One of the big obstacles that I faced — and still face, to some degree — when I began working full-time was restructuring my everyday routine.
See, for about 16 years, from kindergarten to the end of college, I spent the morning and afternoon learning things, and then went home to work at night.
I essentially conditioned myself to be in a passive state during the day, soaking up what others talked about or mindlessly taking notes in class.
I was generally not one of those people who did much work at school.
In college, I took this model to the extreme. I rarely woke up before noon, headed to class and would have the most energy around 4 or 5 pm. I did my best studying and work in the evenings.
Unfortunately, this model doesn't work too well in the real world. I've had to retrain myself to do work during the day. This was by no means an easy task, but one change in my daily routine helped me get on the right path.
Most of us have two modes: producer or consumer. The trick is to start your day as a producer, rather than a consumer.
What this means is doing productive, beneficial tasks that are meaningful first thing in the morning, as opposed to checking and responding to email or social media.
It doesn't necessarily have to be work, although tackling your to-do list is a great idea. It could be exercising, meditating, writing, cooking or anything else.
The point is, being a producer means engaging in active activities. Avoid passive activities, like scrolling your newsfeed and skimming the news.
It's about being proactive rather than reactive. It's knowing that you're in control of your life, and are focusing on your needs first.
I've found that journaling and writing first thing in the morning is the most beneficial for me. For many others, it's exercise.
Whatever it is, once you repeat this routine long enough, it becomes a keystone habits that locks all your other productive habits into place.
On the days when I accomplish something big right away, the rest of the day is that much more productive. The distractions that once tempted me feel like a waste of time.
I can actually catch myself browsing Facebook and asking myself, "What am I doing?" Then, I close the tab.
On the off days, when I start off as a consumer, I'm trapped in that vortex of endlessly surfing Reddit or Elite Daily (is this you right now?) trying desperately to entertain myself, but never feeling satisfied.
In fact, I'm convinced now that how you spend your morning is indicative of how you'll spend the rest of the day, and there may be some science behind this.
It's hard to shift from the shallower, more transactional frontal cortex to the other parts of your brain that govern conceptual, deep thinking.
It's easier to start in the deep recess of the brain and shift to the shallower parts. What this means is it's easier to go from producer mode to consumer mode than vice versa.
And, by starting your morning off doing something you enjoy, you elevate your mood for the rest of the day, which then positively impacts everything else you do.
The most successful people I know and have read about share this philosophy of starting their days off with important, focused projects.
A great story about Charlie Munger exemplifies this. As a very young lawyer, he probably got $20 an hour. He thought to himself, "Who's my most valuable client?" He decided it was himself, so he gave himself an hour each day.
He did it early in the morning, working on construction projects and real estate deals. Over time, this one hour of self-learning compounded and ultimately allowed him to race past his peers.
Okay, you've consumed enough of this. Try it for yourself. Start your mornings as a producer.
You may be surprised at the difference it makes in your overall productivity.
Gary is an entrepreneur and freelance writer for hire. He writes at GaryWu.net, where he shares ideas on personal development and living a meaningful life. Follow him on Twitter @TheGaryWu.