Making the Most of 2016

Oh, we all love the holidays – they give us a little time to indulge, whether it’s in presents for our family or enjoying that holiday candy. Then comes January – and reality, with the bills, the scale and our health.

I’ve put together a few tips, gleaned from experience and Jeff Sanders’ new book, “The 5am Miracle,” to help you make 2016 your most productive yet. Whether you’re a farmer or housewife, embrace January as the month to get back on track – to get started on healthy eating, working out or becoming a better you.

Author Sanders, who describes himself as a “productivity coach,” advocates getting up early and using the extra time to ease into the day. He recommends using the quiet morning hours to get a head start on work, as well as using the time to work on better habits. Morning, he says, is the time of day we are most focused, most energized and when we do our best quality work.

For most of us, morning is the only time we have to ourselves. Sanders gets out of bed three hours before work and tackles 10 things before breakfast every day. Here are some tips for the New Year:

  1. PLAN FOR TOMORROW THE NIGHT BEFORE — To make the most of today, you need to start yesterday. Like President Obama, who is known to set out his schedule the night before, Sanders recommends preparation. “Most people aren’t very alert when they wake up, so having a premade plan of your day will help,” he says.
  2. DRINK LOTS OF WATER — A 2012 study by the University of Connecticut showed that even mild dehydration caused difficulty in concentrating. The first thing to do, before breakfast, coffee, before working out, is drink a several 8 ounce glasses of water to wake up from the inside out.
  3. CHANNEL YOUR INNER SELF – Read Scripture, pray, meditate, journal. Take a moment to remember God’s greatness and past victories.
  4. HIT THE GYM — Morning exercise gives you more energy to start the day, but it also gives rise to creativity. Sanders says he gets epiphanies and ideas after working out on a regular basis. His routine includes 20 to 30 minutes of high-intensity cardio.
  5. TACKLE A BIG PROJECT — When it comes to taking on the most daunting or intensive thing on your to-do list, it’s best to get it done before meetings and phone calls start to distract you. Want to write a book? Do it in the early morning hours.
  6. EMBRACE THE QUIET TIME — Benjamin Franklin used to spend up to an hour quietly milling around his chambers, reading or writing. It was his way of greeting the day and gathering his thoughts. Early morning might be the only time you have to yourself – make the most of it.
  7. READ A MOTIVATIONAL BOOK OR LISTEN TO A GOOD PODCAST. If you have drive time to work, use the time to listen to something upbeat and informational.
  8. CLEAR THOSE EMAILS – This is on my personal top 10. If you’re like me and feel like you’ve got an unread email count that’s larger than your bank balance, use the early hours to start sifting through. Getting to zero unread emails makes you feel like you’ve achieved something wonderful – and the day hasn’t even officially started yet.
  9. DO SOMETHING NON-WORK-RELATED – If you went to bed before you got the household chores done, tackle them in the early morning hours. Work on a pet project, get the laundry going, start the slow cooker so dinner is ready when you come home from work. You’ll feel productive and that will transfer to your workday.
  10. ENCOURAGE YOUR FAMILY – even if it’s only a text (if you leave early), let your family know you’re thinking and cheering them on. Don’t miss those moments to tell your spouse and kids you love them every day.
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