5 Things You Should Do Before Lunch

What you do in your earliest hours impacts your productivity, creativity and mood

A man holds his coffee cup, checking emails on a laptop on his nightstand in his bedroom.
Photo: 10'000 Hours/DigitalVision/Getty

TThree years ago, I quit my day job to be a full-time writer-slash-entrepreneur. It’s a dream — and also terrifying. I don’t have anyone outside of myself structuring my time. No one watching the clock, or upset if I don’t show up in the morning. Nobody to check in on my progress, or lack thereof.

Sure, I have a boss, but that boss is me.

This boss has a tendency to think mid-morning naps are a good thing, even when there is work that needs to be done. This boss also has no problem with me working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for months on end.

It took some trial and error and a few too many breakdowns, but what I’ve realized is that in order to stay on track to reach my goals, I need to focus on how I spend my energy in the earliest hours of my day. What I accomplish before lunch influences my overall productivity, creativity, and mood.

Here are five things I do that you might want to make part of your morning routine, too.

Get enough sleep

This obviously begins way before lunch, but I cannot overstate how important getting enough sleep is. I feel a marked difference when I get a solid eight hours. Too many six-hour nights and I start to run into problems. When I’m tired, my brain starts to shut down by 3 p.m., particularly the creative part of my brain. I’m not going to tell you exactly how much sleep you need. You know that already. Do what you need to do to make sure you’re getting it.

Make a list

Once you’re awake, make a list. There are lots of ways to do this. Use Evernote, Asana, or go old-school and write in a notebook. Whatever works for you. I’m an analog fan, so I keep my daily lists in a planner.

Every morning, make a list of the things you need to do that day. Think about your goals and add the very next step you can take on each of them. It’s okay if you don’t get to every single item on your list. Just writing it all down helps you stay honest with yourself.

Now pick a few items and figure out how you’re going to get them done before lunch. I usually choose five. I write them on sticky notes and display them on my “5 Before Lunch” board.

Get your story fix

Listen to a podcast on your way to work. Keep a paperback in the bathroom. Talk to the barista who makes your vanilla latte. I don’t care how you do it, but sometime before lunch, take in a story. Sure, I realize that watching a bit of Netflix isn’t traditional productivity advice. But getting your story fix helps ignite your imagination and creativity. When you open yourself up to other people’s narratives, you gain inspiration for your own.

Get a head start on dinner

Want to reduce the stress in your life? Eliminate that terrible moment of standing in the kitchen, surrounded by hungry family members, with no clue what you’re going to feed them. Before lunch, decide what you’re going to have for dinner. It’s okay if the answer is Taco Bell. Sometimes, it just is. But make that a choice, not a desperate act of self-preservation.

Get a head start. Chop some veggies or throw something in the slow cooker. If you save 10 minutes a day and use that time to, say, write a page of your book, you’ll have your first draft done in a year.

Do one brave thing

Make sure you’re not making yourself so busy with the day-to-day things that you ignore your biggest, scariest goal. I’m talking about your true-north thing. The thing you know is important by virtue of how terrifying it is. For a few minutes every morning, ignore the voice that says, “You can’t do that right now. You have so many other things going on!” Don’t be the person who is going to do something great — tomorrow.

Do one thing that moves you toward that goal before lunch. Every day. And see what happens.

Learn. Write. Repeat. Visit me at ninjawriters.org. Reach me at shauntagrimes@gmail.com. (My posts may contain affiliate links!)

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