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How to start your day to be more productive [Weekly Brain Tools]

Jan 23, 2019 | Posted by Cristina in Newsletters

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The text below was sent in November 2018 to our newsletter subscribers. If you enjoy it and want more, join us.

Happy Monday, dear brainiacs!

A few important announcements before we dive into our usual monkey business:

#1: We’ve been getting lots of messages from people who just subscribed and want to read what newsletters we sent before. We hear ya: we started working on gathering them all into one place, so that anyone who subscribes will be able to learn from the old emails as well. In the meantime, you can check out here an archive of the most recent 20 emails (without the 12-months reading plan, which goes out automatically every 30 days after someone subscribed).

#2: Shameless self promo: if you have a Pinterest account, please do follow us there. 😛 We recently read a few interesting study cases on Pinterest and decided to start an account, to experiment with it and see how it goes.

#3: A few months ago, I was telling you about what I learned from Robert Hajnal, my friend who’s one of the best Romanian ultrarunners and won the second place at UTMB this year (the equivalent of Superbowl for long-distance mountain trail running, where the best runners in the world compete).

Robert wants to teach others everything he knows about running. Throughout the next months he’ll run a series of workshops in the 10 biggest Romanian cities, where he’ll talk about how he became an ultra-performer in such a short time (he started running only 7 years ago) and without getting injured (an outlier in the ultrarunning world). He’ll teach those who attend how to build a training plan that will help them improve their running and achieve their goals.

Here’s the good news: The CEO Library partnered up with Robert for this series of events, so our readers get a 10% discount for all his workshops! The first workshop will be this Saturday (November 10th), in Bucharest, and you can use this code to sign up: PyuricB (and I’ll see you there 🙂 ). If you’re based in Cluj, Timișoara, Brașov, Iași or any other Romanian city where Robert will run a workshop, use the discount codes we listed here.

#4: We started personally delivering The CEO Library notebooks to our beloved friends & supporters. Blank pages, for true brainiacs! ? And since the feedback was incredible, we decided to send them to all our first 50 Patreons, together with a pack of stickers. So, if you want one, you can support us here (after the stock is out, the notebooks will be available only to those who pledge $10 or above).


After last week’s newsletter, I got lots of questions related to the speech I gave about social media productivity. I’m working into extending it and turning it into something bigger on the topic of digital mindfulness (it’s related to the book I was telling you about back in summer). Until then, here’s one key takeaway that I’m hoping you’ll find helpful.

Many people are obsessed with the morning routines and strategies of those people who are the best at what they do. How do their mornings looks like? Do they meditate? Write in their journal? Drink tea or coffee? Go for a run or CrossFit class? Read books for a few hours? Or do they dive directly into work?

No matter what hour they wake up at or what they choose to do, one thing’s for sure. They use those quiet morning hours only for themselves, with mindful intention.

Our brain is like a muscle. We make about 35,000 decisions per day (this includes consciously deciding NOT to do something and resist the impulse). If we start the day consuming junk information and occupying mental space with it (or even just resisting it), we’ll end up affected by decision fatigue. We won’t be able to make important decisions when it truly matters. We’ll procrastinate and wonder why we don’t have any mental energy left.

So this is my advice: Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning. Don’t start your day in an avalanche of emails, news, instant messaging notifications, social media updates (not even Instagram photos, no matter how positive you might think they are). Long story short, don’t dive into anything that might make you feel rushed or make you unconsciously start reacting to other people’s agendas. Try it for a few days, at least, and see how you feel.

This weekend I met for a coffee with an old friend, an entrepreneur who confessed that she had an “a-ha!” moment while listening to my last week’s speech. Before, she used to check her phone first thing when she woke up, which led to an increased state of anxiety. It also paralyzed her from doing the important things that would have propelled her business forward. Even when those things would have taken her only a few minutes, she didn’t have the mental energy needed to tackle them, cause she used the “space” on social media and other unnecessary information.

She now completely changed the way she starts her day. She cut off all apps notifications and uses the first couple of hours to read or think about the most important things related to her business. Nothing bad ever happens if she postpones reading and replying to messages or emails for two hours. If there truly is an emergency, she’ll find out somehow (that’s why you can’t text the emergency line, right?).

Start the day by being in control and working on your OWN agenda first. Think about the most important thing you want to accomplish in that day. Set the intention for the life you want to live. Prioritize that, not reacting to whatever else is going on in the world.

And if you say that you don’t have the luxury of a time to do that: that’s just an excuse. What you’re actually saying is “this is not important”. If you decide to prioritize this, you could try going to bed earlier, cut off from the mindless hours spent in the evening in front of the TV, scrolling the social media feeds, or other non-essential activities that crowd your mind.

Ok, this might just be the longest intro I wrote for a newsletter. Time for our weekly brain tools – carefully selected to reinforce the ideas I just talked to you about.


1. James Clear: Stop Overdosing on Celebrity Gossip, The News, and Low Quality Information

A great article from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, related to what I wrote above.

Most of the information you come across in your daily life — the news stories, the social media updates, the television shows — isn’t going to change the choices you make. Instead of sitting around and consuming whatever is readily available, challenge yourself to make more conscious choices about the brain food you consume and how you consume it.

2. Jocelyn K. Glei: Take a Load Off: The Missing Key to Productivity Is Reflection

Jocelyn is the host of Hurry Slowly podcast and author of the book “Unsubscribe”, about how to stay productive and do creative work in the age of distraction.

In this article she talks about the importance of deliberate practice and the best way that we learn. Hoarding information, without putting it into practice, is useless. Doing is the key to learning. However, that’s not enough. We need to practice and reflect on that experience, to articulate what you’ve learned and understood – this is one of the most powerful ways for us to improve performance.

3. Paul Jarvis: Mental Minimalism

What if we applied minimalism to our mental space and decided to declutter thoughts and insights that don’t serve us? An oldie but goldie article from Paul Jarvis, a writer, designer, online course teacher, and author of the upcoming book “Company of One” (is there a thing as binge reading? if yes, I’m guilty of it when it comes to Paul’s archive).

4. Seth Godin on How to Say “No,” Market Like a Professional, and Win at Life [podcast]

Seth’s new book, “This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See”, will be out next week. Until then, listen to his 90-minute conversation with Tim Ferriss, on how he deals with a feeling of overwhelm, what he took away from a three-day sabbatical in the desert, the lizard brain, how to say No, how big companies hook people into using their products and services despite they’re not unique in what they’re actually offering, and more.

By the way, their previous conversations are full of interesting insights as well.

That’s it for this Monday. If you enjoy these newsletter, the biggest compliment you could give would be sharing what you learned with your friends and colleagues, and inviting them to sign-up as well. ❤

Have a calm week!

– Cristina

P.S. here’s a photo of our notebook and stickers, that was taken by Vladimir Oane. Get yours by joining our Patreon family! 🙂

The text above was sent in November 2018 to our newsletter subscribers. If you enjoyed it and want more, join us.

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