How to Have Productive Mornings at Work

How to Have Productive Mornings at Work

Whether you greet each morning with a smile or get your biggest burst of energy and enthusiasm later at night, there’s no denying that what happens in the early hours sets the tone for the rest of the day. Here are six strategies to help you get your workday off to a good start. Do experiment with these tips: some ideas may be a hit for you, where others won’t be a good fit with your work habits and personality.

Develop a routine: For so many of us, a caffeinated beverage acts as a catalyst for efficiency. Your morning rituals and habits may vary: some people start their workday with a list; others like to ease in with conversations with co-workers by the coffee machine. Whatever your habits, try to keep them consistent: having a routine will send your brain a signal that the workday is ready to begin.

Have an a.m. email plan: Like doing the dishes, email has a Sisyphean quality to it: even those who strive for inbox zero must admit: there’s no way to end the endless influx of emails, from industry newsletters to important requests.

A morning email strategy is particularly key: after all, answering one email can easily lead to a deluge of responses and to-dos. It’s not that responding to these emails isn’t necessary, but it can easily take up your entire day, instead of the long-term projects and responsibilities laid out on your to-do list.

Here are a few possible approaches:

  • Block off email-free time: If morning is your most productive time, use it for projects and head-down, involved work. Spend your first 30-minutes or hour at the office with your email off.
  • Check your inbox before the office: Scan of your email before you sit down at your desk. Check on your smart phone during your commute, or even on the elevator going up to your floor. This quick glance can help you feel prepared for any issues brewing, and also map (or remap) your plan for the day.

Know what you want to get done: Whether it’s a collection of sticky notes, or an online project management system, start your day with a plan for what you want – and need – to get done. Many workers, myself included, recommend crafting a to-do list the night before. That way, it’s clear from the first minutes of your workday what needs to get done.

Start with the hardest task on your to-do list: The imminently quotable Mark Twain advised people to “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” His words spawned the book Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy, and while it may sound unappetizing, the idea is true: knocking the most challenging thing off your to-do list is a great way to start the day. After you eat a frog, after all, your other tasks will seem like a breeze in comparison.

Book morning time for yourself: Dan Ariely, a psychology and behavioral economics professor, commented in a Reddit AMA, that “generally people are most productive in the morning. The two hours after becoming fully awake are likely to be the best.” Block off this productive time on your calendar, so that you do not get scheduled into meetings, and can devote yourself to accomplishing challenging and important tasks while your energy is high.

Get in before the rest of the crowd: Many office workers find that their most productive periods come before nine, and after five-thirty. It’s no coincidence that those are also the hours at the edge of the day, before many co-workers have arrived or after they’ve departed. If that sounds familiar, consider getting to the office early a few times a week, to have some solo time to focus on big tasks and projects.

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