I recently got to work an hour early. I had one goal in mind: world-domination, early-morning productivity. I made coffee, opened my email inbox, and the next thing I knew . . . it was noon. Where did the day go? And, more importantly, why didn’t I get anything substantive done? Sure, I cleared out my inbox, but I didn’t tackle a thing on my to-do list.
After my lackluster morning, I decided to do some research and really figure out the right way to spend the first hour of my workday. And after a little practice, I learned just how productive one can be when you’re thoughtful about this. So grab some coffee and make these four things a staple in your morning work routine:
Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing it can’t get any worse. That doesn’t mean you have to go and switch your soy latte for a frog—it simply means you should do your most important assignment first. Studies have shown that you have the most willpower in the morning, so harness your motivation mojo and master your most important task bright and early.
Productivity experts recommend that you not spend your morning reading and answering emails (as I learned firsthand, it can totally derail your good a.m. intentions). Focus your morning on what you need to get done—not the little things people need from you. Quickly scan your emails to see if there is anything high priority that will affect your goals for the day, then keep the trains moving. As Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email in the Morning, told the Huffington Post, "Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless . . . there is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes." So if you want to be more productive throughout your day, step away from your inbox in the morning. Seriously.
Organizing your to-do list might sound like yet another thing to add to your to-do list, but doing so is like creating a compass to get you to that golden "closing time" hour. How do you decide which task is "more important" than another? Use time management and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam’s advice and quickly ask yourself five questions: Does it take a step toward a big professional goal? Does your boss say it’s a top priority? Does it make you money? Does it lighten your mental load? Can it only be done today? Once you have your list organized, break down any big tasks into specific actions you’ll take to accomplish them.
It’s small but mighty: Say hello to your colleagues in the morning. Not only will it help you start the day in a good mood, but they’ll be much more likely to help a friendly colleague than a grumplestiltskin if you need help putting out a fire later that afternoon.
So, there you have it: the four things you should do to accomplish more throughout the workday. Drink coffee, eat a metaphorical frog, and get to work.
This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.