benefits that can boost your career—from making you cognitively sharper and more focused to improving decision-making.
The Morning Move
Zen Habits blogger and best-selling author Leo Babauta recommends sitting still and, for just two minutes, keeping your attention focused on your breath as it comes into your body and goes out.
“When your mind wanders, take note of that, but then gently come back to the breath,” Babauta has said. “That’s it—no mantra, no emptying of the mind, no perfect lotus position, no meditation hall or guru. Just pay attention to your breath.”
Babauta explains that these small bouts of meditation each morning can help you feel a bit calmer, less distracted, and less reactive during the day—especially when work stress creeps up on you.
Not bad for two minutes of your time, right?
Related: 5 Outside-the-Box Ways to Combat Work Stress That Really Work
Power Morning Move #3: Draft a Thoughtful Things-Not-To-Do List
We all have mile-long to-do lists that we semi-diligently try to tackle each day, but a surprising productivity secret is actually doing the opposite-thinking of things that, no matter how much you may want to do them, you can skip doing for 24 hours.
The Morning Move
Make a short anti-to-do list of typical time wasters you want to avoid that day, recommends Carson Tate, author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style.
Maybe your list includes dodging unnecessary meetings or even limiting the amount of time you spend on that ultimate time waster—email!
While you probably can’t go email-free for too many hours of the day, Tate suggests at least not starting your day by checking email.
“It’s counterintuitive, but I always tell clients that emails in your inbox are everyone else’s agendas,” Tate says. “They represent what everyone wants from you—their goals and objectives. Why not start your day with your own goals and objectives?”
Related: Power Hack of the Week: How to Tackle To-Dos Like a President
Power Morning Move #4: Listen to a Power Podcast
The “5 AM Miracle” is a weekly podcast that’s dedicated to “dominating your day” before breakfast by focusing on healthy habits, personal development, and productivity.
“Waking up with intention, with a plan and with a solidified purpose can make a dramatic difference, not only in your day but more importantly in your future success,” host Jeff Sanders notes.
The Morning Move
Tune in to a new podcast once a week or download one of the 100-plus shows from the archive.
Sanders and guests cover an array of topics geared toward becoming more efficient and productive, such as “How to Create Your Ideal Morning Routine,” “A Sharper Perspective on Getting Things Done” and “The Definitive Guide to Inbox Zero.”
Power Morning Move #5: Do the Dishes (Yes, You Heard Right!)
Rolling up your sleeves to hand wash a sink full of dirty dishes from last night’s dinner may be the last thing you want to do first thing in the morning, but a recent study found that mindfully cleaning dishes—in other words, staying in the moment while scrubbing away—reduced anxiety and made study subjects feel more inspired.
Who doesn’t want to kick off their day this way? But in order to truly reap the benefits, you have to do it right.
The Morning Move
Buddhist monk “Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that, while washing dishes, we should only pay attention to the experience of washing dishes and attend to the full sensory experience—the warmth of the water, the scent of the soap, the texture of each dish or utensil,” explains the study’s lead author, Adam Hanley.
Hanley chose to study dishwashing because it’s such a common task and so sensory-rich—and subsequently found that study participants who mindfully washed dishes reported a decrease in nervousness and a boost in inspiration.
Meanwhile, another group that simply washed dishes without practicing mindfulness didn’t experience any emotional changes—just clean plates.
Power Morning Move #6: Name Your Top Two Goals for the Day
We make choices all day long—from picking an outfit to deciding how to approach a major project at work.
The problem is that making one decision after another uses up mental energy, leading to what’s called “decision fatigue,” which means you may have already used up your best brainpower for the day by mulling over the options for your AM latte.
But there’s a way to combat decision fatigue—with one simple to-do.
The Morning Move
When you wake up and you’re at your freshest, “decide on the one or two things you want to accomplish,” Tate says, adding that even if you just spend a few minutes doing this, you’ve still prioritized your day.
And to help keep your decision-making sharper for longer, consider creating a morning routine that minimizes decision-making, such as eating the same breakfast each day.
“You don’t have to make grandiose, sweeping changes in your life,” she explains. “It can be really subtle, but you’ll see a pretty significant pop in productivity.”
The computer industry was hit hard.
Last month saw a surge in layoffs, primarily due to large-scale employee cuts at companies like Hewlett-Packard.
U.S. companies laid off 58,877 workers in September, according to data released Thursday by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. September layoffs are up 43% from August when about 41,000 workers were let go.
In total, employers have announced 493,431 planned layoffs so far this year, a 36% jump over the same period last year and 2% more than the 2014 total.
“Job cuts have already surpassed last year’s total and are on track to end the year as the highest annual total since 2009, when nearly 1.3 million layoffs were announced at the tail-end of the recession,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The computer industry accounted for the heaviest job cuts in September primarily driven by Hewlett-Packard, which said it would cut 30,000 jobs. The job losses, which were announced in mid-September by CEO Meg Whitman, should save the company $2.7 billion annually and represented about 10% of the company’s workforce, HP said.
By Scott Kriz
Building a network of people that you don’t get along with is completely pointless.
The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the best way to network? is written by Scott Kriz, CEO of Bitium.
All too often, I see people at networking events exchanging business cards and starting up superficial conversations for obviously one-sided, self-serving purposes. But what happens when you leave the happy hour or the conference? How many of those conversations resulted in something substantial? Networking should be viewed as the beginning of long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship. While there’s no formula to creating a valuable network, there certainly are guidelines. Here are five lessons I’ve learned while building and strengthening my network:
When I was fresh out of college, I used to attend events and come home with a pile of business cards, trying to figure out how each person could benefit me in my career. Guess how many of those turned into valuable relationships? Not one. Realizing this, I stopped bringing cards with me to events. Instead, I started attending events with smaller groups of people and focused more on getting to really know everyone on a personal level. Over time, I found that people with whom I shared common personal interests tended to provide more value than those with closer professional ties.
Listen and ask questions
While I love sharing stories, I have never learned anything by hearing myself talk. So I try to focus on learning from other people’s experiences by taking a genuine interest in that person and asking them questions instead. For example, a few years ago, I found out the CMO from Microsoft had retired and was living in Southern California. Marketing has always been an area that fascinated me because it didn’t come naturally. I wanted to learn about marketing from the top mind in B2B marketing software so I could better understand it for my own business.
Through my network, I found out that she was going to be at a local accelerator event so I decided to attend as well. It’s amazing how generous people are with their time and their knowledge when you express genuine interest. Mich Mathews is now an investor and board member for Bitium–and a close friend of mine.
Seek out people that you like
Building a network of people that you don’t get along with is completely pointless. Every one of us has our own opinions, tastes and tolerances. Spend your time with people you like and you will find natural alignment. When I started my current company, I was lucky enough to have a co-founder that I had enormous respect for both personally and professionally. We wanted to hire the smartest employees, of whom we also enjoyed working with. Everyone on our current team has been hired through a personal or professional connection. I’m proud of this, not only because I love what we do as a company, but because I love the people that I am building the company with.
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
Some of the best networkers that I know are busy and overcommitted by nature. In order to leverage their networks appropriately and get the introductions I want, I’ve found that the less intrusive and more specific that I can be, the more likely they are to help out. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is being solicited and read the content of the email as if you are that person. Make your email request is concise, specific, not completely self-serving and most importantly, easy for them to forward on to the person you want an introduction to. Help them help you.
Remember that everyone is just a person, no matter what they have achieved or how well-known they are. It’s easy to get star struck when meeting someone you’ve read about or who is considered a ‘celebrity’ in your industry. Approach them like you would anyone else at an event. Too many times people try to force a conversation because they really admire someone and want nothing more than to be associated with that person. Relax, have fun and don’t try to foster relationships that aren’t natural.
Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s the best way to network?
How to work a room at an important networking event by Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify.
The one question you have to ask everyone you network withby Clark Valberg, CEO of InVision.
3 signs you’re a serial meet-and-greet networker by Shadan Deleveaux, director of sales multicultural beauty division at L’Oréal USA.
Forget what you know about networking. Do this instead by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.
3 networking mistakes you don’t know you’re making by Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite.
Why face-to-face networking will never go out of style by Kevin Chou, co-founder and CEO of Kabam.
How to effectively network (even if you dread it) by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.
The only thing you need to keep in mind when networkingby William Craig, founder and president of WebpageFX.
Why social media alone won’t get you a job by Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.
NYSE President: I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking by Tom Farley, president of the NYSE.
By Minda Zetlin of Inc.
Can toys and cartoon characters really make you a better leader? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.
That’s the word from Seth M. Spain, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Binghamton University. He and his colleague Peter Harms have turned their analytic skills on the Transformers, the popular Japanese-American toys, comic books, animation, and movie characters that can turn themselves from robots into vehicles and other types of machines. Spain and Harms found that the lessons in their character descriptions are full of wisdom about what makes a great leader.
Why study the Transformers in the first place? For one thing, Spain explains, each toy comes with both a rank and a rating of the character’s abilities, which makes it easier to compare them to each other. Also, “Peter knew I was a general-purpose mid-30s nerd and the Transformers would be something I’d be interested in.”
The two put together a database of each Transformer characters using the toys’ rankings and “my painfully extensive knowledge of the cartoon series,” Spain says. They published their findings in a Psychology Today blog post titled “What Would Optimus Prime Do?” In it, they make the argument that emulating the leader of the Autobots (the good Transformers) really can improve your leadership skills.
“What was most surprising—given this is a toy and cartoon series for fairly small children—was how representative the findings were of what we know about leadership from regular academic study,” Spain says. Here’s a look at some of the wisdom you can glean from the Transformers:
1. Don’t Have Too Many Bosses
Leaderless, flat, and more democratic organization structures are getting lots of attention these days—mostly because they work surprisingly well and sometimes outpace the competition. That’s because removing management layers and the high salaries that go with them allows such companies to run leaner and more efficiently.
Same goes for Transformers. “The Autobots have a flatter, less hierarchical, more equal organization,” Spain says. “Whereas the Decepticons (evil Transformers) are more vertical, with a despot ruling by fiat.”
2. Be Very Smart
“The most important quality for Transformer leaders is intelligence,” Spain says. “We looked at good guys and bad guys separately and the best predictor of rank was a high rating in intelligence.”
That mirrors the real world. “The academic literature says that intellectual ability is a predictor of both leader emergence and leader effectiveness,” Spain notes. “We’re not necessarily talking book smarts or academic achievement,” he adds. “It could be what used to be called a shrewd business sense. There’s a certain swiftness of mind.”
3. Know Who You’re Leading
“One of the main things we did was look at followership in the cartoon show,” Spain says. “We broke it down into examples of both constructive and destructive followers. The Decepticons have really good examples of both excellent and really bad followers.”
One outstanding example of a really bad follower is Starscream, a lieutenant in the Decepticons. “He’s constantly plotting to overthrow the leader Megatron, but Megatron keeps him around for some reason, even though he often tells him he’s not smart enough to be a leader.” That strategy backfires in an early animated episode when the Decepticons are about to defeat the Autobots until Starscream mucks things up with an assassination attempt against Megatron.
“On the other hand, Megatron has other followers who are extremely loyal and dependable,” Spain notes. “One lesson from that is to be aware of your followers and what they’re all about.” That may be difficult for a leader such as Megatron, he adds. “Classic Dark Triad leader may not be paying a lot of attention to their followers and may miss a lot of information,” he says. “But even evil leaders need good followers if they’re going to succeed.” (Here’s more on the Dark Triad and how a small dose of evil qualities can benefit every leader.)
4. Care About Everyone
Caring for others may be the most important attribute that sets Optimus Prime apart from Megatron. “Optimus Prime is constantly trying to make sure his followers are OK, and that human beings aren’t harmed in the fights between robots,” Spain notes. Compassion and integrity are vital traits for a leader, he adds.
That’s really the central message of this research. “The sociological point we’re trying to make is that narratives of all kinds can communicate norms and expectations about leadership,” Spain says. “So holding up a popular example can be very useful.”
In other words, try asking yourself “What would Optimus Prime do?” It really can lead you to the best decision.
About The Author
Inc.com is where you can find everything you need to know to start and grow your business now. Inc.com is replete with small business ideas, information, and inspiration, as well as practical advice from those who have done it before.
Below is a chart of Wisconsin colleges and universities from lowest to highest tuition cost.