March 28, 2017

A Low-Info Morning Diet: The Key to Creative Thought?


When I was a V.P. of sales, all my best earners scheduled calls before lunch – for good reason. After 1 P.M., most people get lethargic. Thoughts of heading home, coupled with that looming food coma, can do a real number on your energy.

To be productive, it’s important to harness your energy early in the day. After all, you just got up and are feeling excited about what the morning might hold! (If not, at least you feel somewhat rested and not yet bogged down by the daily grind.)

But experience tells me that’s not how your morning goes. It’s more likely that you wake up, rub the sleep from your eyes, and reach for your phone. You check your email, scroll through news feeds, and browse a few sites to see what went down while you were asleep.

Talk about jumping right into the mundane!

Rather than fill up on more stuff, wouldn’t a better option be to start your morning with a low-info diet? The morning is one of the few times during the day when your head is clear enough to pull original ideas out.

Thinking Takes Discipline

The idea of leaving your mornings free to gather your thoughts is nothing new. In fact, it’s a concept that was developed during my time in the U.S. Navy.

In the service, uninterrupted focus and concentration are important. The consequences of anything less than 100 percent can be dire – even fatal. For that reason, every second of every day was planned out, and every minute mattered.

As a diving and salvage officer, my days were split between two four-hour watch shifts, as well as my daily work, officer meetings, and exercise. I had to be incredibly efficient and productive; otherwise, I couldn’t get everything done. That takes discipline, and discipline is about creating structure. It’s really something anyone can do.

When time is limited but your workload is heavy, you develop the mentality that your success comes not from hard work but from outcomes. It’s more about planning for life, not reacting to it (like so many other people do).

Structuring a Morning Routine

Much like the military, sales is a disciplined sport. You have to schedule your days and anticipate your activities. Doing anything else could cause you to fall behind the pack. However, the following tactics can often help you stay on top of your game:

1. Lose the Snooze

Because I had no downtime in the navy, I’d fit sleep into the cracks and crevices of my day. I learned to fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Catnaps became a skill, and I still take power naps in my office at Owler to this day.

With mornings so critical for creative thought, you don’t want to hit the snooze button. You may gain a little more sleep, but you could diminish the quality of your work during the early hours of the day.

Just look at the numbers: If a full sleep cycle takes 90 minutes, those extra minutes bought by the snooze button put you into another sleep cycle — one you can’t complete, leaving your brain in a haze. That won’t help you come up with original or innovative thoughts.

run2. Keep Yourself on the Move

Once I’m up, I’m on the floor doing push-ups to wake up. Physical fitness was vital to my job as a navy diver. Today, in the age of information, the physical demands of the office are minimal: You sit at a desk and don’t do much more than move your arms.

Avoid a sedentary lifestyle and stay active in order to keep your blood flowing during the workday. Stand up at your desk and walk around while on the phone. If you’ve got a free moment, do a few jumping jacks or push-ups or go for a walk.

3. Start Fresh and Clean

My abrupt start helps me connect with my creative subconscious, which is why my morning shower is one of the most productive periods of my day.

Think of the last time you got up and hopped right in the shower. Chances are, you probably came up with a solid idea or two mid-shampoo. I hop in and get to thinking. Once I’m out, I jot down some notes.

In fact, showers spark feelings of relaxation, which can act as a trigger for dopamine, encouraging more creative thought. You’re more likely to come up with better ideas by easing into the day, and that means a shower for me.

By using time productively, you’re able to spend more of it with family and friends – or on anything else that makes you feel alive. You could even start a new company while you’re at it. The opportunities are endless.

Jim Fowler is founder and CEO of Owler, the free competitive intelligence platform.

Read more in Work Experience

Jim Fowler is founder and CEO of Owler, the crowdsourced competitive intelligence platform business professionals use to outsmart their competition, gain competitive insights, and uncover the latest industry news and alerts. Prior to Owler, Jim founded Jigsaw in 2003 and was CEO until it was acquired by Salesforce in 2010 for $175 million. Jigsaw is best known for pioneering crowdsourcing in the B2B information industry and for creating the business category of Data-as-a-Service (DaaS).