What’s the first thing you do when you get to work? Too often, I go straight to email and start checking messages. Next, I go grab a cup of coffee. Before I know it I’ve spent an hour or more responding to emails, but I haven’t reviewed my top daily priorities.
By mid-morning, you are likely jumping from task to task, attending a few Zoom meetings. But your day has no focus. Your work feels mostly like a fireman putting out fires all day. You think to yourself, I can do better than this.
If your morning routine isn’t working for you, let’s take a step back and evaluate what could be better. What small changes could you make in your morning routine that would have a huge impact all day?
We agree the first hour of your work day is important. It sets the tone for everything you are planning to do each day. If we don’t define a daily focus, we will not accomplish what’s important.
Here are tips to increase your work productivity by making the best use of your first hour of the day.
5 Tips to be More Productive Maximizing Your First Hour
Don’t open your email first
How often do you start your day scrolling your inbox and starting the day frantically answering emails? Before you know it, the first hour (maybe the second hour) of your day is gone.
Do you know how many messages you respond to per day? It could be well over a hundred. Reading and responding to email is like responding the multiple conversations at the same time. When you start your day with email, it’s easy to get into a panic pace for your whole day.
Of course, emails need your attention. But rather than going through and responding to everything first thing in the morning, take a quick survey of your inbox and decide if anything needs immediate attention.
Look at the Big Picture
In the first hour of your day, take time to look at the big picture before you get started on the fine details. Check your calendar and know what’s happening this week and this month that need urgent attention. Review what’s most important and touch on your values and goals.
The Smart Focus method will help you define a top priority each day, then break it down into actionable steps.
Once you have your big picture for the day, it’s much easier to decide what needs to be done and what should be done first.
Make a To Do List
Just like Santa, it’s time to make a list and check it twice. Using time blocking (assigning every task a time on your schedule) will help you get more done and focus your energy. Be sure to set a timer so you stick to the times you set.
Another way to manage your to-do list is to decide on a milestone for each task. You may have several projects going at the same time.
Finally, if you cannot complete the project today, set a productive stopping point for each task so that you make sure you get the other things done.
Every day you have some tasks that must be done before you go home. Start your day with must complete tasks and projects. These could be challenging and need several hours or simple and only take 15 minutes.
Get started on the “must-do” tasks in your first hour so you have plenty of time to complete them and are not stressed at the end of your day.
Use the Pomodoro Technique
Many of us struggle to stay focused for long periods of time. The Pomodoro technique plans for 25 minutes of intense and focused work, followed by 5 minutes of break or rest. After 4 cycles (2 hours), you take a longer 15-20 minute break.
When you know you have a deadline or your a trying to beat a timer, you may find the pomodoro technique help you be more focused and work harder. (There’s a challenge to beating the clock, right?)
How Can You Be More Productive in Your First Hour?
By starting your day with focus and a clear plan to execute, not only will your first hour be more productive, but your entire day will be.
These steps sound easy, but it takes discipline to change your old routines for new routines.
Commit to changing for one week. Then evaluate your new routine and decide if you need to make any changes. Try for anther week and evaluate again until you have a better, focused routine for your first hour.
What will you do with your first hour? Will you skip the email first thing? Will you review your big picture so you aren’t missing any important tasks or projects? Or spend a little time learning something new?
Make a plan and take control of your first hour.
Additional Recommended Reading on Productivity: