Focus and Getting Up Early

For the last 5 weeks, I've followed the advice of Peter Shankman, who described why you need to get up early, and how to do it. Ever since my family left for The Netherlands to spend the summer, I had big plans to refocus my life on projects, educating myself and exercise. Peter describes a simple plan how to gt up real early, and get more things done than many of us even before nine.

How To Get Up Early

Peter gives you 6 tips to help you getting up out of bed, even before the rooster is up:

  1. Drink a glass of water, right after you woke up
  2. You need to get up to shut down the alarm clock
  3. Feed something/ Somebody
  4. Just do it!
  5. Move out of the bedroom
  6. Go to bed early

I encourage you to read Peters post, as he gives many more tips and reasons why the early bird catches the worm.


In the last couple of weeks, since I've been home alone, I've made it an effort to get up early, and do stuff. However, I failed to get really productive, as the stuff I was doing lacked focus. Here is where I failed...:

  1. Undefined goals
  2. No to do list
  3. To much distraction
  4. Wasting time

Let me break down where I failed in each and every one of these four factors; and at the same time take the opportunity to explain what I will do differently moving forward to make sure I use the extra time early in the morning productively!

Undefined goals

Although I have a list of projects I'm working on, I lack clear goals to get accomplished week-week. The end goal for the project in my mind is well outlined, but how to get there is not well written down, which makes it more difficult to get things actually done. Even if the end goal is clear, I would still need to break up the process of how to get there in smaller steps.

What will I change: Break up every project into smaller steps, so I can outline the goals on a weekly basis, with clearly defined outcomes. What would success look like at the end of the task?

No to do list

Waking up early is only effective if you have a clear to do list. Waking up at 5.30 is no fun if you are tired, and without a to do list, you start to wander around and pick up unimportant tasks to give yourself a sense of purpose. Hey, you woke up at 5.30, got out of bed, and got stuff done, right..! You can be proud of yourself. Not!

The unimportant stuff you just wasted your early time on can hardly give you a sense of purpose. You should have been focussed on the stuff that matters! You should have been working on the projects which push you forward, not stuff that doesn't matter.

What will I change: Making a to do list at night before you go to sleep for the next day is the solution. You wake up, and you have a prioritized list of tasks to hit of your to do list. No more thinking early in the morning, start scraping one-by-one of your list.

To much distraction

I like to stay on top of the news. Waking up early, usually gives me the opportunity to get on top of what happened during the hours while I was sleeping. Switching on CNBC for the latest stock and market news, firing up my browser with Techmeme as the starting page used to be my routine. Wrong..! You instantly gets distracted by the news of the day, which does not matter to a great extend tomorrow, let alone the next week!

Don't get me wrong, I do believe it is important to know whats going on in the world, to be on top of the latest technologies, which companies are working together, or are in a fight about some patents. However, you will have time to catch up on the real important news as soon as you have scraped off your first 4-5 to do's from your list.

What will I change: This one is rather simple to solve for. Not putting the TV on is a first step. The news is interesting, but even breaking news is not going to change your direct life, unless something happens in your direct neighborhood. And what is breaking news these days, is actually a big attention grabbing headline which is forgotten tomorrow!

Wasting time

All of the three above here, result in wasting too much of my precious time I gained by waking up. With my family in The Netherlands, early mornings is the perfect time to video call them through Skype. However, due to my failure on the first three points here, I usually waste too much time already to get things done, that I always have a sense of urgency when I actually should be spending quality time with the people I love the most.

Even if you have a full program in the morning, there still should be time to spend time with your family. The time you spend with them is time you will never get back! Wasting time in the morning will come at the expense of the time I would be able to spend with my family. This has got to change!

What will I change: having a to do list, with clear action items and the end goal written down broken out in small bite size steps, will help me to get things done without wasting so much time. A couple of other actions I would need to do are; close outlook and other distractions like Tweetdeck.  Switch off the alert functionality on my iPhone, so it stops buzzing every time I get a message.

Fall of the Grid

I will make sure I have designated time set out to follow up with the people I need & want to talk with. Don't worry, I won't fall of the grid and disappear...Facebook, Twitter or email will not be banned from my life, just only used in a controlled way which won't interfere with what is really important, Family and Friends, Myself, Work and Projects. In that order..!


  1. Jruis says:

    Good read Dennis. I was trying to get myself in a similar schedule and indeed can relate to the timewasting in the morning. Will change some things tomorrow.

  2. Jruis says:

    Good read Dennis. I was trying to get myself in a similar schedule and indeed can relate to the timewasting in the morning. Will change some things tomorrow.

    1.  @Jruis Yes, it is so easy to stay in bed, or start reading the headlines of news. Instead, if you focus, and get stuff done early on, you will have plenty of time to catch up later at designated times in the day on the news, and suddenly, all of these attention grabbing headlines are not that important anymore! 
      Productivity FTW

  3. joostharmsen says:

    getting up early is still a problem.. do you have any more tips? :)