Imagine this.

By the time lunch rolls around, you push back from your desk with a satisfied sigh, saunter off to your car, and drive off to have a leisurely, stress-free lunch, daydreaming about the 18 holes that you’re going to play for the rest of the day.

This can be for real.

You can get 90% or more of your work done in the morning. Around the time people are groping for the next shot of caffeine, you’re shutting down your MacBook and chilling out.

How do you do this? I’m going to give you 16 amazing productivity tips, but first let me set the stage:

  • First, I’m defining work as stuff that you do—important stuff. Ideally, meetings can be shoved out of the picture.

  • Second, this approach is built on the Pareto principle. The Pareto principle states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. Getting your work done in the morning means that you can take a leaner approach to the important tasks—a smart approach.

1. Schedule Your Day the Night Before

Every day, you should list all your tasks and when you’re going to do them the following day. You will not be productive unless you plan out everything you’re going to do the next morning.

Quick tip: Don’t schedule too much. Keep your to-do schedule light to actually accomplish real work.

2. Clean Your Office the Night Before

Clutter in your office creates distractions. A sticky note on your desk that says “Call Bob ASAP!” can throw off your whole day.

Showing up to work in a spic-and-span environment helps you to think clearer and work harder.

3. Wake Up at an Ungodly Hour

To really get stuff done, you’ve got to get up in time to make it happen.

I recommend anytime from 5:30 to 6:30 AM. If your morning routine takes a little longer, bump your wake-up time back a little more.

Obviously, you’ll need to adjust your bedtime accordingly.

4. Exercise

Scientific evidence shows that morning exercise can make us think better, work better, and become more productive.

Harvard’s John Ratey is the author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. He writes that exercise is essential for reaching “high-performance levels in intellectually demanding jobs.”

A quick jog or 30-minute yoga session can prepare you for a powerful session of getting stuff done.

5. Stick to Your Schedule

Don’t let yourself veer off the course that you’ve mapped out. You have a limited amount of time. Don’t ruin the schedule.

Take your schedule, allow it guide you, and you’ll be able to accomplish more.

6. Give Yourself 20 Minutes to Reach Flow

Flow is when you’re in the zone. This happens when you are completely absorbed in your activity, single-mindedly accomplishing things at a high level and rapid pace.

It takes some time to reach flow, so if you don’t feel productive or engaged in your work, just give it some time.

7. Make 60-Second Decisions

Decision-making is a time-draining vortex. When you’re faced with a decision in the course of your work, give yourself a one-minute limit. Your decision will be just as good, but it will take less time.

8. Wear Headphones

Headphones can shut out distractions and keep you focused. Harvard Business Review advises workers to put on their headphones to be more productive.

9. Do the Toughest Tasks First

Mark Twain wrote, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day.” Brian Tracy turned this statement into an entire principal (and even wrote a book on it)—Eat That Frog!.

If you get your biggest and ugliest task done first, the rest of the day will be massively productive.

10. Do Your Writing Early On

Writing is one of the most mentally demanding tasks. However, writing also has the power of focusing your brain and improving your productivity. Do your writing early in the day, and you’ll improve both the quality of your writing and the rest of your day.

11. Don’t Commute

If you typically have a lengthy work commute, do everything you can to avoid it

It’s not just wasted time that you want to guard against. It’s the mental havoc. A commute is one of the most stressful parts of the day. Starting your workday with that level of stress can completely ruin your productivity.

Don’t even commute to Starbucks. (Have Starbucks bring it to you instead.)

12. Don’t Hold Meetings (Even Over the Phone)

If you’ve been in business for very long, you know that most meetings are a waste of time. Avoid meetings if at all possible.

13. Don’t Check Your Email First Thing

The electronic communication pipeline can be as destructive as meetings. Sure, you need to deal with email. It’s important, but don’t let it swallow your day by starting out with it.

14. Stick to a Routine

If you do something repeatedly, you’ll be able to do it better and faster each time. Once you find a routine, stick with it. Your routine is the ramp to your productivity.

15. Make Yourself Comfortable

Do whatever you need to do to position yourself for success. If that means showering, shaving, eating breakfast, journaling, meditating, feeding the dog, opening the blinds—do it. When you accomplish these preparatory tasks, you are creating an environment that will make you more productive.

16. Reward Yourself at a Certain Time

Set the clock—a countdown timer if you have to. At a certain point, you’re going to stop. So, stop.

Break out the kazoos, throw some confetti, and do your happy dance. It’s time to reward yourself.

Apply and Get More Done!

For those of us who possess unstoppable energy and an internal drive to get even more done, we don’t have to quit in the mornings. If work makes you happy and fulfilled, keep going.

Getting 90% of your work done in the morning just means that you might get more than 100% of your work done every day.

Sounds good to me.

What tips do you use to get your work done early in the morning?

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Photo of to-do list courtesy of Shutterstock.