If you’ve ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed or been frustrated in rush hour traffic, you know that mornings can set the tone for the rest of the day. While the morning is comprised of several hours, Hillary Rettig, a productivity coach for entrepreneurs and author of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific (Infinite Art, 2011) says the way you spend the first 15 minutes could make or break you.
“For many people, the morning holds our freshest, most energetic hours,” Rettig says. “Good time managers value ever smaller amounts of time. Those first few minutes of your day – both at home and when you get to the office – are vital.”
Doing low-value work during this precious time can put your day off course. Here are five things you may be doing in the morning that will sabotage your productivity:
1. Going online. Checking email or social media when you wake up is a common way to start the day, but those few minutes you think you’ll spend online often turn into an hour or more. Rettig suggests staying offline until 10 a.m.
“It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of the Internet,” Rettig says. “Protect the morning for the work that’s important to you, then be available for others later in the day.”
2. Turning on the television. For many people, the morning routine looks like this: Take a shower. Watch some TV. Eat breakfast. Watch some TV. Walk the dog. Watch some TV.
“The television stretches out our morning ritual and distracts us from our mission,” Rettig says. “Don’t get anesthetized by the TV – leave it off.”
If you need background noise, she says music on the radio is better. Save talk radio for your morning commute.
3. Skipping a workout. Procrastination begins in the body, says Rettig, and deskwork helps foster it. Morning exercise gets the blood flowing and makes you more alert. If you don’t like to sweat or can’t fit in a long routine, simply start your day by stretching, twisting or dancing.
“It’s important to work out the stiffness in the body, especially if you sit all day,” she says.
4. Answering the phone. With caller ID, most of us have some idea who is calling when the phone rings. Unless you’re someone who handles crisis work or makes sales calls for a living, get the most out of your morning by turning off the phone, suggests Rettig.
“The phone can be highly interruptive,” she says, adding that even short calls can distract you and take you off track.
5. Tackling busy or dreaded work first. While it can be tempting to “warm up” your day with busy work or your least favorite tasks, Rettig says it’s a better idea to start with something important that’s likely to yield a positive outcome.
“For example, make the one or two sales calls you think are the most promising,” she says. “Accomplishments motivate you for the rest of the day.”