What you do (or don’t do) to begin your day can determine how you feel for the rest of the day—whether you’re focused or distracted, energized or tired, positive or grumpy. That’s why it’s so important to develop strong productivity practices for first thing in the morning. Here are a few good habits to include in your routine to get your day started correctly. Try them and see what a difference it makes.
1. Don’t check your email first thing. You’re in shock, I know. But checking your email first thing in the morning, whether when you wake up or when you get to the office, is a surefire way to derail your productivity. Sure, you can do a cursory review and glance at what awaits you, but to jump start your productivity, review your task list first, not your email.
2. Sort out your task list and calendar for the day. Review the next actions on your task list and determine which ones to tackle today. Review your calendar and, based on your availability, determine which tasks you can accomplish, and when. How much time will it take you to do some of the bigger tasks, and how much time will it take to knock out a group of the smaller ones? Now, block out that time in your calendar and get to work. Tip: Do the most complex task first, as much as you may dread it. You’ll feel much better knowing you got it done and have the rest of the day ahead for everything else.
3. Drink water, lots of water. When you go to sleep each night, your body goes for its longest stretch without the sustenance it needs to thrive: food and water. Thus, the origin of the term “breakfast” (to break the fast). Your body especially needs to rehydrate when you wake. There are myriad benefits to starting your day by drinking a couple of glasses of water … and waiting to drink your coffee! I have made this part of my regimen every morning, and I can assure you it has helped.
4. Exercise, seriously. I ignored the calls to exercise for well over three decades. When my closest childhood friend told me one day that he decided to start running, I scoffed because he was nearly as lethargic as me. But I realized he was serious when he signed up for a 5K run, so I made the commitment as well. I decided to figure out a way to make this a meaningful and lasting habit by committing to running three times a week for 30 minutes. In fact, I ran my very first 5K last fall, and I am signing up for another. Running frees your mind and liberates you, and some even say it improves your brainpower.
5. Schedule time for inspiring articles and videos. Just as exercise improves your brainpower, so does reading motivational and useful articles early in the day. I use a combination of Google Reader and an app called Readability to explore articles and save them to read later. Also, I truly enjoy watching videos on TED. Why do this? Reading posts about productivity, “life hacking” and our profession allows me to think more and gain greater perspective on how to do what I do better. And it feels great to share what I’ve learned with others, either at work or through social media.
If you aren’t doing any of these now, or you’re doing just a couple, I encourage you to make a commitment to yourself and schedule time in your calendar for them. If need be, set your alarm clock to get up 30 minutes earlier than usual. But you must commit and make it a habit. I am convinced it takes 30 days to make any routine into a habit. I can promise you, though, that in 30 days, you will have a whole new outlook at work and at home!
Which of these tips are you currently using? What tips would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.
Daniel Gold is a productivity author, consultant and presenter. He works with individuals and corporations in three core areas: productivity/time management; social media brand recognition; and presentation content and design. He is the author of the Evernote ebook Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done and Official Springpad eBook. Join him on Facebook and Google+ and on Twitter at @degconsulting.