In the words of the infinitely wise Mary Poppins, “Well begun is half done.” That is, if you start something off right, you lay a solid foundation for success – a principle that’s especially applicable to the world of work. It’s why productivity experts everywhere tout the importance of establishing an effective morning work routine if you want to improve your output and roll into bed at night with a great sense of accomplishment.
Of course, the ideal morning routine will look slightly different for everyone, but there are certain pre-noon habits that are worthwhile adopting regardless of who you are and what role you fill. If you’re looking to improve the way you start your workday, consider following this daily sequence of actions:
- Get up when your alarm sounds (the first time)
Far too many of us are in the habit of hitting the snooze button ten times over before we eventually haul ourselves out of bed. This means that the very first decision we make in the day is one based on a desire to procrastinate. Rather than giving in to this urge, set a more positive tone for the workday by rising on the first ring. If you get up with purpose, you can trick yourself into feeling more motivated, even when you’re not particularly excited about the day ahead.
- Remind yourself of your big-picture goals
It’s easy to get lost in all the little details of the daily grind – the emails you need to send, the meetings you need to attend – and forget about the reasons you’re doing it all in the first place. Kick off your day by actively reciting your longer-term goals and intentions. You can do so mentally while meditating or exercising, or you could write a few lines down in a journal.
- Read, watch, or listen to material that inspires you
Routines can quickly start to make life feel a bit, well, routine. Build novelty into your daily schedule by taking a few moments every morning to engage with new content that stimulates and motivates you. Listen to a short podcast episode, watch a TED talk, read a few pages of a novel, or browse your favorite websites, for example. By doing so, you treat yourself to precious me-time while also firing up your mind for the day ahead.
- Arrive at work 10 minutes early
Most of us have a few things we like to do when we arrive at our place of work before we actually sit down to tackle the day’s tasks – be it grab a cup of coffee, catch up with colleagues, or throw some cereal into a bowl, for instance. The problem is, all these little preparatory activities can quickly dig into precious work time, and before you know it, an hour has passed and you’ve done nothing particularly productive. To avoid spending most of the day playing catch-up, get to the office (or studio or sports field or dining room table) a few minutes early so you can get settled in and still get going with your formal duties on time.
- Fight the urge to open your inbox immediately
If you start your day by reading emails, you’ll likely end up spending the first few hours of the morning dealing with issues that others deem urgent, rather than checking off tasks you personally consider important. So, as difficult as it might be to do, try to avoid the black hole that is your email inbox for a little while – at least until you’ve accomplished a few of the goals you’ve set yourself for that day. If co-workers or family members desperately need you, they can always phone or text you.
- Draw up a clear, concrete plan for the day
If you want to squeeze the most out of any given day, integrate a mini-planning session into your morning work routine. Give careful thought to all the things you’d like to accomplish that day and write out a comprehensive to-do list detailing every step you need to take in order to achieve your goals. By drawing up a clear plan of action for your 9-to-5 first thing in the morning (or even the night before), you can up the chances that you’ll stay on track, and you can shift all the important decision-making to the first part of the day when you’re likely feeling most motivated.
- Start with the biggest, most daunting task first
In the popular book Eat That Frog!, author Brian Tracy touches on an effective time management strategy drawn from advice given by the great Mark Twain: start each day by tackling the task that you’re most dreading – that one big job that requires the most effort and resolve (in other words, your “frog”). By doing so, you’ll make the rest of the day feel easy by comparison and you’ll get to kick off your morning with a great sense of achievement. The idea is to launch into your frog immediately and to eat away at it with discipline until it’s done, so it’s best to eliminate potential distractions by avoiding emails, closing unnecessary browser tabs, and putting your phone off, or leaving it in another room. Only once you’ve put this one big must-do behind you should you then move on to other less demanding undertakings.
If you sit at your desk for too long without significant movement, fatigue will undoubtedly set in. So, when you’ve checked off your frog, get up and do a bit of walking. If you have a meeting to attend, suggest it’s held while on foot (walking meetings are the way forward, after all); if it’s lunchtime, take a stroll to a nearby restaurant or park. By building an opportunity for exercise into the later part of your morning work routine, you’ll wake up your mind and ready it to conquer the afternoon with renewed fervor.
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