The Productivity Giants Series with Mel Robbins, Speaker, Author, & CNN Contributor


Mel Robbins is quite simply a powerhouse of productivity. She’s many things – a best-selling author, the most booked female speaker, the CEO of a media and speaking company, a CNN legal analyst – AND a mother of 3.


Her most recent book, The 5 Second Rule, is the most successful self-published audiobook of all time. She’s currently working with Audible to create their first-ever audio talk show, which will be released in 2018.


We talked to Mel about how she balances it all – from her morning routine to how she winds down at the end of a busy day. Want more productivity tips from the experts? Check out other interviews in our Productivity Giants series.


What does the first 90 minutes of your day look like?


My morning routine is the secret to my productivity. It starts before bed when I put my phone out of my room. We also get the kids’ backpacks ready and lunches packed to minimize friction in the morning.


In the morning, when I wake up, my phone is nowhere near me. If you wake up next to your phone, you have a tendency to check email in bed. Do not do this. I also never hit the snooze button. My alarm goes off and I get up right away.


After getting out of bed, I get ready. As I do, I let my mind wander. I actually keep post-it notes in the bathroom. While brushing my teeth, I’ll write down 1-3 priorities for the day. Then, I’ll stick that post-it note on the back of my phone as a visual reminder.


Then, I’ll make a cup of coffee, some breakfast, and help get the kids out the door.


Once they leave, usually around 7 am, I sit down at my desk with a notepad and my coffee. This is the most important part of my morning, when I spend 30 minutes planning my day. I call it the 30 before 7:30. During these 30 minutes, I focus on getting my day organized and planning either when I will accomplish my top priorities–or actually making 30 minutes of progress on one of them.


After this 30 before 7:30, then I allow myself to look at my phone and check my inbox.


What’s your number 1 productivity tip?


Differentiate between your to-do’s and your priorities.


Your to-dos will never move you forward in a meaningful way, and checking off your to-dos gives you a false sense of productivity. When you focus on checking boxes on your to-do list, you are stuck in a reactionary mode and are just not making any real progress.


Your priorities are the important things that actually matter. If it advances your long-term goals, it’s a priority. Your priorities usually only matter to you.


If you want to make real progress, you must focus on your priorities.


Any favorite tools?


I use the 5 Second Rule. It’s a little trick that I came up with a number of years ago that has really changed my life. This tool is simple but not easy: any time that you have the instinct to do something that will benefit your long-term goals, countdown 5-4-3-2-1 and then physically move and do it. Immediately. No hesitation.


I use the 5 Second Rule to get myself out of bed easily, to avoid checking my phone, to stay focused, to get to the gym, to make healthier choices, to stay on track, and to move my focus back to my main priorities.


#1 Email tip?


Don’t check your email until you’ve already planned your day and started to make progress on the things that matter most to you. As soon as you check your email, you start making other people’s priorities your own.


What bad advice do you hear often?


Work more, work harder, work longer.


To the people who hustle day in and day out, I’m in awe of your work ethic. Seriously. But if you’ve got kids, a family, and an incredibly demanding work schedule, you MUST set boundaries on your work.


Each day, in the mornings, I plan my quitting time. This is the time when I will stop working. And I stick to it. When my quitting time rolls around, my work goes away, and I’m fully present with my family. This also forces me to work even more efficiently, because work often expands to fit the deadline that you give it.


What book has changed your life and why?


The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. I read a passage every single morning. I use his words to center myself on the deeper themes present in our daily lives, to pause and connect with my soul, and take a moment before I race head first into my day.


What’s the most worthwhile investment you’ve ever made?


The time, money, and energy that goes into my family. As my kids get older, it’s amazing to see the people that they are becoming–it’s really incredible.


What’s your definition of productivity?


Moving the ball down the field on the important projects that matter the most to you.


Follow Mel on Twitter.